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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: james_west on February 11, 2004, 09:55:07 AM



Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: james_west on February 11, 2004, 09:55:07 AM
Hello, all !

Some discussion in the 'more on religion and role-playing' thread made me think about what a game meant to address feminist/race issues would look like. I surveyed the existing discussion here on the Forge using the keyword 'feminist' and didn't find anything along the lines I'm thinking. Previous discussions seemed to focus around whether RPGs were sexist, and whether this drives women away from the hobby. I'm interested in thinking about feminist game design in a positive, aggressive sense.

Let me have as a caveat that I certainly do not propose that every game ought to be feminist, any more than I propose that every game ought to be about Vikings. If you were, though, how would you do it?

Here's my thought:

Feminism is not something you do by avoiding sexism. It's something you do by explicitly addressing gender issues in your game. Same thing for race. It's not enough to treat women fairly; you have to explicitly deal with the issues confronting them in modern society. This is a bit of a kicker, actually - the modern society part. My first thought when this came to mind is to set the game in the past, when these issues were more extreme - but that's very much avoiding the issue. If you set it in the past, you allow folks to say, "Sure, we were racist/sexist/whatever THEN, but it's all different now."

The other problem is how you make a game that addresses gender or race issues without yourself seeming sexist or racist. For instance, I might include a stat called 'alienation' which would increase whenever they were explicitly oppressed by the power structure. But then, I'm sure, people would complain that not all minorities respond through alienation. Perhaps ... but should I even care about this complaint?

To sidestep a little, whether Paul meant to or not, his game, My Life with Master, can be very easily read as being about abusive relationships. Since he's thrown it into a different context, though, he doesn't get grief about how not everyone responds to abuse with weariness and self-loathing. Thus, perhaps it might be easier to do a game about racism if you set it in Palestine, rather than in the U.S. - but might this also not allow one to displace? Place is as bad as time, perhaps, although since we so closely identify with the Israelis, perhaps it wouldn't be too bad.

Race, for me, is easier than gender, in thinking about how you'd design a game. Both from the stories of colleagues who grew up in inner city Harlem before becoming medical doctors (and the race-related problems they -still- face), and from my interaction with folks who are still 'in the ghetto' through my social work, it is clear to me the sort of blatant, no-way-out discrimination that -poor- minorities still have to deal with. Essentially, I've seen folks work out the problems inherent in different ways, which makes the problems themselves a lot clearer. I think, following similar lines to Paul's, my first step would be to have something like an 'alienation' metric, which made it harder to deal with authorities of any stripe, but easier to deal with subculture folks. I might also have a stat called something like 'humility', which is a willingness to take sh*t without responding. One might question my ability to write a game like this, as a white, middle-class, bookish type; my point is that this is not a game -for- minorities, it's a game -for- white, middle-class, bookish types to understand the frustration inherent in trying to get by as a member of certain subcultures.

Writing a game to address feminist issues is a little harder; I can see the problems women face. One of my techs just had a kid; I got a lot of grief and resentment for giving her six weeks paid leave (it was considered excessive). In general, it is obvious to me that, even in my circles, I get more respect than my colleagues -because- I'm one of the (now relatively rare) white males doing medical research. Really no idea how I'd make these themes strong enough to make an engaging game, though.

To be clear, let me restate that my interest is not how one makes -all- games less sexist, but how one would write a game specifically designed to address gender or race issues, but make it as much fun as "My Life With Master", and avoid preachiness.

- James


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 11, 2004, 10:15:47 AM
Hi James,

My take on this very thing is provided in Sex & Sorcery. It's probably not the final answer by anyone's standards, but it's what I had to say.

The thesis of the supplement is that the imaginary content of the game-events is subordinate to the actual gender-based interactions of the real people in and out of play.

Therefore one does not correct, fix, alter, or improve the real-world issues by focusing on the imaginary content - the other way 'round, yes indeed, but not from in-to-out.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playin
Post by: Nick the Nevermet on February 11, 2004, 11:24:46 AM
Quote from: james_west
Hello, all !

To be clear, let me restate that my interest is not how one makes -all- games less sexist, but how one would write a game specifically designed to address gender or race issues, but make it as much fun as "My Life With Master", and avoid preachiness.

- James


I think the word 'preachiness' is going to need to be carefully considered here.  The reason is your entire premise of a feminist RPG problematizes and (IMHO) politicizes something a lot (most?) gamers don't think about much.  As a result, I suspect that practically anything that meets the criteria of a 'feminist' RPG would be seen by many as 'preachy.'

As for actual suggestions about a feminist RPG... I got nothing substantive yet.  Its an interesting idea, though, and I wish I had an idea.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Bankuei on February 11, 2004, 11:41:09 AM
Hi James,

just as good, issue addressing books, movies or plays are made, I don't think there is a way to assure play itself will address the issues in a reasonable fashion.  

I mean, you could develop a game that is anti-sexist, anti-racist, and it could just devolve into a hack and slash of nazi kkk chauvinist pigs....which doesn't really teach anybody about anything.  Compare the difference between how Princess Mononoke and Captain Planet both deal with the issues of ecology vs. economy and society for examples of same theme, handle well, or very poorly.

I do think it is possible to "load" up these themes in a game, but unfortunately the people who would be able to really utilize them are the people who least need the message.

What is easily within reach, is the portrayal of strong, positive gender(and race) characters.  All artists know that you everything you do, is conscious, or unconscious, and either way, your art says something about how you view things.  If you include certain things, or exclude them, you are making a statement.  These are things within your control, beyond that, well, the best you can do is hope that someone is gettings something from it.

Chris

PS- For an example of portrayal that never happened, Greg Stafford apparently envisioned much of Glorantha as brown.  Check it out here:
http://glorantha.temppeli.org/digest/gd9/2003.08/2529.html


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: timfire on February 11, 2004, 12:25:36 PM
The problem with trying to address these issues is that it takes alot of knowledge from both sides of the fence. (This is probably why these issues rarely get resolved in the real world.) This is because the different sides often have different perspectives on what issues are/aren't important. A game that only addressed issues from one side might seem meaningful to that side, but might seem totally useless to the other. Also, different sides also have different mindsets, so they approach the same issues differently.

How would you practically design a meaningful game? Don't ask me, I don't know. My only guess would be to find a partner that belongs to that other group. First work out what issues/ themes are important, and then work out how those issues should be resolved. Then translate it into game form.


Title: Re: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playin
Post by: John Kim on February 11, 2004, 02:14:16 PM
Quote from: james_west
  Writing a game to address feminist issues is a little harder; I can see the problems women face. One of my techs just had a kid; I got a lot of grief and resentment for giving her six weeks paid leave (it was considered excessive). In general, it is obvious to me that, even in my circles, I get more respect than my colleagues -because- I'm one of the (now relatively rare) white males doing medical research. Really no idea how I'd make these themes strong enough to make an engaging game, though.  

Well, what are feminist issues?  For example, you could have a situation/setting where care for children is important -- the PCs are heading a clan, family, or perhaps school.  This is something that was used in X2, for example, which was feminist without seeming at all preachy.  

A similar principle could be used with relationship mechanics.  Many games have that relationships (like Champion's Followers Perk or HeroQuest's follower stats) which require no effort to maintain.  You could have alternate rules that make relationships very powerful mechanically, but require active effort of some sort to maintain.


Title: Re: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playin
Post by: GB Steve on February 11, 2004, 04:03:40 PM
Quote from: John Kim
Well, what are feminist issues?  For example, you could have a situation/setting where care for children is important -- the PCs are heading a clan, family, or perhaps school.  This is something that was used in X2, for example, which was feminist without seeming at all preachy.  
With the feminists I know, my wife included, childcare is definitely not an issue just for women, as it mostly portrayed in the media. Of course the one of the issues for feminism is to address this portrayal. Including this in a game is not easy, especially when you try to avoid anachronistic societies.

I'm not sure I see the issues of Feminist game design as any different from designing a game to address any issues of disempowerment. But as Ron indicates, all you can do is highlight the issues, and possibly educate, rather than change. And as such, preachiness is hard to avoid.

On the other hand, you can design games for women that are not explicitly feminist. These are games that look at themes that women seem to enjoy more than men. Of course, as soon as you state that as your aim, you run the risk of alienating women whose tastes diverge from the majority. In such cases it's better to stay silent.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 11, 2004, 07:00:38 PM
I think that addressing issues of bias against women (misogyny) or simply bias for
men (androcentrism) through attempting a strictly feminist game misses the point.

For one thing, there are more than twenty different schools of feminism, many of which
disagree pointedly.  Put an Essentialist Feminist, an Equity Feminist, a Radical Feminist,
and a Liberal Feminist together, and ideologically they will tear each other's throats out!

A more important issue is that such a game misunderstands the cause of such problems
(IMHO in my humble opinion).

The cause of bias against women is the same as the cause of bias against men in this
country : oppressive gender roles.

In the United States, women most often become frustrated with gender roles because they
restrict their opportunities in (for example) politics and employment and general social
authority.  Men most often become frustrated with gender roles because they restrict (for example)
their opportunities in family care and domestic issues.

To help people understand women's issues, you need to help them understand gender role
issues or it becomes lopsided because it addresses only part of the picture.

I would recommend that such a role-playing scenario would be one which specifically places
women (and men) in situations in which their gender roles conflict with their goals.  In general,
individual women almost never feel personally restricted when it comes to the right to care
for children and individual men almost never feel personally restricted when it comes to the
right to work a physically laborious job.  So the scenario needs to require that the female
characters accomplish a task which does encounter such restriction (same with the male
characters).  To make this incite insight rather than simply recreate social problems, have
the male characters be played by women and the female characters be played by men.

A "masculine" female character does not problematize gender roles, it reinforces them by
showing women as having to behave within the restrictions of either one gender role or
the other but never free of gender roles in general.  A male or female character who is
neither continuously masculine nor continuously feminine points out the artificiality of gender
roles far more effectively -- and often disconcerts people far more than do strictly feminine
or strictly masculine characters.

To point out the invisibility of gender roles and their oppressive aspects by way of a campaign
setting, the description for the races might actually address gender role issues, ideally outside
romanticized stereotypes -- the AD-&-D drow lampoon patriarchal oppression by substituting
matriarchal oppression, but in making the matriarchal oppression exotic and even dominatrix-sexy,
they end up trivializing gender-based oppression in general.

For a simplistic problematizing of gender roles for a feminist game, I suppose one could
give stats bonuses which defy conventional gender stereotypes, such as giving all female
characters +1 CON +1 MOVE and all male characters +1 CHA +1 EMPATHY or somesuch;
I think this would work best if each fantasy race had different gender roles and different stats
bonuses then.

Or imagine an SFRPG scenario in which only women are allowed to take care of children
and the player-character is a single father trying to keep from losing his child and in which
only men are allowed to pilot a spaceship and the player-character is a woman who is
the only person with the necessary piloting skills surrounded by women and men who are
genuinely terrified by the "unnaturalness" of defying gender roles even for the sake of
keeping the spaceship on course.

I'm sure there are other ways to play off this idea.

Doctor Xero


Title: Re: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playin
Post by: John Kim on February 11, 2004, 09:22:48 PM
I agree with Doctor Xero.  By "feminist issues" I meant more than just simple misogyny -- I meant gender roles.  For example, I consider "The Full Monte" to be a feminist movie because of how it questions male gender roles.  

Which brings to mind another idea for a feminist RPG:  "The Left Hand of Darkness: The Role-playing Game".  For those who don't recognize it, LHoD is a science fiction novel by Ursula Le Guin.  It is set on a world where everyone is hermaphroditic.  Most times they are effectively genderless, but they go through a fertile period every month or so, known as "kemmering".  During that time they tend to find a mate also in kemmer, and each will express as opposite sexes (randomly).  

Here the issue arises naturally and regularly from the setting.  With every NPC they interact with, there is a sudden disjoint where the players subconsciously try to fit the character into familiar catefories, then realize that it doesn't quite work.  

It's a bit lacking in cool hyper-tech toys or magic for most RPGers, so I'm a bit concerned that it would only be preaching to the choir.  You'd have to come up with some sort of cool twist on what was shown in the book for it to really work, I think.  Hmmm...


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: james_west on February 11, 2004, 10:03:59 PM
I like the direction that Doctor Xero and John Kim are going with this; projecting the issue onto an SF or fantasy society is a good way of examining touchy issues in isolation. Now that I think of it, to a certain extent that's the original raison d'etre of SF as a genre ...

- James


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: sirogit on February 12, 2004, 01:31:43 AM
I had this idea of a game that parodies WW and their typical caste systems, with the game based on the creature Human with two seperate castes, Man & Woman. Each having a written doctrine on how they view the other. Guess it's a lot lighter than what people were aiming for in this thread but it's intereasting as a different method.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: pete_darby on February 12, 2004, 01:44:13 AM
LHoD: well, LeGuin managed to get at least one novel out of it, so there should be enough to get at least one session of a game ;-)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it all about the politics? (confession: I've been following the Guardian's recent UKL kick, so I'm better "externally informed" about her stuff than I have bene for a long time). In the novel, there's at least two big political situations: the slide into war, and the intervention of the Ekumen. Both of these are subtly informed and modified by the hermaphroditism of the Gethenians.

(linkage: The King is Pregnant (http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/sciencefiction/story/0,6000,1115134,00.html), UKL Q&A (http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/sciencefiction/story/0,6000,1144428,00.html))

So, you take any archetypal (even stereotypical) rpg situation, and drop Gethenians into the situation, and Gender roles immediately become a theme, because of their necessary absence in a Gethenian society.

Next question: why is questioning gender roles necessarily feminist?


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Thuringwaethiel on February 12, 2004, 07:53:22 AM
Quote from: pete_darby
LHoD: well, LeGuin managed to get at least one novel out of it, so there should be enough to get at least one session of a game ;-)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it all about the politics? (confession: I've been following the Guardian's recent UKL kick, so I'm better "externally informed" about her stuff than I have bene for a long time). In the novel, there's at least two big political situations: the slide into war, and the intervention of the Ekumen. Both of these are subtly informed and modified by the hermaphroditism of the Gethenians.


It's been a while since I read LHoD, but let's see.. Great text, BTW, although there was a couple of details that bugged me. But the big lines first: I don't remember the Ekumen stuff, but wasn't the coming war the first actual war in their history? Something to suggest that since there were no males, many reasons to war were absent, but also that not all wars are "male thing". Or something..

The two things that stuck out to my eyes (IIRC): lack of rape and presentation of homosexuality. First, it makes sense that there would be less sexual violence, but the total absence doesn't sound right. Of course in our world vast majority of abuse is by man and upon a woman, but all other variants exist too. And the homosexuality thingie.. Gethenians were represented as majorly "straight" but "gays" were also mentioned. Not very realistic since there was only one sex. That means everybody are homosexual by default (and if someone happens to be straight, they'd be in trouble since there is no opposite sex).

Ok, enough off-topic rant, I had something to say, also..

Quote
Next question: why is questioning gender roles necessarily feminist?


It's not, actually. Feminists tend to do it a lot and loudly, though, thus getting all the "credit". There are professions that study gender roles (historians, sociologists), and gender roles are big issue to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and transsexed people, too. I'd guess people in job life and sports have to grab the bull by the horns every now and then. And let's not forget the RPG designers.... ;)


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Thuringwaethiel on February 12, 2004, 07:55:49 AM
Quote from: pete_darby
LHoD: well, LeGuin managed to get at least one novel out of it, so there should be enough to get at least one session of a game ;-)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it all about the politics? (confession: I've been following the Guardian's recent UKL kick, so I'm better "externally informed" about her stuff than I have bene for a long time). In the novel, there's at least two big political situations: the slide into war, and the intervention of the Ekumen. Both of these are subtly informed and modified by the hermaphroditism of the Gethenians.


It's been a while since I read LHoD, but let's see.. Great text, BTW, although there was a couple of details that bugged me. But the big lines first: I don't remember the Ekumen stuff, but wasn't the coming war the first actual war in their history? Something to suggest that since there were no males, many reasons to war were absent, but also that not all wars are "male thing". Or something..

The two things that stuck out to my eyes (IIRC): lack of rape and presentation of homosexuality. First, it makes sense that there would be less sexual violence, but the total absence doesn't sound right. Of course in our world vast majority of abuse is by man and upon a woman, but all other variants exist too. And the homosexuality thingie.. Gethenians were represented as majorly "straight" but "gays" were also mentioned. Not very realistic since there was only one sex. That means everybody are homosexual by default (and if someone happens to be straight, they'd be in trouble since there is no opposite sex).

Ok, enough off-topic rant, I had something to say, also..

Quote
Next question: why is questioning gender roles necessarily feminist?


It's not, actually. Feminists tend to do it a lot and loudly, though, thus getting all the "credit". There are professions that study gender roles (historians, sociologists), and gender roles are big issue to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and transsexed people, too. I'd guess people in job life and sports have to grab the bull by the horns every now and then. And let's not forget the RPG designers.... ;)


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Brennan Taylor on February 12, 2004, 07:58:22 AM
This thread got me thinking about something I did in my Freshman game design effort. In it, I created a fantasy nation dominated by women, with almost a complete reversal of traditional (fantasy RPG) gender roles, with men taking care of children and the household and women assuming all exterior social duties--wage earning, property ownership, fighting, leading troops, etc. Some things, like physical labor, are still performed by men outside the home, but the general rule was to swap gender whenever a standard assumption was made.

What makes this interesting from the feminist gaming standpoint is how players reacted to this. In general, female players found it amusing and enjoyable to imagine this society. Many male players reacted in a similar fashion. A significant proportion of male players, however, had a very strong negative reaction, and these players typically make this society an evil/adversarial one in their own games. Among some men, this reaction was extremely strong.

I'm not sure what this says about the individuals involved (although I have my suspicions), but it was a very interesting experience, and it brought many gender issues to the fore in the games.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Thuringwaethiel on February 12, 2004, 08:19:33 AM
Quote from: pete_darby
LHoD: well, LeGuin managed to get at least one novel out of it, so there should be enough to get at least one session of a game ;-)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it all about the politics? (confession: I've been following the Guardian's recent UKL kick, so I'm better "externally informed" about her stuff than I have bene for a long time). In the novel, there's at least two big political situations: the slide into war, and the intervention of the Ekumen. Both of these are subtly informed and modified by the hermaphroditism of the Gethenians.


It's been a while since I read LHoD, but let's see.. Great text, BTW, although there was a couple of details that bugged me. But the big lines first: I don't remember the Ekumen stuff, but wasn't the coming war the first actual war in their history? Something to suggest that since there were no males, many reasons to war were absent, but also that not all wars are "male thing". Or something..

The two things that stuck out to my eyes (IIRC): lack of rape and presentation of homosexuality. First, it makes sense that there would be less sexual violence, but the total absence doesn't sound right. Of course in our world vast majority of abuse is by man and upon a woman, but all other variants exist too. And the homosexuality thingie.. Gethenians were represented as majorly "straight" but "gays" were also mentioned. Not very realistic since there was only one sex. That means everybody are homosexual by default (and if someone happens to be straight, they'd be in trouble since there is no opposite sex).

Ok, enough off-topic rant, I had something to say, also..

Quote
Next question: why is questioning gender roles necessarily feminist?


It's not, actually. Feminists tend to do it a lot and loudly, though, thus getting all the "credit". There are professions that study gender roles (historians, sociologists), and gender roles are big issue to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and transsexed people, too. I'd guess people in job life and sports have to grab the bull by the horns every now and then. And let's not forget the RPG designers.... ;)

Of course we might think any gender role questioning drives the feminist agenda, but as declared, there are many different "schools" of feminism, several of them in semi-open war with each other. For example, I'm a feminist myself, but I despise some people who call themselves with same label. Their worldview differs vastly from my own. Then again, protestants and catholics are both christians, and look what that did to them..


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Matt Wilson on February 12, 2004, 08:37:45 AM
Hey James:

First, it's really cool to see a thread where a bunch of guys are talking about feminist issues, and I think it's awesome of you to want to explore the stuff.

My take on feminism is that it has everything to do with empowerment. Who's making the decisions about women? Can women make all the same choices that men can? With the same ease?

To make a successful game that focused purely on that? I dunno. My fear is that it'd be too easy to rely on loud stereotypes and say, "that's not me," which would run contrary to the whole point.

Where I work, we have maybe 8 women in a company of about 60. How do you deal with something like that in a game? I'm sure nobody here thinks they're sexist, but there's still an imbalance and nobody really talks about it.

One other thought: MLwM is easy to "get" because we have a pretty solid understanding of what a healthy relationship is supposed to be. There are plenty of real-world examples. Where is there such an example regarding gender-equality?


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Emily Care on February 12, 2004, 09:16:31 AM
Hi all,

My take on addressing gender issues and sexism in a game is one I'm developing called Breaking the Ice.  It's a two person game where you play a character of the gender (or ethnicity, politics, sexual orientation etc), of the other player. Each person is a player and gm or guide in turn, and the goal is to create complex, satisfying characters.  The setting is a series of dates that the characters go on.

I've been working on this for a good while, but finally it's in (at least alpha) playtestable form.   I'll have to get it out on the indie game forum soon.

I have hopes for it being a good approach to create dialogue about gender expectations and roles, as well as to break them down. The funny thing to me about writing it is that I don't believe in gender except as a cultural construct. So here I am writing a game based on these differences as part of the premise!

Yrs,
Emily Care


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: clehrich on February 12, 2004, 09:20:47 AM
Quote from: Emily Care
The funny thing to me about writing it is that I don't believe in gender except as a cultural construct. So here I am writing a game based on these differences as part of the premise!
This makes perfect logical sense to me.  By making such structures as gender explicitly constructed, i.e. by having each player work to build up such things within play, you reveal the constructed nature of gender and so forth.

Sounds cool -- I look forward to it on the Indie Games forum.

Chris Lehrich


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: lumpley on February 12, 2004, 10:25:40 AM
I've been privileged to see a little bit of Em's game, and it's going to be wicked cool.

I think that the "problem" of feminist games is very much like the problem of Christian games.  To genuinely take on the issues, you have to take them on at the player level, not the in-game level.  That means: you create gender-charged in-game situations for the players to pronounce judgement on.  And that in turn means: you risk the players coming to the "wrong" conclusions.  You can't have a game that both provokes actual thought about an issue and preconstrains which side you'll come down on.

Provoking actual thought about gender is what makes a feminist game, I'd say, at least according to my own feminism.  For men, simply thinking about gender is a feminist act; discussing and examining it with other people is admirable and pretty hardcore.

Given that, My Life with Master is a feminist game for sure.  I can't imagine how you'd play My Life with Master without making moral judgements about gender and gender-based relationships.  Notice, for instance, that right there in the rules it says that Master isn't married.  However that plays out in your game, it's a feminist issue you'll be addressing.

Trollbabe's another one.  Gender issues you'll have to confront, right in the title of the game.

And Nicotine Girls!

-Vincent


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 12, 2004, 12:42:25 PM
Much to respond to . . .

Quote from: pete_darby
Next question: why is questioning gender roles necessarily feminist?


Only because women were the first gender in modern history to question gender roles in an organized
fashion.  For Anglo-Europeans, this questioning began centuries ago in England, when the oppressiveness
of male gender roles caused serious emotional problems but the oppressiveness of female gender roles
was literally life-threatening and therefore more immediately intolerable for its victims.

There is still a tremendous amount of political distrust of any focus on male gender oppression out of the
(not always unreasonable) fear that this will discount female gender oppression.  It still frustrates me
that the paranoid hostility of a tiny but very loud minority of feminists destroyed the majority of profeminist
men's groups, leaving only chauvenist men's groups such as Promisekeepers around for men seeking
support groups.  The result : the only remaining supportive groups for men reinforce sexist gender roles.

I find all this personally frustrating.  I have faced a great deal of prejudice for being a male feminist and
gender scholar.

Quote from: Thuringwaethiel
That means everybody are homosexual by default (and if someone happens to be straight, they'd be in trouble
since there is no opposite sex)


If memory serves, the Gethenians were referencing people who remained one gender only as perverse -- in
their world the concept of homosexuality would have no meaning, but a refusal to be both genders would strike
them as a defiance of biology.  Insisting on being always masculine or always feminine was seen as perverse on
that world.

Quote from: Thuringwaethiel
Of course in our world vast majority of abuse is by man and upon a woman


Actually, that's a falsehood propagated by gender role blinders and ideological incredulity -- according to
gender roles, women must be the victims (this idea was popularized by the Matriarch Feminists in 1600s
England to evoke sympathy for the plight of women), so it's easier for most people to imagine women as
victims of abuse, and according to gender roles men must be empowered or lose all identity rights, so it's
easier for most people to imagine men as the force of authority (and therefore the victimizers) in such
situations.

However, the most accurate studies have shown that the majority of victims of non-lethal spouse abuse are
men not women.  This is one of the tragedies of gender role stereotyping -- that people's intuitions are so
thoroughly filtered through gender roles that these studies are ignored, discounted, or as has occurred
many times, rebutted with the claim that "When a man injures a woman it is abusive but when a woman
injures a man he must have had it coming to him!"

I still recall one gender studies forum where a man admitted publically that he had been a victim of spouse
abuse.  One of the women there told him that he must not be much of a man, then, and therefore his own
experiences were irrelevant.

Quote from: sirogit
I had this idea of a game that parodies WW and their typical caste systems, with the game based on the creature
Human with two separate castes, Man & Woman. Each having a written doctrine on how they view the other.
Guess it's a lot lighter than what people were aiming for in this thread but it's interesting as a different method.


< loud laughter! > I love it!

In general, the most admirable feminists and men's movement scholars and activists I have met all have
a good sense of humor about these things -- I suspect it is what enables them to keep their sanity!

Quote from: Emily Care
My take on addressing gender issues and sexism in a game is one I'm developing called Breaking the Ice.
It's a two person game where you play a character of the gender (or ethnicity, politics, sexual orientation
etc), of the other player.


Is there any chance you might create a form of that which I could use with my associates and friends who are
not RPG people?  I think such a game would be wonderfully useful in my work with various activist circles,
gender studies groups, etc., but not if I have to first school them in the notions of RPGs.

Thanks!

Doctor Xero


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: KingstonC on February 12, 2004, 05:45:03 PM
Hello,

Quote from: Doctor Xero


Actually, that's a falsehood propagated by gender role blinders and ideological incredulity -- according to
gender roles, women must be the victims (this idea was popularized by the Matriarch Feminists in 1600s
England to evoke sympathy for the plight of women), so it's easier for most people to imagine women as
victims of abuse, and according to gender roles men must be empowered or lose all identity rights, so it's
easier for most people to imagine men as the force of authority (and therefore the victimizers) in such
situations.


reading this, It got me thinking about the archetype of the "warrior woman" in RPGs and fandom generally. The warrior woman archetype is pretty rare in pop culture before the 1960's and the sexually objectified "hot warrior woman" seems to be a very recent character indeed. But why are all these images appearing now?

Explanations range from the charitable, "Independent, super competent women are sexy!" to the uncharitable "All women are meat! Even you, tough girl!" I suspect that at least some of the appeal of the warrior woman is a direct result of the double standard Dr. Xero speaks of above.

Progressive, feminist friendly men, by definition, must see women as their equals.  In the patriarchy, women are often victims of men's aggression, which the progressive feminist friendly man must oppose. This puts the progressive man in a bind whenever he is in conflict with a woman for he can neither condescend to her, and not treat her as an equal, but he must also handle her with kid gloves, otherwise he would embody the patriarchy.

But, the warrior woman is clearly not going to be the victim of male aggression, so in her the contradiction resolves itself. no wonder the warrior woman is so attractive to modern progressive, feminist friendly men.

For an example of all of this in action, check out Trollbabe comics "naked helpless sacrifice scene" in which only the naked applies.


Title: another $0.02 (U.S. currency)
Post by: Librisia on February 12, 2004, 06:45:46 PM
sigroit, I think using humor is an excellent idea.  It would allow people to explore the issues in a non-threatening way.  This would address the concern Matt had about the "not me!" element.

abusive relationships are not always one-sided.  Co-combative relationsips involve partners abusing *eachother*.  

Doctor Xero wrote:
Quote
However, the most accurate studies have shown that the majority of victims of non-lethal spouse abuse are
men not women.


I am skeptipal (to quote a recent breakfast cereal commercial).  If you could send me the bibliographic information on those off the thread, Dr., I would appreciate it.  I'm not saying you're a liar - it's just that your information doesn't jibe with my own experiences (my mother works in domestic abuse victim advocacy).  It's one of those, "I want to check those sources myself" things.  I know men who have been victims of domestic violence - so I'm not trying to diminish that reality either.

Vincent is right (and may yet become another member of my reserve husband list - sorry if you feel demeaned and objectified by that, Vincent) that a game of this sort has to let the players go where they're going to go with the conclusions.  Exploring the issues is a big enough step to satisfy my feminist gaming sensibilities.  Trying to railroad people into the "correct attitude" isn't going to help anything.

James' ideas are interesting.  I would also suggest something like an 'empathy' stat to make you more or less prone to see the oppression of other characters.  But then I also think an "intentions" dynamic of some kind would be useful, for those times when our well-meaning actions end up reinforcing the very stereotypes we think we are fighting.  I stink at game design/mechanics, but these are thoughts that popped that might be useful to those of you out there who are doing the actual designing.

Krista


Title: male abuse research findings
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 12, 2004, 07:41:43 PM
Quote from: Librisia
I am skeptical (to quote a recent breakfast cereal commercial).


I know that a number of people are skeptical about this, as it violates deeply ingrained gender role assumptions, Kristin, but most will simply find it easier to ignore it.  Thank you for asking.

Answering you is not off-topic because it hopefully provides insight into how to handle such issues in feminist games.

Here are a few bits of scholarly research to whet your whistle.  If you want more, yes, I'll look for my notes on this topic, but via e-mail then.

Keep in mind that research on abused men is harder to find because most researchers don't think about it, because there are no major grants for it, and because there is negative political capital in researching it (some professors who discuss domestic abuse have been censured for even mentioning that men are also victims of abuse!).



When a woman is hit in a cartoon, it's a crime, but when a husband is battered, it's a joke (for example, cartoons showing a woman chasing her husband with a rolling-pin for a laugh -- in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, the audience is encouraged to laugh when a huge woman hits her tiny husband with a rolling pin).  In a study in 1963, the researcher pointed out that wives committed 73% of all domestic violence in newspaper comic strips -- and the husband's suffering was depicted as a source of humor (Saenger).

It is similarly true about rape, with male anal rape victims constantly treated as jokes in television and film (just take a look at Mall Rats!) and female rape victims almost never treated as sources of humor.

A study of spousal murder between 1948 and 1952 found that wives and husbands are almost equally likely to murder the other (7.8% by wives, 8% by husbands) (Wolfgang 1958).  A study of spousal murder between 1976 and 1985 found little change except that "Black husbands were at greater risk of spouse homicide victimization than Black wives or White spouses of either sex" (Mercy & Saltzman 1989).

"Nonfatal violence committed by women against men is less likely to be reported to the police than is violence by men against women; thus, women assaulters who come to the attention of the police are likely to be those who have produced a fatal result" (Wilt & Bannon, 1976).

In 1977, researcher Suzanne Steinmetz showed that a higher percentage of wives have used physical violence than the percentage of husbands; a number of studies showed that the wives' average violence score tended to be higher than did the husbands'.  Steinmetz further found that women were no less likely to attack first than were men (Steinmetz 1977-78).  Steinmetz wrote that "the most unreported crime is not wife beating -- it's husband beating" (Langley & Levy 1977).

The result of her studies?  No increases in concerns about husband abuse.  Instead, women alleging they were feminists issued a bomb threat against one of her public speaking engagements, threatened to murder her children, and embarked upon a campaign to have her tenure revoked.

In 1980, a nationally representative study of family violence determined that wives tended to be more abusive in almost all violence categories except pushing and shoving and that the total violence scores between husbands and wives were statistically even (Straus, Gelles & Steinmetz, 1980).

In 1985, Straus & Gelles found that domestic violence against women dropped from 12.1% to 11.3% while domestic violence against men rose from 11.6% to 12.1%, surpassing that of women.  Straus & Gelles wrote that "violence by wives has not been an object of public concern...  In fact, our 1975 study was criticized for presenting statistics on violence by wives."

In 1986, a report on violence in teen dating found that girls were violent more frequently than boys.  (In Social Work, the journal of the National Association of Social Workers, Nov/Dec 1986)

Dave Gross writes, "The idea of women being violent is a hard thing for many people to believe.  It goes against the stereotype of the passive and helpless female.  This, in spite of the fact that women are known to be more likely than men to commit child abuse and child murder (Daly & Wilson 1988 report 54% of parent-child murders where the child is under 17 were committed by the mother in Canada between 1974 and 1983, for instance.  The Statistical Abstract of the United States 1987 reports that of reported child maltreatment cases between 1980 and 1984 between 57.0% and 61.4% of these were perpetrated by the mother.  Nagi 1977 found 53.1% of perpetrators were female, 21% male and 22.6% both.  Note that because mothers tend to have more access to children than do fathers that these results should not be interpreted to mean that were things equal, women would still commit more abuse)."

"Husband abuse should not be viewed as merely the opposite side of the coin to wife abuse.  Both are part of the same problem, which should be described as one ~person~ abusing another ~person~.  The problem must be faced and dealt with not in terms of sex but in terms of humanity" (Langley & Levy, 1977).

Unfortunately, most people discount all the above findings.  These findings violate ingrained gender role socialization.  These findings threaten the still-strong Cult of Motherhood and the restrictive romanticization of women as "the fairer sex".  Too many people are so obsessed with the fact that laws once sanctioned wife abuse that they view any tangent as a genuine threat.  Or they don't want to share the status of victimhood because acknowledging male victims may dilute their political efforts to end wife abuse.  And if a conventionally-socialized man acknowledges that men can be victimized by women around other conventionally-socialized men, they discount what he says and instead doubt his "manliness" because gender roles claim that victimization by women is a sign of weakness and therefore always deserved.

Maybe this explains why Ohio governor Richard F. Celeste felt free to grant clemency to 25 women who were in prison for murdering their husbands because of "battered woman syndrome", a defense which has been denied to men (Wilkerson 1990).

I hope that helps.

Doctor Xero


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: james_west on February 12, 2004, 10:53:17 PM
Doctor Xero's post is so filled with hooks to hang comments on, it's hard to resist ... but to attempt to stay focussed, I think that my take-home message is; distinguishing one's experience as an individual from one's experience as a member of a class is difficult, for any given individual. Or, perhaps, even our ideas about what gender issues are, are biased by our ideas about what gender issues are.

Emily's game is interesting, because I'd been thinking of a 'virtual experience' game design, whereas hers sounds like more of a 'collaborative storytelling' game design for exploring gender issues. Which is probably a superior design, or at least an easier way to make a design that reflects the players' priorities in this area, than injecting ones' own prejudices into the design by trying to make a decent simulation. This seems especially true given Doctor Xero et al's thread about mistaken ideas about gender issues.

While Lumpley's comments about many games inherently including gender issues is well taken, and probably true, they're not really front-and-center in either MLwM or Trollbabe.

- James


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: contracycle on February 13, 2004, 04:28:25 AM
There are some things missing, it seems to me, from the above analysis of spousal abuse.  The violence legitmised by patriarchy against women is not limited only to the husband; it can apply to brothers and fathers too.

Obviously, violence by fathers against daughters is very underreported, sanctioned as it is by a general willingness to permit parents to use force against their children.  But equally, as in the case of honour killings - in which, for example, a provocatively clothed daughter is murdered by her male relatives for "bringing shame upon the family" - they are often under-investigated too.  The point here is that addressing only spousal abuse may obscure a much broader issue of male on female violence generally, rather than specifically within marriage.

I understand that women are substantially more likely to die at the hands of a man known to them than men, who are proportionately more likely to die at the hands of a stranger, although I cannot cite the reference for this claim.

In regards the commutig of sentences, I think it may be dangerous to presume that this occurred becuase of an unwillingness to accept female violebce as something that happens for the following reason.  Maxine Carr, like Myra Hindley before her, has had her judicial tarif extended unilaterally by the home secretary; the reason for these extensions is that the crime (child murder) is somehow more grievous because it was committed by a woman (although Carr was only an accessory after the fact).  This is in line with a stereotypical view of women as "natural" mothers and being "naturally" nonviolent; therefore such "dangerous women" are in violation of more than the law, but the "natural order", and the punishment reflects this outrage.  Therefore I say it may be quite reasonable to cast doubt on a judge or juries decisions to impose a sentence if it is believed that they would NOT have imposed the same sentence for the same offence if it were perpetrated by a man for whom violence is "natural".


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Christopher Weeks on February 13, 2004, 04:41:53 AM
A few things:

Misogyny  

This started with Krista's essay and has continued as these related discussions progress.  I always thought misogyny was, as the dictionaries indicate, a hatred of women.  But is seems that the folks around here believe that, as an example, old Star Trek is an example of misogyny.

Is misogyny now taken to mean any deviation from the belief that men and women are identical?

sex v. ethnicity

Does it matter, in game design/play or other life-interpretations of these issues, that there is a genuine difference between the sexes but not between the races?  I mean, skin color and other physiological attribute associated with a race/breed can be interbred with, usually, many gradations of effect.  But no amount of breeding is going to get a cross between males and females because of the inherently binary nature of the chromosome.  (Well, OK, so maybe lots of time might do funny things to this genetic construct, but that's a silly point for this conversation, I think.)

The nature of predjudice

Am I the only one who thinks of me prejudices as useful psychological instruments?  Sure, if I let them control me, that's bad, but otherwise they help me to sift through huge amounts of incoming data and make decisions much more quickly than I might otherwise.  I judge people on the way they're acting, the way they dress, the company they keep, the care they take of their teeth, their grooming, their music, their skin tone, their sex, and everything else I can detect.  And so do you.  Why pretend it's a bad thing or that it's unique to "bad" individuals?  I don't see how that helps anyone.

I feel like I have more to write, but I'm on my way out of town and late.

Chris


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: contracycle on February 13, 2004, 05:12:43 AM
Quote from: Christopher Weeks
A few things:

Misogyny  
Is misogyny now taken to mean any deviation from the belief that men and women are identical?


No, that Trek is using misogynist tropes which arrogate to wopmen a primary role as sex-objects and menial workers (even in the 23rd century, women are telephone operators in miniskirts)

Quote

sex v. ethnicity
But no amount of breeding is going to get a cross between males and females because of the inherently binary nature of the chromosome.  (Well, OK, so maybe lots of time might do funny things to this genetic construct, but that's a silly point for this conversation, I think.)


Becuase th evariation between individuals is larger than the variation between sexes as a group.  So priviliging such deviation in systematic terms requires explanantion.

Quote

The nature of predjudice
Am I the only one who thinks of me prejudices as useful psychological instruments?  Sure, if I let them control me, that's bad, but otherwise they help me to sift through huge amounts of incoming data and make decisions much more quickly than I might otherwise.  .... .  Why pretend it's a bad thing or that it's unique to "bad" individuals?  I don't see how that helps anyone.


The question is not about "bad people"... the issue is why otherwise good people carry out these things.  It is mistake to think that every racist is a bitter hate-filled loner - a mistake and an easy out.

It is a bad thing becuase decisions based on such assumptions are likely to be wrong.  Generalisation and prejudice are not the same thing: of course you learn general cases to cut down the amount of analysis you have to do; no point continually reinventing the wheel.  But a generalisation for its own sake, or ageneralisation which allows of no exceptions or modifications, is just plain dangerous.

An excellent example of recent vintage happened on the Channel 4 news a coupe of years ago; a rugby manager had refused to have a female player in his club.  He was interviewed by phone, and expressed the view that girls are into frilly dresses and perfume and anything pink, and had neither the familiarity nor physique to handle rugby; it was not a sport for girlies (his term).  However, the news ran his interview over a still photograph of the women in question, rippling with muscle, tall and broad, covered in mud from the pitch.  She, individually, had both he grit and the grunt to play; but his prejudicial view of what women WERE, necessarily, meant he apparently had not even bothered to find if this INDIVIDUAL had what it took.


Title: Cross-Post from "More on Religion and Gaming"
Post by: Librisia on February 13, 2004, 06:59:46 AM
Sorry to digress from the current topic.  I haven't figured out the cross-post functions yet, so bear with me.  

I'll be posting revised statements regarding my hypothesis about the male dominance in rpgs tomorrow or the day after.  

As veterans of the Forge's culture, can you please advise whether I should post here or the other thread?

Thanks,
Krista


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: james_west on February 13, 2004, 07:09:21 AM
Quote from: John Kim in 'religion and role-playing'
For example, a religious practice may include storytelling such as parables -- but that story has a goal in the real world beyond just being fun to hear.


I thought that line struck to the heart of the matter we're discussing here very well. It also made me think (not to belabor our jargon) that explicitly feminist game design is -necessarily- narrativist, since it is inherently attempting to address premise. We've already had a number of posts that claim that if you don't allow the players to think about the issues for themselves - if you force the premise - then you lose most of the value for the game.

To a certain extent - and, now that I think of it, someone's already brought this up - how to design games with addressing feminist or gender issues is a subset of the class of games specifically designed to address any moral issue.

Much narrativist design - sorceror for instance - is designed with the thought that it will be used to address moral issues (thus, Ron's focus on the topic), although it's my personal opinion that this is addressed far more through exhortation in Sorceror than in explicit design (at least until you hit the supplements). In Sorceror, however, more explicit premise is found in the supplements, which create specific settings which scream a particular moral issue.

Hum. Seems like a way to make a more 'virtual experience' game than Emilys, that addresses race/gender is to write a Sorceror supplement in which Humanity is defined in a fashion relevant to these issues.

Quote from: Christopher Weeks
Does it matter, in game design/play or other life-interpretations of these issues, that there is a genuine difference between the sexes but not between the races?


I think that's why it'd be easier for me to design a game about racism than sexism. When I hear minorities talk about ways in which the system f*cked with them, their responses seem pretty much identical to what mine would be under the circumstances - except that they generally seem better at controlling their anger than I think I would be (probably through long training). When I hear women talking, they seem like aliens.

So - I think it does make a difference. If I were to design a game premised on racism, I think the point I'd try to stress is how inherently reasonable even apparently odious behavior is, under the circumstances (contempt for the law, distrust of formal education, etc.) In order for a game on gender issues to make much sense, I think it'd be neccesary for me to understand better women's priorities. Which are, presumably, not identical to men's, although I recognize that there is a great degree of overlap.

- James

Aside: I can say that women think like aliens with confidence because one of the valuable services my (female) techs provide is to tell me how to interact with my wife. I do what they tell me, although it never makes any sense to me, and they're always right. Strongly implies that gender substantially overrides individual differences in priorities. :-)[/i]


Title: Re: Cross-Post from "More on Religion and Gaming"
Post by: james_west on February 13, 2004, 07:11:11 AM
Quote from: Librisia
I'll be posting revised statements regarding my hypothesis about the male dominance in rpgs tomorrow or the day after.  

As veterans of the Forge's culture, can you please advise whether I should post here or the other thread?


My inclination would be the other thread, since it's explicitly on that topic. Although it's getting long enough, and has drifted enough, that starting a new one might not be bad.

- James


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 13, 2004, 03:53:10 PM
Quote from: contracycle
There are some things missing

Yes, I had to be brief.  My purpose in posting this was to demonstrate how much more complex issues
of gender are than appears at first -- and in pointing out abusive wives I am not in any fashion discounting
the horror of abusive husbands!

Quote from: contracycle
Obviously, violence by fathers against daughters is very underreported

Why obviously?

Quote from: contracycle
The point here is that addressing only spousal abuse may obscure a much broader issue of male on female
violence generally, rather than specifically within marriage.

AND a much broader issue of female on male violence generally, a point often ignored because our gender
roles indoctrination makes it seem counter-intuitive.

Quote from: contracycle
In regards the commuting of sentences, I think it may be dangerous to presume that this occurred becuase of
an unwillingness to accept female violebce as something that happens

However, in that particular incident, the governor gave exactly that reason.

I have a great deal of personal and scholarly background in this, but I would feel like a fool parading
credentials here, and I really don't want to get off topic on this.

If anyone feels the need to argue this with me or has a genuine interest in learning more, please feel
free to contact me through the Forge's messaging system.  I am quite open to serious inquiries and even
to serious disagreements with me so long as one keeps a civil tongue (and I'm sure most of the people
in the Forge would do just that.)

But please understand : we live in a world in which gender issues have become highly politicized to the
point that, as I'd noted early, researcher Suzanne Steinmetz had the lives of her children threatened and
endured bomb threat and harassment of her university department all for the one crime of proving that
women can be perpetrators as well as victims of spousal abuse.  So I am used to people's discarding and
discounting these facts, and that makes one a little tense at times.

Doctor Xero


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 13, 2004, 04:07:10 PM
Quote from: Christopher Weeks
Is misogyny now taken to mean any deviation from the belief that men and women are identical?

In modern feminist politics in terms of sensitivity training for the university and the workplace,
there are two major forms of sexism against women.

Misogyny is sexist hatred of women -- and often anything reminding one of the female gender roles,
which is why misogyny is one of the root causes of homophobia and of feminophobia.

Androcentrism is sexist bias towards men.  This is a more difficult concept, because sometimes it can
slip into gender role essentialism.  For example, we all know it is androcentric for a male professor to
always call on male students not out of malice but simply because he often doesn't notice when
female students raise their hands.  However, is it androcentric for a male professor to pepper his
lecture with baseball and football analogies?  To claim that it is implicitly suggests that there are no
female sports fans and also implicitly suggests there are no males who are not sports fans.

For the record, a sexist hatred of men is misandry (yes, it happens), and a sexist bias towards women
and against men is gynocentrism (sometimes called gynecocentrism -- and yes, it happens as well).

Quote from: Christopher Weeks
The nature of predjudice

Am I the only one who thinks of me prejudices as useful psychological instruments?

I like the way we would teach it in social science courses:

"A prejudice is a generalization which has been mistaken for an absolute universal."

Thus, for a social scientist to note that in the 1930s most women wore hats is a valid generalization.  For
someone to then declare that ALL women wear hats (and that the exceptions are freakish or otherwise
unnatural deviations) is a prejudice.  (Yes, a lighthearted example I know.)

Doctor Xero


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: John Kim on February 13, 2004, 04:22:46 PM
OK, I'm going to be topic cop for a moment.  If you want to argue about whether RPGs are sexist or not, I started a thread on Gender/Racial/Other Bias in RPG Texts.  

This topic is about feminist game design -- and it should be for those interested in playing or designing feminist RPGs.  

That said, I was thinking more about "Left Hand of Darkness" RPG.  I'm not sure that the specific setting is ideal for an RPG, but I think the principle could definitely be used.  So what about a science-fiction or fantasy RPG where the PC race is one which is hermaphroditic, perhaps with a similar arrangement to LHoD?  Suddenly I'm picturing something similar to Orkworld or Ork! or RuneQuest's TrollPak, maybe.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 13, 2004, 04:24:05 PM
Quote from: james_west
When I hear minorities talk about ways in which the system f*cked with them, their responses seem pretty much identical
to what mine would be under the circumstances

Also, at this point in time in the United States, most victims of racial prejudice no longer incorporate the
"racial roles" within their sense of personal and ethnic identity.  However, men and women still have difficulty
thinking outside the box of gender roles, and much of what causes violence of women against men and of men
against women and the various prejudices against women in the office and men in the childcare room are
incorporated into gender roles and therefore incorporated into each individual's sense of identity as "a woman"
or as "a man".

Thus, we have a large number of feminist women who worry that they will "lose their feminity" or cease to be
attractive to men, and we have a large number of feminist men who feel "unmanly" or as traitors against women
when they acknowledge that women can be just as violent as men or that men can be just as emotional and
driven to nurture as can be women.

Women and men tend to cling to their respective victimizations by gender roles as part of their sense of
personal gender identity.

And then we have religions and essentialist perspectives which treat gender roles as innate niches ordained
by God or by spiritual essence or  by biological mandate.

(I remember a marvelous study in which same sex friends were recorded just visiting and then asked to describe
how they interacted.  The men reported that, as per gender role stereotypes, they focused on doing things together
rather than talking about feelings and each other.  The women reported that, as per gender role steretypes, they
focused on talking about feelings and cooperating rather than on doing things.  However, analyses of the recordings
found that women and men talked the same amount about feelings and focused the same amount on doing things
-- the stereotypes ran false in how they actually interacted yet molded the way they self-reported.  When some
of the people involved were confronted with this fact, the women acknowledged it slowly but said it did not change
their opinions that women focus more on feelings than do men, and the men usually became embarrassed as though
their manhood were being questioned and then also said it did not change their opinions that men focus more
on doing things.)

Doctor Xero


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: james_west on February 13, 2004, 04:54:38 PM
Quote from: John Kim
So what about a science-fiction or fantasy RPG where the PC race is one which is hermaphroditic, perhaps with a similar arrangement to LHoD?


... OK, I've an idea. I was a little worried about the LHoD explicitly, because I think folks would ignore it unless it was put front and center somehow. I came up with the following;

A game set in modern day USA (well, you could tweak that a little), but the characters are some sort of oddity (aliens? dopplegangers?) that can -choose- to be male or female from scene to scene (there's your power). Moreover, you have different, explicit mechanics for how your characters' interactions work, depending on whether you're male or female at the moment. Thus, each player would have to decide, from scene to scene, which stereotypes they wanted to take advantage of. To make it concentrate on social, rather than physical, differences, you -wouldn't- make the male form bigger and stronger, but you would give it the social edge in, say, situations where authority was important, whereas the female form would have the edge in situations where seeming harmless was important.

OK, perhaps not very heavy, but it puts gender issues front and center.

- James


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 13, 2004, 05:40:10 PM
Quote from: james_west
A game set in modern day USA (well, you could tweak that a little), but the characters are some sort of oddity (aliens? dopplegangers?) that can -choose- to be male or female from scene to scene (there's your power). Moreover, you have different, explicit mechanics for how your characters' interactions work, depending on whether you're male or female at the moment. Thus, each player would have to decide, from scene to scene, which stereotypes they wanted to take advantage of. To make it concentrate on social, rather than physical, differences, you -wouldn't- make the male form bigger and stronger, but you would give it the social edge in, say, situations where authority was important, whereas the female form would have the edge in situations where seeming harmless was important.

OK, perhaps not very heavy, but it puts gender issues front and center.


I'd probably avoid a city with a strong tolerance for androgyny, such as L.A., but other than that : I like!

The scenario nicely provides an incentive for examining gender roles -- because for this race they are tools to use.  So it avoids the preachiness and artificiality of asking players to "think hard about gender" in isolation from the rules or setting.

By focusing on social more than physical, it also neatly bypasses essentialist-vs-constructivist arguments over the origins of gender roles.

Doctor Xero


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: james_west on February 14, 2004, 08:34:00 AM
Hello, all -

I wrote a game this morning along the lines discussed, and posted it in the indie game design section. If folks are interested, could you tell me if you think it meets the design goals, as iterated in this thread?

This ought to link to the thread. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9789)

- Thanks !

James


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Itse on February 16, 2004, 04:58:28 AM
An interesting thread. (Special thanks to Doctox Xero for the references to studies.) I thought I'd mention a campaign / setting I came up with.

A few years back when I was starting a fantasy campaign I decided to create a world basicly from scratch. (I have studied cultural anthropology and have always been interested in history, politics and religions, and I found it easier to create a believable-yet-interesting world from scratch rather than trying to fix all the holes in the existing games I knew.)

A female player wanted to play an "axe-swinging amazon-type female warrior", since she'd always gone less physical types. This was fine since the group could use some muscle, but on then again I didn't want the character to be a "freak". I wanted cultural realism, and issue of a female warrior could just create unwanted fuss. I went for a "simple" solution, and created a race where male and female are physically equal. The bonus was that I didn't have to twist the players heads to make them forget the urban-postmodern-politically-correct genders-are-equal way of thinking. Basicly the gender-culture is very much what you'd have, if you had a Middle-European early medieval culture with the gender issues resembling those of todays liberal youth added with the fact that the genders actually are physically equal. (Of course, that equation takes a lot of solving to get the end result. I'll skip that here.)

Since the campaign was about epic fantasy action-adventure, gender issues didn't really come up that much, except for the fact that some players and myself kept hitting themselves in the head with things like "a soldier/robber/guard/merchant/general/smith is not necessarily male".
After three years I still have to roll for the genders of improvised NPC:s, because if I didn't, they'd mostly be male. (As an interesting detail: if a characters gender is not stated/implied, everybody presumes it's a male, regardless of their own gender. If it's a female, it's assumed to be mentioned. Try it if you don't believe it. Maybe with a female GM this would be different, but I doubt it.)

Personally, I found this to be the most illuminating experience of my life, concerning my own gender-related presumptions. It was especially interesting because this was not supposed to be a game about gender issues. There's not even really any sex or romance in the game. Just had to try and accept one specific thing and get on with it. "Genders are equal. No need to think about it, just live with it. Soldiers can be women." Repeat ad nauseum. It still doesn't stick. Interesting.

I have been playing around with the idea of creating a different (more GNS-narrativist) adventure/campaign based in this world, in which gender-issues would on the front stage (with some other things). The race I mentioned have recently conquered a neighbouring race, which has a very patriarchal culture, and their genders are physically proportioned like normal humans. (I gave them pointy ears, because I found the reference funny.) There are a lot of things to play with here.

1) Occupying females vs. occupied males.
 - How does the traditional male-dominant culture deal with the  dominating females?
 - How do the dominant females deal with a culture that can't accept them, if they don't want to go on beating up everyone they meet?

2) Occupying females vs. occupied females
 - How to react when as a "used-to-it" submissive female you are offered influential jobs? How to react to dominating females?
 - What should a dominant female think of her physically, socially and "intellectually" (the women are rarely educated) weak counter-parts?
Do they despise them? Pity them?

3) Intercultural sexual/romantic relationships
Fact of the world: many (not all) males of the occupying culture find the females of the occupied culture to be physically more attractive. (Except for the females, the cultures/races are physically exactly the same.) How does everyone react? How to deal when you notice that by being physically superior you are socially less interesting? (Violence and use of power in general is an option here, much more so than in the real world.) How to deal, when you have grown to understand that a good relationship is based on equality, but the woman you love actually wants the "unequality" (or to be more exact, wants clear gender-defined roles)? Is the role you are being offered acceptable just because it's "the better one"?

And so on and so forth. You can propably notice that for example the last issues are something which are very much happening today. On one hand we have this "gender-defined roles are bad, if you follow them you are a slave to tradition and supporting female oppression" -thing going, but on the other hand a lot of people (both men and women) like the traditional roles.

"The modern liberal gender-definitions defined as superior against the more common and accepted traditional stereotypes." I could do stuff with that analogical setting.

Personally, it was also interesting to note that when creating a fantasy world I addressed many similar issues (problems in the modern western culture) without ever really meaning to. It all just came out of "hey that might be cool/fun/interesting". Says stuff about me I guess.

Doctor Xero:
Quote
Men most often become frustrated with gender roles because they restrict (for example) their opportunities in family care and domestic issues.


Personally, I don't agree. Most people don't mind if some things are defined as "not for them", since that also means less responsibility (as a woman, you don't need to know about computer hardware), and you can just not tell if you are doing them. (Also, doing things which are "out of role" often gets praised. "You are a good liberal person, breaking free from the bad presumptions".) The true problems come when you can't be the things that are supposed to define you. You can read romantic novels and not tell anyone, but you can't really fake it if you just don't know how to hit a baseball. If you're a woman and don't want to have children, people call you a selfish freak. That's not fun.

People have this tendency to try and fit people they see with things they are told, instead of doing the other way around. Thus they get angry at the people who don't fit (and not the ideas), even when the things that don't fit are themselves.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: John Kim on February 16, 2004, 11:46:06 AM
Quote from: Itse
  Since the campaign was about epic fantasy action-adventure, gender issues didn't really come up that much, except for the fact that some players and myself kept hitting themselves in the head with things like "a soldier/robber/guard/merchant/general/smith is not necessarily male".
After three years I still have to roll for the genders of improvised NPC:s, because if I didn't, they'd mostly be male. (As an interesting detail: if a characters gender is not stated/implied, everybody presumes it's a male, regardless of their own gender. If it's a female, it's assumed to be mentioned. Try it if you don't believe it. Maybe with a female GM this would be different, but I doubt it.)

Personally, I found this to be the most illuminating experience of my life, concerning my own gender-related presumptions.  It was especially interesting because this was not supposed to be a game about gender issues. There's not even really any sex or romance in the game.  

As I see it, your illumination shows that gender issues clearly did come up, and that shows how this was a Feminist RPG.  Gender issues aren't primarily about sex or romance.  Even more central gender issues are about power and social roles.  

From what you say, it seems that your campaign did address gender issues.  You might think: "Wait.  I didn't plan that -- it just sort of happened."  It doesn't matter.  As Ron would say, addressing issues is a result which can happen without planning or conscious intent.  Nor is conscious intent necessarily superior.  

In this thread, I think there is the tendency to imagine "Feminist RPG" as something complex and mysterious -- similar to how people often think of Narrativist games.  I would say an RPG can easily be feminist or anti-feminist, as this shows.  This is exactly how "Left Hand of Darkness" functions as a feminist work.  Constantly as you read it, your vision of the characters slides into picturing them as either male or female depending on how they act.  And then there are jarring moments when you stop and realize that your vision isn't right.  The gender issues come up inherently from the world.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 16, 2004, 12:49:09 PM
Your campaign sounds wonderful; I suspect I would have enjoyed playing in it!

Quote from: Itse
Quote from: Doctor Xero
Men most often become frustrated with gender roles because they restrict (for example) their opportunities in family care and domestic issues.

Personally, I don't agree. Most people don't mind if some things are defined as "not for them", since that also means less responsibility (as a woman, you don't need to know about computer hardware), and you can just not tell if you are doing them.


I disagree.  I will give you a simple example to illustrate.  In any major city, a man and a woman are walking side by side when they see a six-year old little girl by herself, on the ground, crying.  Both the man and the woman immediately wish to help the child.  If the woman picks up the child and helps her find her mommy or takes her to the police, she will be called a hero.  If the man picks up the child and helps her find her mommy or takes her to the police, there is a very good chance he will be accused of child-kidnapping -- or of kidnapping with intent to sexually molest!  I can show you court case after court case which supports this particular gender stereotyping that all women are nurturing and all men are sexual predators -- despite decades of statistics proving that the majority of child abusers and child molesters are women not men.

Study after study has shown that the primary cause of the "deadbeat dad" syndrome is not laziness or indifference to one's children but a frustrated reaction against a system in which the male parent is forced to send checks to support children to whom he is denied visitation rights (or the visitation rights are severely brief).  I still recall one child custody court case in which a divorcing couple included a wife who was heading for prison after being convicted of attempting to murder her husband.  The divorce judge still awarded full custody to the mother, stating that a child needed its mother more than its father even when that mother was a convicted felon, and had the child stay with the mother's family while the mother was in prison.  The judge made it clear that he wasn't finding the father deficient; he simply considered the mother-child bond paramount.

Many men are ~not~ grateful for a gender stereotype which "relieves" them of the "responsibility" of being able to help out a lost child or "relieves" them of the right to care for their own children yet requires they pay for the care of  children they may never see.

Doctor Xero


Title: Re: male abuse research findings
Post by: Thuringwaethiel on February 16, 2004, 03:56:58 PM
Quote from: Doctor Xero

Here are a few bits of scholarly research to whet your whistle.  If you want more, yes, I'll look for my notes on this topic, but via e-mail then.

Straus, Gelles & Steinmetz...



I found something about those names in article of Jack C. Straton (http://www.europrofem.org/02.info/22contri/2.04.en/4en.viol/33en_vio.htm). Some quotes:

Suzanne Steinmetz created this myth with her 1977 study of 57 couples, in which four wives were seriously beaten but no husbands were beaten.

...disputed sociological studies by Murray Straus and Richard Gelles...

...bad science, with findings and conclusions that are contradictory, inconsistent, and unwarranted.

Any research technique that contains a 10,000 percent systematic error is totally unreliable.

...analysis of the 1973-1982 U.S. National Crime Surveys shows that men who are assaulted by their spouses actually call the police more often than women who were assaulted by their spouses.


And compared with my personal experiences, I'd say Steinmetz and co don't have a clue.

Drifting a bit, are we..?


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 16, 2004, 09:01:05 PM
I'm familiar with the man you cite -- and the falseness of his article.

His work gains its power from appealing to those who've already made up their minds and are looking for support, a perfect example of the impervious nature of ingrained social roles.

To explain to you in the detail necessary the accumulated body of evidence which disproves him would take far too much space in this topic.  If you want such, contact me privately.

Doctor Xero


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: John Kim on February 16, 2004, 09:39:14 PM
Um, hello?  Just a reminder to keep this to RPGs.  

Quote from: Itse
Quote from: Doctor Xero
Men most often become frustrated with gender roles because they restrict (for example) their opportunities in family care and domestic issues.

Personally, I don't agree. Most people don't mind if some things are defined as "not for them", since that also means less responsibility (as a woman, you don't need to know about computer hardware), and you can just not tell if you are doing them.

Rather than debate over what the majority of people think, let's ask how an RPG could address this.  For example, I thought that the movie "The Full Monte" did a great job of addressing gender issues among a group of men -- and being damn funny to boot.  By the same token, there could be an RPG about men who find power in non-standard gender roles.  

For example, you might have a game of gladiatorial combat -- but the real power isn't in your martial prowess, since by being tough those who arrange the matches can just throw more opponents at you.  Instead, the PCs must learn to be popular with the crowds -- or sexually attractive to rich women.  Only by this can they gain their freedom.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: contracycle on February 17, 2004, 12:47:58 AM
Quote from: Doctor Xero

If the woman picks up the child and helps her find her mommy or takes her to the police, she will be called a hero.  If the man picks up the child and helps her find her mommy or takes her to the police, there is a very good chance he will be accused of child-kidnapping -- or of kidnapping with intent to sexually molest!


This seems too contemporary an issue to support your claim.  In a period in which a female pediatrician can be run out of town due to people confusing that role with pedophile, I would lay the blame much more on a media industry who's main occupation is selling fear.

Quote
Study after study has shown that the primary cause of the "deadbeat dad" syndrome is not laziness or indifference to one's children but a frustrated reaction against a system in which the male parent is forced to send checks to support children to whom he is denied visitation rights (or the visitation rights are severely brief).


So, the father abdicates their parental responsibilities due to "frustration"?  Colour me unimpressed; at the very least its blaming the mother and child for a systematic failing - if it even IS a systematic failing to expect people to carry their own weight.  And if our dad here is going to short his own flesh and blood and excuse it by railing about how all oppressed he is, then "deadbeat" is the right title for him to carry.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Christopher Weeks on February 17, 2004, 05:42:26 AM
Quote from: james_west
I can say that women think like aliens with confidence because one of the valuable services my (female) techs provide is to tell me how to interact with my wife. I do what they tell me, although it never makes any sense to me, and they're always right.


This women as aliens thing has been making me think about people who play characters of opposite sex.  I've had several women with whom I've played RPGs over the years complain about guys playing women unrealistically.  Sometimes they were such obvious characatures that I was annoyed by their play, but often not.  I wonder what the prevalence of men being unable to really get inside the head of women well enough to play them "realistically" is.  And vice versa.

I have a very close friend who is transgendered.  She is almost certainly genetically male (having fathered two children), but in the time that I've known her, she has gone from acting as a male at work and a female out of work, to "coming out" at work through all the legal and HR hoops, on through hormone therapy and then gender reassignment surgery, and is now married to a man.  I've had lots of interesting conversations with her about how the whole process seemed from the inside and what the role of hormones is.

There is a somewhat commonly admitted to phenomenon in which men (even modern, reasonable, feminist men) meet a woman and their first thoughts -- regardless of all aspects of appearance and context, are about how sexually compatible or pleasant that woman would be.  I've had men realize instantly that this was correct about them, staunchly deny this about themselve only to come back four months later and admit that they really do think like that, and a few others who simply denied it and stuck to it (for years, so far).  My TG friend, admits to having thought like that even long after she believed she was a woman and didn't want to be attracted to women.  Untill she had hormone therapy.  And like a light switch turning off, it stopped.  She was still male in the gross physiological sense, her intent/belief was still female.  Nothing changed but her hormones.

I wonder how much our hormones prevent us from playing across the chasm of sex appropriately.  I wonder if women are more or less able to play convining men.  And what is it that males "get wrong" when playing females that is implausible to women?  Why don't I observe females playing male characters "unrealistically?"  And why am I less sensitive to males depicting female behavior incorrectly?

On a somewhat related note, there are doctors who advocate steering clear of soy products for pregnant women and young boys because soy contains phyto-estrogens (if I'm getting this right) that could have a feminizing effect on males.  It is interesting to me, to note that Japanese culture is much more cooperative than western/European and especially North American, and that cooperation is often considered a feminine characteristic.

Chris


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Thuringwaethiel on February 17, 2004, 10:17:21 AM
Hey Doc, don't bother. We're talking RPG's here. Besides, I'm bored of debating with believers.

Quote from: Christopher Weeks

I wonder how much our hormones prevent us from playing across the chasm of sex appropriately.  I wonder if women are more or less able to play convining men.  And what is it that males "get wrong" when playing females that is implausible to women?  Why don't I observe females playing male characters "unrealistically?"  And why am I less sensitive to males depicting female behavior incorrectly?


Crossgender playing is just one of the challenges in RPG (admittedly one of the toughest). It's not easy to play a "realistic" elf, undead, alien or magician, either. And if your character has a profession you are clueless about, the "real" feeling is tough cracker.

Thus, the most accurate male characters are played by males, and vice versa. But a good player can do a decent cross-role, and even less good are allowed to have a shot. However, this doesn't seem to be balanced. Yes, I've seen female characters played very well by males, but still most of the efforts have been more or less lousy charicatyres, or sometimes macho men with boobs, if you got what I mean. On the other hand, male characters played by girls/women are on average much better represented. That is, my observations are in line with Chris W's.

The reason? Hormones could be part of it, but I think brain structure is also a major factor. And of course upbringing and societial structures are present. To put it short, I guess females are on average better "immersionists" (if I got it right), especially if the character is very different from the player. Also male behaviour is generally more "open" (that is almost everything you guys think or feel, is more or less visible), whereas women hide a lot behind appearances and are more prone to taking different roles. Thus, men have less "material" to work with, forcing them to resort more on stereotypes. Also, this "real-life roleplaying" of women works as an "immersionist training".

A word about stereotypes. In my experience, male stereotypes are more plentiful and (because of that?) also more accurate, (although still stereotypes). These ST's often follow the profession, citizenship, ethnicity and class, whereas female ST's have traditionally been the Whore and the Madonna, and nowadays only a few more. Thus, when a woman plays a male character, she has a wide variety to choose if she runs out of ideas, but a male player doesn't have much to draw from, and if he uses some old and worn-out stereotype, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Using male stereotypes is on average more "insvisible" because they are more close to the reality, and the player (whether male or female) only has to add a bit of personality and that's it.

Once again, with a listing:

- Women have better "empathy (immersionist) brain"
- Testosterone makes a person more extrovert in their behaviour, estrogen more introvert, the latter again improving immersionism
- By nature and nurture, men are in real life more "open" and women more "roleplaying"
- Male behaviour is easier to simulate than female one
- Male stereotypes are more plentiful and more accurate than female ones
- I'm speaking about averages, not individuals, and I'm stating these as my observations, not fundamentalist truth

Something like that. I guess.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 17, 2004, 12:44:39 PM
Quote from: contracycle
And if our dad here is going to short his own flesh and blood and excuse it by railing about how all oppressed he is, then "deadbeat" is the right title for him to carry.


You mistake tragedy for intentionality.

A significant number of men, when denied forever any access to their own children for no other reason than the fact that they lack breasts and a vagina (which is the only reason some judges have given when awarding full custody to mothers only), respond to the traumatic tragedy by forgetting altogether about it -- or by committing suicide.  The courts have already told him that these are NOT his flesh and blood, they are hers and hers alone, and the more common reasoning given for demanding money from him is not that they are also his children but the argument that he owes his ex-wife money as part of a social contract.  This is why judges have historically forced a man to give money to his ex-wife for her childen even when the divorce has occurred because she committed adultery and the child is the result of that adultery with zero biological relation to him -- it's not that he is recognized as the father but that he is recognized as having once been married to the mother and the right of a mother to support by the man socially contracted to her trumps his rights as ex-husband.  Yet no one objects to "deadbeat moms" -- and you might be surprised by how high a number of them there are.  This is one of the more misandric manifestations of the old Cult of the Motherhood from the Victorian Doctrine of the Separate Spheres (women restricted to domesticity, men restricted to politics and business).

The Cult of Motherhood oppresses women by suggesting that female adults have no greater function than procreation and then childcare.  The Cult of Motherhood oppresses men by suggesting that male adults have no value nor function in childcare beyond providing a paycheck.  Sexism is not justified just because the victim is male; it is always wrong.  We must end sexism against women, and this will not occur until we end sexism against ~everyone~ male and female.

Doctor Xero


Title: Male dominance in the hobby
Post by: Librisia on February 17, 2004, 06:57:02 PM
I've posted my revised hypothesis on Male Dominance in RPGs (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9841)

Cheers,
Krista


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: contracycle on February 18, 2004, 01:31:26 AM
Quote from: Doctor Xero

You mistake tragedy for intentionality.


No, I just consider it irrelevant.

Quote

The courts have already told him that these are NOT his flesh and blood, they are hers and hers alone, and the more common reasoning given for demanding money from him is not that they are also his children but the argument that he owes his ex-wife money as part of a social contract.  


Quote

Yet no one objects to "deadbeat moms" -- and you might be surprised by how high a number of them there are.


Erm, I would say quite the opposite: allegations that women deliberately and cynically get pregnant so they can live off social security is a prevalent charge against "benefits culture"; by some accounts the evil "single mom" is the most pressing concern in our society, examplary as it is in the "decline of moral standards".  I'd say there is a whole politicla industry whose reason for existance is to attack "deadbeat moms".

Quote
Sexism is not justified just because the victim is male; it is always wrong.  We must end sexism against women, and this will not occur until we end sexism against ~everyone~ male and female.


I disagree; more precisely, we will only be able to tackle sexism against men after we have eliminated the aftereffects of thousands of years of institutional misogyny.  This takes me back to my previous point about the object being to limit behaviour, not impose thought control.  I don't think it can be realistically claimed that discrimination against men on these grounds is remotely comparable with discrimination against women by several order of magnitude; in terms of what might constitute "social engineering" it is simply not a significant problem in my eyes.  sure, redheads get ragged as well, and that hurts as much as any other form of discrimination, but they are not going to be relegated to second class citizen status permanently on that basis as a rule.  This strikes as too moralistic, amd insufficiently pragmatic, approach to the problem.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: AnyaTheBlue on February 18, 2004, 09:18:18 PM
Quote from: Christopher Weeks
Quote from: james_west
I can say that women think like aliens with confidence because one of the valuable services my (female) techs provide is to tell me how to interact with my wife. I do what they tell me, although it never makes any sense to me, and they're always right.


[snip]

I have a very close friend who is transgendered.  She is almost certainly genetically male (having fathered two children), but in the time that I've known her, she has gone from acting as a male at work and a female out of work, to "coming out" at work through all the legal and HR hoops, on through hormone therapy and then gender reassignment surgery, and is now married to a man.  I've had lots of interesting conversations with her about how the whole process seemed from the inside and what the role of hormones is.

[snip]

I wonder how much our hormones prevent us from playing across the chasm of sex appropriately.  I wonder if women are more or less able to play convining men.  And what is it that males "get wrong" when playing females that is implausible to women?  Why don't I observe females playing male characters "unrealistically?"  And why am I less sensitive to males depicting female behavior incorrectly?


Hurm, hurm.

I debated bringing this up, but what the hey -- you've broached the subject for me!

I am myself transgendered (having been born physically male and raised as a boy) who is in the process of undertaking exactly what your friend went through.  I'll be transitioning at work sometime in the next three months or so, but outside of work I'm currently living as a woman as much as possible considering that I haven't legally changed my name yet and I have to have stubble for electrolysis.

I don't think it's the hormones.  Or, at least, it's not only the hormones.  Everybody seems to react to them a little differently, so what follows is mostly based on my own personal experiences, but I think I have a fairly broad experience 'in the community' and I try to pay attention.

We conveniently talked about something that touched on this in my therapy group just this week, as it happens.  The hormones have made a few changes in my thinking, but not in the manner you describe.  They seem to have added a more continuous awareness of my emotional state, and they quieted down the 'ravening beast'.

The 'ravening beast' had nothing to do with being attracted to men versus being attracted to women.  It had a lot to do with the need to think and the obsession with thinking about that attraction, and dealing with the physical manifestations thereof.  I would put your friend's looking into the category of dealing with the physical manifestations of that need.

In my case, I still look at other women.  But I'm looking for fashion tips evaluating what they are doing with their makeup.  Plus, I think the female form is just generally more aesthetic than the male.  Guys are kinda proportioned funny, as a group.  But I'm not sexually attracted to women, and I never have been.  The 'ravening beast' that is now quiet in me is not the same as a sex drive, although as near as I can tell most men think it is.

I think I can say with some authority that there are definitely significant differences between how men and women think and relate.  And I know that I understand the way women relate and think better than I understand the way men do.  But at the same time, I have learned to fake  thinking and relating as men do fairly successfully.

But really, to bring this back on topic, I think this is all fascinating but secondary or tertiary.

The key is that gender has both a biological and a cultural component.  Exactly how much of each, however, is an unanswered question.  But I think it's entirely possible, and just as interesting, to construct games based on our awareness of the differences between men and women in our society without worrying about whether those differences are biologically or sociologically determined.  Even if we assign them incorrect causes, there's still value in thinking about the implications and exploring what contravening or conforming to them says about us as individuals and as a people.

Where these differences ultimately come from is not as important as what we do with them and how we deal with them, I think.

And just because these differences are there doesn't mean that we can't actually learn about or even, to a degree, understand and express what "the other side" is like.  It's all about communicating, listening, and understanding one's own preconceptions.

I think Ron is definitely on the right path with Sex & Sorcery -- use the in game constructions to illuminate and challenge the out of game preconceptions and opinions.  And do it in a mixed-gender group, because otherwise the shared preconceptions tend to swamp out the real world communicating, listening, and comprehension that this kind of play can really facilitate.

To quickly address another topic from this thread -- I think the reason that women play male characters "more successfully" than men play female characters largely has to do with the kind of gender role shifting that has happened in the past, oh, 50 years.  Women's roles have expanded from, largely, homemakers, to include homemaking, careers, sports, and many other historically 'male' activities and roles.  And for better or worse, there is far more androcentrism around in western civilization than there is gynocentrism -- certainly more women than men have experienced institutionalized discrimination.  Heck, the men frequently don't seem to be able to see that it even exists a lot of the time.

Anyway, the upshot here is that men's gender roles have expanded ever so slightly and most men have never experienced gynocentrism.  Or, perhaps more importantly, have never experienced gynocentrism in a way that they cared about.  At the same time, women's gender roles have really gained a lot of territory (largely because we had so little to begin with)and most women have experienced some, if not a lot, of androcentrism, and specifically androcentrism that they cared about and felt was unfair.

I think it's easier to be aware of and act as if you've got something you wish you really had than it is to be aware of and act as if you have something you really have little or no interest in.

Sorry for the length, and I hope this doesn't count as thread necromancy.  I'm really gratified to see all this gender discussion burbling up from the collective unconcious, and I regret not having been more involved.


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: Doctor Xero on February 19, 2004, 01:32:18 PM
Quote from: AnyaTheBlue
But I think it's entirely possible, and just as interesting, to construct games based on our awareness of the differences between men and women in our society without worrying about whether those differences are biologically or sociologically determined.

Agreed.

Quote from: AnyaTheBlue
Even if we assign them incorrect causes

The one problem I have with this, and thus why I become frustrated with the ingrained filters so many people have about men and women, is that assumed causes controls assumed responsibilities in this country : the common assumption is that if gender differences are biological they are immutable but if gender differences are cultural they can be altered.  (The same biological=immutable cultural=alterable dichotomy lies at the root of one of the religious controversies over homosexuality -- the reasoning goes that, if homosexuality is biological, it is immutable and therefore The Church must learn to accept it, but if homosexuality is cultural, it can be altered and therefore The Church must do whatever is necessary to change it to their desired goal of universal heterosexuality.)  That's why I try to point out the oceans of evidence for the ultimate commonality of all humans regardless of gender, even though I know that many people will never see beyond their filters which ignore evidence on the basis of anecdotal experience and attitude.

So long as people declare that there are traits or behaviors which are innate to men or to women, there will be prejudicial restrictions against women and men, restrictions righteously justified as "natural" and with any challenges or disobedience dismissed as "perverse" and "unnatural".

For RPGs : the game designer may choose what if anything to make innate and therefore immutable.  If the game designer believes women are biologically more nurturing, he or she may make that an immutable aspect of the creation of a female player-character.  If the game designer believes men are biologically more violent, he or she may give all male characters an automatic bonus to fighting, for example.

For RPGs : through game system, the game designer sets the default for what is considered "perverse" in his or her initial game world.

Quote from: AnyaTheBlue
I think the reason that women play male characters "more successfully" than men play female characters largely has to do with the kind of gender role shifting that has happened in the past, oh, 50 years.  Women's roles have expanded from, largely, homemakers, to include homemaking, careers, sports, and many other historically 'male' activities and roles.  And for better or worse, there is far more androcentrism around in western civilization than there is gynocentrism -- certainly more women than men have experienced institutionalized discrimination.  Heck, the men frequently don't seem to be able to see that it even exists a lot of the time.

Actually, I have personally experienced institutionalized discrimination and oppressive gynocentrism -- I have also studied it.  It occurs primarily in the areas of child care (a woman who picks up a crying child is motherly, but a man who picks up a crying child is a potential pedophile -- automatically); domestic activities (many women who complain about cooking all the time mock men who cook well as effeminate); and emotional freedom (I still recall one supervisor who ostracized me because he spotted me crying once and he could never forgive my transgression of male emotional taboos).  It also occurs when one is the lone male in the Women's Studies Program.

I have known a number of men who have successfully played female player-characters with enough practice.  In fact, in one gaming group in which five of the ten players were female, the female players initiated a discussion over why they found it harder to play believeable male characters than the men did to play believable female characters.  The women concluded that the reason was that all the male players had strong mothers and/or sisters whom we admired and imitated in playing female characters, while all the female players had fathers and/or brothers who were so conventionally gendered that the women ended up playing obnoxious man=bad woman=good parodies of masculinity when they tried to play male characters.

I have noticed something : take a transcription of an on-line RPG and let someone who does not know the genders of the players read it.  Ask her whether any of the male or female characters seem false.  After she tells you they do not, point out that one of the female characters was played by a male player.  Moments later, she will find ways in which the portrayal rang hollow or was sexist.  Dindias and Wood and Ares have all done numerous studies on how people reinterpret their initial impressions to conform to gender role prejudices once they discover a variation off conventional gender roles has occurred.

For RPGs : this means that efforts towards recognition of gender roles or racial bigotry or homophobia or anti-Semitism will still be ignored by those players who are determined to ignore them.  We do what we can, but we must accept that we can not keep a particular gaming group from using a house rule that all Jewish characters take a penalty to wisdom scores, for example, or that all female characters take a penalty to strength scores, or that all male characters have a 10% likelihood to beat their wives, or whatever bias appeals to that particular group.

Doctor Xero


Title: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]
Post by: AnyaTheBlue on February 19, 2004, 09:13:06 PM
Quote from: Doctor Xero

The one problem I have with this, and thus why I become frustrated with the ingrained filters so many people have about men and women, is that assumed causes controls assumed responsibilities in this country : the common assumption is that if gender differences are biological they are immutable but if gender differences are cultural they can be altered.


Believe me when I say that I understand where you are coming from with this completely.

But.

There's always a but, eh?

In my personal experience, there are some gender differences which are immutable, and there are some that are not.  What's changeable varies from person to person (I suspect that what's biologically determined and what's culturally determined varies from person to person, too -- that is, probably not everybody who is gay is gay for the same reasons.  But that's a whole different conversation).

Whether something is immutable or not, biological or not, is not the ultimate point.  Just because you can change something about yourself, or the way you act, doesn't necessarily mean that it's right/fair/reasonable/healthy for you to do so.

An example:  when I came out, not a single person ever suspected I was transgendered.  I spent 20+ years faking everybody out that I was a completely normal heterosexual guy and I had a 100% success rate.  But it wasn't good for me to have done that, mentally speaking.  It nearly drove me to suicide.

In the context of RPGs, yes, you can't stop people from being racist, sexist, morons.  Any given group can come up with any social contract they want to.  But that doesn't mean we can't design games that Explore (in the GNS sense) gender roles, gender assumptions, gender differences, and gender relations.  And what causes those differences between genders is secondary to the Exploration of the gender space, I think.

As an aside, you really come off a bit confrontational and, well, angry about the fact that people don't seem to be seeing the same things you are with respect to gender, behavior, culture, and biology.  I'm curious as to if this is accurate, or just my 'spider-sense' being over-active.  If it is accurate, why the anger?  And I hope the question isn't offensive or impertinent.  I'm curious, and I think it might be a stumbling block in how clearly you make your points to us.

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(The same biological=immutable cultural=alterable dichotomy lies at the root of one of the religious controversies over homosexuality -- the reasoning goes that, if homosexuality is biological, it is immutable and therefore The Church must learn to accept it, but if homosexuality is cultural, it can be altered and therefore The Church must do whatever is necessary to change it to their desired goal of universal heterosexuality.)


I would argue that it's more along the lines of:

Side A:
 1) It is wrong to discriminate against someone for something they have little or no control over, like eye color or ethnic background.
 2) Sexual orientation is something that people have little or no control over.
 3) Therefore, it is wrong to discriminate against someone for their sexual orientation.

Side B:
 1) The Bible is God's word, and God's word is always right.
 2) We have the power to do what God wants us to do.
 3) God says some sexual orientations are wrong.
 4) Therefore having those sexual orientations are wrong.
Corollary: If something is wrong, and we have the power to do what God wants us to do, then we must have the power to have the sexual orientation that God says is right.

That's been my experience, anyway.  Both sides are reasoning perfectly logically, but they don't accept the same things as axioms and they have very different criteria for what constitutes an authoritative fact.  I think this is off topic, though (sorry Ron!).

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So long as people declare that there are traits or behaviors which are innate to men or to women, there will be prejudicial restrictions against women and men, restrictions righteously justified as "natural" and with any challenges or disobedience dismissed as "perverse" and "unnatural".


I'm curious -- do you in fact believe that there are no traits that are innately gendered, or even gender-corollated trends and differences?  I know of at least one 'non-gendered' person who believes that (and also presents an extremely androgynous face to the world).

I do think that men and women have far more innate similarities than they do innate differences, but that there are still important differences -- whether innate or cultural, I can't say.

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For RPGs : through game system, the game designer sets the default for what is considered "perverse" in his or her initial game world.


Sure.  Modified, of course, by the social contract of the gaming group as a whole, which can add, subtract, or otherwise modify such definitions as they see fit.  The game as she is written is frequently not the game as she is played, after all.

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Actually, I have personally experienced institutionalized discrimination and oppressive gynocentrism -- I have also studied it.  It occurs primarily in the areas of child care (a woman who picks up a crying child is motherly, but a man who picks up a crying child is a potential pedophile -- automatically); domestic activities (many women who complain about cooking all the time mock men who cook well as effeminate); and emotional freedom (I still recall one supervisor who ostracized me because he spotted me crying once and he could never forgive my transgression of male emotional taboos).  It also occurs when one is the lone male in the Women's Studies Program.


I'm not saying that there is no gynocentrism and no institutionalized discrimination for men, I'm saying that it's far less common for men to be aware of it, to encounter it, or even to acknowledge and care about it when they do run into it.

Of course it happens.  Whatever else men and women are, neither of them are perfect, or have any innate advantage in terms of goodness, purity, or moral high ground (unless you happen to be religious and believe in original sin and all that, which I don't).

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I have known a number of men who have successfully played female player-characters with enough practice.


Which kind of makes one of my own points for me -- men can learn to play realistic women just as women can learn to play realistic men, no matter what the source of any real or perceived differences between the genders.

And as your further example illustrates, a lot of it has to do with having role models that don't necessarily conform to strict gender stereotypes.  I'd also suggest that a lot of it has to do with the willingness of the players to undertake such a role realistically.

For better or worse, a man playing a female (or a woman playing a male) character is on many occasions making himself a target for teasing and gender-stereotype-centrism from the other players.

A player's fear of harrasment of this sort, or perhaps his own embarassment at being interested in Exploring-in-a-GNS-sense the Gender Space, may cause him to tank his own attempts before the game even starts.

There are those who play cross-gendered characters less from a desire for Gender Space Exploration and more just because they like a particular character type, a pop-culture image, or even because they want to create "a fantasy girlfriend".  This leads to a whole different space of gender difficulties in a mixed playing group.  Bringing what amounts to a sexualized private creation into a public 'thought-space' can be uncomfortable for those who weren't expecting it -- it's a Social Contract issue that most groups I've known would rather not touch with the proverbial ten foot pole, and they do their best to akwardly ignore it when it does crop up.

Handled correctly, I think this could be an interesting kind of game -- "everybody generate a character which encompasses your perfect sexual/life/whatever partner" -- but not every group is going to be able to handle that sort of gaming.  Sounds like a good experiment for Sorcerer, really...

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Dindias and Wood and Ares have all done numerous studies on how people reinterpret their initial impressions to conform to gender role prejudices once they discover a variation off conventional gender roles has occurred.


Sure, I see this all the time in a way.  I live as a woman, and am fairly successful at doing so.  Random strangers I interact with have no reason to assume or think I wasn't born a woman, for the most part, and even if there is some question it's generally more likely for them to think I'm a mannish woman.  At the same time, friends of mine who knew me before I started to transition look at me and see "a guy in a dress".  Same presentation, but two different perceptions based on information external to the presentation.

My friend's additional knowledge causes them to interpret what they see very differently, and they assume that others obviously perceive me as they do, when in fact others don't see the same thing at all.

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For RPGs : this means that efforts towards recognition of gender roles or racial bigotry or homophobia or anti-Semitism will still be ignored by those players who are determined to ignore them.  We do what we can, but we must accept that we can not keep a particular gaming group from using a house rule that all Jewish characters take a penalty to wisdom scores, for example, or that all female characters take a penalty to strength scores, or that all male characters have a 10% likelihood to beat their wives, or whatever bias appeals to that particular group.


I'm sorry, I think I missed something.   I agree completely, but I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.

This is what I get for coming in at the end of the conversation, I suppose.  :/

Edit: Off Topic Tangent -- Dr. Xero, it seems fairly clear, considering I assume you are male and you've taken Women's Studies, that you've got an interest in gender stuff.  You might be interested in this site and the related book, My Husband Betty, written by the journalist wife of a tg/cross-dresser.  They seem to have really successfully made their non-stereotypical-gendered relationship really work, and I've found that the author really has an interesting and clear perspective on a lot of the issues around gendered behavior.  Sorry in advance for the rather non-rpg-centric bent I seem to have injected into the thread...  I'll be quiet now =)