Round Table 4: Sexuality, Identity, and Ladygamers

Kevin sits down with a few of his ladyfriends to discuss Feminism, Sexuality, and Identity politics at the gaming table. Feminist blogger Nora Last, podcaster Tori Brewster, and game designer Elizabeth Sampat talk with Kevin about all the different ways these topics effect them as gamers, along with a few tangents into some general feminism topics.

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50 Responses to “Round Table 4: Sexuality, Identity, and Ladygamers”

  1. Kardtek Says:

    A few interesting topics like gender-neutral pronouns were brought up, but I wish the episode would have talked more about other issues that directly pertain to gaming as a woman/with women rather than just bringing up one grievance after another.

    Also: I’m pretty sure that if you cannot grok satire, have a laundry list of topics that are not to be joked about and find an association to a web-comic you dislike reason enough to shun a gaming expo, you just might qualify as “too sensitive”.

  2. J. Walton Says:

    Nice job, folks! I hope there’s more like this in the future, because it often seems like we’re always starting this conversation but never really digging deep into it: a thread or podcast here and there but not a lot of more substantial and sustained discussion.

    Just a note: as a male player and GM, I have a very similar experience to the one that was discussed in the beginning — carefully considering what kinds of characters to play — nearly every time that I sit down at the table, even with people that I’m pretty familiar with. I have to try to sense, for example: is it cool if I play a female character? Are these players that I’m going to feel comfortable playing out romantic or sexual situations with? Is it cool if some PCs or NPCs are gay? Do I personally feel comfortable if another player wants to play someone really sexualized? Am I going to be so bothered or offended by their portrayal that the game isn’t going to be fun for me? All that definitely goes through my head, both as a player and GM, and directly affects my choices in prep and play.

  3. Watching and Listening « The Githyanki Diaspora Says:

    […] Walking Eye is the best gaming podcast right now and Kevin did it again with a kick-ass episode: Round Table 4: Sexuality, Identity and Ladygamers.  Check it […]

  4. Omega Says:

    Well, this was an interesting listen, with some unique perspectives, and I mostly enjoyed it, but I feel the need to say something, in some form.

    I was offended by the discussion of the Blowback game, toward the end. Not because I’m a dude and “oh, women are badass and men are in distress”. I’m offended that nobody is at all bothered by this double-standard, and thinks they can get away with it. Everybody laughed, in fact, and thought this was funny. I’m sorry, people, but equality does not mean you can get away with shit that you find offensive if reversed. Equality mean equal. So either everyone can make sexist jokes/comments/etc. or no one can. Again, I’m not offended by the content here. Nor do I think that such a thing should not be made, freedom of speech and all that. But I’m bothered by the attitude. And really, for all that talk of feminism and equality and so on, doing stuff like that is not the best foot to put forward.

  5. Arwith Says:

    I think you guys (ladies) brought up some really good points on prejudices in games, and you obviously know what you’re talking about, but I think you guys kind of skim over some important things– like the fact that ‘rape’ has more than one definition, not all of which include sexual assault. A term like “baserape” actually makes a lot of sense under the definition of “to seize or take by force”.

    And, while I do agree with your statements on privilege, I feel that the amount of flak Penny Arcade has gotten on the “dickwolves” fiasco has been… odd. The comic makes offensive jokes all of the time– murder, zoophilia and pedophilia, to name just a few– so to not like the comic at all is one thing, and understandable, but the fact that this is the first thing to ever garner any attention paints the accusers in an overly sensitive light.

    I also agree with the comment made on Blowback. Sexism of all forms should be condemned, not revered.

  6. JDCorley Says:

    Good podcast. Love when the comments prove the podcast right about everything. The only reason the Blowback art (as described) works is because it satirizes sexist approaches in underlying material. Equality doesn’t mean the underdog mustn’t fight back against the bully, it means the opposite.

    I should add that “hacking culture” is, essentially, “roleplaying culture”, anyone who says differently needs to get out to the power of ten.

  7. Jeffrey Says:

    I’m confused as to why this topic should be of concern to anyone? Why should people self censor in an effort to not offend anyone? People will always have divergent views, and they are bound to conflict. So why be disingenuous to yourself in order to spare the feelings of someone you don’t even know?

  8. Nora Says:

    Hey folks, just wanted to chime in about a few things:

    I wanted to echo what JD said re: the art in Blowback; IMO it works because it’s subversive and a play on the tropes commonly seen in the media, not because it’s straight up sexism objectifying dudes.

    Kardtek, I’m curious why you felt this was a listing of grievances vs. talking about issues women face gaming. Obviously that’s something I’d like to avoid in the future, what gave you that impression? Was there a shift in focus you thought could have been helpful?

    To touch on the PA/PAX thing briefly, I’m uncomfortable with them because (1) I didn’t get the impression that much of what I found problematic was satire, (2) the way the Dickwolves business was HANDLED after the fact (shirts, responses, the conversation about PAX) didn’t give me the impression that it would be a particularly safe space for me, and (3) because, as Arwith said, this isn’t really a one-off thing, it’s part of a culture. Jokes about rape and sexual assault are off limit for me, personally, because they can be triggering, it’s not about being “too sensitive”.

    Finally, I think the topic’s important because the things we talked about actively drive people away from the gaming table and make the hobby seem pretty unwelcoming. Maybe they aren’t people you’re particularly interested in playing with, but if playing a game that doesn’t actively marginalize people is being disingenuous then maybe that’s a problem?

  9. Machine Age Productions − Amaranthine. Podcasts. Development. Inclusion. Love. Says:

    […] design tribe these past few days. One gem in that discussion is a round-table discussion over at Walking Eye Podcast. Separate, my wife Filamena – head writer on Amaranthine – waded into discussion (and […]

  10. Arwith Says:

    I want to clarify that when I said “paints [them] in an oversensitive light”, I did not mean that that’s absolutely how it is, just how it may appear to some.

    I’d also like to amend that, after reading the link Kevin provided on the entire Dickwolves incident(s), I realize that the situation goes much deeper than I at first realized. I don’t want to pick sides, but I see more clearly now the legitimacy of both and how both, at times, acted immaturely or made mistakes. What it really comes down to is that we do need to try to listen and understand one another– I think it is possible to eliminate these kinds of problems without jumping at one anothers’ throats (perhaps too optimistic, but that’s what I meant about the Blowback art, though I do see where you’re coming from).

    This podcast was top notch though; interesting and thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. And look, it got some of us thinking.

  11. Tori Says:

    Wow! Thanks for all the feedback (here and on the twitters). Lots of discussion is being sparked all over the place, which is the best thing ever! And thanks again to Kevin and The Walking Eye for running this whole shebang!
    My motivation for being a part of this (which goes to the heart of why I think these are important topics) is because, as a female tabletop gamer, I want to hear about what other female gamers are thinking, just as I want to hear what other PacNW gamers are thinking, what other Vincent Baker fans are thinking, what other anarchists are thinking, what other queer gamers are thinking, and so on and so forth. And if I want to hear it, and I can’t find it, I am going to create it, because damnit- I WANT IT- and because there are probably others out there who want to hear it too.
    In re: airing of grievances: I can see how the conversation gave that impression: I think it’s always easier, no matter what you’re discussing, to focus on the negative versus the positive (especially when you’re trying to hit a lot of different topics!). But, one of the many ideas that came out of this discussion was the inspiration to try to make a series of podcasts specifically highlighting the positive things happening for females in gaming (which I think we slightly touched on towards the end of the episode). So, you know, potential future bonus!
    As for PAX: My issue with Penny Arcade is how they handled the feedback/responses to the comic. It was petty, and snarky, and only served to fan the flame wars. They’ve shown in the past that they can respond to web outrage with polish, wit and empathy, but they failed in this instance. This bothers me not only as a nerd or as a lady, but as a newly minted podcaster (who frequently says highly inappropriate and sarcastically offensive things). If they can’t respond to critics with a modicum of intelligence or emotion, that’s fine, but I’m not giving them my hard earned $$ to further their efforts in striving towards the mundane and typical.

  12. Jeffrey Says:

    Nora, my point was that people having different value systems. And, depending on how divergent the values are they can be difficult to reconcile. It is unrealistic to expect people to act in a way that won’t offend anyone all the time. What one person may believe is perfectly respectful may come across as marginalizing to someone else.

    Also, I believe that it is unreasonable to be upset with a stranger who conforms to cultural norms. However, it is reasonable to be upset with them once you have established issues that offend you. This is why I believe that establishing triggers, lines, and veils is so important in a con format, or realy anytime you’re playing with new people. It establishes a level of accountablity that does not otherwise exist.

    It is important to realize that while you are highly aware of these issues, most people are not. Their intention is to get together, roll some dice and have fun, not intentionally alienate people.

  13. Nora Says:

    What I was attempting to say in the discussion (and if this wasn’t made clear, mea culpa) was not that nobody should ever offend anyone ever and if they do they are horrible, but rather that there are things we can do and be aware of to reduce the likelihood that someone is going to be alienated or triggered. My “heightened sensitivities” (as I affectionately refer to my tendency towards identity politics) aren’t everyone’s, you’re totally right, that’s why I think talking about this stuff is important.

    I will have to respectfully disagree that it’s unreasonable to be upset with someone who is conforming to cultural norms, there have been (and still are) some really shitty ones that need to be questioned. I think it’s important to bring the issue up constructively and make them aware of what’s going on (and am totally on board with the lines/veils/triggers discussion, I think it’s key), but something being a social norm isn’t an excuse in and of itself for poor behavior.

  14. Jason Morningstar Says:

    I really enjoyed this discussion. The convention play anecdotes ring painfully true – games like Fiasco tend to get transgressive and with strangers that’s so hard to moderate. I’ve had some uncomfortable situations that, as convener and facilitator, I couldn’t walk away from and had to either address or suffer through, which sucked. Disjointed social expectations and behaviors are a general “feature” of convention play, but games that already push boundaries make them so much more likely to go wrong.

  15. Chris Norwood Says:

    Before I get into actual thoughts about the discussion, I need to point out how difficult it is to take this whole conversation about being sensitive to differences and going out of your way not to offend seriously when the phrase “crazy magical sky god” was used to refer to the central figure of my faith.

    But in regard to the Fiasco, well… fiasco, I think there’s a few other things to consider. In roleplaying, and especially in a game as thematically charged as Fiasco, stereotypes are used all the time to form the basis of characters. Often, the characters then develop beyond that point through play, but no chance was given to let that happen in this case.

    And once again, the “holy roller asshole” stereotype may be pretty offensive to me, but I still wouldn’t walk away without at least giving some indication to the rest of the table.

    The other thing that taking the “coward’s way out” does is to rob the other players of the chance to do better. If you don’t speak up about activity that offends you, especially if the other players weren’t even aware they were being offensive, then how could they ever know to be different? If I had been at that table and just discovered in this podcast why that lady never came back to the game, I would be devastated; both because I had caused offense and because I had been so judged without any chance to make amends or learn from my mistake.

    That’s enough for now, but I’ll close just by saying that part of being sensitive to others is to also give people the benefit of the doubt from time to time. If you want to have your beliefs and opinions respected, respect the beliefs and opinions of others, even if they happen to be of the “mainstream/traditional” variety.

    And in taking the

  16. John Harper Says:

    GREAT episode! Thanks for being so open and informative. I hope this conversation continues around the fora and other podcasts.

  17. bombshelter13 Says:

    I found some of the sentiment expressed regarding the word ‘rape’ to be a bit uneducated in it’s tone.

    Anyone who consults a dictionary will be aware that the word ‘rape’ has multiple different senses of which it can be used, and only a few of these senses have anything to do with forced sexual activity. To suggest that the word, when used in it’s other, perfectly vaild senses, somehow trivializes forced sexual assault is not making any sort of political statement: it simply demonstrates that the person suggesting this is ignorant of the basic facts of the English language.

    As a particular example, to contend that the Tribes slang term ‘baserape’ is in any way offensive requires that the listener deliberately ignore perfectly valid dictionary meanings for the word ‘rape’ in favour of those that have to do with forced sexual activity.

    A perfectly valid meaning for the word ‘rape’ offered by the dictionary is as folows: ‘to plunder (a place); despoil’. As such, it seems completely valid to describe the process of stealing with or damaging resources in the enemy team’s base as ‘raping (plundering) their base’, hence ‘baserape’. Forced sexual activity has nothing to do with this term.

    If the listener chooses to deliberately select, from the definitions offered by the dictionary, the one allows them to be offended, in preference to the other offered definitions and despite the alternative definition both making more sense and being nonoffensive in the context of use, then this is a choice that I believe shows a lot more about the listener than about the person who used the word.

  18. GB Steve Says:

    It sounds very strange using “Ladies” to address women. I guess this is just one of those language differences.

  19. Kardtek Says:

    Nora: Well, I just don’t see how Penny Arcade’s dickwolves, the Duke Nukem videogame, the concept of “privelage”, feminazis, the patriarchy, sexual assult and the rape culture theory has anything to do with roleplaying games. At best they are tangentally connected.

    If thought the focus of this podcast was to be women and gaming in general and not just the issues they face when doing so. I would want to hear more about what goes on at the table, in the fiction and between the players.
    I’d be especially interested in hearing your views on the potrayal of female characters in games. I think most men are rather familiar with the pet peeves of women at this point, so if possible I would rather hear more about what you girls WOULD like to see.
    Romance and sex in games are a topic that is often handled rather awkwardly in a lot of groups. Do female gamers approach it differently?
    It’s probably incorrect to generalize like that, but hearing a few female opinions on how to make gaming better for the girls in our groups certainly could not hurt.

    Right. Can we please stop using recently made-up terms like “triggers” that are only really in use withing a very specific community? It’s called being sensitive about something. There’s nothing wrong with the word sensitive. I take offense at the thought that people need to be cuddled and protected like that. If you have an issue that you cannot bear to explore in play bring it up before you do so as a veil or a line. Expecting a similar social contract on a worldwide scale seems rather silly.

    Now, I’m not really up on the new-feminism terms and I might have misunderstood you but the “privelage” concept sounds incredibly divisive and destructive. I can sort of see a flawed logic in it, but only just. PLEASE correct me if I am wrong, but is the point of this to create equality not by restoring the dignity, rights and well being of a marginalized group but rather by villifying the antonym of that group. I don’t like the idea that instead of making things better for group A, lets make it a bit worse for group B and everything will be alright.

    Say I am white, and black people are being oppressed. Me, the individual has “white privelage” and as such the injustices that one black individual experiences are now my fault, just for being a member of the white group. I am being judged by what some individuals in my group might be doing to one black individual. Even worse, it’s implicitly said that whatever my actions might be are irrelevant, by being a part of the white group I have the privelage backpack construct that control my behavior. I’m expected to act a certain way because of my skin color so society must make sure control my actions and shame me, or my built-in tendencies will surely run amock!

    much rather hear more about what

  20. Elizabeth Says:

    Jason, FWIW, I totally want to play Fiasco again— just with people I know. :)

    The comments on the Blowback art are interesting. I don’t know that I agree with them, but I’m always interested in differing viewpoints. If someone wanted to bring up the topic on a larger site like RPGnet I’d be interested in the conversation, but loath to do it myself in case people simply re-affirmed my stance on the art because it was brought up by me, the author.

    Here’s a screenshot of the page I was talking about, incidentally: http://s3.amazonaws.com/twitpic/photos/full/288152260.png?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJF3XCCKACR3QDMOA&Expires=1304189579&Signature=KypW43PrERCFYH2USpYdEJz%2FiEY%3D

  21. Jeffrey Says:

    I agree with Jason’s general assessment of convention play.

    Kardtek brings up some good points. Upon further reflection I think my initial negative reaction had more to do with the fact that the podcast wasn’t really a discussion as it was more a group of people agreeing with each other. Also, as Kardtek points out, it was basically off topic.

  22. Porterhaus Says:

    This episode was great to listen to, as these subjects are important and fascinating to me. But there were so many things upon which I desired expansion. Here are some of them:

    – Besides playing with a group of trusted friends, what WOULD make a lady feel comfortable to sit down and play games with a table of boys. The only proposed remedy for female-gamer-uneasiness seemed to be to never play with people outside one’s comfort zone. What can I do as a dude to make sure women are comfortable to play in the games I run?

    – I think the majority of North American RPG-gamers are white males. Not nearly as overwhelming of a majority as before, but a majority still. And as a white male who lives in a basement (though it is an apartment I rent from people to whom I am unrelated) I exercise my right as a nerd stereotype to continue that stereotype! I will continue tonmock my people for as long as the miniatures hall at a con smells like terrible BO; learn to bathe, nerds!

    – Multiple ladies who each talked about rape culture and triggers and trivialization of rape and rape being used to describe things that are not rape ALSO talked about loving Vincent Baker’s games. While he and his games are awesome and forward thinking, how did no one bring up pirate rape in Poison’d? I would have loved to hear the female perspective on that. I find Vincent’s perspective thoughtful and clarifying, but I would LOVE to hear what the ladies think.

    – Now I have to know the sexual preference breakdown of the old Walking Eye lineup. As a dude with no gaydar, who relies on LBGTQQ to point out the “obvious”, I have been trying to puzzle out Kevin’s “two straight guys, two gay guys, and a bi girl” conundrum. WHY, KEVIN??? Why must you make me care about shit that doesn’t even matter?

  23. Spakken Says:

    First off, just want to say that I love the discussion podcasts. They’re certainly nifty, raise questions that happen at the game table, but are never actually answered at the game table, and help me figure out tools for my gaming experience.

    Secondly, recently, my group and I have been playing a mass of “Penny for my Thoughts,” because I tried to get them into story games. They’re mature people, but I wanted to introduce them to something that would bring them out of the d20 and Whitewolf shells that they had enclosed themselves in. I noticed a strange little gamer privilege in the group that I hadn’t noticed before. In d20 systems and Whitewolf systems, the concepts of lines and veils often aren’t broached, so I had to teach them that. Knowing that, in PfmT, the characters they have to live through are going to meet some cruel twist of fate that causes them to lose their memory, I was aware of the need to make that social contract viable to them. While this game has become popular with my group now, the concept of lines and veils still hasn’t picked up with them. It seems to me like in the games they’re used to playing, if something uncomfortable happens, then their response is “well tough” or something handled in gameplay, rather than something that the player actually has the right to shamelessly state that they’re uncomfortable with it. None of group have ever drawn the line for sexuality, and I take that as a good thing, but the concept is still so new to them that I’m not sure they feel the right to speak up when they should. As a player and constant organizer of these games in this town, I think that part of game is the mode of communication that’s given to the group, and the lines and veils social contract reveals just what our group’s biases are. What they expect to see never shows up on the list, because they’ve desensitized to it.

    One of the group was actually surprised when I drew a line for tentacle rape in the Cthulhu version of the game. (He had admitted to me that he wanted to see a little of it in game, just because he was curious about what the option should do) I drew a line there simply out of habit. I don’t need to see a game involving tentacle rape unless that night I was with a group that was gunning for it comedically. That’s when I noticed my non-rape victim privilege. I was never raped, so I can expect two forms of taste to rise from it, and I only expect those two: tragedy and comedy. I tend to really embody my character in PfmT and didn’t want the option of encountering it either way, that night. Now, he wanted it to come about for comedic value, and there was another player who had issues with a third player and wanted to see that third get tentacle rape. So I guess the tragic ending is that yes, because we’re in a rape society, we’re down to using rape as a conceptual weapon and as a comedic point, but the social contract idea (thanks, btw, for talking about that in Apocalypse World… I would have never known about it otherwise) nipped that problem in the bud, while teaching me a little bit about how I see the world. I remember a really old podcast that you all did about Silence Keeps Me a Victim, and what the author said in the interview is true. Gaming should be used to create conversations, and you guys help that happen.

  24. Andrew Smith Says:

    I was delighted to hear this episode. It addressed a serious topic in a way that was easy to listen to. Well done to everyone involved for this accomplishment.

    As far as content goes, I think the overall drive to promote understanding and empathy between players is a good one. I imagine that there might be a few awkward conversations between some players as they try to understand boundaries held by the other players, but those are conversations worth having. The inclusion of an assumption of universal values was interesting too; i.e., it’s wrong to say/think X about people who identify as Y because it degrades them. I’m still mulling over the consequences of that one, but prima facie it seems to cover a lot of ground.

    Nevertheless, I’m glad this was recorded and made available. Perhaps the Walking Eye should be renamed to the Thinking Eye. :)

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  26. Nora Says:

    Hey folks!

    Some interesting things were brought up here that I wanted to have space to respond to so I went and blogged about them! You can find my response here: http://bit.ly/kdC5K2

    Feel free to engage with me over there, not sure how much longer Kevin plans on keeping comments open here.

  27. Jeffrey Says:

    I don’t think the comments have been closed on any of the posts on the site, have they?

    Regardless, I have been discussing the issue with some of my peers, and I think the primary issue I’m having with this podcast is a matter of framing. To someone unfamiliar with the topic, this discussion sounded like a group of like minded individuals inventing ways to be offended and griping in general. Assuming that there is a follow up discussion, I think it would be great if it was more structured around table top gaming, and focused on one or two examples of the undesirable conduct.

    If this is a topic worthy of discussion I would like to see it taken out of the arena of idle chit chat, and elevated to the point that it provides listeners with a set of tools for identifying, and dealing with undesirable perceptions and behaviors at the gaming table.

  28. Kevin Weiser Says:

    Jeffrey: I closed the comments on the LARP episode and shifted conversation over to the forum. It doesn’t look like I’ll have to do that here, fortunately.

  29. Tori Says:

    @Jeffrey: I agree- there should be more of these conversations with concrete, specific topics discussed (with, ideally, a whole slew of different folks with different ideas and backgrounds)- and hopefully, that’s something that will emerge from this first initial discussion.

  30. Troll Says:

    @Everyone

    I just wanted to thank The Walking Eye listeners for treating the subject with maturity and posting such insightful comments and questions. Turns out the Internet isn’t entirely peopled with jerks!

  31. Snu Says:

    “Can we please stop using recently made-up terms like “triggers” that are only really in use withing a very specific community? ”

    No.

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  33. adam mcconnaughey Says:

    this was awesome

  34. I’m Listening | JeremyKeller.com Says:

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  36. Spy Says:

    I thought the discussion was interesting but lacking.

    I don’t object to the subject or the messages (don’t be an ass, speak up if you’re being grievously offended, if you’re told you’re being offensive consider watching what you say, etc.) but it came off as a group of like-minded people congratulating themselves on being awesome and progressive, and patting each others backs.

    It would have been nice to have heard from some opposing or differing viewpoints, when everyone thinks the same thing there’s no discussion, it’s just:
    A – “This is what I think”
    B – “Hey, thats what I think too!”
    A – “We’re awesome!”
    B – “Yes we are!”

    But there are a lot of podcasts where this is the case, so it’s nothing new or abnormal.

  37. Todd Says:

    “Using rape as a comparison, like saying ‘Oh! I totally got raped’ in-character. Unless your character was, like, forcibly– Unless rape actually happened to your character: No, you didn’t.

    Trivializing rape, and, you know, that whole feminazi thing– using ‘nazi’ as a comparison– neither of those. They’re appropriative. They trivialize things, and I’m not cool with either of those things.”

    There’s a degree of irony to the above blanket-statement being made in a podcast which also advocates the concepts of ‘rape culture’ and ‘triggers'; in that those concepts both depend on saying that something-else-which-isn’t-directly-rape is, nonetheless, a violation somewhat-like rape.

    Likewise, applying the concept of sexual consent to the game table (establishing a safe space to play with people you trust)– is damn close to comparing the violation of that safe space to rape.

    Isn’t an accusation of ‘perpetuating rape culture’ somewhat similar to accusing Jar Jar Binks of ‘raping my childhood’?

    I am suggesting that the blanket statement has selective holes in it: Saying that one person’s use of metaphorical rape is permitted, but another’s usage is not– is mandating that everyone ought to be at exactly the same place in their personal development, as the person passing judgement.

    I’m NOT suggesting that notions of consent shouldn’t be applied to the game table. I am suggesting an accusation of violation of that consent among willing, competent adults– should be done with as much care as a rape accusation.

    Please examine post #2 at the link below. Would you consider that an adequate social contract for consent, if the subsequent game were to evolve into the game described in post #1? Indeed, they were the same game session:

    http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=14415

    That the game in question was the only actual example presented in the Walking Eye episode– highlights the degree to which the discussion was hypothetical conjecture, rather than fully tested in the real world. (Which was acknowledged within the podcast, but may have been forgotten in subsequent discussions.)

    Everyone’s got to start somewhere, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

  38. Nora Says:

    Todd,
    I think you may be misunderstanding rape culture as we talked about it. There are links provided above as well as on my blog to further clarify the issue.

    I’m honestly not sure where you’re getting the bit about “mandating personal development” from, could you clarify that for me?

    The link to SG you posted does have a pretty good example of the lines/veils conversation. That said, (and this is based on a comment you made in that thread, not here), I still stand by Elizabeth’s response as totally justified. I actually wrote about that more here: http://bit.ly/lOjchQ.

    If you’re interested in engaging about this further feel free to drop me a line (you can get my email address here: http://bit.ly/jVYWoh) as I don’t check this thread very often.

  39. Andrew J. Franke Says:

    I really enjoyed this episode. I learned a great deal about gender bias and prejudice. I do need to correct one comment. It was the all white guys in the great white north who invented role playing. It didn’t take 30 years for that stereotype to be broken. The Dragonlance Campaign setting and fiction came out of a group that Margaret Weis played in. There have been women involved in RPG’s for much longer than you think.
    My wife has been playing for 25 plus years. She herself has called people on varaious things over the years. The conversation is simply moving forward it isn’t just starting.
    I appreciate the ladies perspectives I just want them to recognize that alot of women have gone before them and been Girl Geeks for years and have girl geek daughters.

    Best Regards,
    Andrew J. Franke

  40. James Shields Says:

    Interesting episode, though one thing irked me slightly. I’m a male GM and play in a group of mixed gender (all white and straight though). And when we play nothing is off the table as far as humour goes, racism, sexism, whatever. We can get away with this because we’re all confortable around each other and all know that the comments are not serious. We’re all aware that these are serious issues but dont see the harm in deriving humour from them. I may have taken something out of context but it seemed at some points it was being claimed that just by making these jokes we are contributing to the very culture we are actively lampooning.

  41. Nora Says:

    James,
    Ironic humor is, frankly, a really tricky thing. There’s certainly the potential that what you’re doing is hilarious and subversive and totally not marginalizing (and I doubt anything I say here about it will change your mind :P ) but I’d like to refer you to this post on Shakesville that better articulates my feelings on the issue (particularly from “Okay, but it’s ironic!” down): http://bit.ly/pWiOh3

    What I DO question here is if a group of all white, all straight gamers *would* see the harm in a genuinely racist or heterosexist joke, or, to put a finer point on it, if you’re able to fully “get” the potential harm there. Straight up, you aren’t talking about yourselves or your experiences. That’s not your fault, obviously, but it makes me a little leery of the situation, particularly given the “More Than Just a Joke” study cited in the show notes. (For more info on that particular study check out http://bit.ly/m6dhIp.)

  42. James Shields Says:

    Nora,
    Thank you for taking the time to reply. First of all the study cited, from what I’m getting from it anyway simply indicates that people who are sexist are more likely to deem actual sexism acceptable in social situations when recently exposed to sexist jokes. Sort of a narrow wedge theory. It doesnt claim that sexist humour will make you more sexist if you didnt previously hold those beliefs to be true.

    As for the all white and straight issue. I dont feel that our making jokes aimed at groups not represented at the table really harms anyone. Especialy given my interpritation of the study being more that the humour encourages prejudices and does not create them. We all know its not serious and its not going to offend one of us. Now if say there were a black person at the table we would have to deal with the fact that black jokes, regardless of their intent could offend them. And if this was the case we just plain wouldnt use that kind of humour, because thats no fun.

    The blog post you linked me to does say

    “But when dudes say it, especially to other dudes, it’s subversive!

    In a closed audience, where everyone understands everyone else, that’s true—in which case it operates much like an ironically-used slur among friends. ”

    This is pretty much the situation I have. I count myself especialy lucky to have it.

  43. lastnora Says:

    You’re welcome, I’d like to thank you in turn for being remarkably civil and pleasant about this conversation. Sorry about the wall of text that follows.

    The bit I took from the study (this is from the link I provided in my comment above) was “Our research demonstrates that exposure to sexist humor can create conditions that allow men [since they only tested men’s reactions]– especially those who have antagonistic attitudes toward women – to express those attitudes in their behavior.” I think, again, it CAN be problematic, regardless of if someone in the group is overtly sexist.

    Further, I am hard pressed to think of anyone who is completely 100% free of sexism, I know that I certainly am not. Sadly, it tends to be a part of socialization. Few of us think of it/recognize it in terms of actual sexism since it’s normalized; I would bet very few of the men studied (even those who have “antagonistic attitudes”) would admit to others or themselves that they’re sexist, or that they at least sometimes engage in sexist behavior. In light of that, I think the study has broader implications than for just a few bad seeds.

    I think the issue about making jokes aimed at groups not at the table (which seems to be a different thing than making jokes that poke fun at -isms, but that could just be semantics) sort of boils down to two motivations for not doing it. Either you don’t make potentially heterosexist jokes around a queer person because they’ll be offended and that’s no fun, or because it’s just sort of a crappy thing to do at all. It shouldn’t be about “Well, we won’t tell those jokes around here because she gets offended,” those jokes wouldn’t be okay if there were no people around to get offended by them.

    Y’all are joking about these things from a pretty meaningful position of privilege. I’m not saying you’re all bigots and awful people or whatever, but I do really question if you’d see something that potentially really was problematic. Slurs used among friends like the article talks about is a form of reclamation, which as a privileged group you can’t really engage in.

  44. James Shields Says:

    Nora,

    Thank you again for responding. I dont mind the wall of text, while I clearly dont agree with your position I do enjoy hearing your opinions. Which is also why I’m being civil. This isnt a shit slinging argument, just two people of differing opinions expressing themselves. I agree that the study you cited COULD indicate a wider problem but I don’t think its anywhere near fleshed out enough to be reaching the conclusion you are drawing from it. I’m in no way claiming to be free of sexism but still think that since our humour is viewed by us as parody it’s not creating an enviroment where actual sexism is ok. Now I’m not saying we’re all master comedians/satarists but I think that saying our attitude may encourage us to be sexist is like saying watching the colbert report encourages people to be republican. We’re drawing humour from these issues as a form of mockery.

    Also I view the not telling jokes around people who would be offended in the same way I view using different language around different people. I dont talk to my parents or employer the same way I talk to my friends. I don’t talk to a stranger the same way I talk to a familiar person. This doesn’t automaticaly make the things I say to my friends but not my boss unacceptable. And in my opinion just because in this case what I am/am not saying has the potential to be more sensitive doesn’t mean it becomes a seperate case. As such I do think telling jokes that arent offending anyone currently present is harmless.

    I think this is as clear as I can make my position on the issue and I can’t see either one of us changing our opinions. So I’m sort of inclined to think we should leave it at that. Not in a “HAHA I TYPED LAST SO I WIN!” way. More in a “well, I dont REALLY want to turn the comments section into you and me hurling polite walls at each other” kind of way. Unless of course you’d be interested in continuing this via e-mail. Though you’ve probably had this discussion countless times.

  45. The11thMuse Says:

    Perhaps the two of you would be interested in a third perspective? For me, the difference between your opinions is language. Namely, labeling things for what they are, which, in English, is often more difficult than it might seem when using the default definitions of common words.

    Two clear examples leap out at me from your current back and forth: Sex and race. Now, if we use ‘racist humour’ and ‘sexist humour’ as blanket nomenclature for all types of humour, then you will disagree forever, because, as I see it, you’re actually talking about two different things in each case, and so I propose a division of language: Sexist humour and sexual humour; Racist humour and racial humour. Although, the term ‘sexual humour’ has it’s own pitfalls, so let me know if anyone has a better one.

    To get a basic idea of what I mean by this division, take a look at the difference between the humour of Russel Peters and a movie like Blazing Saddles. Russel Peters is constantly making fun of every race under the sun, but none of it is malicious. He merely points out the differences between ethnic groups in ways that poke fun, not only at them, but also at stereotypes themselves. Blazing Saddles, on the other hand, is a movie that contains more covert racism disguised as humour than any other I’ve ever seen. The jokes are used to belittle and marginalize.

    Bringing the discussion back to gender, I believe a distinction between sexist and sexual humour exists, and, further to that, sexist and sexual mindsets. It is perfectly possible for a person to be aware of both the intrinsic and stereotypical differences between men and women, and to make fun of those things, without intentionally marginalizing either group. This is sexual humour, and it is, I believe, what James is referring to. Sexist humour, on the other hand, which Nora is referring to, can be covert, and as that study shows, even subconscious, but it is always defined by its desire to marginalize or otherwise hurt.

    Now, the argument could be made that, even when a person doesn’t intend hurt by their actions or comments, they may inadvertently end up doing just that. My opinion is that intent is all. Yes, you may (will) have differing opinions, yes, you may inadvertently trigger someone, and yes, what seems OK and perfectly normal to you may be abhorrent to someone else. But, that’s why life is interesting, that’s why people are worth meeting and discussions are worth having, and that’s what lines and veils are for. I read the post on Shakesville, and I’ve heard this argument before, but I cannot agree that any comment which highlights the fact that women can and do have babies is sexist, and nor can I agree that any comment which highlights the fact that Japanese people typically cannot pronounce the phoneme /r/ is racist. It is perfectly possible to make either or both of these statements bigoted, but it is also possible to make them in a way that says, “Haha, oh humanity, you are so silly and odd sometimes.”

    TL;DR – Draw clear lines and veils, address triggers and confrontations as clearly as possible, don’t shirk your responsibilities to both be clear in your intent and to attempt to clearly interpret other people’s intents. All of these things apply as much to gaming as they do to life in general.

  46. SkS Says:

    Richard Pryor was born in a brothel, where his mother and grandmother worked, and where he suffered childhood sexual abuse and beatings. Abandoned at age 10, and expelled from school; he was 14 when he began performing in nightclubs. At 19, Pryor was emcee at a mafia controlled nightclub, when he used a cap pistol in an attempt to make the owners pay a stripper they had stiffed.

    Drafted into the US Army in 1958, Pryor served nearly his entire stint in prison for (with a group of black soldiers), beating and stabbing a white soldier for having been too amused by the racial sections of the movie ‘Imitation of Life’.

    In the early 60’s Pryor was a West Village performer alongside Bob Dylan, Woody Allen and Nina Simone and associatied with black radicals such as Huey P. Newton and Ishmael Reed.

    In the wake of the 1973 Watts race riots in L.A., Pryor rose to prominence for his riffing on American race relations as documented in the Wattstax free concert album. Viewed by the record industry as appealing only to a black audience, Pryor’s records were a surprise crossover hit, selling tens of millions to white fans.

    Bill Cosby said, “Richard Pryor drew the line between comedy and tragedy as thin as one could possibly paint it.” Pryor has been cited as the seminal comedian of the last half-century. Pryor was known for his unwillingness to alter his material to suit censors who found his social criticism too controversial. He was championed by socially-conscious performers such as Sidney Poitier and Lily Tomlin.

    Richard Pryor co-wrote ‘Blazing Saddles’ (in particular the parts skewering racial stereotypes), but was barred from playing the lead role by the film’s production studio; which also rejected the film’s original title “Tex X”, after Malcolm X.

    Blazing Saddles won the 1974 Oscar for ‘Best Screenplay’ and the Writers Guild of America Award for “Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.” In 2006, Blazing Saddles was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

    Pryor won the first Mark Twain Prize for American Humor given in the Kennedy Center honors “because as a stand-up comic, writer, and actor, he struck a chord, and a nerve, with America, forcing it to look at large social questions of race and the more tragicomic aspects of the human condition. Though uncompromising in his wit, Pryor, like Mark Twain, projects a generosity of spirit that unites us. They were both trenchant social critics who spoke the truth, however outrageous.”

    PETA gives an award in Richard Pryor’s name in recognition of his efforts against the abuse of circus animals.

    Muse, can you be more specific about the covert disguised racism in Blazing Saddles?

  47. The11thMuse Says:

    @SkS You forgot to say, “Bazinga” at the end.

    Seriously though, I truly do believe that the intent behind a person’s words and actions is far more important than other people’s reactions to those things. I always assumed the movie was a mentally stunted throwback, but it seems I was mistaken in that example.

  48. James Shields Says:

    Muse, you write more eloquently than I could ever hope to and I pretty much agree with what you say. I think it’s possible to make jokes based on sex and race without it being harmful. Though of course some may be more sensitive than others. Its equally possible to make jokes about things and charge them with venom and hate. A major issue is how the listener interprets it. The study cited earlier seems to indicate that even if you make a racial joke with no malice behind it some ignorant person somewhere will probably agree with it for all the wrong reasons.

    All I’m really saying is that under the right conditions, with the right intent, its possible for me to make a racial or sexual joke without anyone getting hurt.

  49. Jason Says:

    I want to see these ladies play Dogs in the Vineyard. XD

  50. The Walking Eye Podcast » Blog Archive » Discussion 39: Rape Jokes and Trigger Warnings Says:

    […] Lady Gamers Podcast […]

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