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Sexism in Tabletop Role-Playing Games II

Updated on February 19, 2015

Viking Warrior


Part One Continues

This is the aftermath of Part One, which focused on the male gaze and its impact. A dialogue began in the comments regarding how to address issues when they occur. The following is the result of posting that dialogue on the Facebook Group, Gaming Diversely. Thanks to all who participated!

Christine Doering It's especially frustrating when the guys just look embarrassed and do nothing to help, even when they know you're right. Or when they're all like "We'll do it for you," like taking care of problematic assholes is some sort of favor they're doing for me, but not because they actually SEE a problem.

Guys often squirm and try to deny there's a problem.

William Corpening My experience with this situation proved to me that if a lady gamer doesn't do something -- if she just lets things slide -- things will simply escalate. One jerk gets away with it and it empowers other jerks. In fact, it makes things bad for the next lady gamer that sits down at that table because the jerks will try the same stuff on her.

Christine Doering And with so much of our culture geared toward undermining women's credibility (dictating an extreme gender binary is part of that too), women are largely unsupported and silenced because our voices make men uncomfortable.

When we are silenced and unsupported, the truly problematic guys can get really creepy and scary, and it can happen really fast.

And they usually get away with it because we don't talk about it. Because women are all crazy anyhow, and are making things up to get attention. That's the narrative we're supposed to buy into.

Rick Smathers Speak with other players privately and one on one about the situation so that she has some idea whether they will back her up.

Find a group that is more enlightened and ditch players who won't respect her.

Make a clear statement of her feelings on the matter, but don't press it beyond her comfort level.

Christine Doering Be aware of how the men around you are behaving and call out bad shit when you see it. Even when women aren't there.

Christine Doering Don't be cool with casual sexism and rape culture bullshit.

Rick Smathers So, there are jerks, but there are also those who simply don't get it. Sometimes once people understand, the will try to reform. So, I think it is important not to let something you are uncomfortable with go unchallenged.

That having been said, if you still get no respect or tolerance for your feelings, then those individuals aren't your friends and you are better off distancing yourself in my opinion.

Christine Doering Yeah, but we're the ones always expected to do the leaving.

Rick Smathers I agree that's not right and not fair. It should be those who are creating the hostile environment who should have to go. It seems to me like it's better to look for more reasonable friends who will respect you, but I have a limited viewpoint because I can't really walk in those shoes.

That having been said, we wouldn't tolerate anything overtly sexist or racist in my current group and mistakes, when they do happen, are mistakes. Of course, having a diverse group helps a lot too.

Christine Doering Those with access to male privilege need to step it up a notch, though. Women have always been aware of and burdened with these things. We are the ones who have to decide what we have to tolerate, what we are willing to sacrifice for group inclusion. We are societally groomed to silence as well.

Men don't need to tell women we have to speak up. We are aware of the situation.

Christine Doering I mean, it all sounds so simple when you explain it to us, right?

Rick Smathers Yeah, we do need to step it up. We need to walk the walk and support someone who is being made uncomfortable.

Peer pressure from others with privilege would do a lot to stop the ones who are out of line.

If it were simple, I guess it wouldn't be an issue. I didn't mean to come across that way. I'm sorry.

Christine Crabb In my experience, if we let it slide it's uncomfortable, but sometimes we can find a different way around it. (For instance, get GM to know that if person X comes to the table, GM is to rearrange seating immediately to ensure X isn't next to me and I don't have to look like the lone bitchy woman. Avoid future games with that person, let others know and ask them to step up to help next time.) Address things as nicely as possible on the spot and and often things escalate FAST instead of slowly--the guys might think you're not being relaxed or a good enough sport or oversensitive so they gang up, or the guy causing the problem feels shamed by a woman in front of his peers, and that can make men get very icky or threatening very quickly. Then you're looking over your shoulder at that location for quite some time.

Christine Crabb I should add that it does not take much for some guys to feel shamed--you can be as nice and flattering as possible, but if you disagree mildly but publicly, or turn down an attempt at flirtation publicly, things can get ugly really quickly. So, yeah, the "let it slide" thing has a lot to do with self-preservation at the most extreme or at least being able to continue to socialize with a male-heavy group.

Christine Doering I've been meaning to get back to this, but we got the expansion to Diablo III... so there's been a lot of me meaning to get back to stuff lately...

Anyhow, imagine being driven from your hobby spaces over and over. I have had to leave multiple table-top gaming groups and pages on Facebook because of dudes being creepy or blatantly misongynistic and other dudes (including ones who were friendly and cool with me) either dogpiling me for speaking up and refusing to be silenced or themselves remaining silent.

White cis-male entitlement in these spaces runs rampant. They drive away people of diversity, who have always been present and have always had just as much right to participate, look around at a sea of white dude faces, then claim ownership of the hobby. Like, they have special rights to it because it is "theirs" when it is only "theirs" because they've used their privilege and sense of entitlement to Agent Smith us out of OUR spaces.

These spaces ARE just as much ours as they are theirs. I have been gaming for almost three and a half DECADES, mostly as a GM. I've been part of this hobby for longer than many of them have been alive.

Now take this "if you're uncomfortable, you should just leave" advice and look at questions like "Why are there so few women in STEM fields?" and then think about that connection.

Which is why I never want to hear that sort of advice coming from a man.

Rick Smathers I understand.

My thought was that it's not right for someone to have to put up with systematic harassment and since tabletop games generally occur in a private setting, if people won't listen and behave better and bystanders won't support you, then you have to leave to stop being harassed.

I hear your pain and frustration because of having to do this too many times, especially in public forums where you shouldn't have to ever be forced out this way.

Thank you for elaborating on the specifics and I apologize again; I had the best of intentions, but I realize that it sounded like I was saying something along the lines of: "If you don't like it, just leave." I get why saying something like that would hit a very raw nerve. It wasn't my intention and I'm sorry to have expressed myself badly.

Christine Doering It's refreshing to get the opportunity to express these things to people willing to hear them.

Rick Smathers Please don't hesitate to do so. I, for one, need to learn. I want to be a better person.

And thanks for understanding that my mistake was not one of intent.

Thanks to all the great ladies and gentlemen from Gaming Diversely who participated for their candid and enlightening input. More discussions such as this are the real cure for discrimination of all kinds in role-playing and I hope we can continue onward and upward!


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    • William Corpening profile imageAUTHOR

      William Corpening 

      21 months ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I see... I addressed my own misgivings and mistakes by posting the responses on this subject, then all goes quiet. It's always a great thing to express your own feelings and opinions on such subjects. It opens the floor for conversation. But I never expected to shut the conversation DOWN by actually having one.



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