Women in Gaming Communities

edited April 2013 in Story Games
I posted the recording of our Norwescon panel about women in gaming communities. The program blurb:
Gender inequality among gamers continues to be a frequent topic. Women and girl gamers often feel unwelcome in the boys club, and gamers can be clueless or dismissive of gender inequality. What are some successful ways to get women into gaming? What are some things to avoid? How can event organizers and game designers make women that show up more comfortable?
Apparently I had a thing or two to say about this topic.

UPDATE: The audio and post are back online.
«134

Comments

  • I'm on shaped bandwidth right now. How many women just said what they'd like to attend? What did they say?
  • It's funny. I'd rephrase the question as "how can we stop actively excluding women from gaming communities?"
  • Is this a problem? I'm in college so I might be on the more 'egalitarian' side of things, but half of my gaming group is women and I've (unintentionally, it was an open-invite one-shot) run an all-girl game of Dogs in the Vineyard.
  • So, I have a few data points from my experience organizing events in Portland that I'll throw out there just for the sake of doing so.

    In addition to the regular story game meetup events, we also do a Ladies' Night story game event. This has been mentioned on these forums once or twice. It's been about six months since we started doing that. And I can report these two effects over that time frame:

    -We have a nearly even split of male to female participants at out main events. There are usually one or two more males than females.
    -We have seen an increase in attendance from other gender minorities.

    It seems to me that the Ladies' Night event (or something about it, anyway) we have has sent the message "hey, we are aware of these things and make an effort to consider the comfort level of all kinds of people" to more than just the women we were hoping to include.

    Another potential factor is that in that same time frame we have also added in month jeepform events. Being that these things address very intense and mature subject matter, which also makes a kind of statement about the community and the people therein - especially to somebody who is on the outside looking in (we have never shied away from playing personal and intimate games at our regular story game meetup, either).

    I'm not sure what anybody should do with that information. But it seems that, one way or another, our community has really grown in this department recently. I like to think that our efforts have made an impact, but who knows really. It's been really exciting, either way!

    Tayler
  • In addition to the regular story game meetup events, we also do a Ladies' Night story game event.
    How are Ladies' Night story game events different from normal story game meetup events?
  • Gender inequality among gamers continues to be a frequent topic. Women and girl gamers often feel unwelcome in the boys club, and gamers can be clueless or dismissive of gender inequality.
    This sounds like they're trying to paint us all as socially inadequate virgins.

    Don't we get enough of this crap from "normal" people without having to suffer more of the same from Norwescon?
  • If it ain't about you, it ain't about you.
  • Is it any different than other facet of life? You find those accepting and those that are not. Don't give the ones who are not the time of day. I have played with a multitude of women and if I treat them with respect and as I would ANY other player, they enjoy it and keep wanting to play.
  • It's funny. I'd rephrase the question as "how can we stop actively excluding women from gaming communities?"
    That's closer to how I look at it.

    Anything that drives women away is more than likely poisonous to everyone else as well. It's not about compromise or pandering, it's about eliminating bad social dynamics that shouldn't be there in the first place.
  • edited April 2013
    I don't know why this keeps coming up. Ever since I dipped my tootsies into the roleplaying waters about two and a bit years ago I've never come across any behaviour likely to put off women specifically (as opposed to people in general), nor have I noticed a lack of women in the hobby (which incidentally is one of the few areas of life where they're not routinely referred to as 'girls'). Most of the female gamers I know are easily able to cope with any boorish male behaviour they come across (sure, there is some), or are folks saying that they want to encourage specifically the more classically 'feminine' women into gaming (not that lots of current female gamers aren't feminine of course)?
    In addition to the regular story game meetup events, we also do a Ladies' Night story game event.
    How are Ladies' Night story game events different from normal story game meetup events?
    The existence of a Ladies' Night at a con would make almost all of the female gamers of my acquaintance want to take a hammer to the building it was taking place in and not rest until there wasn't a brick left standing. I say almost all, the rest would proably just sigh heavily and fork over the money.

    Harrumph.

  • Yeah, what she said. I don't understand why you've got to make such a big fuzz about "minorities", there isn't such a thing, we're all human being with the right to have fun and play games, period.
  • edited April 2013
    >>>
    Yeah, what she said. I don't understand why you've got to make such a big fuzz about "minorities", there isn't such a thing, we're all human being with the right to have fun and play games, period.
    >>>
    In America, there are minorities, and this is a big issue.

    I'm hoping people actually listen to the panel before coming to their little conclusions about why such a topic is not worth talking about. Because, from where I stand, it looks like at the very least, the last four people are posting their conclusions without actually listening to the content of the panel. Which isn't really constructive of the panel, productive towards the goal, or helpful.

    (admittedly, for me, right now, the site with the recording appears slow/down)

    -Andy
  • When I stop hearing stories about how some idiot male GM thought it would be great to have female PCs raped for no reason other than that they were there, stories about how women attending gaming conventions are nervous about walking back to their hotels because they are women, stories about guys thinking it is just fine to harass women and girls in costume at gaming conventions, stories about men convinced that women gamers are somehow fakes, and all of the other stories I've been hearing nigh non-stop this last year, then, maybe, I might possibly concede that the topic of how to include, or at least not actively exclude, women in gaming communities might possibly be due for retirement.

    For other groups, the stories are different, and I hear them less often, almost certainly because I play with people who are also members of these groups less often. But, the stories are there, and they are current.

    I am very, very glad if you are a woman who is baffled by all of the fuss. Please understand that there are far too many women who have all too much firsthand knowledge of why it is being made.
  • I want to hear more about @quincunx 's Ladies' Night. It sounds like it's producing good results, but... You mentioned that men still show up? How does that work? Do they just not know it's Ladies' Night? (or do they refuse to leave? Or do people just not make a fuss about it?) This sounds like a solid idea, and I want to hear more.
  • catty_big: I have to say my own reaction, and that of other feminist gamers I know, would depend a LOT on how the Ladies' Night thing was framed. If it's "we want more women in the hobby/at our con and so we're going out of our way to make sure they get to play", that's awesome. If it's "okay, we've found a guy who's willing to run Blue Rose once a month because girls only like that romantic crap, right?" then I'd probably be angry or disgusted. It's all about context.
  • Andy, you've got me wrong. I'm not saying there isn't an issue. This is discrimination and yes, its also an issue here in south america too. But thinking of other people as "minorities", while is looked up as "being considerate" is actually part of the problem. When you say "minorities" you are still not thinking of other people as equal to you. You call them white, afro, women, etc. and treat them different, you can be more polite and treat them in a special way, but you're not solving the problem with that. You're just being "more considerate" at drawing a line to differentiate other people from "your people". You're calling them minorities and preaching they should get special treatment? Nonsense. You should be more like just treating them as equals and preaching against intolerance. When people want to play a game, we all become gamers. And that's it, there isn't such a thing as "women gamers who should be treated in an special way". Treat them as gamers and human beings equal to you, that would be just fine.
  • edited April 2013
    When I stop hearing stories about how some idiot male GM thought it would be great to have female PCs raped for no reason other than that they were there, stories about how women attending gaming conventions are nervous about walking back to their hotels because they are women, stories about guys thinking it is just fine to harass women and girls in costume at gaming conventions, stories about men convinced that women gamers are somehow fakes, and all of the other stories I've been hearing nigh non-stop this last year, then, maybe, I might possibly concede that the topic of how to include, or at least not actively exclude, women in gaming communities might possibly be due for retirement.

    For other groups, the stories are different, and I hear them less often, almost certainly because I play with people who are also members of these groups less often. But, the stories are there, and they are current.

    I am very, very glad if you are a woman who is baffled by all of the fuss. Please understand that there are far too many women who have all too much firsthand knowledge of why it is being made.
    The responses to this thread were making me so sad but then this made me feel a little better.

  • edited April 2013
    >>>
    You should be more like just treating them as equals and preaching against intolerance.
    >>>
    And yet, women get stalked, harassed, sexually assaulted (groped) at conventions and gaming events. Guys simply do not, not at all in the amounts that women do.
    It's not just a "gaming problem", I'm sure this happens at cosplay events, computer conferences, SF convetions, etc (in fact, it does happen for each of those fields). We're not trying to fix "the world", just make our corner -- gaming -- better, if possible.

    So "let's treat women as equals" is great. Everyone says this. But it's not happening, and women are having horrifying experiences. That's a fact, with lots of empirical evidence to back it up.

    So, noted: "Let's treat women as equals". Great. I check that checkbox on the "page of solutions" and see what saying that gets us: Huh, all of us saying "let's treat women as equals" appears to not fix issues of stalking, harassment, sexual assault/harassment, etc, all of which happen to women, almost exclusively.

    It doesn't get us anywhere. At all.

    So it's not a solution. So I cross this off the list. Then I look to this thread/linked discussion for more ideas. Perhaps one that is an Actual Solution, or at least does Anything At All.

    Note: A solution that's happened at a game store in Japan (as Japan has these exact same issues, perhaps even moreso since its so much easier to stalk within a city) is that they've held "Women-only tabletop conventions", mini-cons to an audience of 20-40 women. They're reported to be extremely successful by attendees (comfortable, open, etc), despite getting criticism on the net (...from guys, who don't see the point). If there was no need for them, there wouldn't be more than 2 attendees. But there are many, and several instances of such conventions, proving that they do fill a need.

    Also, a more (IMO) draconian thing that has gotten attendance at the "GenCon of Japan" is a "no photograph" policy. You are not allowed to take any pictures at the con: Not with a camera, cell-phone, etc. Of anything. Now, some people get permission at the tabletop to ONLY take pictures of the tabletop (maybe folks' hands) to show what game they ran, but even in those cases they take special care to not take pics of anyone's faces, even if the table is all men, because of that policy. "Stalker pics" is a huge issue at geek social gatherings, and that policy, while draconian, caused female participation to rise dramatically.

    As Lisa said, when we have guys getting stalked and sexually harassed by women regularly, we'll revisit special consideration.

    But for today, "Let's treat everyone equally" is a nice thing to say. But it doesn't solve a single thing.

    EDIT: This isn't a specific dig on WarriorMonk: I don't mean offense to you. But my brain is oriented towards experiential solutions to experiential problems.

    -Andy
  • edited April 2013
    +10000000 @Andy

    The only thing I would add (and this shouldn't even be necessary in the-year-two-thousand-and-thirteen) is that equality does not equal equity.

    To give an example from another area of gaming culture, women-oriented game design incubators and workshops have proven to be extremely successful here in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada. The "special treatment" (ie: not being silenced, harassed, and bullied) given to women in these workshops has NOT ghettoized them as some in this thread have suggested - on the contrary, the broader indie game community as a whole become a more inclusive space, as the participants have integrated themselves and in turn helped other women do the same.

    Check out Dames Making Games here: https://dmg.to/

    Of course, the specific approach taken matters. For a detailed analysis of why an earlier iteration of this initiative failed, check out this article: http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/view/118 There are some interesting and productive insights and parallels in there to women-oriented tabletop gaming nights/clubs/etc.
  • Here's a great video (a TED talk) you, humble reader, should watch if you don't think women get harassed in the gaming world in a way which goes beyond just one or two people being regular jerks:

    Anita Sarkeesian a TEDx 2012
  • edited April 2013
    FWIW: I am a woman, and I have experienced some poor behavior at gaming conventions based around my gender.

    It ranges from telling me that I play like a "girl" because I don't like plots about killing things or mechanics-heavy games, to being forcibly con-hugged by people I don't know very well, to being told that I am "pretty" for asking a factual question about how the rules work, to being cast in games primarily according to my gender and in roles that have little more to them than being a passive object for dudes. I could go on, but I won't.

    In my opinion, having some all-women gaming spaces is a really good idea. Not just because it is occasionally nice to play with lots of women, but also because it socializes women to one another and gives me the feeling of more social security. So if something goes wrong for me, I have people I feel I can go to for support.

    One byproduct of living in a sexist culture is that often women don't feel empowered to take space for themselves, rather they have to be offered that space. I consider myself a strong person, but this is also true for me at times. The existence of a ladies' night (obviously, it depends on how it's floated) lets me know that the community is actively striving to include me, and that makes me more likely to take a chance on a new group.

    So yes, let's "treat women as equals," great! But I also think that people are complicated, and that simply telling them to do it isn't enough. We are also working against a pretty long cultural history of sexism, not just in gaming, but within most aspects of our culture.
  • edited April 2013
    The original post and audio is offline right now because of technical difficulties but here's part of what I wrote after the panel:
    I don't talk a lot about why I set up Story Games Seattle the way I did. Why I intentionally focused on games with no GM and no prep, games that give each player the same creative authority. Games that might even require each person to participate and speak up.

    This is why. Because women can come to our meetups and know their contribution is vital, that we want to hear what they have to say. Because anyone can come to our meetups and know that their contribution is vital because it really is. We're not kidding when we say that without you the game will fail.

    I get flak sometimes on the internets for being some kind of tyrant who apparently hates GM'ed games, which is doubtless pretty funny to anyone who has followed this blog and my gaming career. But really that's my own fault for not explaining my reasons. They're seeing the negative, which is that they can't play the particular game they want at our events (or more specifically, GM the game they want to GM).

    But they're missing the positive, which is that people are coming and enjoying role-playing games who might be or have been turned off by that strange player-GM power hierarchy that we veteran gamers don't even think about. They're missing that we're empowering droves of new people to play and enjoy role-playing games and revel in their own creativity and the sheer fucking wonder of creating things with others.

    Yeah, there is some irony in being a tyrant who mandates equality. I'm okay with it.
  • No offense taken Andy, though I didn't offered "let's say a lot that we should treat women as equals" as a solution. That's clearly NOT a solution. I said something along the lines of "treat women as equals" as a solution. Now, if you believe that ostracizing them from males is the only viable solution, it may mean that the media or north american convention attendants are potential and/or reincident sex-offenders. In which case I'd also reccomend getting more policemen present around normal conventions and a better education in moral values for all american citizen. We're working on something along those lines here, though the situation here, in the gaming community in particular isn't as bad as there.
  • edited April 2013
    Blimey, didn’t expect that. Hm, I think there may be a cultural difference between the US and the UK re: con gaming. More on that in a sec, but first:
    Andy, you've got me wrong. I'm not saying there isn't an issue.
    Likewise. Andy, I’m just as concerned as most of the other folks on this forum are about practical and very real inequality, but there’s a world of difference between things like unequal pay (still an issue here nearly 40 years after the Sex Discrimination Act of the late ‘70s), the lack of importance attached by many male-majority police departments to the murder of sex workers, the provision of video links in rape trials, the obscene practice whereby alleged rapists are allowed to subject their alleged victims to hours of harrowing cross-examination in court etc., and encouraging more women to play games.

    Ok, to the apparent differences between the US and UK gaming scenes. I haven’t asked all my female gamer acquaintances- of whom there are oodles, so yeah, maybe I’m speaking from the position of the UK having a less unequal gender split- but I’m pretty confident that almost none of them would come up with stories in any way similar to the frankly hair-raising ones that Lizzie Stark mentions; and these are in cons in major US cities, not downtown clubs in dark alleys? I’m genuinely flabberghasted at these stories. I mean, you might find that sort of thing happening in a pub in a less than salubrious area of London, Manchester or Liverpool say, but in our equivalent of PAX East, Norwescon or Origins? It’s unheard of. Sure, I’m a man, so I may just have not heard about such incidents, but believe it or not I’m very persuaded that I would have done. Please, women from the UK- and men- pitch in with data confirming my impression or otherwise.
    catty_big: I have to say my own reaction, and that of other feminist gamers I know, would depend a LOT on how the Ladies' Night thing was framed. If it's "we want more women in the hobby/at our con and so we're going out of our way to make sure they get to play", that's awesome. If it's "okay, we've found a guy who's willing to run Blue Rose once a month because girls only like that romantic crap, right?" then I'd probably be angry or disgusted. It's all about context.
    Again, maybe a difference between US and UK culture. Here, if a nightclub puts up a sign saying ‘Ladies Night’, or ‘Women get in free on Tuesdays’ etc., trust me, they’re not trying to encourage more women to visit their establishments. Or rather, yes they are, but with a more nefarious intent, i.e. if you see a nightclub somewhere with that kind of offer heavily trailed, they’re effectively inviting male visitors to attempt to take advantage of the female ones. Which is why if most of my female gamer acquaintances saw that posted at a meetup their reaction would not be positive.

    @quincunx: I apologise for what must have seemed like an intemperate and personal attack on you and your event. You’re obviously trying to do the right thing, and I genuinely wish you well in all your endeavours. I hope my explanation above shows why initially I reacted the way I did.
  • edited April 2013
    Sure, I’m a man, so I may just have not heard about such incidents, but believe it or not I’m very persuaded that I would have done.
    This is basically everything.

    Why would you have heard? Do you live in a society that rewards women for talking about things that happen to them and usually takes their complaints seriously? Because I sure don't.

    I would like to imagine that if you asked my female acquaintances whether I was the kind of person who takes these things seriously and they could talk to, I nonetheless have no expectation that they would tell me things because why would they trust me as a man? It takes hard work on my part to make sure the spaces that I have control of are welcoming and to send a message that their concerns are important to me, and I know that I'm fighting against a lot of cultural norms when I try to do those things.

    If your first reaction to the subject is "oh that doesn't happen here" or "it doesn't seem like that big of a deal", as it seems to be, you are exactly the person who is not going to hear about it. Because if a woman has already had something shitty happen to her why would she go to someone who's not even going to believe it? Someone who she'll need to persuade to listen? Someone who she'll have to prove her story to?

    ps: i'm not just talking about complaints or specific reports. Assuming you are generally a decent person and you hang out with women, why would they even mention bad shit that's happened to them in the past? Why would they spend the energy dredging up bad memories and burdening you with them? Unless you actively work for it you will never hear about these things. And sometimes, honestly, you shouldn't hear about them, because it's up to each person to decide how they want to react to their personal situation, and who they want to talk to about it. But of course it'd be better if they didn't have to at all.
  • I really want to hear about successful inclusive strategies. From anyone / everyone.

    I've been spearheading Story Games in Vancouver over the last month or something and yeah, this kind of organizational skill sharing is pretty flippin vital.
  • Please, women from the UK- and men- pitch in with data confirming my impression or otherwise.
    Although my experience is mainly from anime cons, I am sad to have to wade in with some anecdotes. As a cosplayer, you get some horror stories (and experience a few yourself too even being a male) about some of the... I'd like to say less socially aware but sometimes just disgusting individuals. I think they are a side to most every hobby/interest, especially those that have been traditionally male. Heck, I have even heard some stories about casual sexism at professional scientific conventions.
    Its a problem. A lot of those that stay, I find, are almost all too aware of that side of the community and harden themselves against it. That isn't a response that should have to be made for an individual to enjoy an activity they are genuinely interested in. It really shocked me, actually, as both the RPG and anime backgrounds that I was introduced from were predominantly female theatre students.
    Ladies nights I believe can be a good initiative to attract those who have previously been turned away by that element but I think they can't stand up as a permanent solution of any kind as they do not address the main issue of male intolerance.
    Ultimately, the problem needs to be struck at the core, which may mean zero tolerance methods along the same lines as seen at Japanese conventions (I knew beforehand about Comiket's photo rulings but not other cons before Andy mentioned this. Some anime cons I have attended in the past have enforced quite rigidly a 'no touchy, always ask for pictures, always confirm poses' rule and that seems to have helped curb some of the issues). There does need to be a backlash from the reasonable gaming community. I know for the most part we like to try and be nice and accomodating to everyone, but lines have to be drawn at certain points and naming, shaming and calling out this kind of behaviour as unacceptable and unwanted is definitely one of the better long-term tactics. At the very least, it helps those affected not feel the isolation and shame that can often come with serious harassment.
  • The actual panel recording is back online, so anyone who has wanted to listen to it go forth:

    Norwescon 2013: Women in Gaming Communities
  • Here, if a nightclub puts up a sign saying ‘Ladies Night’, or ‘Women get in free on Tuesdays’ etc., trust me, they’re not trying to encourage more women to visit their establishments. Or rather, yes they are, but with a more nefarious intent, i.e. if you see a nightclub somewhere with that kind of offer heavily trailed, they’re effectively inviting male visitors to attempt to take advantage of the female ones. Which is why if most of my female gamer acquaintances saw that posted at a meetup their reaction would not be positive.
    But that's VERY CLEARLY not the kind of event that is being discussed here. There is a world of difference between constructing a safe space for women and trying to use women as a marketing tool for your shitty club. The very notion that there could be some connection between what you're referencing here and what is being discussed is pretty pernicious.

  • I really want to hear about successful inclusive strategies. From anyone / everyone.
    I'll second that. The strategies I liked most from the audio were:

    1) Intervene and call people out when you see bad behavior, even when not directed at you (e.g. sexist or homophobic language and jokes).

    2) Use a safe word (or maybe x-card) that will remove and rewind/fix an uncomfortable situation. This is established at the beginning of a meetup or con, and once invoked it will not be questioned. Simply rewind and do it again without the content that caused discomfort. I've personally used the x-card in many of my games, which I think helped put new players at ease.

    3) Ladies' Night. I haven't been, but it sounds like it's positive and doesn't exclude anyone.

    4) Encouraging game designers to make their games more inclusive. There's been a lot of this type of encouragement on S-G, which I appreciate. I haven't seen a chainmail bikini in a long time!
  • edited April 2013
    Hi,

    I'm a woman from Poland, now living in the UK. I experienced a distinct difference between gaming cultures in both countries. In Poland, harassment is normalised as "we're all friends, it's just a joke" (for example, this year at a con organisers apparently put up a handmade poster that said - in translation - "Show us your armband [admission badge] or show us your tits"). Some women protest; they get silenced by sarcasm, being called humourless extremists etc.

    Conversely, in the UK, I never experienced anything but respect and support, whether I played or ran games (although my experience is limited to three years of going to Indiecon, Conception, Necrognomecon and local gaming clubs); in con games there were always female characters available and they weren't stereotyped. (Of course, that doesn't mean that harassment or problems don't exist in other venues; I just haven't experienced them). So it's believable to me that Leo (catty_big) never previously heard from local women about harassment; he wouldn't have heard about it from me at least (I met him at the conventions mentioned above).

    I asked what a Ladies' Night event is like because I have the same associations as Leo does, above. For my own safety, I would avoid or be suspicious about events called "Ladies' Night" based on the name if I didn't know anything else about them, because night club "Ladies' Nights" where women are a commodity are the only kind I ever saw. However, the event described by quincunx clearly had great positive impact on the community, so I wanted to know what it consisted of, so that I could perhaps replicate it at some point :)

    Cheers,
    Jane

  • I asked what a Ladies' Night event is...
    I haven't been, but I've heard good things. There's an old thread about it here: http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/17653/ladies-night-has-anyone-done-this/p1

  • (Note: I'm not an organizer, I just have access to the FB invite)
    Here's the invite that went out, titled - "RSGpdx: Ladies Night (a 21 + event)"

    No boys allowed! Let's drink good beer, eat good food, enjoy each others' company, and play quick, easy-to-learn, story-based role playing games in a welcoming environment. The game don't usually begin until 6:15, so feel free to join us for drinks and witty banter before hand. We're at a 21+ venue this time.

    What games are in store? Fi will be bringing four fun (and easy to learn and play) GMless to share: The Quiet Year, GxG, Project Ninja Panda Taco, and Hot Guys Making Out; more details on each of these to be posted below.

    All experience levels are more than welcome, from first time gaming to seasoned storytellers and roleplayers. We're always looking for more ladies to help facilitate, so shoot me a message or post here if you have a game you'd like to share!

    If you are intrigued by RPGs and/or story games, but have had your doubts about jumping in to an established group (especially one that -- let's face it -- is sort of dominated by dudes), you are SUPER DUPER EXTRA welcome. These games take no more than a few minutes to learn, play within a couple of hours, and focus on story rather than rules.

    Story games are a little bit like board games, and a lot like grown-up versions of the “let’s pretend” games you probably played as a child. Above all, They are about TELLING A STORY TOGETHER. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s not about making the best character or mastering the rules. It’s about CREATING something together and HAVING FUN. Come check it out!

    PS: If you got this invite and you aren't a woman, please do us a favor and tell all your female friends! Thanks!
  • If "ladies nights" are worth doing, they're worth doing for themselves, I think, and not just as a refuge for women from a hostile environment. They seriously need a better name, though, something that evokes "girls' night out" more than a sleazy bar. Women-only spaces are big these days, there's a bank in India which has all-female branches (all female staff, all female customers) that are extremely profitable, and there are all-girl math classes and math competitions, too.
    I'm not any kind of theorist, but there's a lot going on with stereotype threat that makes these kinds of projects worthwhile, and it goes way beyond keeping the male jerks at bay (although that's a good thing too).
  • The recording's not working for me right now.

    If local women want to have rpg events only for women, go right ahead I guess. I couldn't imagine participating in any event that was explicitly segregated like that - whether on gender, religious, ethnic or political grounds. Not at least here in Finland, anyway; I have explicitly refused membership in male-only organizations, even where their goals and values have otherwise been in accord with mine. I could imagine a society where some sorts of segregation could be a good idea; it would presumably be one where the current struggle for liberal equality had already been lost (or had not yet begun), so our stakes wouldn't be about equal and courteous social treatment of others anymore, but rather about where and how people are allowed to be themselves to begin with. I suppose it's one sort of equality, to divide people into separate and equally furnished rooms. Definitely a good idea if it's the only practical way for you to be yourself without harassment.

    (The liberal approach to the issue of segregation is obviously to leave the choice to those who would be segregated. Thus, although it would make me sad to see that my community caused somebody to feel a need to segregate themselves, I would leave the choice to the people inside the box, rather than try to make the choice for them.)

    In my own rpg circles the main strategy for inclusion has traditionally been social sensitivity to the comfort of the participants - making sure all are enjoying themselves, in other words. Where values clash, this causes a need to make choices, which I try to mediate in a mature way when problems are brought to my attention. Obviously this isn't an optimal way to deal with e.g. shy people who won't tell you if something's bothering them; with those you need to keep a sharper eye out and ask them about it if you're not sure about what's going on in their heads. And of course there's no magic reason in this universe for a given arbitrary group of people getting along: sometimes you have to drop out of a gaming group that's not serving your own creative or social needs.

    Thinking about it, when women gamers have dropped out of gaming groups where I've been, my own inclination has been to interpret this as a creative difference: the game has been slow and heavily mechanical, for example, or hardcore challenge-based, and it hasn't been able to hold interest. At least I imagine that I'd recognize a legitimate creative difference, as I think that I've seen the same thing in reverse many times - male gamers dropping out because the game is too mechanical, or contrariwise because it's been all about relationship drama and not at all like D&D. I used to let these situations go, but over the last five years I've adopted a policy of finding out from all drop-outs why they left the game. (The overwhelming reasons for all demographies have been a combination of scheduling, life changes and the game not being quite entertaining enough in comparison to alternative pastimes, incidentally. Useful knowledge still, as it helps you to figure out who to invite back for a new try later.)

    When I've dealt with larger social circles, such as club or convention organization, and various projects outside gaming, my strategy has mostly been to scale my personal-level approach up. In practice this has meant encouraging people to speak up if they've got problems, interpersonal problems included. Anybody who thinks that this is a difficult way to solve the problem of female comfort in a male-dominated hobby has my agreement, but it seems to work over time, and it has the advantage of transforming the community given enough patience: as you communicate the message that this community does not accept e.g. sexual harassment, and complaints are dealt with in a just way that does not fall into dogmatism (both ignoring minority complaints and over-reacting to them causes problems, long-term), both onlookers and people being bullied gain courage to uphold social standards. I've also found that men take a passive equality strategy more positively than an active one: most Finnish men I've met are eager to participate in upholding a no-bullying, no-harassment policy, going as far as to police each other, while many would be confounded or suspicious over positive discrimination. That's probably a pretty normal situation - see my reaction to women only game-nights up top.

    In the sort of conditions I usually work in, the above seems like a more appropriate strategy for raising the environmental humanism factor than e.g. segregation, although I imagine that the situation might be different in an environment that was less egalitarian to begin with. A lot depends on how the demographics fall out: if 80% of the men in the community are basically "good guys" and it's just a minority making a hobby of harassment, then you've got a different situation than in a more old-fashioned community where 80% of the men make a hobby of "chasing" or otherwise bullying women. In my local conditions, for my generation, my experience has been that the biggest question in dealing with sexual harassment has been due process and sense of maturity and scale (all real issues still, of course), not whether harassment is condoned.

    I've been to a few American game conventions, and they're somewhat more male-dominant than the ones we have here in Finland. Considerably more sexist, also - chauvinist imagery and narrations are more prevalent in everything. Still, considering the people I've met, it seems to me that most are pretty okay, and probably just need some encouragement to uphold standards when they see bullying and harassment going on. It's possible that I've met a disproportionate number of humanist-leaning gamers in these contexts, of course. That would explain the degree of difference I see between the commercial sexual exploitation in the geek media, vs. the reasonably level-headed people.
  • I can't get behind excluding people based on gender, race, religion, whatever. It just doesn't seem right to me.

    Compare that to something like GeekGirlCon, which celebrates women in gaming (and all geeky things) but welcomes everyone who supports that cause.

    Celebrate, don't exclude.
  • I can't get behind excluding people based on gender, race, religion, whatever. It just doesn't seem right to me.

    Compare that to something like GeekGirlCon, which celebrates women in gaming (and all geeky things) but welcomes everyone who supports that cause.

    Celebrate, don't exclude.
    I agree, segregation only enhances in equality and hatred.
  • edited April 2013
    I can't get behind excluding people based on gender, race, religion, whatever. It just doesn't seem right to me.
    This is the most maddening statement.

    It's really not relevant what seems right to you, Ben, or what doesn't seem right. You're not the person to pass judgement, especially not in this carefully judged, studiedly offhand, completely reasonable, middle class, this-doesn't-seem-right-to-me way.

    This is nothing personal. I like your games, but fucking hell, that offhand moralism drives me mad, because it is insidious stuff. Fuck that shit.
  • Here's a thing I notice. Whenever someone tries to do something about gender equality, they get criticised on spurious moral grounds.

    Thus, Mad About The Boy got criticised. In this thread, Ladies Night is getting criticised, even though all reports suggest it was a good thing.

    This suggests to me that moralists should fuck off and try to change the things they are complaining about.
  • This suggests to me that moralists should fuck off and try to change the things they are complaining about.
    That's a bit surprising as advice. I wouldn't have expected you to tell anybody to try to stop the Ladies' Night from happening.
  • I'm not.
  • Come on, Eero. I expect you're just being clever, but he was saying we shouldn't attack events that are trying to accomplish the goals we all share. If you would do it differently, then do it differently (or describe how you've done it differently).

    I agree with Graham. Can we get away from talking about whether an event by women for women is somehow immoral and instead focus on strategies we've found to be successful?

    Ben, can you talk more about GeekGirlCon? It looks awesome but this is the first I've heard of it.
  • It was just a dry joke, the sort Graham himself throws about. Although I do disagree with ad hominem attacks as much as ever, too; to my mind, it takes extraordinary reasons to summarily set aside critical thinking.

    All that aside, this is clearly a side concern that should not be allowed to capture the discussion. I suggest that we call nobody's reasoning or experiences spurious and unfounded, and instead focus on the topic. I for one would be interested in hearing more about strategies people have used to encourage women to adopt the rpg hobby in their parts.
  • When I stop hearing stories about how some idiot male GM thought it would be great to have female PCs raped for no reason other than that they were there, stories about how women attending gaming conventions are nervous about walking back to their hotels because they are women, stories about guys thinking it is just fine to harass women and girls in costume at gaming conventions, stories about men convinced that women gamers are somehow fakes, and all of the other stories I've been hearing nigh non-stop this last year, then, maybe, I might possibly concede that the topic of how to include, or at least not actively exclude, women in gaming communities might possibly be due for retirement.

    For other groups, the stories are different, and I hear them less often, almost certainly because I play with people who are also members of these groups less often. But, the stories are there, and they are current.

    I am very, very glad if you are a woman who is baffled by all of the fuss. Please understand that there are far too many women who have all too much firsthand knowledge of why it is being made.
    A perfect argument in my opinion. I know at Gen Con people take all kinds of liberties with costumed women. Kind of twisted really. I've only encountered the rape move once in all my years of gaming but it was shocking when it came up. Made me think "What are you telling me about yourself?"

    A few things that might help are things like - Make eye contact - Don't sexualize situations that aren't sexual - Treat people equally where possible - Show common courtesy - Use common sense - Don't be a Jack Ass. It may be PC but it's pretty basic stuff.

    Not much more to say than that. I'll do my part hope others do theirs.

    Chris Engle
  • I can't get behind excluding people based on gender, race, religion, whatever. It just doesn't seem right to me.
    It's really not relevant what seems right to you, Ben, or what doesn't seem right. You're not the person to pass judgement, especially not in this carefully judged, studiedly offhand, completely reasonable, middle class, this-doesn't-seem-right-to-me way.

    I find myself in sympathy with Ben's principle of "celebrate, don't exclude". Being told you're not welcome at an event because your behavior is unacceptable is one thing - you can control it or change it - but being told you're not welcome because of your gender is hurtful.

  • edited April 2013
    I haven't listened to this yet! It won't play. But! A few things:

    I'm brainstorming this for some events I'm organizing. I love more brainstorming! It'd be great if this thread focused on tactics, cause we're all pretty smart and I'd love to come up with better plans for this stuff.

    I'm a woman and I feel welcome in most gaming spaces. I think this is just based on my experience and my personality, though. I've also experienced outright bad behavior in many gaming spaces due to my gender. Many gaming spaces are not inclusive or welcoming to women. My experiences are just mine though, and I can't speak for all of my gender at all ever.

    Objectively, gaming spaces are not inclusive toward women. Many women gamers write about it on the internet all the time. It's a real thing. There's a million reasons why it's problematic that google can tell you pretty quickly and easily. I want to find ways to welcome more women to my gaming spaces.

    I like the idea of a Ladies Night, although the concept of a ladies night at bars is often "ladies get in free so guys can gawk at you!" I can see the easy association between the two names, but if it's a clever play on words and actually an all ladies night, that's pretty fun!


    Some tactics I'm working on that have worked for other event organizers and in adjacent fields un-inclusive toward women like tech:

    1. Show the faces of the women in your organization.
    2. Reach out to women in the community and personally invite them (I learned this one from Lizzie Stark!)
    3. Recruit women from adjacent geeky interests (cosplay, fetish, video games, geeky knitting)
    3. Welcome new gamers, many women are not as entrenched in the gaming communities.
    4. Reduce antagonism toward feminine things in you games, at your events. Have feminine coded stuff around in addition to the masculine stuff that's usually around.
    5. Play games that are gender inclusive.


    I'm working on a post to put up on Gaming as Women actually, to talk more about this stuff.

    It's really cool to hear success from a ladies night producing 50/50 gender representation! I've known some all ladies gaming groups to spring up recently... I was thinking of doing this locally too. Y'know, in all my free time. But it's actually kind of hard to find groups of women locally who are into this. I actually found a group in Columbus on meetups that's just for women geeks. I pitched some story games to my local fetish meetup on Tuesday and they loved Monsterhearts and Apocalypse World and Kagematsu. Stuff like that. I think it takes some legwork, and getting women and allies on board to make the effort to make the space inclusive.
  • 4. Reduce antagonism toward feminine things in you games, at your events. Have feminine coded stuff around in addition to the masculine stuff that's usually around.
    Ah, that's something I've done, too! A very important thing overall, both on small and large scales. The best tool in reducing gender difficulties is to teach people to get along in mixed-gender environments. In my experience most of the social problems of sexism seem to be fundamentally caused by people simply not having too much experience with interacting and being friends with the opposite gender. The root of humanism is empathy for the entire human experience, so ideally we'd all learn to enjoy less extremely genderized environments, where people can meet half-way comfortably.

    (This is why you see over-sexed teenage boys and old people from the times of gender segregation having the most trouble dealing with people equitably. Geeks, too, insofar as they participate in a gendered subculture. They've all lived through the lop-sided experience of dealing mostly with their own gender in their social life.)

    It also occurs to me, speaking of attitudes on the personal scale, that roleplaying has an amusing misogyny gauge built in in the form of actual role-playing. Is playing characters of the opposite gender a big deal in your group? Is the female experience and perspective involved at all in your art, even if you are male yourself? In my experience this mostly tends to be the case in all-male groups composed of people who individually don't have a very varied experience interacting with women. As I've grown older I've myself gotten into the habit of introducing female characters and viewpoints even in all-male games, just to provide variety and depth to the artistic endeavour. (As some might remember, I've recently been playing with teenagers a lot. I'd like to think that I've managed to teach them at least a little bit about treating their gender counterparts humanely. This has been most important in mixed-gender groups, of course.)
  • Also, this is a cool article that was an interesting read to me: Free Culture and the Gender Gap

    Despite the values of freedom and openness, the free culture movement’s gender balance is as skewed (or more so) as that of the computing culture from which it arose. Based on the collection and analysis of discourse on gender and sexism within this movement over a six–year period. I suggest three possible causes: (a) some geek identities can be narrow and unappealing; (b) open communities are especially susceptible to difficult people; and, (c) the ideas of freedom and openness can be used to dismiss concerns and rationalize the gender gap as a matter of preference and choice.

    For all women spaces in gaming, check out Mad About the Boy documentation. On page 15, Lizzie articulates some great stuff about the controversy surrounding an all woman game:

    Mad About the Boy is a game about women after all the men on earth die. So all the characters are women, save Thomas, the trans man, and Isak, the last biological man on earth, who showed up halfway through the game. In Norway, Trine, Margo, and Tor ran the game twice, once with an all-women cast, except for the last man, and once with a mixed-gender cast, all playing women. They felt that the first game focused on the game’s intended topics—power, sexuality, femininity, relationships between women—while the second game ended up revolving more around cross-play. We decided to run an all-women game, and this caused all sorts of controversy.

    Some people accused the game of sexism for excluding men. To me, this critique evidences a misunderstanding of what sexism is, which is gender bias enforced by a power structure that deferentially prefers one gender to another. I don’t think running an all-women game is any more sexist than a girls’ school, or a boys’ school, and for the record, if someone wanted to run a larp for men only and had good reasons for doing so, I could get down with that.
  • "... this critique evidences a misunderstanding of what sexism is, which is gender bias enforced by a power structure that deferentially prefers one gender to another."

    This is an overly narrow definition, IMHO, especially in this context, as most of the problematic behavior people have mentioned on this thread doesn't fit within this more sociological bent. What I would feel seeing an ad for a "women's only game" is sad and demeaned, my entire gender deemed somehow unacceptable.

    The only exception I can think of is in the context of group psychotherapy, but that's not really on topic here.
  • edited April 2013
    Sorry you would feel that way, @dreamofpeace!

    Maybe think of a women's only game as a way for women to explore gender issues particular to women's cultural gender experience. I actually think it ties in a lot with techniques utilized in gendered group therapy... relating to similar gendered experiences, issues, commonalities.

    Maybe think of women's gaming spaces as ways to work toward including a gender that is excluded.
Sign In or Register to comment.