Ravyn Freewrites: Oh, Great, Sexism Again

I started a game with a new GM recently. D&D, two players (my boyfriend and me) plus the GM. There were a few things that got my back up, but then again there always are. I’ve been pretty spoiled with my primary group, after all; they range to the socially aware, very interested in characterization and good at walking the balance between humorous and able to be taken seriously. So it might just be that my standards have gotten just that exacting.

Then we hit That Incident. Middle of a fight. One of the two PCs is out for the count, and his player’s covering one of the NPCs. A still-fully-NPC fighter finishes his opponent, goes looking to see which of the two embattled characters to help out. GM asks me, “You’re playing a girl gnome, right?” This, apparently, settles the question of who the fighter’s going to come help.

Seriously? It was logical that the fighter go after my character’s opponent first, mind. One, she was a squishy mage, while the other guy was… something weapon-using. Two, she was at the time the only one who could down two opponents in one hit (color spray is devastating in the wrong hands!) Three, the other person possibly in need of helping out was the guy we’d recruited en route… after he tried to hold us up on the road, and therefore, logical one to go bail out is the one who didn’t need to be beaten half to death and made a minion of. And yet, with all the reasons he could have used, his tiebreaker is “a.) a girl; b.) not my sister”?

I’ll be honest: I do not like pervasive blatant sexism in my roleplaying. I do not like getting in and discovering that I’m the only one who rolled a character from a culture that doesn’t treat women as inferiors at best, particularly when I’m also playing the only nonhuman character. (Not this game, thank goodness, but it was one of the contributing factors to me leaving another game. Incidents like this always seem to be when I’m playing gnomes, too. Go figure.) It’s not to say that I don’t want things that show up in the real world, but usually they’re things I can keep at arm’s length. There’s a lot I haven’t had to deal with—but I have had to deal with that regular patron who seemed to be obsessed with what I was going to make for dinner (I gave up on “would you please stop asking me?” after about ten repetitions, and it took another dozen of “How should I know?” and “I don’t generally do the cooking” just to get the refrain to change to “So what’d you eat last night?” The head librarian doesn’t have to deal with this) and who compared one of the other staff members to some waitress he’d been served by the previous week, or that guy who called and, after asking for the supervisor’s number, declared that on the strength of my voice alone we should be friends, now can I have your number? No really, it’s all right, I’m not pressuring you or anything, *repeat three or four times*….

You get the idea.

Seriously, why does this keep popping up? What is it about “Oh, it’s a barbarian/monstrous humanoid/vaguely Middle-Ages-ish culture, clearly they’re going to treat the women as inferiors or chattel, nothing to see here.” (Or we get the drow. Don’t get me started on the drow.) I suppose I could deal with it if it was a theme to play with, but it rarely is; instead you just get to deal with the leering (sometimes even from a fellow PC) and the patronizing and the being explicitly left out of things, or you find yourself shoehorned into playing a man just to make them stop, not that that necessarily ensures people will remember that’s what you’re doing (this, at least, is usually accidental). It gets old. And yes, I know, people fall back on history, but history generally doesn’t carry the implicit assumption that a lady two and a half feet tall can disable two grown men in a shot just by hitting them with color patterns out of nowhere. When you’re playing one of the scariest (under certain conditions) people in the party, you kind of want that to be the first thing the other characters associate with you, not “OMG boobies!”

I’m not going to drop the game for that alone. But it really isn’t making it any more likeable.

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