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Friday 8 August 2014

Can You Engage With Someone Who Thinks "Aleena the Cleric" is Sexist?

Remember Aleena the Cleric?  If you're a D&D player of a certain age, you undoubtedly do, even if the name doesn't ring a bell.

Maybe this will jog your memory:

For those of you who weren't part of the two million or so kids for whom the Red Box D&D "Mentzer" box set was one of their earliest RPG experiences, let me put it into some context:  Aleena the Cleric is the NPC that shows up in your very first (solo) adventure, in the introduction booklet of the Red Box.  She is in some ways one of the earliest "iconics".  She is a brave and heroic adventurer, slightly more experienced than your own character, dedicated to fighting evil.  She ends up teaching you a lot of what you need to know to survive in the dungeon.  She is determined to stop the evil wizard Bargle, but tragically dies at the hands of Bargle's sorcery for you to avenge her.
She is at no time a 'helpless princess' type of character.  She is, if anything, the Roy Fokker or Obi Wan Kenobi of the red box, the mentor-character that shows you what you need to know and then dies so that you can continue in your Jungian Hero's Journey.

Oh, and as you'll see above, she wears full head-to-toe armor.  No 'chainmail bikinis' or 'slave girl outfits' for her.  The only skin she shows is her face.  She could only be more covered up if she wore a burqa.

Tracy Hurley, one of the Outrage Brigade who has recently been trying to smear me all over the internet, and who complains about how it is impossible to 'engage' with me (when her definition of 'engaging' was to slander me in mid-argument with a made-up story about me looking at some vaguely titillating picture and then pretending to be all stunned when I got mad at her dirty pool), thinks Aleena the Cleric is sexist.

I think, frankly, it's pretty much impossible to 'engage' with lunatics of this level.  With people so determined to undertake their crusade to impose their will on the hobby that they'll try to claim that a heroic female warrior figure from 1983 (a time when fantasy art routinely depicted women as naked as legally possible for them, and often in some kind of pseudo-bondage position) is a bad representation of women.

I'm not making this up.  Why would I lie when the truth is this damning?  Here's a partial transcript of the conversation where Hurley shows just how extremist she is.   Note that it's been edited, and so it doesn't necessarily reflect the full radicalism of her views, but it's pretty damning enough by itself.

The following are ACTUAL QUOTES of Hurley's about Aleena the Cleric:

"she's drawn to please a heterosexual man"

"the woman is being made to fit into a world view where women are there for display first, their power second."

Seriously, about Aleena!

Want some more?

 " There's an emphasis on femininity in the drawing that I don't find overly practical, especially the long piece of fabric between her legs"

This one makes Hurley look ignorant more than anything: that "piece of fabric" is a tabard.  It's an actual thing that knights wore, including templar knights, which Aleena the CLERIC is clearly being modeled after.  So far from an "emphasis on femininity", Aleena's full body-covering armor including the tabard is meant to make her look more like a MALE KNIGHT.
I guess she can't be blamed for not knowing  a tabard was a real thing, and mistaking it for something the artist put in to 'sex up' Aleena in some vague way.  She was probably too busy doing other things in her education to bother studying history.

Ready for the one that will leave you speechless?

"To me, the purpose of the tabard is to soften her and to play cat and mouse with the viewer. The pose is opened up to give greater access to her inner thighs but the "money shot" is hidden behind the soft, flowing tabard."

That's right, "money shot". To Tracy Hurley, that drawing of Aleena the Cleric is like pornography.

 I think you must have something seriously wrong with you and how you look at art and the world if you look at that image and think 'that tabard further covering that fully dressed warrior-woman is just too arousing'. But then, I guess if you're a professional witch hunter you'll want to find witches everywhere. The more you do, after all, the better it pays off.

But anyways, I'm not writing about this to make fun or just to insult; but to raise awareness. I want people to understand exactly the type of people we're dealing with, and to consider the source. It puts a context into the mentality of our opponents. They want to present themselves as the "reasonable" ones, the "inclusive" ones.

For me, "inclusive" means putting a heroic transgendered character on the cover of an RPG I wrote, or making casual mentions to LGBT relationships just like I would heterosexual relationships in another RPG I wrote, or writing a detailed and carefully researched RPG on a non-european culture, which I also did.

For my opponents, "inclusive" means trying to make sure Zak S' currently-quite-ill girlfriend is publicly pilloried for being a porn star, calling her a "fucksack", and going after Aleena the Cleric because a depiction of a brave, dashing, heroic warrior woman dressed in head-to-to armor that reveals no skin whatsoever aside from her face is just far too sexist and must be stopped.

A year ago today, the exact same people who are now engaging in a campaign to blacklist me and Zak S were engaged in a campaign against rpg writer Shanna Germain, accusing her of having created a 'sexist' monster in the Numenera RPG.  Tracy and her friends were going after a female RPG writer in the name of feminism. 
A year and a half or so ago, they went after Stacy Dellorfano for daring to make an woman-centered RPG Convention ("Contessa"), which featured all-women panels and women-run games. Why on earth would they go after that?  Isn't that exactly the kind of thing any feminist, or just anyone who wants to encourage women to have a bigger voice in the RPG hobby, should be cheering about??
Well no, because Dellorfano wanted the con to be about actually running and playing RPGs, and not about talking about how horribly sexist the hobby is; they went after Stacy mercilessly in essence because she wouldn't give them center stage and support their 'narrative' that the hobby is just far too awful to actually let women play at all.   A con where women were playing and running games and everyone was happy about that fact ruins their whole argument.
Somewhere in between those two events, they were trying to push for a supposed 'anti-harassment' regulation for all gaming cons that would allow them to kick anyone out they thought was dressed too provocatively.

At the time, I made a blog entry which implied that the Outrage Brigade wouldn't be satisfied until they saw women in Burqas in the name of feminism, but of course that's not true. What Tracy Hurley wants is for WOMEN TO DRESS LIKE HER.

She'd be equal in condemning a naked porn star, a bikini-clad booth babe, a cosplayer showing too much leg, or a conservative muslim woman in a niqab/burqa/etc. because they are all different then her particular view of propriety, a view informed by and conditioned by a type of feminism very rooted in middle class ideas, which (ironically) descend directly from victorian prudery.  The point is any woman who CHOOSES to not look like her is wrong and misguided in her eyes, and must be shown the error of her ways including by coercion is necessary; she has to be forced to dress right for the sake of feminism. Likewise, any art that does not reflect her personally is wrong and misguided.

She's doing this:

All of the Outrage Brigade are.  One of the few things that makes Hurley exceptional is the fact that she's actually a woman; the majority of the Outrage Brigade are actually men, telling women like Shanna, Stacy, and Mandy Morbid what they should write, how they should act, and what they should or should not wear.

And apparently this even extends to Aleena the Cleric, which is a sign of a REALLY extreme extension of that kind of 'prudery' based not on actual interest in modesty so much as a desire for homogeneity of thinking.   The Outrage Brigade can't stand anything that doesn't think like they do; and Tracy Hurley suspects that while Aleena is a figure that would be seen as a role model for some young girls into D&D, this is actually dangerous because it represents a type of D&D she despises as contrary to her thinking of what is proper.  Aleena is sexist because D&D is sexist, because D&D does not agree with her about how her ideas are best.  It's a neat little logical pretzel.

Aleena would not be out of place as a heroic female figure in 2014, but in 1983 she was almost radical, compared to much of what was around her.

To say this is 'not good enough' is to suggest that NOTHING in fantasy or RPGs is good enough.  It betrays your real motives: to never ever be satisfied because your real issue is with the entire hobby/culture, and you want all of it to be taken down completely, so you can rebuild it forcibly under your control and in your own image.

There's no 'middle ground' to be found with people like that.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake


  1. think your headline is mis-representing the conversation quoted, though almost in a positive way. The Tracy person goes out of their way to call the picture "not sexist", but then makes a number of vague critiques about the picture - it is "unrepresentative" to her, the clothing is too "soft", the stance is not correct, etc etc.... It would be more easy to discuss if she did come out and say it was sexist. Ultimately, her argument comes down to a vague, undefined opinion based on personal, undefinable definitions, which would be fine if anyone who disagreed with her wasn't seen as both non-inclusive and non-respectful.

    1. Considering she is part of the same group of people that love to spread lies, bullshit, and try to shame others in order to control the hobby I have to side with RPGPundit on this one. These fuck wits are after gaming and while they won't take away any games that I like the fact is if they could they would. Not to mention we should be fighting them on the principle that they make whole organizations look bad and thus ruin good causes. We are fighting parasites if any thing.

  2. I've finally bit the bullet and unsubscribed to the Tome Show Podcast. I've been with that show since the beginning. Ever since Tracy joined the cast of the show as a regular co-host though it's been trying my patience more and more with her SJW winging of the hobby, making things more and more about gender.

    Enough is enough lady, not everyone wants to play the same type of D&D as you. It's fine. Make your own D&D community if you feel the need to and populate it with and play with like minded people, that's great.

    But stop trying to tell everyone else that how they play is Wrong!

    Feminism has nothing to do with gaming any more than it has to do with TV Shows, Movies or any sort of Fiction. That is to say it can be an element of it but it's not the foundation of any of those forms of art.

    Radical Feminists seek to hijack everything (Atheisim+) they have an interest in and make it about Feminism instead of what said hobby/pastime is really about.

    Keep fighting the good fight Pundit, cause if you don't whats next. SJW assaults on Parcheesi?

    1. I realise we don't know each other but I have to disagree.

      I with Pundit 100% with this article. The female cleric was for its time (and now) was/ is an empowering image of women in action. As far as I am concerned, this is exactly what feminism/ feminist theory in cinema/ the arts etc was demanding of the cultural industry: to portray women in a variety of roles and in a variety of body shapes, just like in real life, as just like men are. For too long women, like ethnic minorities, were portrayed in 2-D, shallow, passive and demeaning roles. as sex objects or even 'invisible' as in absent from stories and narratives. Mulvey referred to these portrayals as the workings of the 'Male Gaze', in which stories, films, video games and rpgs of today are told from the perspective and for the perspective of men. Thus you enter the story as a man (and often a heterosexual white male).

      Whilst this may not bother you (it doesn't seem to) obviously it bothers other groups (women, non-whites, the GLBT community - as well as those who are fed up with the status quo such as myself) who buy game products which don't speak to them as well.

      Don't get me wrong- I enjoy my Conan stories and HP Lovecraft. Still get Conan comics, and am currently enjoying the Stephen Moore comics about Hercules. BUT a) I am a white heterosexual male and b) I have to grit my teeth at times with some of the HPL material since it is so odious on the issue of race at times.

      I am glad to say gaming companies, as in cinema, are improving how they represent groups in their gaming products who were previously marginalised. There is a long way to go - but things are getting better. there is now far greater verisimilitude in gaming. Nice.

      I would argue though that one has to draw a line between laughing at the crazy ideas expressed by Ms Hurley, as highlighted by Pundit in his piece above, and those of feminism. I mean - you could take any philosophy/ ideology, and in any you will find some people who shout very loudly for it, and get folks attention - but they are poor exponents of it. Thus they should be ignored - and certainly one should not take their interpretation as saying anything - in this case - about feminism.

      Have probably said too much not to your liking. But hey ho - gaming is a personal thing. It is a hobby we enter into voluntarily. Whilst I am in no way trying to tell you how to run/ play your game, I for one want greater diversity in gaming stories/ products because:
      1) it chimes with my values and
      2) it makes far more interesting stories. I have been gorged/ sated on classic male-centred narratives from a pseudo-medieval POV. Time for some new stories which expand my imagination. :)

  3. Typical liberal political correctness. It's the only way these people can find any power in their lives.

    1. Naw... I'm a bleeding-heart treehugger and even I think this stuff is bullshit. To me it has more to do with the aspect of human nature that thrives on witch-hunts and punishment. Looking for scapegoats rather than actual solutions... warming their hands over the pyres of the 'unclean'. Plenty of those folks on any political axis.

    2. Hi Dan

      I don't think Ms Hurley's arguments have anything to do with 'liberal political correctness'. Her arguments, as Pundit pointed out, are simply plain stupid. She claims the image is sexist when it is empowering. She does not understand what a tabard is. etc etc.

      All 'liberal political correctness' is about is about using language to describe social groups as humans and not as objects/ in a fashion which is disparaging/ demonising/ dehumanising. Thus people, when challenged, came to realise that calling someone who was being daft a 'spaz' was insulting. Or if someone was rubbish at something, then saying 'that's so gay' was offensive, or the use of the N word....or calling women 'birds', 'slags', 'skirt' or gay men 'bum bandits', 'crevasse crawlers', 'shirt lifters', 'poofs' etc etc.... get me? All 'liberal political correctness' is about - rather than what Fox news may tell you - is that language is important and names/ expressions such as the above are hurtful - and thus should not be used. Fortunately for me, as a white British heterosexual male, I am not on the receiving end of abuse such as the words above. I am getting older so I guess some pejorative comments about what an old git I am will escalate I guess. Being called a POM/ limey wash over me. They don't have the same meaning/ historical baggage of other nastier terms.

  4. Its very funny that she's quoting that conversation on her own blog as if it reflects her being the voice of reason.

    Even funnier when you compare it to her post about Red Sonja where she approvingly reproduces a series of cheesecake shot covers. But chainmail bikinis aren't sexist if they're drawn by women (glossing over that the interior art is by a man).

  5. Bikinis can be totally sexist if drawn (or worn) by women. Only not if those women are from the Approved List of people who are in the Socially Conscious In-Crowd that can do no wrong.

    If Mandy Morbid drew a picture of a barbarian woman in a bikini, she'd be a traitor to her gender. But because it's Gail Simone, it's ok.

    This isn't about gender, it's about whether you're part of the In-Crowd, the Politburo, The Approved Council of Socially Correct People Who Can Therefore Do Whatever The Fuck They Like.

    It's the same reason why you can have some of the Outrage Brigade condemn Carcosa and it's child-sacrifice rituals as near-criminal monstrosity, while thinking that Maid and its broom-humping preteen slave-girls in transparent maid outfits is totally awesome! It's why if a D&D illustration shows a bit too much skin (or even, apparently, a 'money-shot' tabard, as if that were a thing) they can consider it a violation of human rights, but if Vince Baker talks gleefully about how in Poison'd you can neck rape the corpse of a dead cabin boy, that's art.

  6. One wonders what mental illness she suffers from, or what variety thereof, if she honestly believes what she says. Seriously she sounds like she needs medication or she'll wind up getting hit by a car while chasing phantoms across the 405 at night. Is she a real person or a joke?

  7. I will say this - I am not the "Usual" gamer in that I am rather on the conservative side (Might be that I am LDS). But I will simply add this.

    Aleena is one of the best female NPCs written, ever. It was radical for 1983, it was radical in 1992 when I first read the red box, and really, it is still unusual for 2014.

    Aleena is a more experienced, highly useful character that in just a few pages you grow connected to. And then she dies to a bad guy, and it time for you to step it up and become that hero. It is incidental that she happens to be female, and yet she is female (and not a male playing a female). I would love it if even if NPCs where as half as well written, and art designed as Aleena.

    (to give you the impact that Aleena had, here I am making a dungeon 22 years later and I might put Bargle in it.)

    But this is just another example of the insane concept that someone's personal feelings have just as much weight as actual facts.

    1. Caught this as I was going thru the sarahdm blog. Tracy is impossible to engage with as she is a feminist true believer. I want am a product of the quest for equality (2x title ix scholarships paid for school.) So I am all for an intelligent viewpoint. The thing is if you are not in complete agreement with a hardline feminist, you are...

      a. Wrong.
      b. sexist (if male)
      c. a brainwashed female.

      You're never going to going to be able to engage because she and people like her are close minded. They can't give an inch on any of their points because they believe if they concede any points their whole belief system will fail. The thing is, it won't because feminism has some good points. But it is not correct to the exclusion of everything else.

      Aleena is a cool character and when I was little I used her pic for my cleric. My brothers said I could play D&D with them, but I had to be a cleric. I had no idea what a cleric was so they showed me Aleena. To a young girl she was cool. She had armor, spells, and weapons!

      Why Sarah is SO SO SO hardheaded is open to speculation!!!

    2. Totally in agreement. Luckily there are some very excellent women in the gaming scene that aren't doing the whole Hurley-game. Stacy Dellorfano and the whole Contessa crowd, for example.

    3. Seconded that Aleena is cool. In a recent campaign I ran, the parry were short a cleric so they got to do a dungeon with Aleena. I don't think anyone else knew who she was, but I got a kick out of it. She even survived.