Games:
Nick re
JoT re Nick re "Misogyny"

First of all, let me apologize for having taken this long to respond to this. I'd lost track of your web site and I hadn't noticed your own response. Second, I'd like to apologize for dumping something this large into your guestbook, but I don't see an e-mail address on a cursory examination of your site.

"I give no reasons because the burden of proof is on the one who claims one culture's judgment is more valid than the other's."

While I can agree with this, the reason I wrote to you is that I got a different impression from your wording. The phrase "Since this hypothetical culture's interpretation is as valid as ours. . ." implied to me an assumption of equivalency between two cultures, rather than an assumption of equivalency of two equal and opposite interpretations. Not to nitpick, but I think that is misleading wording which shifts the emphasis of your argument. I can see now that the imaginary culture's point is to provide a setting for your hypothetical interpreatation.

"I claimed not that all cultural judgments are equally valid, only that the following two cultural judgments are equally valid:

"1. Depicting a woman as a sexual predator is misogynistic, and so is depicting a man as a sexual predator.

"2. Depicting a man as a sexual predator is misandristic, and so is depicting a woman as a sexual predator.

"They're equally valid because they're mirror images of each other, and neither has superior internal consistency to the other. They're similar enough that the burden of proof is on the one who claims that one of these two judgments is more valid than the other."

The burden of proof, is, of course, on the side attempting to prove the existence of something, which would be in this case the side attempting to affirm the existence of misogyny in the gaming material. I was not attempting to prove that, merely to point out what appeared to be a flaw in your reasoning--which is not, but which I think is an unfortunately ambiguous phrase in a well-thought-out document. However, the mistake was mine.

I do think this topic deserves some attention. While I agree with your interpretation, I'm going to take a devil's advocacy position here so as to spur discussion, if you don't mind.

These two positions are not necessarily opposites. While the gender roles are reversed, the core scenario is one person preying sexually upon another. Sexual predation is an inherently male trait, as proof of which I point to the fact that nearly all rapine is performed by men upon women. So many more rapists are male than female that to be a rapist is almost certainly to be male. Your opposite scenario merely ascribes a male trait to a female demon, making her an inversion of what men are themselves and thus playing to the predator's fear he will become the prey. Essentially, to depict any sort of sexual violence is to depict misogyny.

Male sexual violence is not a cultural trait, but a human one; it crosses all cultures, is constant, and its opposite (a culture wherein anything but a small minority of sexual violence is perpetrated by women upon men) has never existed in human history. A misandrist culture is a ridiculous proposition, because such a thing cannot exist.

"Here's another example:

"One year, as a free lancer, I wrote an RPG adventure. For the NPCs, I determined the gender of each one randomly, whether they were allies, villains, or victims. I didn't want to assign the genders intentionally because I didn't want my subconscious biases to show through.

"The designer the RPG for which I was writing the adventure reviewed the manuscript. His comment was, "Why are the PCs always beating up chicks?" In other words, he was astounded that I had so many female NPCs as villains. He thought it was misogynistic to have the characters in combat against women so often.

"I intended the presence of female villains to demonstrate gender equality. Instead, it was (in the eyes of at least some readers) misogynistic.

"In the same way, if a misandrist RPG designer from an alternate dimension were to design a man-devouring she-demon, she'd intend it as a misandrist fantasy. If the description of the she-demon were to appear here in this dimension, we'd label it misogynist."

I'm glad you brought this up. To return to my own opinions: while I don't necessarily think that the she-demon you mentioned was misogynistic, I think this story highlights the actual sort of misogyny that exists among gamers. Assuming that your ratio of villians was roughly 1:1 (was it?), I think the fact that this designer was surprised to see equal numbers of women in the game is very telling. I think that our hobby, more often than it portrays women as evil, merely fails to portray them at all. This dismissiveness is a misogyny in and of itself; it implies that women wouldn't be involved in the events that RPGs tend to be about, which is more often than not the struggle between good and evil, or at the least between important beings. I think there is a serious lack of female characters in game products, and I think that contributes to the one-sidedness of the gamer-population, as well as being produced by it. Men identify with men, and therefore create male characters, with which women have a hard time identifying; the men who create game products are, probably unintentionally, biasing the hobby. At the same time, whenever a series of earth-shattering events occurs in RPG supplements, and has no or only nominal female involvement, it carries the implication that women can't or shouldn't be involved in these things.

I'm glad to hear that you determine the gender of your NPCs randomly, and I think that is a good direction to take. I'll probably start doing that in my own campaigns.

—Nick Simmonds
September 2002

JoT

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