Blog is back — Now with sexism!

29 02 2012

oh crap...In one of those coincidences, iconic iconoclast Zak of “Playing DnD with Pornstars” posted about the problem, or the idea that there is a problem, with sexism in RPG and comics publishing. His solution: Hire women! And a fine idea too.

What makes it seem oddly coincidental to your correspondent, apart from a brain evolved for vastly fewer bits of info that might coincide, is the pains I’ve been through in recent days with our next release. To wit: Disclaimers, plastered over my book like banana stickers, lest I seem to be encouraging sexism and racism.

All four readers of my past RPG work will have had opportunity to note my world view, which I make little effort to hide. Succintly: Life sucks and that’s pretty funny. Pain and doom are the norm, yes, but not in a teen angst way that makes for charismatic suffering. No, people are no better than they are forced to be, and their efforts must ultimately come to naught. There’s heroism, since this is a game, but it’s never easy to overcome circumstances, and the triumphs are always local, relative, and short-lived.

So. In this new book, there is a cast of thousands, and they run the gamut from somewhat ignorant to deeply stupid, from somewhat prejudiced and hiding it to utterly sexist, racist, and unable to accept that there might be another way. I write like this because, from my overeducated, snide, and pessimistic point of view, that’s the way things are. I’m swords and spells all the way, and I write about pseudo-medieval societies that seem to me, given certain unrealisms inherent in the genre, to feel real. Among other unmodernisms, people harbor deep suspicion of anyone different, and patriarchal societies are powerfully vested in keeping women home with the babies.

I could have soft-pedaled all that, but I have always objected to the multi-culturalization of geek art. IRL I’m a liberal and a believer in not only true equal opportunity under the law, but in educating future generations in tolerance. In a fantasy world, though, I want believability. If one of the monks in your book’s magic monastery is black, fine, but I want to know why, and how. If your culture is isolated, because it’s an ancient kingdom without airplanes set in a land plagued with monsters, or it’s a limited population in another dimension, or a planet full of aliens, then you can’t just make it ethnically mixed. I understand the impulse — showing “society” or “kids” that race doesn’t matter. But it’s wrong to fuck up the immersiveness of your art for that sake.

And I think that’s part of what Zak was getting at. As an audience, we have to trust artists to make what they want without striving for correctness. As artists, we have to give our audience credit for knowing the difference between, say, writing about bad behavior and condoning it in reality. Otherwise we get crap art. Let’s be grownups instead.

That’s what I’m always trying to write, whether it’s a whole book about closed-minded people or just some napkin notes about a crawl: DnD for grownups.

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One response

6 03 2012
Brendan

Absolutely. Depiction is not promotion.

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