Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

mythago

Adventurer
I don't think anybody really disagrees with the idea that a rules system or a GM may set limits on what the players or characters can do, and that setting limits is not automatically a problem. The contrary position is by definition somewhat absurd, really. So if you are uninterested in talking about whether specific applications of arbitrary limits make sense, that's your prerogative, but may we take "it is not inherently bad for rules systems or GMs to make arbitrary decisions about what's in and what's out" as a given, absent somebody actually arguing that GMs running a grimdark Joe Abercrombie-style D&D setting are morally obliged to allow a pun-slinging rogue PCstraight out of Myth Adventures?

In regards to the former question ("why do they choose those") I actually don't find it all that interesting - how do you conclusively determine what someone else's motivations are? Even if they tell you, how do you know they're being honest?

In regards to the latter question, if the person(s) setting the limitations doesn't follow them, then that does smack of hypocrisy...but I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt for at least a little while, in that maybe they have a reason for why they're violating their own rule. Of course, that degree of trust is presumed that the reason will (sooner, rather than later) be made clear.

...so I can't assume they are being honest, but nonetheless there is an "atmosphere of trust" so I should just quietly assume there's some good reason I'm not being told, and I have to assume rather than ask because if I asked about it they might lie? I'm genuinely not following this.

What is so awful about politely asking a GM, or a rules designer if you're in that context, why they're doing X when X doesn't seem to fit the limitations they've placed on the game? Because they might lie? Sure, or they might also say "Huh, you know, I hadn't thought of it that way." Or "I know it doesn't seem to make sense, but I promise you there are in-game reasons that you'll find out later." Or "HOW DAR U CHALLENGE MY AUTHORITAY" (which latter merits an entirely different reaction, obviously, but better to find out sooner rather than later if one's GM is a dipstick).
 

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mythago

Adventurer
I would greatly appreciate if people would stop mixing up sexual harassment and sexism. This, I find extremely offensive towards men. Some posters here have written six or seven letter-sized pages of text on male sexism; what about discussing female double standards, while we're at it?

For example, the fantasies expressed in the worldwide bestseller Shades of Grey dwarf any display of sexual encounters I have ever witnessed in any game. Yet, it's socially acceptable, for whatever reason. But, no, we sexist pigs, having our dungeon-looting party of dwarves and hobbits celebrate in the Waterdeep whorehouse, that is so GROSS!


1) There is a popular mainstream bestselling "erotic romance" series which involves a lot of explicit male dominant/female submissive sex scenes.

2) Therefore, any female player who is bothered by the male players wanting their PCs to go en masse to a whorehouse is engaging in a sexist double standard and is unfairly criticizing "virile" male behavior.

It's like one of those problems in kids' magazines where you have to go from STOP to RENT with only six changes of letters; the intervening logical process between #1 and #2 there is a mystery.

Sexism is an issue in gaming, though it has been getting better over the years.

Oh gosh yes. Game designers have started to figure out that, hey, she-gamers spend money too. The guy who played with the original D&D boxed set as a teenager grew up and had daughters. The surrounding culture has matured, too. There's still a lot of room for improvement, though. (And not just on the issue of gender, either.)
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I don't think anybody really disagrees with the idea that a rules system or a GM may set limits on what the players or characters can do, and that setting limits is not automatically a problem. The contrary position is by definition somewhat absurd, really.

I agree that it's an absurd presumption to think that the GM shouldn't set limits on what the PCs can do - but I've encountered people who seem to presume just that. Hence why I was speaking out against that when the specter of that presumption was raised here; I've encountered that attitude before, and I wanted to voice my disagreement with it. That's the sum total of what I was speaking to here.

So if you are uninterested in talking about whether specific applications of arbitrary limits make sense, that's your prerogative, but may we take "it is not inherently bad for rules systems or GMs to make arbitrary decisions about what's in and what's out" as a given, absent somebody actually arguing that GMs running a grimdark Joe Abercrombie-style D&D setting are morally obliged to allow a pun-slinging rogue PCstraight out of Myth Adventures?

You may take it as a given if you wish, but as I said before, I've encountered that degree of player entitlement more than once before. You may think that arguing against such a stance is little more than tilting at windmills, but I've seen that attitude become a real part of some gamers' default assumptions towards how the game should be run (usually along the lines of "the players should tell the GM what they want to play beforehand, and the GM should then design the campaign around that, rather than the GM announcing what he's going to run and telling the players to make characters that conform to that regardless of their wishes").

...so I can't assume they are being honest, but nonetheless there is an "atmosphere of trust" so I should just quietly assume there's some good reason I'm not being told, and I have to assume rather than ask because if I asked about it they might lie? I'm genuinely not following this.

Your confusion is understandable, since you're conflating two separate points I raised.

The first point is that the issue of asking what the motivation is for the GM imposing certain limitations to begin with. I feel that's a useless question to ask, because you can't ever know what someone else's motivation is. If you think that the GM is imposing certain limits because it's a reflection of a politically incorrect ideology that they hold, how do you ascertain that? Do you ask them point blank if they're imposing (to use the example raised in this thread) limits on Strength scores for female PCs because they hate women? If so, how do you know that their answer (which we can presume is a negative) is honest, and not an attempt to avoid admitting to something they know you won't find acceptable?

In other words, I'm saying that making presumptions about a person's attitudes and beliefs based on what they do or do not allow in their campaign is a foolish thing to do.

The second point is the issue of the GM imposing limits, and then breaking them. This is different because it's not a question of the GM's attitudes and beliefs, but of the internal logic and consistency in the game world. If no dwarves can be wizards, for example, and then the GM introduces a dwarven wizard NPC, that's a question of finding out why - in the context of the game world - that's possible. In that case, I'm saying that there is (or should be) enough trust in the GM to showcase how this can be reconciled with the limitations on the game world while still maintaining internal logic and consistency (which tends to be some sort of exception-based design).

To summarize, you can't ever truly know someone's motivations, but you can know if their actions remain consistent within the boundaries they set. Does that ease your confusion?

What is so awful about politely asking a GM, or a rules designer if you're in that context, why they're doing X when X doesn't seem to fit the limitations they've placed on the game? Because they might lie? Sure, or they might also say "Huh, you know, I hadn't thought of it that way." Or "I know it doesn't seem to make sense, but I promise you there are in-game reasons that you'll find out later." Or "HOW DAR U CHALLENGE MY AUTHORITAY" (which latter merits an entirely different reaction, obviously, but better to find out sooner rather than later if one's GM is a dipstick).

Again, you're confusing the two issues. You can ask someone how things work, and you can ask them why did they do this - the difference is that the former question can be answered objectively, whereas the latter cannot be.
 

Elf Witch

First Post
I would greatly appreciate if people would stop mixing up sexual harassment and sexism. This, I find extremely offensive towards men. Some posters here have written six or seven letter-sized pages of text on male sexism; what about discussing female double standards, while we're at it?

For example, the fantasies expressed in the worldwide bestseller Shades of Grey dwarf any display of sexual encounters I have ever witnessed in any game. Yet, it's socially acceptable, for whatever reason. But, no, we sexist pigs, having our dungeon-looting party of dwarves and hobbits celebrate in the Waterdeep whorehouse, that is so GROSS!

You really need to reread what has been said here. Not one poster has said anything about sexual fantasies. Having your fictional character visit a whore house is not the same thing as making crude sexual innuendo comments to a female player at the table or at a con. Sexism is not looking at a sexy dressed cosplayer and thinking privately how you would like to have sex with her.
 

mythago

Adventurer
The first point is that the issue of asking what the motivation is for the GM imposing certain limitations to begin with. I feel that's a useless question to ask, because you can't ever know what someone else's motivation is. If you think that the GM is imposing certain limits because it's a reflection of a politically incorrect ideology that they hold, how do you ascertain that? Do you ask them point blank if they're imposing (to use the example raised in this thread) limits on Strength scores for female PCs because they hate women? If so, how do you know that their answer (which we can presume is a negative) is honest, and not an attempt to avoid admitting to something they know you won't find acceptable?

The irony of "politically correct ideology" as a phrase is that it is, itself a politically-correct euphemism, and ultimately a self-serving one, meant to turn that frown upside down and turn what we might, less-euphemistically, characterize as anything ranging from unconscious short-sightedness to outright bigotry as a kind of brave, individualistic rebellion against rigid and punitive groupthink. Can we avoid this, please? We're grownups and don't need euphemisms.

Your argument is an odd one, as it presupposes that because we cannot actually read minds, communication is useless; further, that the only possible way to engage in a dialogue about contradictory rules is confrontational and accusatory. Instead of "Hey, Steph, why do you hate women?" one could just as easily ask "Why have a strength cap for females because of 'real world' human limitations when we don't apply those 'real world' limitations to, say, falling damage or fireballs?" or even just "Why is there a strength cap?"

Since we're talking about communication between people who get along well enough to game together, again, this is a dialogue, not a trial. Perhaps Stephanie will realize that, in the context of her game, it doesn't make sense to insist on strict real-world limitations on upper-body strength while handwaving similar limitations on how human skin reacts to fire. Perhaps instead she'll explain that there is a good in-game reason that would be spoilers to explain right now (such as the curse of an evil god on all womankind, and the players will eventually defeat this evil god).

I mean, let's take this out of the issue of gender for a moment, and assume that Stephanie the GM's boyfriend joins the game as a regular player. STGMB regularly gets treasure, positive NPC interactions and cutscenes that the rest of the group doesn't and hasn't gotten. Can I read Stephanie's mind? Of course not. Might there be good reasons for her actions? Of course. But I doubt anybody would advise me to STFU and hope that someday the reasons would become clear; I rather suspect that most, if not all, of the advice I would get here (other than "leave the game") would be to talk to her, to express my concerns in a constructive manner (because "Stephanie, stop letting your bedwarmer hog all the game time" is going to get us nowhere) and listen to what she says. It may be that Stephanie had no idea she was actually giving Bob special treatment! Or perhaps Bob has been doing particularly smart things with his character that I didn't notice, and Stephanie will point this out to me. Or perhaps there is a good in-game reason for all this that she can either explain, or tell me I will discover in the next few games, and asks me to trust her on this. (Or perhaps the response is angry denial and personal attacks, or weird evasiveness. That kind of response, in and of itself, is an answer.)


In other words, I'm saying that making presumptions about a person's attitudes and beliefs based on what they do or do not allow in their campaign is a foolish thing to do.

Yes, that would be the point of engaging in dialogue - so one does not make presumptions. "I'm sure they mean well and it'll all be revealed in the fullness of time", btw, which you advocate as an appropriate position to take when a GM or a rules system appears to be in contradiction, it itself a presumption about a person's attitudes and beliefs.

The second point is the issue of the GM imposing limits, and then breaking them. This is different because it's not a question of the GM's attitudes and beliefs, but of the internal logic and consistency in the game world. If no dwarves can be wizards, for example, and then the GM introduces a dwarven wizard NPC, that's a question of finding out why - in the context of the game world - that's possible. In that case, I'm saying that there is (or should be) enough trust in the GM to showcase how this can be reconciled with the limitations on the game world while still maintaining internal logic and consistency (which tends to be some sort of exception-based design).

If there is trust in the GM, shouldn't there be enough trust to be confident that one can ask "Wait, I thought the rule was X but this thing seems to violate rule X?" This is especially so when problem is less an exception to a particular rule (dwarves can't be wizards, women have a strength cap, but *this* NPC is unusual for specific reasons), but is an inconsistency in the underlying logic of the game. If a GM says that the milieu is going to adhere strictly to the social mores of Tokugawa-era Japan, then the players ought to be surprised if samurai are cheerfully running around shooting handguns without anyone batting an eye about it. That would be different from a game in which a particular samurai pulls a handgun on the players. ("Wait, I thought this was forbidden? Oh wait, Evil Lord Hoshio probably doesn't give a rip about the code of honor. Okay then.")


To summarize, you can't ever truly know someone's motivations, but you can know if their actions remain consistent within the boundaries they set. Does that ease your confusion?


Again, you're confusing the two issues. You can ask someone how things work, and you can ask them why did they do this - the difference is that the former question can be answered objectively, whereas the latter cannot be.

Certainly the latter can be answered objectively; one may disagree with the reasoning, but I don't see why it is impossible to answer objectively.
 

1) There is a popular mainstream bestselling "erotic romance" series which involves a lot of explicit male dominant/female submissive sex scenes.

2) Therefore, any female player who is bothered by the male players wanting their PCs to go en masse to a whorehouse is engaging in a sexist double standard and is unfairly criticizing "virile" male behavior.

It's like one of those problems in kids' magazines where you have to go from STOP to RENT with only six changes of letters; the intervening logical process between #1 and #2 there is a mystery.

I congratulate you to that catchphrase! You should go fight the swordmaster.

Let me slowly lead you to the path of enlightenment, though:
Would the example given in 2) be less exist, if there was no female player on the gaming table?
Because I think that's where you take away the wrong conclusion.

You really need to reread what has been said here. Not one poster has said anything about sexual fantasies. Having your fictional character visit a whore house is not the same thing as making crude sexual innuendo comments to a female player at the table or at a con. Sexism is not looking at a sexy dressed cosplayer and thinking privately how you would like to have sex with her.

Look, we agree, it's just semantics. As in, in the same post that you complained about con stalkers, you immediately afterwards mentioned DMs presenting topics in their games that possibly might - as in, have the potential chance to - offend PTSD victims. That's two very different things, and that's were I took offense.
 

mythago

Adventurer
I congratulate you to that catchphrase! You should go fight the swordmaster.

Let me slowly lead you to the path of enlightenment, though:
Would the example given in 2) be less exist, if there was no female player on the gaming table?
Because I think that's where you take away the wrong conclusion.

But we haven't even gotten to the question of whether 'the dwarves and hobbits go to the whorehouse' is or is not sexist (and you seem to be assuming that I do, in fact, think it is, which I have not said). You argued that because Shades of Grey is a novel written by a woman and with a female targeted audience contains very explicit sex scenes, any female player who is bothered by 'the dwarves and hobbits go to the whorehouse' is engaging in a double standard. I don't see how you get from the first sentence to the second, and you still haven't explained it.
 


Elf Witch

First Post
I congratulate you to that catchphrase! You should go fight the swordmaster.

Let me slowly lead you to the path of enlightenment, though:
Would the example given in 2) be less exist, if there was no female player on the gaming table?
Because I think that's where you take away the wrong conclusion.



Look, we agree, it's just semantics. As in, in the same post that you complained about con stalkers, you immediately afterwards mentioned DMs presenting topics in their games that possibly might - as in, have the potential chance to - offend PTSD victims. That's two very different things, and that's were I took offense.

I still don't understand what you are taking offense to? I am serious I don't understand your point at al.

They are both subjects often brought up when discussing woman in gaming or woman in any fandom for that matter.

What you described as characters going off to a whorehouse is not the same thing as rape in a game. Why would that even be an issue unless you are playing with underage children?
 


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
The irony of "politically correct ideology" as a phrase is that it is, itself a politically-correct euphemism, and ultimately a self-serving one, meant to turn that frown upside down and turn what we might, less-euphemistically, characterize as anything ranging from unconscious short-sightedness to outright bigotry as a kind of brave, individualistic rebellion against rigid and punitive groupthink. Can we avoid this, please? We're grownups and don't need euphemisms.

I disagree with your characterization of the term. It's not a euphemism, but rather a shorthand. You may find it to connote a pejorative meaning towards issues of social justice, but I don't concur with you there; calling something "politically correct" does not imply that that which isn't politically correct is the purview of some sort of free-thinking radical who's fighting against oppressive group-think. As such, I feel no particular need to abandon the term.

Your argument is an odd one, as it presupposes that because we cannot actually read minds, communication is useless; further, that the only possible way to engage in a dialogue about contradictory rules is confrontational and accusatory. Instead of "Hey, Steph, why do you hate women?" one could just as easily ask "Why have a strength cap for females because of 'real world' human limitations when we don't apply those 'real world' limitations to, say, falling damage or fireballs?" or even just "Why is there a strength cap?"

The problem with your reasoning here is that you've extended my original point to a ridiculous conclusion - you seem to think that I'm saying that because we can't objectively know someone else's thoughts and feelings, that all of communication is impossible. It's not; that's a fairly silly assertion to make, and it's not the one I'm making. I'm simply saying that making a leap between what people create, or consume, or enjoy has nothing to do with their attitudes and beliefs towards other people.

It's also important to point out the illogical leap you made between this and discussing "illogical" rules - that being a somewhat loaded term where most games are based around inductive reasoning, if not abductive - as the two aren't related (something which I pointed out in my previous post). That's without even getting into the weird presumption you made that it must be confrontational; again, you're reading too much into my example - that was only to point out that even with a direct question-and-answer session on the topic, you can't know what someone else's motivation is.

To that end, the other example questions you've posted don't really make any sort of point. Again, you can phrase the question any way you like, but when you're asking about someone else's opinions and beliefs, you aren't ever going to be sure that you're getting the truth from them. Hence, any kind of presumption - from a guess to them telling you outright - remains just a presumption, and as such has no informative value. If you think that a person is instituting a Strength cap for female characters because of prejudice, then there's no way for them to "prove" that that isn't the case.

Since we're talking about communication between people who get along well enough to game together, again, this is a dialogue, not a trial. Perhaps Stephanie will realize that, in the context of her game, it doesn't make sense to insist on strict real-world limitations on upper-body strength while handwaving similar limitations on how human skin reacts to fire. Perhaps instead she'll explain that there is a good in-game reason that would be spoilers to explain right now (such as the curse of an evil god on all womankind, and the players will eventually defeat this evil god).

I'm really not sure what you're trying to prove here. I've never held that there isn't any value in the exchange of information and ideas - there is. I'm just saying that you can't use anything as a definitive indicator of their beliefs. That doesn't undercut the value of communication. Likewise, I'm not saying that things should be "like a trial" - you're again reading too much into the example I posted before.

I mean, let's take this out of the issue of gender for a moment, and assume that Stephanie the GM's boyfriend joins the game as a regular player. STGMB regularly gets treasure, positive NPC interactions and cutscenes that the rest of the group doesn't and hasn't gotten. Can I read Stephanie's mind? Of course not. Might there be good reasons for her actions? Of course. But I doubt anybody would advise me to STFU and hope that someday the reasons would become clear; I rather suspect that most, if not all, of the advice I would get here (other than "leave the game") would be to talk to her, to express my concerns in a constructive manner (because "Stephanie, stop letting your bedwarmer hog all the game time" is going to get us nowhere) and listen to what she says. It may be that Stephanie had no idea she was actually giving Bob special treatment! Or perhaps Bob has been doing particularly smart things with his character that I didn't notice, and Stephanie will point this out to me. Or perhaps there is a good in-game reason for all this that she can either explain, or tell me I will discover in the next few games, and asks me to trust her on this. (Or perhaps the response is angry denial and personal attacks, or weird evasiveness. That kind of response, in and of itself, is an answer.)

Again, you're arguing against a position that I've never taken. I said that when the GM violates a limitation that they've set down, you can hold this up to reasoning to the point of determining the objective question of why that's so. Now, I did personally advocate that you give the GM some breathing room to showcase that reason, and so reconcile the that exception to a limitation in a manner that satisfies internal logic and consistency...but you don't have to do so. If you want, you can just ask her why that is - and again, it goes without saying that you should do this in a non-confrontational manner (I've never suggested otherwise) - either way, the point is that this is something that can be subject to verification.

Yes, that would be the point of engaging in dialogue - so one does not make presumptions. "I'm sure they mean well and it'll all be revealed in the fullness of time", btw, which you advocate as an appropriate position to take when a GM or a rules system appears to be in contradiction, it itself a presumption about a person's attitudes and beliefs.

It's all a presumption - asking them what their motivation is simply extends the presumption to "they're telling the truth" rather than "I've inferred their motivations based on their game." If that's enough for you, then that's fine.

That said, you're idea of "I'm sure they mean well and it'll all be revealed in the fullness of time" is a hideous conflation - for the second time - of two separate ideas. The reconciliation of a limitation and an exception to that limitation is something that can be verified, and (I think) a good GM will make that clear over time. But "I'm sure they mean well" is just another guess that you've made about their motives.

If there is trust in the GM, shouldn't there be enough trust to be confident that one can ask "Wait, I thought the rule was X but this thing seems to violate rule X?" This is especially so when problem is less an exception to a particular rule (dwarves can't be wizards, women have a strength cap, but *this* NPC is unusual for specific reasons), but is an inconsistency in the underlying logic of the game. If a GM says that the milieu is going to adhere strictly to the social mores of Tokugawa-era Japan, then the players ought to be surprised if samurai are cheerfully running around shooting handguns without anyone batting an eye about it. That would be different from a game in which a particular samurai pulls a handgun on the players. ("Wait, I thought this was forbidden? Oh wait, Evil Lord Hoshio probably doesn't give a rip about the code of honor. Okay then.")

By all means, ask. The question of when the GM presents the reconciliation of limits and exceptions to those limits is less important than there is one at all; I personally feel you should give the GM some breathing room in that regard, but it's fine if you need to know why that's happening the instant that it happens.

Certainly the latter can be answered objectively; one may disagree with the reasoning, but I don't see why it is impossible to answer objectively.

It's impossible to answer objectively because when you ask someone why they did something, you don't know if there answer is true or not. You can't ever know. Are they telling you their honest feelings, or are they making an argument to reconcile with what they think will satisfy your (presumed) objection? It can lead to a useful exchange of ideas, but ultimately you're going to have to decide if what their telling you is their honest feelings or not, and that's just a guess.
 


Libertad

Adventurer
I would greatly appreciate if people would stop mixing up sexual harassment and sexism. This, I find extremely offensive towards men. Some posters here have written six or seven letter-sized pages of text on male sexism; what about discussing female double standards, while we're at it?

For example, the fantasies expressed in the worldwide bestseller Shades of Grey dwarf any display of sexual encounters I have ever witnessed in any game. Yet, it's socially acceptable, for whatever reason. But, no, we sexist pigs, having our dungeon-looting party of dwarves and hobbits celebrate in the Waterdeep whorehouse, that is so GROSS!

In regards to sexual harassment, it can be related to sexism in incidents with overwhelming gender disparity, or when one party feels that they can "get away" with their behavior because of "she shouldn't complain for dressing that way!" or "he's a guy, of course he wants it!"

But in almost all countries in the world, and in the tabletop fandom, sexism towards women is much deeper, more pervasive, and more systemic. Thus the focus on my original post; people who talk about sexism against women are not denying incidents of sexism against men or saying that they're not important, just like how people who focus on one problem in society are not denying other problems by default.

In regards to sexual themes in gaming sessions, it depends upon the comfort and context. It can become harassing behavior if one player becomes the butt of unwelcome sexual jokes and in-game advances to make him/her uncomfortable.

In the case of conventions, it has to do with some men who think that since a woman is dressed all sexy that gives them the right to make unwelcome advances towards them.

Shades of Grey is different in that it's a media consumed in private. And the reader is reading it of their own free will.

The difference is about consent.

Maybe it's the combination of topic and writing style for me but... waah :-S

Well, it IS Twilight fanfiction! :D
 
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Elf Witch

First Post
Maybe it's the combination of topic and writing style for me but... waah :-S

I was beaten to the comment about it being Twilight fanfic. Though I give props to the writer for making something that brought her in income. The same with Stephanie Meyers. I don't judge what other people read. I have been judged and told that despite the hundreds of SF and Fantasy sitting on my shelves the fact that I enjoy a romance novel now and then means I am not a true geek.

One of the things I have noticed that woman get subjected to a lot more than guys is the "true geek" crap.

Over the years I have been told that I was not a true geek because I like make up and have an unholy passion for shoes. Though thanks to the Goths this has eased up and is not as bad as it was in the 70s and 80s. Now I get you are not a true geek because your knowledge of the Avengers comes from the movies. The fact that I read other comics like every issue of Birds of Prey, Witchblade, Wonder Woman doesn't count to these jerks.

I was at a Doctor Who con and watched some guys savage a young girl because she was a not a true fan because she has only seen new Who.
 


Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
the fact that I enjoy a romance novel now and then means I am not a true geek.

I got the same about liking mystery and criminal stories. And of course, considering the fact that I hate superman/batman/all other superhero stuff and read few comics, I also got the "not a true geek" comment a few times. I usually just throw it back at them for not liking Star Trek/Star Wars/Babylon 5/Faerun etc ;)

Not sure as this is that much more of an issue with women, my husband keeps getting "not a true geek" a lot, too.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Not sure as this is that much more of an issue with women, my husband keeps getting "not a true geek" a lot, too.

My wife likes to say she is a 'half-geek'.

I'd guess that this is a pretty common point of mild but still annoying and unacceptable sexism that women have to put up with more than men. By the same standards, I'm not a true geek - but my geek credentials are rarely doubted. I suspect my departure from mainstream geekdom would get more questioning if I was a woman though.

My advice is to treat this as the sort of minor hazing any cultural group does when trying to evaluate potential membership and go, "I'm geekier than thou" on them. Don't focus on the sexism, since at least some of the time you'd be wrong - men would get the same treatment at least some of the time. Throwing it back at them is the appropriate response.

For example...

a) I don't like Star Trek. If given the 'you aren't a true geek' over this, I respond with a detailed critique as to why a true geek shouldn't like Star Trek - technobabble, soap opera in space, zero sum plots, self-contradiction, illogical and frequently bad movies, thrown away plot points, mass marketed appeal, frequent lack of depth, Voyager, etc. Babylon 5 and the lamented untimely killed Firefly were better.
b) I don't like Dr. Who. Sorry. If you like Dr. Who, and it's not because your British and filled with nostalgia, its only because you are so starved for Sci Fi that your willing to swallow British treacle and dreck. If you want British sci-fi TV, you should watch Red Dwarf, which by virtue of being aware it was schlocky, silly and campy managed to be both more fun and more thoughtful.

And so forth. Basically, you only need a geek reason for not liking something, and to point out your affection for something further from the mainstream to totally blow up charges of you lack true geek cred. At the worst, you'll end up in the sort of passionate argument about trivia that geeks love.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
Hehe we totally agree on Dr. Who and would probably get into an extensive discussion over Star Trek ;)

Being geeky became ok, if not cool, so I think we'll see the "true blood" geeks trying to separate from the perceived "half-bloods" even more in the future. "I got mundanes in my geekdom" kind of stuff. And of course, with more fans for any franchise this also means more women. And the % is females playing, albeit sometimes different RPGs, goes up.
 

mythago

Adventurer
I'd guess that this is a pretty common point of mild but still annoying and unacceptable sexism that women have to put up with more than men. By the same standards, I'm not a true geek - but my geek credentials are rarely doubted. I suspect my departure from mainstream geekdom would get more questioning if I was a woman though.

Yup. That's the point of the "fake geek girl" nonsense - the assumption that women can't really be geeks and/or must have some ulterior motive for involving themselves in geekdom, such as undeservedly absorbing praise from lonely neckbeards.

My advice is to treat this as the sort of minor hazing any cultural group does when trying to evaluate potential membership and go, "I'm geekier than thou" on them. Don't focus on the sexism, since at least some of the time you'd be wrong - men would get the same treatment at least some of the time. Throwing it back at them is the appropriate response.

While I appreciate that you're trying to give folks the benefit of the doubt, I respectfully disagree that this is a workable solution, particularly given the actual experiences of women on the receiving end of the Fake Girl Geek nonsense.

First, the analogy of 'hazing' is inapt. Hazing is what happens when people who are in a particular group have the power to admit or deny entry to that group, and impose some hurdles on all new members - which they, themselves, went through when they were new - to make sure the applicant is worthy and membership is "earned". Geekdom isn't a group with a limited membership, where more experienced geeks all had to get quizzed on Dr. Who knowledge or THACO tables to be allowed to call themselves geeks, and now have the right to require the same of others.

More, the idea of an exclusive Studio 54-type of club is pretty much anathema to the whole idea of geekery. (That point, along with an excellent takedown of the concept of Geekier Than Thou, was done much more cleverly than I could here.)

The nature of the community aside, the point of this Fake Geek Girl harassment isn't to test and include. It's to exclude. She's not really a geek; she's pretending to be a geek, and must be exposed for the fraud she is! And how do we know she's a geek? Why, because she's a girl, or at least a girl who doesn't fit the stereotype of what an actual Geek Girl is like, presuming that the self-appointed Champion of Geekery admits such could exist.

(By the way, this is why it's sexism even if it were hazing; because women are assumed to be newbies merely by virtue of the fact that they are women.)

So, no, trying to out-geek is not a solution. For starters, it's utterly useless to someone who is a geek, but whose experience/familiarity/obsession doesn't match the Self-Appointed Champion's. You or I would probably not even blink at the idea of an 18-year-old who has been gaming since she was old enough to pick up a dice bag calling herself a "gaming geek", but she isn't going to "out-geek" the guy three times her age who cut his teeth on the original Traveler. And the Self-Appointed Champion, the type of person who really thinks there is a problem with Fake Geek Girls, is not likely to be the sort of person to graciously admit defeat and declare he's been outgunned, as opposed to, say, continuing to be hostile, or finding some other "reason" the Girl in question is truly a Fake Geek.

And going right back to the subject of the thread: There's a more important reason, though, that "just out-geek 'em" is not a solution. It's that the Fake Geek Girl Inquisition is the problem. When a community has a culture in which it's accepted, or at worst tolerated, to assume that women don't belong and have to prove their right to participate to anyone who feels like making it an issue? When participating in one's beloved hobby with others means having to deal with being treated as a malicious "fake" because one has the temerity to have boobs? That is a problem, whether or not any individual woman is able to run the trivia gauntlet.

I suspect at this point you may be bursting to tell me that the guys who pull this BS are a minority; and that is probably true. But even a minority of badly-behaving people can poison a group, especially if the group seems to ignore or tolerate their behavior or treat it as something one just has to deal with, shrug.
 

Celebrim

Legend
While I appreciate that you're trying to give folks the benefit of the doubt, I respectfully disagree that this is a workable solution, particularly given the actual experiences of women on the receiving end of the Fake Girl Geek nonsense.

Not only is it the workable solution, it's the only workable solution. You think you are going to come into a social group and dictate terms to them? Really? That's your idea of how to gain acceptability?

First, the analogy of 'hazing' is inapt.

No it isn't.

Hazing is what happens when people who are in a particular group have the power to admit or deny entry to that group, and impose some hurdles on all new members - which they, themselves, went through when they were new - to make sure the applicant is worthy and membership is "earned". Geekdom isn't a group with a limited membership...

Sure it is. All social and cultural groups have limited memberships and while you can't be denied entry into geekdom, you can be denied acceptance into it. This is true of any cultural group, but its also true of any group of strangers. Your acceptance is always predicated on your ability to impress the group that you belong. To a certain extent, this is precisely how geekdom got started - the geeks were unable to impress any other group that they belonged. Your membership to a certain extent depended on having that experience as a shared experience.

But every social and cultural group has a high percentage of members that desire exclusivity because it fosters high commonality and trust between members of the group. You are threatening the groups cohesion when you try to force change on them, and frankly you are telling the groups 'it's me or you'. That's not a very workable solution.

where more experienced geeks all had to get quizzed on Dr. Who knowledge or THACO tables to be allowed to call themselves geeks, and now have the right to require the same of others.

Every group has the right to screen its membership and decide whether you have a right to participate socially, and even if you deny that they have that right it doesn't change the reality of the fact that they do behave this way - right or not. This is true of cheerleaders, Hassidic Jews, feminists, communists, conservatives, jocks, construction workers, goths, etc. You might get more harassment joining a construction crew as a woman, but harassment wouldn't be exclusive to you being a woman. Believe me, it was a major obstacle for me to convince them an 'egghead' belonged in such a group.

You want a challenge, you try fitting into social groups where you are the only member of your racial group. Or try fitting into a group of inner city northerners whose only experience of the south is The Dukes of Hazard as a rural southerner. You try convincing some Appalachian good old boy in his hunting cabin, that he can talk to you while you are wearing a federal agent badge because you are a member of his social group and sympathetic to his concerns. You think you get him to accept you, call off his dogs, by expressing your outrage over his stereotyping? It doesn't work that way.

The nature of the community aside, the point of this Fake Geek Girl harassment isn't to test and include. It's to exclude.

The nature of all harassment and testing isn't to include, but to exclude. All social groups are inherently exclusive and not inclusive. This includes the geeks, who have long since left the domain of when it was solely the group for people who didn't belong anywhere else. Geekdom is increasingly 'cool', and the geeks with that old common culture experience are like, "What are you doing here?" Ultimately, this isn't solely being motivated by fear of women, and I think it's wrong to view it that way. It's fear of change. Fear of social dissolution. Your dealing with people many of whom are on the edge of being autistic wondering where there comfortable predictable social environment went, and you are telling me that the 'workable solution' is what? Because I see a lot of criticism and outrage in your post, but not a lot that looks like a solution.

And the Self-Appointed Champion, the type of person who really thinks there is a problem with Fake Geek Girls, is not likely to be the sort of person to graciously admit defeat and declare he's been outgunned, as opposed to, say, continuing to be hostile, or finding some other "reason" the Girl in question is truly a Fake Geek.

And you really think that someone uncomfortable with your entry into a social setting is going to be more likely to admit defeat and cease being hostile if you .... what? Hold a rally? Call for diversity training? Angrily denounce his sexism? Challenge him for membership in the group? Threaten to exclude him? Appeal to the other members of the group for sensitivity? What do you think this is Survivor: GenCon? You really think even the sympathetic people of a group, the non-sexist people of the group, are going to be really sympathetic if you try to rally them against their friend on account of his sexism? You think this is a more workable solution than showing what you have in common? You think that's a better solution than showing you can't be put at unease and that your are good natured regardless of whether you are treated poorly? You think that's a better solution than showing you are emotionally tough and that you can give as good as you get? Because I promise you it's not, whether we are talking entry into a gaming group or a business situation or a position of leadership.

It's that the Fake Geek Girl Inquisition is the problem.

It doesn't matter what the problem is. Problems abound. They won't stop. What matters are the solutions, which you are very much not offering.

When a community has a culture in which it's accepted, or at worst tolerated, to assume that women don't belong and have to prove their right to participate to anyone who feels like making it an issue? When participating in one's beloved hobby with others means having to deal with being treated as a malicious "fake" because one has the temerity to have boobs? That is a problem, whether or not any individual woman is able to run the trivia gauntlet.

The world is filled with evils. You will be excluded for all sorts of reasons, being a woman just one among many. The geeks aren't so different from the rest of humanity as all of that.

I suspect at this point you may be bursting to tell me that the guys who pull this BS are a minority...

No. That would be ridiculous. It may be true, I don't really know, that the guys that pull this BS simply because you are a woman are in a minority. I suspect that is true because at some level most men, sexist or not, are going to be more accepting of you and more desirous to include you because you are a woman - which has it's own set of problems, not the least of which is feelings of jealousy and lost social status by some other members of the group. But then again, it may not be. It may be that most geeks are sexist. I've never known 'most geeks'. No, what I would tell you is that the percentage of people who 'pull this BS' is nearly 100%. That you can pick up journal articles that discuss why membership in exclusive groups are favored and why all people like to feel that their groups are more exclusive than inclusive. This is the reality of human interaction. Some people are naturally good at it. Most geeks are not. I'm certainly not. I can succeed by approaching the problem intellectually, and well, role-playing.

seems to ignore or tolerate their behavior or treat it as something one just has to deal with, shrug.

It doesn't really matter in that since whether it's ignored or tolerated or not, one just has to deal with it. That's one of the commonalities of the geek experience, I would think. We've all had to deal with rejection. You want to insist and believe that the hurdles are too high and you'll never get across them because every one is just so sexist? That's not a solution. Are you saying that the in crowd needs to champion you in order for you to gain admission? That's not a solution either.
 

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