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Author Topic: Feminist Game Design [split from Religion in Role-Playing]  (Read 16358 times)
james_west
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« Reply #30 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
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Doctor Xero
Member

Posts: 433


« Reply #31 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
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
Doctor Xero
Member

Posts: 433


« Reply #32 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
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
John Kim
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« Reply #33 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 http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9785">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.
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- John
Doctor Xero
Member

Posts: 433


« Reply #34 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
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
james_west
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Posts: 292


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« Reply #35 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
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Doctor Xero
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Posts: 433


« Reply #36 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
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
james_west
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« Reply #37 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.

- Thanks !

James
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Itse
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« Reply #38 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.
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          I'm mean but I mean well.
John Kim
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« Reply #39 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.
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- John
Doctor Xero
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Posts: 433


« Reply #40 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
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
Thuringwaethiel
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Posts: 17


« Reply #41 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. 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..?
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Doctor Xero
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Posts: 433


« Reply #42 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
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
John Kim
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« Reply #43 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.
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #44 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.
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