Saturday, May 10, 2014

(Mostly) Sexism in Games

My brother asked me how I felt about sexism in semi-medieval and modern settings, and I proceeded to...write. I liked it enough to clean it up a bit and post.
There is something to be said for historical accuracy as complete as one can make it. However, people often don't shoot for historical accuracy--they put something like a hardcore version of our modern-day sexism. I see the same thing with racism, heterosexism, etc. Even in places/times where the definitions of race/gender/sexuality would have been very different, I rarely see recognition of that.

That is actively dangerous. It leads more people to think that various roles--gender/sex, race, etc.--have been stable through centuries and are only now being changed. This grants them power. "How could we change this, when it's been true for thousands of years?" "How dare you try to change this, when it's worked perfectly fine for hundreds of years?" Yes, both of those statements are irrational--but they are also powerful, and that's what concerns me.

I like tabletop settings which remove sexism; they're more flexible and often more fun--if only because most examples I've seen have better worldbuilding I prefer. But I also like tabletop games where different cultures have different sexism, or some cultures have none, and/or claim to. It's interesting, and it emphasizes the fact that, yes, these categories may be categories in their own right, but they largely have the power we grant them.

If someone is inserting sexism to be "gritty", ick. If someone is inserting sexism for "historical accuracy", then A) name the cultures, and B) I expect genuine historical accuracy; anything else is just using "a long time ago" as an excuse for lazy and prejudiced storytelling. If someone removes sexism as escapism or to see how that works, I actively approve. If someone is playing with sexism--including where it differs from our sexism, including where different cultures have different expectations of men/women/other genders, I sincerely approve; that's cool.

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