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Wednesday 5 September 2018

Classic Rant: Why Feminist Articles About Gamers Not Being Incusive are Bunk

Jonathan Tweet Challenged me to React to a Feminist Article About how Gamers Aren't Inclusive

So, I made a pass-over comment to something Jonathan Tweet had said in response to yet another feminist blog entry from some Canadian "political activist" (guess which side of politics?), writing about "How to Make Women Feel Welcome" at gaming tables; the assumption, of course, being that women are not presently welcome. Here's what I said:

"The Outrage Brigade, gaming division, thinks I'm gaming's greatest right-wing monster. And yet I've never ever had problem getting women to my games. I have had a 30% ratio of women players on average to my games for years.
Just Friday I had a whole group of women gamers here in a local gaming event in Uruguay chatting with me in praise for my Lords of Olympus game, and praising how I handled the balance of medieval-authenticity with roles for female characters in Dark Albion.

I agree that there are INDIVIDUALS who are hostile to women gamers in the tabletop RPG world, but I fundamentally disagree with the notion that the hobby as a whole is 'unwelcoming' to women, LGBT or anyone else. Especially old-school gamers. Feminists demand that we have to change the nature of the hobby itself because it is somehow 'unwelcoming' but that's bullshit. 90% of gamers don't give a twopenny fuck about anything to do with your gender/race/sexuality, they only care whether you want to play D&D or not. They're more likely to treat you like shit for liking 4e (and justifiably so) than for the color of your skin or the form of your genitals.

Also, the "X card" is the biggest piece of bullshit in the history of ridiculously stupid ideas of this hobby. I have never seen it being used as anything other than a weapon.

In short, this article demands we make take fundamental assumptions as 'truth': that the hobby and hobby spaces are inherently hostile to women, that only making radical changes involving making a certain group of leftist-activists Censors of the hobby will change that, and that anyone who disagrees is one step removed from a rapist.

I reject all those assumptions."
So in response to my comment, Tweet asked me to elaborate, and, well, I did. Here is a point by point analysis of the dubious article:

1st paragraph: I think that it's a serious exaggeration to imagine a woman 'awash in a sea of people who are not like you'. First, if you are a gamer who is there to play some D&D you are exactly like the people in that room. They're all gamers who want to play some RPGs too. It's not the Pick Up Artist convention or something.

'from in-game rape, to out of game harassment (and yes, sometimes rape there too), to snide comments, and the jokes about women and gaming, the popular demographic has left a foul taste in a lot of women's mouths when it comes to gaming'

Do these things happen? Yes. But this article implies that any of these things are ubiquitous and endemic.
They aren't. I'm a game designer, blogger, have been GMing for decades, own one of the major gaming forums. I've never seen anywhere in these contexts any game or gamers above the age of 14 or so who have thought rape was funny, who wanted to have "in game rape", or who thought harassing women (in the sense of "unwanted sexual attention" as opposed to in the Regressive Left sense of 'disagreeing with anything a feminist says') was OK.

"when we tried to get more women GMs to our tables, they said they felt uncomfortable because often they'd been running for all men, and that past harassment had left them nervous or anxious"

Is this account possible? Sure. But then there's Contessa, and all the women GMs I know, and all the women players I know, and who have played in my games (in spite of the false rumors spread about me by the Outrage Brigade of what a terrible sexist I am) and none of them seem afraid of playing or running a game. 

Why do we hear this same narrative every time, always from self-style "political activists" (like the author of the article), presenting women as these incredibly fragile trauma-prone delicate flowers who need all kinds of special (usually totalitarian) concessions to be able to do what we see women doing ALL THE TIME in the real world without any difficulty? Why is it that in this day and age, no one infantilizes women and suggests women are helpless emotionally inferior hysterics more than self-style "feminists" of the 3rd wave?

On women facilitating and organizing games: I have no problem with this. Like I said: I, the big bad RPGPundit, owner of the big bad RPGsite, was one of the first people to endorse Contessa, while the feminists of rpgnet were calling it 'problematic' because Stacy Dellorfano wanted it to be about women motherfucking gaming rather than about holding panels about how awful sexism is and how women can't possibly game unless we radically redesign the entire hobby and D&D as a game.

Harassment Policy: I have no problem with a clear, explicit, and universally applied harassment policy. But all too often, the 'harassment policy' that the Regressive Outrage Brigade wants is one what is intentionally vague where they can use it as a weapon against ideological enemies. Ones where if anyone FEELS offended for any given reason whatsoever (or just claims to be) they can ban/throw-out attendees, GMs, speakers, audience members at panels, or game companies selling products. But only so long as the person feeling offended is part of the right identity-politics group. And not even then, if that person isn't of the right political allegiance (a conservative woman claiming to be offended by a male-feminist leftist will be laughed at, if not thrown out herself).

re Tools: I've already made my position on the X-card clear. It is a fundamental attack on the very structure of the RPG. It disrupts the entire balance of the play group and the GM/player authority dynamic. It was directly inspired by the same kind of thinking that Storygames has been trying to push on gaming for nearly 15 years now: to neuter the 'unfair' authority of the GM. 

I'll add that I think it would be fine if games AT CONS had 'ratings' or were asked to include some kind of mention in their description if their game had elements that were sensitive. 

The one absolute authority a player should have is the power to stand up and say "I'm not playing this game anymore". But aside from that, in a convention or game-event situation, it is a good idea in general (for the GM as much as the players) for everyone to know if a game is potentially going to touch on sexual issues, or maybe certain other elements that potential players could feel uncomfortable getting into.

Women Guests: Um, sure. But they should be there for some kind of merit. If the women who've never designed anything other than a political activism blog suffer from "impostor syndrome" its probably because they are in fact impostors. 
People should be chosen for their qualifications, not for their gender or other features. It was disgusting to me, this year, that Mike Pondsmith, who is an amazing game designer and a massively qualified hero of the hobby, and totally worthy to be Guest of Honor at Gencon, was made guest of honor not for any of those reasons but only because he has black skin. I can think of no greater insult to the man and everything he has accomplished that he was clearly and blatantly chosen only for that reason, and that if, say Kevin Siembieda was black and Mike Pondsmith was white, it would have been Siembieda at Gencon instead. 
That's the kind of bullshit Identity Politics leads to. Not only does it undeservedly give false importance to unqualified people on the basis of their gender or skin color, but it tells people of amazing merit and accomplishment that the only thing that matters about them and the only reason they're being honored is their gender or skin color.

"GM takes steps to be inclusive": What a fucking ridiculous example she gives. So we're supposed to remove some of the most basic story elements of mythology and literature because this idiot's concept of 'feminism' is that women can never be portrayed as enduring any kind of hardship without it being sexist? Women in the real world don't get kidnapped? 

I can absolutely get if a GM creates a scenario where women are ONLY portrayed as helpless ninnies who exist for sex appeal and nothing else. But read what she's saying here: it isn't that. She's saying that we can't ever portray any woman ever as being in danger, we can't portray any woman ever as being beautiful, even, because this is 'noninclusive'. 

I have little need to wonder what someone like her would think of a setting like Dark Albion, based on actual medieval authenticity, where in my games women can be very powerful but also face a fundamentally unfair world, where some of their roles and opportunities are restricted to them. 
Just last Friday I was running a Dark Albion game at a local gaming minicon, and I had a couple of young women come to my table (rushed to my table, actually) to get a vaunted slot to play. Here in Uruguay "Lords of Olympus" is insanely popular and they wanted the chance to play a game with the guy who had written it, even if it wasn't what I was running. They did have some doubts about the description of my Dark Albion campaign. They wanted to know if they could even play women characters.
I explained that yes, in Dark Albion as a setting I didn't want to completely eliminate the fundamentally sexist nature of 15th century Europe but there are several options for women. The (invented) element of the Clerical Order consists of people given miraculous power by the Unconquered Sun, and the Unconquered Sun gives miracles to men or women alike, so the order has as many women clerics as men. Internally it treats female clerics the same as male clerics, though for reasons relating to the sexism of the Church in general women have only very rarely reached up to the very highest administrative positions in the order. 

Titled Magisters are all men because the great collegiums (Oxford and Cambridge, as well as others on the continent) do not accept women; but there are many noble women who study magic in secret and many 'wise women' who practice handed down unauthorized magic. this is a dangerous path for any woman because while not strictly forbidden, magic-using women are among the first suspected of chaos-sorcery whenever some evil is afoot. Women fighters are rare but there are women raised in mercenary companies or even daughters of knights raised to be fighters; they face sexist opposition but can rise up to positions of prestige if they demonstrate their ability (more so, ironically, among the lower-class soldiery who care more about fighting skill, than among the nobility where social-roles are more rigid). etc. etc.

My two would-be new players were satisfied with this and played a Cleric and a thief (crime having little concern with gender distinction, after all). They both had a great time, and played a central part in the game (especially the cleric), and both appreciated the elements of play that involved them having to maneuver through a society that presented them with occasional challenges related to their gender. Somehow I'm betting the author of the article would have found it all terribly offensive, though.

Of course, I'll add that if I should see any player at one of these games acting like an asshole to female players, I would certainly speak up and put them in their place. But it's never happened at any table of mine in years of gaming at gaming clubs, community events, or being a guest GM at cons like the one I went to on Friday. The closest thing I can think of was one occasion (at a local gaming con)with a group that were almost all under-18s where I saw that the players, trying to decide what to do at some moment in the game, were all talking above or interrupting the single female player. I don't think its so much that she was a girl, because they were interrupting each other just as much, as that she was not as willing to interrupt back or talk over the boys. So finally I said "For fuck's sake let her speak!", and believe it or not they did just that. Crazy, right? "Male terrorists" (I won't say 'white' because they were all Latinos, and the Left only counts Latinos as 'white' if they're voting Republican) realizing that they had been ignoring another player and correcting themselves?

Inclusive Games: I absolutely agree that there "aren't 'girl' games and 'boy' games". So why the flying fuck does the author think that gaming events have to fill a quota of Storygames for women to actually feel 'safe' to play? It's HER SIDE that keeps pretending you need to have special 'girl' games or 'queer' games or 'Latino' games because somehow if you just run D&D and aren't discriminatory that won't be enough. As if there aren't women or people of color or LGBT people who want to have fun slaughtering orcs and firing magic missiles. Someone better tell that to the Latinos in my groups: they don't want some kind of "Storygame about the 3rd world" or "inclusive RPG set in an Inca world"; most of them want to play in the fucking Forgotten Realms, Star Wars, Paranoia, Vampire, or play the kids of Greek Gods in Lords of Olympus (or cult-hunters in Dark Albion). Tell that also to the women who play at my con games, or the ones who play elven stoners or human torturers in my DCC game, or Clerics or nobles in my Dark Albion game or have played in my Amber campaigns; or to the bisexual guy who played a superhero in my ICONS "Golden Age" game, or to the gender-fluid kid who loved playing a crazy wizard in my DCC game. 

Now I'm not saying a Con can't have someone running "monsterhearts" (whatever the fuck that is), that's fine. But I think there's something incredibly smarmy and self-serving about a bunch of fucking Storygamer Swine who hate D&D claiming that we need to impose a quota of special game slots for otherwise-famously-unpopular Storygames that their friends all wrote or else we're all rapists or something. That shows off the real agenda here: personal power and obtaining influence in a hobby their total lack of talent and ability would otherwise prevent them from getting.

Diverse pre-gen characters: I don't know. OSR characters can be rolled up in minutes, so we don't usually have this problem.

Harassment Taken Seriously: Sure. Real harassment, not the crazy cuckoo-land definition that 3rd wave feminism uses, should ALWAYS be taken seriously. A guy trying to hit on a girl in mid-game session should probably always be called out. Unwanted touching of any kind should almost always see the perpetrator thrown out of the table if not the event itself.

Inclusive Space: The author here suggests literal censorship of game products. That's not an 'inclusive space'. That's totalitarianism. If a cover has some kind of art which could be considered obscene it should probably be kept in a special section with some kind of warning. Other than that, grow the fuck up and stop being such a fucking fascist.

So I'll sum up with another quote of mine from that thread:

But here's what the Outrage Brigade does: 
a) claim that because racism/sexism/homophobia we need to impose these new gaming mechanics or fire someone or hire someone else on the basis of skin color or not play someone's game or make gamers play someone else's game.

b) when people disagree, present that as PROOF that gamers hate women/people-of-color/LGBT

It's a disgusting little shell game. A three-card-monte meant to get them attention and power in the hobby (in the names of people they in no way represent and have no real interest in), and of course patreon-dollars. 
You know how I get women gamers playing my games? I make kick-ass games and settings that people like playing. How do I make them feel welcome at my table? I make it very clear they're welcome to sit down and play some fucking D&D, and then run a kick-ass game in my Dark Albion setting. I don't infantilize them; I treat them like adults and assume they don't need special tools or special exceptions just for them.


Currently Smoking: Missouri Meerschaum + Gawith Virginia Flake 

(October 19, 2016)


  1. This is an excellent post even though I'm ignorant of the original context from 2016, it's still a relevant counter-argument. SJW objections to just about everything they object to are absolutely just a power-play and the "victims" they claim to be speaking on behalf on are just disposable tools to that end. It is hard to imagine a more genuinely heartless and misanthropic ideology than theirs.

    The last Inappropriate Characters was great, btw, the show is improving each time, but I was surprised you didn't even mention GrimJim's twitter ban. I was expecting Full Force Punditry about that one! If you're looking for potential guests I would recommend Scott Malthouse of the Trollish Delver blog. He's not really OSR but is quite big in the T&T community and has designed some really interesting games - Quill, English Eerie, Tequendria.

    1. We talked about Grim Jim's twitter ban in an earlier episode, I believe.
      We'll take your suggestion in mind, thanks!

  2. They call us misogynists, but they're the ones who infantilize women.

    They call us racist, but they're the ones who profit from racial antagonism and who call black conservatives racist names.

    They call us homophobes, but they're the ones who burned down half of Berkeley to keep a gay man from speaking his mind.

    They call us fascists, but they're the ones who re-enact Krystalnacht whenever they don't get their way, who censor speech and suppress freedoms.

    The SJW Leftists are the modern brownshirts.

    1. Who is "us"? Anyone who isn't them?

    2. Yep. Anyone to the right of Chairman Mao, even classical liberals, are targets.

  3. I had to look up x-cards. Seems like something that might be useful in a story game but that has no point at all in a DM run adventure.

  4. Who knew Mike Pondsmith was black? Never thought to check for the ethnic backgrounds of people whose names show up in game credits. 'Cause I don't give a shit. Makes you wonder about people who think that matters.

  5. I'm all for social justice. I can't see the point of the richies pushing everyone into the gutter.

    So this SJW [social justice warrior] term now turned into a pejorative. Bit of a worn out right wing thought terminating cliche?
    As for Mao Hitler Stalin Pol Pot and etc none of them can do their atrocity thing without the complicity of the middle class. Y'know that same middle class administrating our entire species to the brink of the ecological abyss. You want super villains for your interactive story telling well the middle class is the zenith of hyper villainy. Maybe it doesn't look Fu Manchu enough for simpleton rpg plots...