I remember once upon a time I was sitting in a college dorm room with the rest of the crew that constituted my D&D group (2 women, myself and my roomie, 4 men) and one of the fellows was thumbing through a Dragon Magazine and started laughing hysterically. Of course, we all inquired about the cause of the laughter, and he passed us the magazine which featured a cartoon. The cartoon depicted a “woman warrior”, a babe in a chainmail bikini and Wonder Woman style bracers. She had various arrows stuck in the “protective armor” over her boobs and on her bracers and the caption was “Good thing I was wearing my armor!”
And it was funny, but eye roll worthy as well. It also very well illustrates what I am about to talk about now: Sexism as Part of the Gaming Industry. You see, part of the problem with sexism in the world of gaming? It’s right there in the products. It seems that fantasy games tend to be guiltier of this than other types of games….but yep, all of them have a least a little. But the biggest offender of them all is also the granddaddy of them all: Dungeons & Dragons and every other wanna be D&D game that has come on down the line.
Now, I will admit it, I have just about every D&D book there is from second edition on down the line, even some of the earlier ones, and while I like some of the art, by in large, it is all pretty sexist stuff. Women warriors are often drawn in silly armor period, in and out of D&D…hell Lisa has complained before about the stupid armor they give women characters in WoW, but let’s leave the armor out of it for moment. There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of half naked women in D&D…be they clerics, monsters, elves, wizards, whatever. Lots of T&A in the very core rule books themselves, and lots of women as weak and in need of saving there too. Also, consider the ONE matriarchal society in the world of D&D. The Drow (aka dark elves)…evil as HELL (and black skinned, but that’s a whole different story). Are they powerful and advanced and feared and all that good stuff, yes, they certainly are…but they are flat out pure evil…and the women are usually shown…not wearing much. And while other games and even D&D itself has moved away from this attitude & art somewhat…it was the forerunner of them all, and it did set the tone…hey, I have seen how those female elves dance in WoW, and they really should be getting money stuffed in their…armor?
But you see, there is and was baseline sexism in D&D, and every other game or gaming book, from Magic The Gathering to Cyberpunk, since then has at least to some extent grabbed on to the idea that hot fantasy women in almost nothing sells. Heck, I draw a lot of fantasy art myself, I do. And I have submitted some to these kinds of games, but I tend to draw women in actual armor…now, it could be they just think my art sucks and I would accept that, but sometimes I wonder if it’s because the women I draw are wearing the same sorta gear you’d put a male character of the same class in. Now, I will discuss in my next post, “Fantasy vs. Reality” how this is such a drag for women gamers, but the basic fact is…
This is what the gaming industry and fantasy genre think of women and what they should be in fantasy gaming:
So we’re starting off at a point of disadvantage from the get go due to the very source materials themselves. Yes, some games have come a long way in options and versatility for female characters as well as players. For instance, in City of Heroes, one can make a female character in full armor or tactical gear….but the option is still there to make her wearing almost nothing- but you can do that to the men too. The basis, basics, and baseline however is that there is inherent sexism in the very gaming products themselves, both in the way women are depicted visually and as characters, and those sorts of depictions have set a tone for gaming and gamers period. I have walked into D&D games and had some snarky asshole male gamer ask me where my chainmail bikini was, or give me shit for wanting to play a fighter rather than a cleric or a mage, but that sort of thing will be discussed more in “Fantasy vs. Reality” , but the simple fact is, the world of gaming is set against us from the get go due to the way fictional women are depicted in it.
*For the record, I do not now nor have I ever actually owned a chainmail bikini!