Friday, 2 August 2013

Sexism - Or Geekery for the Boys?

This evening Scattergun Gamer, is having a little rant on the subject of sexism in the production of female figures for wargaming.  The examples that have raised his hackles are Games Workshop's Sisters of Repentia, who are clad in what can only be called bondage gear.

Personally, I don't find these figures offensive, but I have seen some that are pretty offensive - captives being stripped and tortured, with more than an implication of sexual humiliation.  Even searching Google Images for [pulp heroine] brought up some dodgy images of violence against women.

Rape porn aside, the chain-mail bikini and 'female armour' depictions such as we see here from GW send out a terrible message.  As one of the comments on the original post says "In an hobby that suffers from image problems as it is - cf. beardy weirdies, anorak gamers, smelly gamers etc. - we really don't need to be setting ourselves up this way."

In one of those coincidences an old friend of mine (in her seventies and a RPG-er since the 1980s) share the following video on Facebook today.  Enjoy.

Now this is nothing new of course.  Pulp comics always relied on putting women wearing very little in compromising situations.  But it carries on.  The question is: is it right to do that in this day and age?

Did Magna Carta die in vain?


  1. I can understand criticism on anything that is visually sexually abusive (sexual torture, rape, etc) but I don't see anything wrong with scantily clad or nude if done right. For example, I'd have a hard time not imagining minis for a Barsoom setting any other way, but a modern/sci-fi female general gratuitously showing bare breasts is odd.

    Perhaps it doesn't make it right, but I think people often forget that the 'sexism' of unreasonable sexualized imagery works both ways. How many overly muscled barbarians in fur bikini briefs are out there? Nearly all male minis are in peak physical shape with washboard abs and bulging biceps. If one doesn't think that's the same thing as chainmail bikinis I don't think they're really thinking it through. It's a good thing we're now trained to be aware of sexual imagery and question if it is exploitative, but that analysis is almost always limited to the female side. I could never look like Conan no matter how hard I try, yet I never hear cries of sexism about male miniatures. Maybe that is two wrongs don't make a right, or maybe neither is wrong, but it's worth considering.

    Our culture is so phobic about sex that I think a lot of what shouldn't be offensive gets lumped in with what should be offensive. I seethe same kinds of reactions in other areas of society, like people thinking it is 'obscene' for a woman to breastfeed a baby in public, as if a simple moment of partial nudity is somehow akin to sexual assault. I think in our efforts to correct wrongs we've often gone too far and too sensitive.

    1. Thanks for the thought out reply David.

      I agree with you, I don't see full or partial nudity offensive per se. That's why I say I don't find the GW figures in question 'offensive' - I try to differentiate between 'offensive' and sending out the wrong message.

      You might very well as who I am to decide what the 'right message' is. I think what I'm asking is whether sectors of the gaming world have lagged behind what society has decided is right or wrong - and by doing so are tarring gaming with an unpleasant brush. I'm not saying 'is this putting young girls off?' but 'is this putting people off?'

      Yes, I do find Barsoom and Conan sexist (among other objectionable features). I myself don't have much to do with them (just as I know people who won't game C20th conflicts). And yes, there is also objectification of the male figure.

      Personally, I have no problem with erotica and ('non-nasty') porn. But I object to the over-sexualisation of everyday society.

      It's just me mouthing off from the soap-box that's my blog.

  2. You'll always find someone who objects to just about anything, however apparently inoffensive. The big difference is that 'in this day and age' they can amplify their apparent influence by make a hell of a noise about it because they have the channels to do so: internet, Twitter et. al. But, how about the world view of the alleged 'transgressor'? If their opinion goes against the grain of the morally 'superior', are they necessarily wrong? Machiavelli wrote some pretty stark stuff, but all of it was objective and intended to be instructional. It upset a lot of people, but it simply reflected the realpolitik of the day (even though realpolitik hadn't been invented at the time!).

    We could open up a whole can of worms here, but contemporary women have far less to worry about with regard to sexism than they did even twenty years ago. The common representation of women in the Fantasy genre of gaming is exemplified by the figures in question, but, in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty small beer compared to, say, equality in employment. As regards 'outsiders' getting hot under the collar about scantily clad female fantasy figures, I think they'd notice elves and goblins first and then probably move on to space orks and the like. Genres aside, we all participate in a geeky hobby which can be viewed as pretty questionable: wargames, war toys, promotion of violence, almost pious representation of war and death etc., etc.

    The mores of a society tend to be set by the so called moral majority, but they don't always get it right. They're as likely to be subjected to 'influencers' as anyone and that's where the danger lies. Today we're probably over sensitive about many of the 'isms', sometimes at the expense of other things we ought to make more effort to address. As a society we seem to spend more time telling ourselves what we can't do rather than what we can do and that's a recipe for decline. The Emperor's New Clothes approach is surely wrong?

    However, as to the figures; no, I don't find them objectionable, but I'm sure others will. I do find them pretty average though and void of any imagination.

    1. Thanks Gary. A lot of sense spoken there...

  3. I'll have to go back and read scattergun when I have a moment. I wrote something about this topic in my post
    (sorry to plug my own blog)
    To touch on the perspective of a father of a young girl looking at what passes for female fantasy figures and what messages we send young girls we are trying to encourage in the hobby. Of course then I go and post a picture of Ray with huge knockers. Go figure.

    And to bring it back on topic. Good posts and comments.

    1. Thanks for this Sean. Your blog post makes the points I wanted to, but in a less long-winded and shilly-shambled way. I shall go back later and wade through the 30 comments.

      I was looking for the original of that picture you doctored when David talked about man-armour. As I remember it, the original post had sexy armour for both sexes.

    2. For anyone interested in this debate, I'd recommend looking at Sean's post and take the time to go through the comments. A lots of interest there.

      I'd still like to know where he got that picture of me with my tankard...

    3. Hi Edwin, the original male and female sexy armors occurred in the post
      I was hiding it in there and just being generally cheeky, rather than making a statement.

      As for the fellow with the tankard, I felt bad about using his picture. The truth of the matter, still, is that I want to imagine myself as a muscled exquisite piece of man-flesh not Conan the Librarian. Although in role playing I tended to favor playing Half-Orcs perhaps it was a reaction to my nerdiness that I wanted, and still want, to be the virile dude who smashes stuff with a large steel implement of some kind.

    4. "I wanted, and still want, to be the virile dude who smashes stuff with a large steel implement of some kind."

      It's not all it's cracked up to be mate ;O)

  4. I'm glad about the comments this post has received. They're well thought-out and include a lot of sense. I did wonder whether I'd attract some flames, but I suppose those who disagree have muttered "Bloody PC brigade!" and gone on to read something more interesting ;-)


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