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

    The Mod Wonder: Please remember Lewis's Law: The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism. Please attempt to prove the exception to this law.

    Sexism in Tabletop Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It



    I've been thinking about this a lot, one I've seen emerge several times within the hobby, from message boards to published sourcebooks. Although not quite common, but still too common, a similar trend emerges: a poster starts up a thread about about Strength caps for women, women who know how to fight in historical settings (and even fictional ones!), DMs and players who act creepy, et cetera.

    Many cases bear striking similarity; an uncomfortable attitude towards women gamers in various forms and degrees.

    I believe that discussion of gender issues in RPGs is important, not only because acknowledgement of trends and portrayals in fiction are a valid form of critique, but because in recent years there is an elephant in the room: portrayal of women and incidents of sexism within the tabletop fandom. And while many gamers are decent people, there is a not-so-insignificent segment among the tabletop community which propagates an atmosphere unwelcoming to women. And is being discussed in many areas, both among fans and game designers.

    Now, I don't believe that I can cover the whole issue with but a single post, but I will go over the major things:

    Spoiler: Women have always fought
    Show




    Oftentimes, especially in regards to historical RPGs, I've often heard the "women can't be fighters" said over and over. The reality is that women in many historical instances contributed to society beyond being baby-making machines. They were queens, business owners, scientists, philosophers, and even warriors. And not just the Joans of Arc and Annie Oaklies of the world. You know the mythical Amazons? The stories had more than a hint of truth: in ancient times the Sauromatians, mounted warriors, had about 20% of their military groups comprised of women. This has been observed through examination of over 40 burial mounds by archeologists.

    Among the Vikings, it was legal for women to avenge the death of family members as part of a blood feud.

    The Colosseum of ancient Rome had some skilled female gladiators, and Roman soldiers writing of their experiences in the war with Gaul told of women who fought just as eagerly as the men.

    During the Mexican Revolution, women were a significant contribution to Emiliano Zapata's army, as writers, politicians, and soldiers and officers.

    This is historical accuracy.


    Spoiler: Rape, and Women Feeling Unwelcome
    Show
    Make no mistake, tabletop gaming is primarily a male-dominated hobby. But there are many women gamers out there, from Vampire to Shadowrun. Most gamers are nice, decent people, but you know what they say about the squeakiest wheel getting the grease.


    Examples of problematic behavior:


    [1]CthulhuTech had not one, but 3 adventures dealing with graphic, onscreen rape, which the PCs cannot avert.
    [2]Exalted 2nd Edition, Vampire the Masquerade, and even Call of Cthulhu included rape scenes (and even an illustrated picture!) in fiction or setting detail.
    [3]James Desborough published several blatantly sexist RPG books laughing at women instead of with them. He excessively talked about rape, both as jokes and its inclusion in games. He even went so far as to write an essay entitled "In Defense of Rape" to attract controversy by making his point in the worst way possible.
    [4]Maid the RPG's earlier printings did not omit incidents of pedophilia played for laughs as the result of poor editing.
    [5]A booth in 2013 Gen Con was selling t-shirts and slogans making light of sexual harassment and date rape in easy view, and in violations of Gen Con's own rules. The material was reported by several people, but the booth continued selling the merchandise, even though staff said that they'd ask the merchandise to be removed.

    Rape is a minefield in the realm of fiction. The problem is not the inclusion of rape itself so much as how it's handled. Tabletop gaming sessions are very risky, as a lot of people connect with their created characters, and the environment can get personal ("you attack the orc," "you find a hidden gem," you, you, you).

    Rape is a common threat for many girls and women, in some areas as many as 1 in 4 women will suffer a sexual assault in their lifetime. Even worse, many societies worldwide (including the Western world) do not treat it with the severity it deserves, blaming women for their style of dress, asking why she didn't fight back harder, or even covering it up in the case of religious orders! And men have it bad, too: female teachers who rape male students are viewed as sex symbols and the boys as "lucky," while male prisoners who get raped are laughed about or said to "deserve it for being a criminal."

    Rape is a major issue that our culture has not come around to fully recognizing as a horrible act (only if its a violent, stranger rape), and many people can suffer post-traumatic flashbacks when it's handled poorly in media, and feel isolated if they see people treat its portrayal as no different than any other sex act.

    Which brings me to a common fallacy I hear, notably one of the CthulhuTech developers: "Why do we treat sexual violence even worse than non-sexual violence? Such a repressed culture!" Well no, rape is often worse than most forms of violence. It's something which cannot be brushed off so easily as something like killing a bandit in self-defense, or as justifiable as other forms of murder. Dismissing the feelings of those who get upset about it as "being unable to handle mature games," "repressed prudes," et cetera, sends a message (even unintentionally) that women gamers should stop complaining about a very common and very personal fear. Jim Sterling, a video game critic, discusses the issue far better than I ever can.


    Spoiler: Problematic does not equal irredeemable
    Show
    Just because a game element is sexist, insensitive, ethnically problematic, et cetera does not automatically mean that you as a fan condone it. The thing about tabletop RPGs is that there are many games and many books written by different authors. And its decades-long history has progressed along with society. When Gygax and friends started playing the first D&D sessions, 2nd wave feminism was still progressing. In the 90s White Wolf was doing its best to be inclusive of all races and cultures in their games, but lack of research and exposure to said cultures resulted in flat stereotypes.

    I love Dungeons & Dragons. I love Vampire. I love Shadowrun, Deadlands, and even Call of Cthulhu. But they all have content which if examined closely, is very troubling. Magical Native Americans in Werewolf, Neo-Confederate apologia in Deadlands, and even a creation myth for the Drow in Complete Book of Elves which is no different than the real-world Curse of Ham (evil people are marked by their dark skin).

    These examples are problematic, but in many cases they might not be dominant in the campaign and can be ignored. Or changed and altered with little consequence. If I ever ran a 1st Edition AD&D game, I'd remove the Strength cap limit for women. Unless the RPG is saturated with problematic content (FATAL), it can be saved.

    On a related note, quite a few of these things are buried deep in setting lore, not always caught upon on casual reading. Players of D&D were attracted by a world of fantasy and magic; I got into Deadlands because the idea of playing monster hunters and mad scientists in the Wild West sounded awesome. The other stuff was found later.

    An important thing to keep in mind is that writers make mistakes. White Wolf screwed up with World of Darkness: Gypsies, but they since apologized and the original writers don't work anymore. I have no problem continuing buying from them. Gary Gygax later on said that the female strength cap was a mistake to include. Ewen Cluney forgot to excise problematic content from Maid RPG, but when it was brought to his attention he listened to the critics and removed it. Since then I haven't noticed any creepy sex stuff in his works. And I'm sure that in my years of writing stuff and homebrew, I probably erred somewhere.

    Barring the irredeemable (FATAL), game designers aren't going to be forced out of the industry or lose their buyers if they make some honest mistakes. What's more important is how they react to criticism. A writer who doubles down on his stereotypical "noble savage" African nation while ranting about the PC Police is digging himself into a deeper hole.

    Is World of Darkness: Gypsies racist? Yes. Is it sexist to impose an artificial limitation on female PCs in D&D? Yes.

    But that doesn't make all WoD and D&D players racist and sexist. We can acknowledge problematic content, change it and discard it, when it impacts other peoples' enjoyment by reinforcing systemic stereotypes and imposes arbitrary limits on common fantasy archetypes. Xena, Warrior Princess, should totally be a valid D&D concept, and women and members of real-world ethnic groups do not need to be reminded in their gaming sessions of what bigots think about them if it makes them uncomfortable.


    Spoiler: Strength Caps and Other Stuff
    Show
    Particularly in regards to "realism." It's almost never about realism. An 18 in any ability score represents an individual who is highly gifted, the cream of the crop. Even in real life, there are many incidents of women performing acts of incredible strength when under stress, such as lifting a car off to save someone's life.

    And it's not just one incident.

    By 3rd Edition RAW, a heavy load for 18 Strength is 201-300 lbs. With this score, you lift 300 lbs. over your head, and push and drag 1,500 lbs. For world records of women weightlifters, all of them lifted at least 180 kilograms (396 lbs) with a snatch clean and jerk technique.

    Quoting Awaken_DM Golem on another board in regards to 1st Edition:

    1E used a nearly linear STR scale of 10*# = weight you can lift over your head.
    So an 18 STR can lift 180 pounds over his(her!) head.
    And who did the ancient Greeks call Amazons anyway.
    I go google just a little.

    2013 Junior Pan Am (hey tough guy it's "Juniors")
    Ellen Kercher put 68kg on the more difficult lift, and 81kg on the 2 step move.
    81kg * 2.2convert = 178.2 pounds
    Now her performing class weight is available to google too, but hey look at her
    ... she's tiny, like smaller than that tough guy DM.

    And who said that 18 Str women are unrealistic?

    I'll say it again, because it bears repeating: DMs who create this rule usually stop there. It requires little effort to make a blanket statement about "all women in my game are..." but it takes a lot of effort to make a plausible economic system or a health/damage track just like real-world wounds. It takes commonly-held assumptions about women and enshrines it in unbendable game stats. It never takes in the other side of the equation, like giving a Constitution cap for men for stereotypes of lower pain thresholds ("you'd never be able to handle childbirth!") and shorter life spans. This is due to the perception of male as the norm, which extends beyond games and into our culture: women characters in the media comprise around 5-20% of show casts, but are 50% of the world's population.

    "It's just a game! How's it different than game mechanics for different fantasy races?"

    It's different in the sense that elves, orcs, and dragons do not exist. Women exist, and comprise a significant portion of our population. We can afford some liberties with fantasy creatures because they're wholly fictional: if dwarves are strong due to divine blessings of Moradin, we can accept that as part of the setting.

    When one crosses into reality is when things get problematic. When you deal with real people, inaccuracies are less tolerable. Particularly when we reinforce stereotypes.

    We also play games to escape from the real world, where we can bust in the face of the evil lich with a spiked gauntlet as the conclusion to a satisfying adventure, where we can be real Heroes capable of feats impossible in our world. Wizards traveling the planes for hidden knowledge, Dragonriders leaping off their mount to soar through the air onto an enemy wyrm, and monks who can dance on the head of a needle are but a few things not only possible in D&D, but encouraged.

    It's not escapism when a women who, after dealing with some sexist customers at her retail job, visits the FLGS at game night and is blatantly told by the DM that her Lady in Shining Armor character concept is invalid. Particularly after rolling that 18, a 9.34% chance with a 4d6 drop the lowest roll six times! You'd feel cheated, too, if the DM discarded your amazing success!

    A women clad in full plate, pulling a dragon by the tail for a closer kill, or absorbing the blow of an ogre with her mighty shield might sound implausible to many, but it sure is cool and empowering, the kind of things PCs should be able to do.


    Spoiler: Not gaming specific but relevant, Feminist insults
    Show
    "Feminism is ruining gaming!" and "I don't mind feminists, it's the radical feminists I can't stand." When radical is not used in the proper terminology.

    It's a common thing I see on the Internet, a regrettable one at that. There are feminists out there who are very rude and lack tact, but that doesn't make their ideological viewpoints extreme. The feminists I've read in gaming-related threads, and on several online blogs and prominent websites here actually have viewpoints in line with mainstream 3rd Wave Feminism and do not fit the typical man-hating stereotype.

    Implying that hostility from feminists is "radical or hyper" implies that this is feminism's logical conclusion, that the jerks are the "most feminist" and that to be polite is to be politically moderate.

    Going to radical feminism, its terminology is contradictory. Among feminists themselves, it used to mean feminist with anti-capitalist leanings, or feminists who focus on the hypothesis of patriarchy as a system of power that organizes society into a complex of relationships based on the assertion that male supremacy oppresses women. Nowadays, the term is mostly adopted by anti-transgender hate groups, much to the chagrin of what few pro-transgender radical feminists still remain.

    Outside feminism, it's most often used as an insult to refer to feminists who get worked up and angry about gender issues, regardless of their actual viewpoints. Also as a snarl word to imply that most feminists hate men.

    Feminist groups overall do a lot of good work. They support battered women's shelters, rape crisis centers, LGBT rights, access to birth control and abortion for women and girls, among many other things. The portrayal of them all as man-haters, and who shame fellow women for wearing make-up and dresses is inaccurate and harmful. While such types do exist, it really depends on what part of the Internet you hang out on. There are feminists who don't want the help of men, but there are many more who are all too happy to let male allies join their cause (including bell hooks, radical feminist in the anti-capitalist sense). There are feminists who put on make-up and dresses, such as Wendy Davis. When feminists criticize and challenge traditional and conventional gender norms, they mostly do it in the sense of systems which coerce and shame women into adopting restrictive roles.


    So, What Can We Do About It?

    As this is more than just a series of isolated incidents, you might feel worried that the problem feels too big to fight. Do not despair; as far as systemic issues go, the tabletop community is not as large, or as pervasive, as sexism within the video game industry and larger nerd communities. In part due to smaller size, in part due to the relatively easy ability for indie tabletop games to break into things, and in part due to the popularity of LARPs and White Wolf games which (anecdotal evidence) attract a significant portion of women gamers. If anything, their non-negligible number should give many all the more reason to confront the issue.

    Confronting problematic behavior at the table

    Spoiler
    Show




    Gamers who are good friends know each other's comfort zones. They know their hobbies, what sets them off, and what they most enjoy in their games. People who are a nightmare to game with tend not to keep players for long. Confronting sexist and alienating actions in this instance is best done the way friends handle things: namely that certain things make you uncomfortable, and that you'd appreciate it if they were mindful of this. The comfort zones of players are very important to a conductive session. Communicating your feelings on the matter, and why they make you uncomfortable, is very important.

    Gaming with strangers is an entirely different matter. I really don't do this, so I can't give any advice or tips on it at the time.

    But whether with close groups or with strangers at the table, you should stick up for yourself when facing bad behavior which is making gamers feel unwelcome: you shouldn't let other players and DMs be horrible to you or your friends.


    Confronting problematic behavior among game designers

    Spoiler
    Show
    I have less trouble with naming names when it comes to books and designers because they're the "face" of tabletop gaming and the closest thing we have to public figures in the industry. Giving examples in books and fiction only helps, not hurt, the cause of exactly what needs to be fixed.

    Now, an important thing to keep in mind is the difference between one-time incidents and pervasive themes, both among the work itself and a line of products. The 3rd Edition Eberron Campaign Setting never made mention of sexual violence apart from a small part paragraph of a bandit gang in the Mournlands. Not even about the issue of half-orcs, as orcs and humans have far better relations in the setting and live among each other relatively peacefully in the Shadow Marches (where most orcs and half-orcs live). Monte Cook's Numenera is a very good book, and the Nibovian Wife monster (who only lives to be impregnated, and gives birth to a demon baby driven by the need to kill its father) is the only real sexually problematic thing in it from what I've heard.

    CthulhuTech, on the other hand, is dripping with squicky content, which only become more prevalent as the series went on. 3 adventures with unavoidable rape (2 of which are performed upon the PCs); most people lose their virginity by age 12 "due to liberal and open-minded sexual mores;" and a chair-like device built by the Nazis which sexually violates people. And the authors themselves are incapable of handling criticism and see no difference between portrayal of sexual violence and sex in general ("Europeans wouldn't be complaining about this! They have topless women in commercials!"). No surprise, then, that the very people who go out of their way to defend these aspects of the setting are folks who think that gamers who can't handle rape are just "immature," and like putting that kind of stuff in their gaming sessions to make players uncomfortable.

    CthulhuTech is far more worthy of scorn, both for its content and the author's handling of criticism, than the former two. The setting, and authorial statements on the matter, helped to generate a certain sort of fanbase over time, driving off a lot of people put off by the themes.

    Treating problematic content differently is not hypocritical if it's based off of frequency, the magnitude of individual situations, and how sensitively the authors handle the matter. Not everything is equally worthy of the same kind of scorn, in that there is hope for some lines and not others.


    Message Boards

    Spoiler
    Show
    The anonymity of the Internet is an entirely different beast. It can make the fringe seem mainstream, turn 50 voices into 5,000, and embolden bigots and misanthropes to say things they'd never do to another's face.

    It's advisable and healthy to dismiss individual trolls. Especially when they're new posters on a message board just looking for trouble. But it's another thing entirely when you discover that a significant amount of fellow posters (or a respected few) sound off on sexist statements in an all-too-sincere manner. In this case it's not an obvious troll, but fellow forumites. And if it becomes more than a one-time thing and transforms into a repetitive theme, it contributes to an exclusionary environment.

    Individual Incidents vs. Popular Views: This goes without saying, but just one guy made a sexist post doesn't make it the majority view. And a guy who said something 6 or more years ago, but has changed or doesn't say that kind of stuff anymore, should be treated differently than if he continues saying it (barring truly vile comments, like advocating rape/genocide/etc).

    A good indicator of the tolerance of such statements is to check the site rules, and moderator action towards such statements. If you feel that the rules aren't being enforced, or that behavior is going unnoticed, report said posts and explain the matter. If the mods themselves don't care, you're not going to get as much progress. Most websites have rules against sexist statements, although it mostly covers genuine hate speech as opposed to 'old-fashioned' yet sexist comments ("call me old-fashioned, but I don't think that women should enlist in the military").


    Show Support

    Spoiler
    Show
    It's not enough to call out bad behavior. Acknowledge when designers, artists, and figures in the fandom take positive steps. Not only does this show that you're not just fishing for outrage, but gives clues for people on what they can do right. Advertise RPGs which do things right, and if you can afford it and willing to play, buy some of the products in the line.

    On that note, I'll practice what I preach and list some RPG I think have done well (or are at least making an effort to take these things into consideration).

    The One Ring RPG have non-stripperific armor as the default design for women warriors in their artwork. This is progressive because many other RPGs (both tabletop and video games) design women's armor to be titillating.

    The designers of Pathfinder RPG are making attempts to be racially and LGBT inclusive. And possibly one of the first RPG systems to have a transgender iconic (I don't know which one, though). Unfortunately it has stumbled in some regards (stereotypical gypsies and Darkest Africa pulps), but the designers took criticism into account and considered it valid.

    Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition was the first Edition to alternate between masculine and feminine pronouns. Half of the PC class iconics were women (Druid, Monk, Paladin, Rogue, and Wizard). The Monk and Wizard outfits definitely veered towards the 'showing a lot of skin' end, but the other 3's adventuring garb are more sensible.

    Legend is a 3rd Edition retroclone by Rule of Cool Games. It too alternates between male/female pronouns, and 3 of its iconics (Barbarian, Paladin, and Rogue) look cool without being cheesecake.



    In conclusion, gender issues matter a lot, and not just for women gamers. Our community, both message boards and the wider tabletop fandom as a whole, is a great one. Our gaming sessions, RPG settings, homebrews, fanfiction, and Cons created countless decades of fun, camaraderie, and hundreds of thousands of new friendships. But just like every other community, it is not perfect, and it has problems which make our fellow gamers feel unwelcome and marginalized. Addressing these issues and confronting problematic behavior helps lift us up as a whole, and encourages newcomers into our hobby and keeps the existing ones who might otherwise leave from the negativity.

    Let's ensure that our female friends and gamers feel a welcome part of the community!
    Last edited by Libertad; 2013-10-21 at 01:31 PM.



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

    If we're going to feel offended for the sake of being offended . . .

    I'm offended pronouns are almost always female.

    I'm offended in 3E D&D there exists a plethora of female-only prestige classes but the one male-only prestige class is the Eunuch.

    I'm offended whenever there's a matriarchal society in some DM's game it's always She-Woman Man Hater. I acknowledge Rashemen of Forgotten Realms isn't so bad.

    I'm offended fluff text will discuss "sisterhoods" alone but never "brotherhoods" alone. It's always "brotherhood and sisterhood" or "brothers and sisters".

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

    Quote Originally Posted by navar100 View Post
    If we're going to feel offended for the sake of being offended . . .

    I'm offended pronouns are almost always female.

    I'm offended in 3E D&D there exists a plethora of female-only prestige classes but the one male-only prestige class is the Eunuch.

    I'm offended whenever there's a matriarchal society in some DM's game it's always She-Woman Man Hater. I acknowledge Rashemen of Forgotten Realms isn't so bad.

    I'm offended fluff text will discuss "sisterhoods" alone but never "brotherhoods" alone. It's always "brotherhood and sisterhood" or "brothers and sisters".
    Double standards- twice as good as regular standards!
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    See, the thing about tabletop games (as opposed to video games) is that they're so *modular.* Unless you're running a game right out of the box and haven't read over the content, a tabletop game is only as sexist as you want it to be.

    With the notable exception of Strength caps. Which I guess make sense in Victorian England but not any fantasy setting ever.

    How do you guys feel about the Lashunta in Pathfinder, then?
    Last edited by The Oni; 2013-10-18 at 01:22 PM.
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    I'd avoid trying to discuss feminism on these forums, to stay on the safe side of the rules. Aside from that you do make some good points Libertad. It seems weird that with most of the top selling RPG's being as combat centric as they are, more hasn't been done to play with the idea of male disposability. When's the last time a module had a primarily female force of antagonists for you to defeat (that wasn't some absurd warrior society stereotype) and a vulnerable male prisoner to rescue?

    Now that I think about it the Drow probably fit the bill with females taking on both gender roles, even if males are still fairly traditional in terms of gender role.
    Last edited by Ylorch; 2013-10-18 at 01:27 PM.

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

    I know it's pretty basic, but this is a subject where most people do not, in fact, have a working knowledge of the basics (although I find that a surprisingly large amount of feminists online think that everyone else does, or should have, even though it's something that's pretty hard to acquire unless you make a point of reading up on feminism).

    As such, it might be useful to touch on basics like privilege (which is pretty essential, IMO, to explaining what the problem is with including rape in entertainment, e.g. the privilege of not taking it so seriously).

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Smeagle View Post
    See, the thing about tabletop games (as opposed to video games) is that they're so *modular.* Unless you're running a game right out of the box and haven't read over the content, a tabletop game is only as sexist as you want it to be.
    I think you're mixing definitions. A roleplaying game can mean the books containing the rules and settings, or the activity at the table. Both can feature sexist content, and you can't make the former less sexist without re-writing it. (And it's not the existence of a sexist book that's the problem, anyway; no single instance of problematic material is the issue, ever, it's the trends in media and culture.)

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

    Took me a while to grok what the Lewis Law was about, and then I laughed. Yes, it is remarkable how vitriolic opposition can get on the net. But it's not a problem particular to just women's rights. Internet is a cesspit, and any topic that can suffer from polarization will suffer from it.

    A word about realism vs. sexism, though. There is a whole spectrum and stark difference between "women are at a disadvantage for strength-based tasks" and "women are invalid as warriors".

    For example, in 1st Ed AD&D, it is very rare for *any* character to have a strength score of 18/50. A female character with such score, or 17, or even 16, is still is stronger than majority of male warriors.

    More to the point, Dexterity, Constitution, attack tables and equipment are not penalized. A female character with non-ideal strength score can be an efficient knight in shining armor just by virtue of belonging to right character class.

    The last debate on the subject took on comical shades because it simultaneosly acknowledged and ignored this fact. Some critics of such rules were quick to point out how "strength isn't that important anyway" and women in real life can be great fighters despite of observable, verifiable differences in physiology. But none of them really considered or examined whether this could hold true in context of games.

    I think it is possible to give realistic or even exaggarated disincentive for female characters to become physical laborers, without simultaneously preventing female characters from assuming and being effective in such roles. Adhering to reality should not be held as negative, even when reality falls short of our fantasies. A game can include a horrifyingly sexist society, while still allowing for progressive, strong and positive female characters to be played in it.

    Flat-out disallowing some roles because "women should stay in the kitchen, lol" is a far cry from "you can play this role effectively, just not maximally effective".

    Likewise, singular rules should not be taken as strong indicators of anything. Noitahovi, a recent Finnish RPG, has the rule that men start with 1 point higher strength. But the whole setting revolves around women, and most notable characters (warriors included) are also women, because all major societies in the game are matriarchies.

    It is fallacious to cry wolf because "my character idea is being invalidated!", if the idea actually is valid.
    Last edited by Frozen_Feet; 2013-10-18 at 01:33 PM.
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhynn View Post
    I think you're mixing definitions. A roleplaying game can mean the books containing the rules and settings, or the activity at the table. Both can feature sexist content, and you can't make the former less sexist without re-writing it. (And it's not the existence of a sexist book that's the problem, anyway; no single instance of problematic material is the issue, ever, it's the trends in media and culture.)
    Well, I know, but one of the biggest draws of roleplaying is how customizable it is, y'know? So I feel like sexism in tabletop gaming is not so big a deal as sexism in video gaming.

    If you think it's lousy that there are no female guards in, say, Magnimar (I don't know a thing about Magnimar I just know it's from Pathfinder) then all you have to do is say "GM Magic! Oh, look, now half the guards are female." Or all female, for that matter, if it strikes your fancy. Put on a husky warrior-lady voice and the problem is totally solved.

    If you think it's lousy that there are no female marines in the early Halo games (I think they may have added some in the later games) then all you have to do is...uh...spend eight to ten months learning coding and modeling. Er...yeah.
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    A very well-written and well-sourced OP. The one thing I would like to add is the depiction of women in gaming art of any kind, from fantasy to sci-fi, and the "standard female pose" as discussed in detail by MovieBob.

    Bob's video deals more with video games but is applicable to any visual medium - and naturally, tabletop gaming has become in recent years a very visual medium, because high-quality art sells books.


    And I'll end with this little gem:

    Spoiler
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    What if the Male Avengers posed like Black Widow?



    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Smeagle View Post
    Well, I know, but one of the biggest draws of roleplaying is how customizable it is, y'know? So I feel like sexism in tabletop gaming is not so big a deal as sexism in video gaming.

    If you think it's lousy that there are no female guards in, say, Magnimar (I don't know a thing about Magnimar I just know it's from Pathfinder) then all you have to do is say "GM Magic! Oh, look, now half the guards are female." Or all female, for that matter, if it strikes your fancy. Put on a husky warrior-lady voice and the problem is totally solved.

    If you think it's lousy that there are no female marines in the early Halo games (I think they may have added some in the later games) then all you have to do is...uh...spend eight to ten months learning coding and modeling. Er...yeah.

    You're right ... but.
    Most GMs are not that creative. They will use what they're given. A setting that is not sexist will give female players leverage to demand that there be no sexism, and take away any excuse to have sexism in the game because "It's part of the setting!"

    Also, I do not want to buy sexist books. I just do not want to spend money on books with pictures of chainmail-bikini-clad damsels.
    RGPs with sexist settings just do not appeal to me.

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

    Let's be clear about the problems of modern feminism:

    1) "There are feminists out there who are very rude and lack tact", as you said. That's a personal issue, it isn't related to the validity of the ideology itself.

    2) The kind of feminism that wishes to deconstruct gender. It's philosophically flawed, bad to politics and social movements because it's wasted energy in an (almost) irrelevant topic, and ultimately bad because while any kind of hard normativity can be uncomfortable or even downright oppresive, the problem isn't the gender binary and actually, the gender binary is positive for humankind. That's how gender feminism, as an ideology and as a political effort, is a problem.

    Of course, I agree our society is still sexist, that there is sexism in our hobby and that feminist activists (from all ideological paths) do some really important and admirable work.

    But somehow you just creditted all criticism to feminism to lack of common sense or sexism. Feminism is a political movement, acted by real people and it's unrealistic to imagine it wouldn't have it's own flaws and contradictions. But unfortunately, in modern feminism being defensive, paranoid and hostile when criticized isn't considered a bad conduct, but actually the best and most coherent way to go.

    -----------------------------

    I have not much to comment on the rest of OP because I agree with most of it.

    There's much in the hobby that can make women uncomfortable. Most those things just shouldn't be there. For example, references to rape. Pew-pewing monsters is something we all do since we are kids, and it's not always related, in our symbolical comprehension, as violence, but as conquering challenges. But there's no way a player can see rape in such a distant, symbolical and ludical way. There's a reason it does not exist in fairy tales - it just kills the fantasy. And if a player is a survivor, a lot of inner distress will ensue if it is unsensitively mentioned.

    Same goes with strenght. In average men are stronger, but PCs aren't the average.

    However, there are some things can make a women uncomfortable during a session that I don't know how to easily fix. If I'm going for a more historical or pseudo-historical setting, there will be male dominance of such intensity that most female PCs would be restricted in one way or the other. Many homebuilders decided to leave it like that. What do you think of it?
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    Wasn't this very topic raised on ENWorld two days ago, using the exact same wording?

    Why, Yes it was.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by oudeis View Post
    Wasn't this very topic raised on ENWorld two days ago, using the exact same wording?

    Why, Yes it was.
    By the same individual - it's a cross-post, nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of folks here who don't post on ENWorld (myself included.)


    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by oudeis View Post
    Wasn't this very topic raised on ENWorld two days ago, using the exact same wording?

    Why, Yes it was.
    Libertad has been going around and posting this topic on a bunch of different RPG forums. More exposure you know?

    EDIT: Stupid psionic ninja's .
    Last edited by 123456789blaaa; 2013-10-18 at 02:14 PM.
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    I'm sorry, but how is this any 'better' than discussing religion or politics? If we are allowed to discuss Feminism, why not Marxism? They aren't necessarily equivalent, but the premise behind the rule should still apply to Feminism.

    Don't get me wrong, sexism in gaming is wrong. Sexism is bad, period, stop, end of story. If elements of your game are sexist, you should probably remove them. It's pretty simple. At the table? Simply DBAD: Don't Be A D(jerk).

    But, seriously. In this forum, with the rules it has? This shouldn't be a topic. It is nominally about preventing sexism in tabletop RPGs, and that is good, but this thread will degenerate, and quickly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by havocfett
    Quote Originally Posted by My self
    I'll throw in my hat as a Dwarf Warlord//Were-Dire Badger, going into Dwarven Defender and Deepwarden from Races of Stone. Is that cool?
    ...I'm not sure the vocabulary exists in the english language to express how much I approve of this concept.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Halna LeGavilk View Post
    I'm sorry, but how is this any 'better' than discussing religion or politics? If we are allowed to discuss Feminism, why not Marxism? They aren't necessarily equivalent, but the premise behind the rule should still apply to Feminism.
    Mods already have spoken: "go on, but please remember to agree with OP's ideology".
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    And the thread has already veered a bit towards my favorite game: recast, without changing more than the barest bones necessary (e.g. names, a bit of how people dress, and if it comes up who's pregnant), an entire setting with inverted genders. Keep the dialog as identical as possible ("he" still becomes "she," and anything that would literally be nonsense coming out of a gender-swapped character's mouth needs to be altered fittingly), keep the events the same, and most importantly keep inter-character reactions the same.

    The results are often interesting.

    Most of Harriet Potter's stories remain similar to Harry's in tone as well as content. "The Girl Who Lived" is not really more jarring than "The Boy" or anything. The now-Mr. Weasely is a little odd, being a "matronly" overweight house-husband while the now-Mrs. Weasely is a bit of a head-in-the-clouds enthusiast for muggle artifacts who works at a stuffy little day job. Female!Hagrid is unusual, but workable.

    The Veelas, on the other hand, bring some very interesting things with them. Beautiful men who (almost?) magically cause women who look at them to be befuddled and smitten, while their irritated boyfriends look on and take various actions to snap them out of it.

    Some plots are not really workable with the swap. Queen Roberta Baratheon would hardly be able to have her beautiful blond Lannister husband pawn off the spawn of his incestuous relations with his sister Janie the Queenslayer as Roberta's children. Likewise, there wouldn't be bastards as easily sown about Roberta's kingdom that Royal Consort Ceril would want snuffed out to avoid threatening his own children's claims. But outside of such plots, the inversions often are quite doable and yet yield interesting results.

    Heck, Teela Lannister, the ugly dwarf-girl hated by her mother and whose only protector is her older sister Janie, buying a (male) whore who calls her "his Giant of Lannister" is an entirely odd circumstance by our standards.

    If you want to examine, for your own self, the "sexism" content of a game, you might try this on the setting as you plan to run it. See if anything that happens seems somehow less okay to you. Or if it seems MORE okay to you with the genders inverted.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by 123456789blaaa View Post
    EDIT: Stupid psionic ninja's .
    u got lurk'd m8

    Quote Originally Posted by Halna LeGavilk View Post
    I'm sorry, but how is this any 'better' than discussing religion or politics? If we are allowed to discuss Feminism, why not Marxism? They aren't necessarily equivalent
    You answered your own question.

    (And specifically, the OP is debating sexism, not Feminism - the former is not a political movement or religion.)


    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    Quote Originally Posted by Themrys View Post
    I just do not want to spend money on books with pictures of chainmail-bikini-clad damsels.
    I would be completely fine with buying such an RPG book! Though, it better also include pictures of young adult male Greco-Roman wrestlers shirtless and oiled. It better include chainmail-speedos for the men as well as appropriate and realistically functional armor for both sexes. It better be a comedic and campy setting/system that is meant to poke fun at all stereotypes and tropes equally. That actually sounds like a lot of fun to me.

    But no, simply put, I agree. Just because the individual DM has the authority to make changes to the setting does not give the game designers a free pass to put prejudiced/biased material in the setting in the first place.
    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    Why would elves be better at detecting things? We all know that cats use their whiskers as part of their senses. Now compare elves and dwarves. Elves cannot grow facial hair. Dwarves have luxurious beards. Of course dwarves should be better at detecting stuff.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by SethoMarkus View Post
    I would be completely fine with buying such an RPG book! Though, it better also include pictures of young adult male Greco-Roman wrestlers shirtless and oiled. It better include chainmail-speedos for the men as well as appropriate and realistically functional armor for both sexes.
    I'm okay with cheesecake too - but the problem is not the outfits, it's how the different genders are typically made to wear them/pose in them.

    For example, compare this scantily-clad fantasy individual:

    Spoiler
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    With this one:


    Spoiler
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    The difference being that the former is posed to show youthful aggression or determination, while the latter is simply checking herself out in an invisible mirror off-frame and the pose tells us nothing about her character.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    You answered your own question.

    (And specifically, the OP is debating sexism, not Feminism - the former is not a political movement or religion.)
    You misunderstand my point. Feminism should be no more discussed than Marxism should because it invokes the same feelings and debate 'styles'. THAT is why Feminist discussions should not be allowed on this forum. And this is a Feminist discussion, as already confirmed by the mods.

    And my point was less that the initial post was about feminism, but that it would start a discussion about and relating to Feminism. And the OP knew that, considering what happened on ENWorld.
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    Quote Originally Posted by havocfett
    Quote Originally Posted by My self
    I'll throw in my hat as a Dwarf Warlord//Were-Dire Badger, going into Dwarven Defender and Deepwarden from Races of Stone. Is that cool?
    ...I'm not sure the vocabulary exists in the english language to express how much I approve of this concept.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    I'm okay with cheesecake too - but the problem is not the outfits, it's how the different genders are typically made to wear them/pose in them.

    For example, compare this scantily-clad fantasy individual:

    Spoiler
    Show


    With this one:


    Spoiler
    Show


    The difference being that the former is posed to show youthful aggression or determination, while the latter is simply checking herself out in an invisible mirror off-frame and the pose tells us nothing about her character.

    Yup.

    The books of my favorite rpg have, among others, a half-naked barbarian (female) in a natural pose, and a priest of the goddess of love (male) who is obviously shirtless to show off his beauty ... but still in a natural pose. They wouldn't look bad or strange with sexes reversed. Unless you think shirtless women are strange, that is.
    (The older books are not as good, or so I have heard, but at the moment, that rpg really does welcome female buyers and players. Which is a wise decision ... I've always wondered why so many publishers don't want my money.)

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

    I bought Lamentations of the Flame Princess because of the cover art. Does that make me an awful person?

    Also, Themrys, I'd very much like to hear your thoughts of my analysis of Legend of Zelda. You can find it under Media discussions. Feel free to give it a pass if the games are not familiar to you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Themrys View Post
    Yup.

    The books of my favorite rpg have, among others, a half-naked barbarian (female) in a natural pose, and a priest of the goddess of love (male) who is obviously shirtless to show off his beauty ... but still in a natural pose. They wouldn't look bad or strange with sexes reversed. Unless you think shirtless women are strange, that is.
    (The older books are not as good, or so I have heard, but at the moment, that rpg really does welcome female buyers and players. Which is a wise decision ... I've always wondered why so many publishers don't want my money.)
    Which RPG is this? I'm just curious.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Agrippa View Post
    Which RPG is this? I'm just curious.
    "Das Schwarze Auge", translated into English as "The Dark Eye", although I heard the translation is incomplete and has not been continued.
    Last edited by Themrys; 2013-10-18 at 02:45 PM.

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

    First of all, this is a very good post and comments on many things I consider to be relevant in a thoughtful and civilized manner. While I disagree in some points, I think that this post deserves nothing as much as respect and celebration. Therefore, you get one beagle of celebration.
    Spoiler
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    That said, I have one point points where I mildly disagree:

    The fact that rape is very often handled badly in fiction doesn't mean that it can't be handled appropriately and with all the respect it deserves. This is true for any medium and pretty much any genre. While I personally don't think that sexualized violence is something I could handle appropriately in a game (and that is pretty much my position on the issue) I think it is not valid to draw the conclusion of a total taboo out of it. That doesn't change that is much, much better to avoid the issue than to handle it badly.

    Besides, it is a bit shortsighted to reduce sexual violence to something that happens to women; rape isn't any better if the victim happens to be a man, but that aspect is almost never mentioned at all or is seriously downplayed or worse, treated as a laughing matter. I am not trying to start a competition in victimization Olympics here; the point is, a very careful and, for the lack of a better word, reluctant approach to the depiction of rape in any medium, including RPGs, is not solely a matter of feminism, but of humanism in general.
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    while the latter is simply checking herself out in an invisible mirror off-frame and the pose tells us nothing about her character.
    Not true. Her pose, much like her weapon, is sinuous and draws parallels to the serpent. The claws on her left hand gauntlet there are even posed in such a way that they serve as the fangs. This makes sense given her morally ambiguous (but not truly villainous) nature and the fact that she is "poisoned" by Soul Edge's evil energies running through her veins.

    You might also be surprised to know, if you don't follow the Soul Series, that Ms. Fanservice there is voluntarily celibate, as she's terrified any child she might bear would have the same taint of Soul Edge - and it's implied that some her dominatrix tendencies when fighting, and her outfit, are a direct result of that frustration.

    That said, that does NOT explain the completely ridiculous fighting poses/getups of some of the OTHER Soul Calibur cast (friggin' Sophitia) but Ivy's a lot deeper than people give her credit for.
    Last edited by The Oni; 2013-10-18 at 02:56 PM.
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    My first rule when it comes to gaming is, as other said, don't be a jerk. No matter your gender or sexual orientation, if you can roll the dice and communicate, and behave like a normal person, I'll include you in my game. I'll also make sure that content which makes you feel uncomfortable either does not come up, or is removed if we discover it during gaming. However, some elements might be so important to the game that it might be better if the offended person doesn't enter the game at all. I'm not talking about rape or sexism, of course, but rather violence, for example.

    In settings, I'd discriminate between setting-internal sexism, and setting-external sexism. A game that is set in the Victorian time period or around the time WILL treat women differently than men. This is part of the time period and will mean that, likely, most of the important figures, and especially most of the fighting folk will be men. If you chose to play a woman despite knowing the disadvantages that might bring ingame, you have been warned. I'm surely not going to harass you every 10 minutes, but keep in mind that your character is the odd-woman-out. However, if it really makes you feel uncomfortable, I think I'd ignore that element of the setting, while maybe not generally changing it, I just won't mention it with your character.

    The other is setting-external sexism. All important figures are men despite proclaimed equality between genders? Bikini armor? Yeah, that surely has no place in the setting and can be changed or removed anytime. When it comes to stats, yeah, genders sure are different, but in D&D, for example, +2 makes the difference between whole RACES, so I'm not going to slap a +/-1 on somebody just for playing another gender with a difference that is hard to squeeze into the few stats that most games have. As somebody else said, PCs are already extraordinary, and I'm surely not going to start with some doubtful realism where it's least needed.

    EDIT: in the end, however, we're all playing a game, to have fun. If you feel the need to use the game as a personal vehicle for your chosen ideology (ANY ideology) and it ruins the fun for other players, I'll ask you to stop. We're playing D&D, not Ideology: The Listening.
    Last edited by GolemsVoice; 2013-10-18 at 02:54 PM.
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    Default Re: Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

    Quote Originally Posted by Black Jester View Post
    First of all, this is a very good post and comments on many things I consider to be relevant in a thoughtful and civilized manner. While I disagree in some points, I think that this post deserves nothing as much as respect and celebration. Therefore, you get one beagle of celebration.
    Spoiler
    Show


    That said, I have one point points where I mildly disagree:

    The fact that rape is very often handled badly in fiction doesn't mean that it can't be handled appropriately and with all the respect it deserves. This is true for any medium and pretty much any genre. While I personally don't think that sexualized violence is something I could handle appropriately in a game (and that is pretty much my position on the issue) I think it is not valid to draw the conclusion of a total taboo out of it. That doesn't change that is much, much better to avoid the issue than to handle it badly.

    Besides, it is a bit shortsighted to reduce sexual violence to something that happens to women; rape isn't any better if the victim happens to be a man, but that aspect is almost never mentioned at all or is seriously downplayed or worse, treated as a laughing matter. I am not trying to start a competition in victimization Olympics here; the point is, a very careful and, for the lack of a better word, reluctant approach to the depiction of rape in any medium, including RPGs, is not solely a matter of feminism, but of humanism in general.
    I concur, my viewpoint is that very few groups are mature enough to handle rape as a topic of conversation. I think that various groups can handle various levels of maturity. For example you could have a group that could view violence as something that's amusing, in that case sexual violence should never be discussed, because it is a potential landmine issue. A more mature group could deal with villains being involved in sexual violence or rape. And a group of the highest maturity could potentially deal with it being something that happens to or is caused by a player character. I think that could be a really fascinating role-playing challenge, although it would need to be handled carefully, I personally have never had a group where I would want to touch that topic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GolemsVoice View Post
    My first rule when it comes to gaming is, as other said, don't be a jerk. No matter your gender or sexual orientation, if you can roll the dice and communicate, and behave like a normal person, I'll include you in my game. I'll also make sure that content which makes you feel uncomfortable either does not come up, or is removed if we discover it during gaming. However, some elements might be so important to the game that it might be better if the offended person doesn't enter the game at all. I'm not talking about rape or sexism, of course, but rather violence, for example.

    In settings, I'd discriminate between setting-internal sexism, and setting-external sexism. A game that is set in the Victorian time period or around the time WILL treat women differently than men. This is part of the time period and will mean that, likely, most of the important figures, and especially most of the fighting folk will be men. If you chose to play a woman despite knowing the disadvantages that might bring ingame, you have been warned. I'm surely not going to harass you every 10 minutes, but keep in mind that your character is the odd-woman-out. However, if it really makes you feel uncomfortable, I think I'd ignore that element of the setting, while maybe not generally changing it, I just won't mention it with your character.

    The other is setting-external sexism. All important figures are men despite proclaimed equality between genders? Bikini armor? Yeah, that surely has no place in the setting and can be changed or removed anytime. When it comes to stats, yeah, genders sure are different, but in D&D, for example, +2 makes the difference between whole RACES, so I'm not going to slap a +/-1 on somebody just for playing another gender with a difference that is hard to squeeze into the few stats that most games have. As somebody else said, PCs are already extraordinary, and I'm surely not going to start with some doubtful realism where it's least needed.

    EDIT: in the end, however, we're all playing a game, to have fun. If you feel the need to use the game as a personal vehicle for your chosen ideology (ANY ideology) and it ruins the fun for other players, I'll ask you to stop. We're playing D&D, not Ideology: The Listening.

    Ideology: The Listening sounds like a pretty awesome WoD type game though, that should definitely be something that's homebrewed at some point.
    My Avatar is Glimtwizzle, a Gnomish Fighter/Illusionist by Cuthalion.

    Sorry for any typos just forearm my wrist and am using voice to text on my phone.

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