[generic] Inclusivity and representation

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#1
This is a request for advice, a call for opinions and, I fear, a white male confessional.

I was at Conpulsion last weekend, which bears little relevance except for the Facebook outrage that followed the voting for next year's theme. There were 3 (I think) up for consideration, Fire, Fortune and Furnace. It doesn't matter which won, what matters is that Feminism was proposed by the correct process and the committee decided not to put it to the public vote. This was to preserve the cons 'apolitical' stance.

To me this sounds a bit weak, but it's their convention and I understand their reluctance to get involved given the sort of activism and acrimony that the internet tells me is now common at US cons. The members of the Conpulsion Facebook group did not agree. Comments included 'cowardly', 'misogynistic', 'no platforming' and other expressions of disagreement. Half a dozen commenters have declared a boycott of the con.

The 'energetic' discussion made me think, not for the first time, about how I approach gender in my games as a GM. I would like to think that I am inclusive because my pregens are either unsexed or I provide male and female versions. But I suspect this is just lip service. I don't do anything to make them different, so possibly I'm just offering a choice of 'men' or 'men in drag'.

Does anyone have any simple tips to help create believable female characters? Stereotypes to avoid, good/bad tropes, that sort of stuff?

How do you treat women in your games, both as players and characters? I've always defaulted to trying to treat everyone the same, now I'm worried that what I've actually been doing is treating everyone as 'one of the boys'.

Am I just worrying over nothing, or do I need to find somewhere to park my male privilege?

And, while I've got you here, how should I take tackle race in RPGs?
 
#2
What? You've got no gay, bi, trans or gender neutral characters? Shame on you!

Look we're middle class white males. (At least you LOOK middle class to me.) I think if I tried to create/write and authentically female, black, gay etc. Character I'd end up stereotyping or patronising.

So I make characters. Present them as male and female. Ensure there's a spread of races within the selection. Yes, I use illustrations but that's because I'm trying to attract passersby and I need colour pictures. I've got one character I can point to as potentially trans/gender neutral if anyone asks the difficult question. If you're a black female and want a character to reflect who you are, I've got one for you. But I may not have a halfling thief for you.

The alternative is to go blank - as you do. Present stats but no gender, orientation or race as in real world race not fantasy folk.

All we can do is do what we can. If we don't do enough or do anything wrong I'm ready to learn. Every little helps, eh?
 
#3
If you're producing pregens in non-gendered form, or both male & female form, and the gender of the character makes no difference (i.e. the only things changing are name and gender), then you're probably doing it right. Unless you're creating characters with specifically male traits, then declaring them unisex; that'd be doing it wrong. (not sure there's any systems where that'd make sense anyway)
 
#4
If you're producing pregens in non-gendered form, or both male & female form, and the gender of the character makes no difference (i.e. the only things changing are name and gender), then you're probably doing it right. Unless you're creating characters with specifically male traits, then declaring them unisex; that'd be doing it wrong.
That is one of my worries. Given the nature of the systems I'm using (Fate and Manifold, largely), it's free-form text phrases. Given how often my wife rolls her eyes at me and says something like 'that's such a man thing', I fear it is all too easy to write down something that only resonates for other middle-aged, middle class white men.
 
#5
I either have character generation at the start of each game, the players choose the details about their characters or I use characters from TV shows that have a wide appeal anyway (the crew from Firefly’s Serenity for example).
 
#6
That is one of my worries. Given the nature of the systems I'm using (Fate and Manifold, largely), it's free-form text phrases. Given how often my wife rolls her eyes at me and says something like 'that's such a man thing', I fear it is all too easy to write down something that only resonates for other middle-aged, middle class white men.
Ah, right. I'm not really familiar with that sort of system (I'm much more into crunchy systems). All I can suggest is running things past a few people to see if they pick up anything that's a bit too stereotypically one way or the other
 
#9
I usually avoid black characters that seem to just be transplanted into white European-inspired fantasy settings, the common types with European titles, culture, fashion and myths.

Personally, I rather play a Nordic viking than a token shoehorned for quotas. It is difficult to please everyone so go with what feels right to you.
 
#10
...have character generation at the start of each game, the players choose the details about their characters...
I may have to do more of this. I supply pregens because I seem to be a dreadfully slow starter anyway, but perhaps I should work on fixing that rather than accommodating it.
 
#13
Darran is the master of Firefly bling. I worship at his feet. But for years he ran “Firefly” games using the crew of “The Betty” from Alien 4 rather than the canon crew. Sorry but I just love it now he’s using Mal and the rest. (Apologies for my personal interjection.)
I liked that Betty crew, nice curve ball in expectations vs reality. Plus, that wheelchair could hide cool stuff too.
 
#15
This is an interesting thread, and Simon makes a good point, it's mostly whites, all males, discussing Feminism.

Would a good step be to approach some actual women? We're not exactly short of them at the Garrison Cons at least. Perhaps we need to invite them into the Tavern to discuss this thread. Lynn, Debbie, Sue etc. might be of good input which cannot be derived from an all male group. There's also a Women in Gaming organisation that may offer useful advice.

I know one thing I like about playing female characters is that they get to have a more chatty interpersonal role that works well in games with character driven narrative. One thing I don't like is that all said and done, when the big bad has been roused from his lair, the female characters are largely useless in a fight with very low stats.

On the portrayal of people of colour in games: I had an interesting time in Neil Smith's game at Seven Hills, sitting round the table with four white people, playing black people, who mostly appeared to have Jamaican accents even though they were from South America. Well mine had a Kenyan accent because that's an accent I'm more familiar with. And while it felt absolutely fine, non-racist, just four black characters living out their lives and falling in love and creating a festival, with donkeys, there was always some itch in the back of my mind about how this might come across to non-white people. My friend with the Kenyan accent would probably just laugh at me, but outside of friendship circles, thinking about this made me feel a little uncomfortable as I just don't know whether our behaviour was appropriate.

Andrew
 
#17
Would a good step be to approach some actual women?
But...we're roleplayers, if we could approach women we wouldn't be living in our mothers basements!

Seriously, yes, I was hoping that some of the women who are here would say something.

I know one thing I like about playing female characters is that they get to have a more chatty interpersonal role that works well in games with character driven narrative. One thing I don't like is that all said and done, when the big bad has been roused from his lair, the female characters are largely useless in a fight with very low stats.
Is that playing straight into the stereotypes that I am trying to avoid? I'm reasonably sure there must be women who aren't that great at interpersonal skills, and some that are good in a fight.

On the portrayal of people of colour in games: I had an interesting time in Neil Smith's game at Seven Hills, sitting round the table with four white people, playing black people, who mostly appeared to have Jamaican accents even though they were from South America. Well mine had a Kenyan accent because that's an accent I'm more familiar with. And while it felt absolutely fine, non-racist, just four black characters living out their lives and falling in love and creating a festival, with donkeys, there was always some itch in the back of my mind about how this might come across to non-white people.
This does make me feel a bit uncomfortable. I came across this blog (https://jamesmendezhodes.com) that talks about racism and representation in (US) con games, and it made me quite nervous about the whole thing.
 
#19
Please can we not judge ourselves against the US? I honestly believe their issues are significantly different from ours.
I'm absolutely sure they are, especially where racism is concerned. I had no idea what most of the examples of racism the guy on the blog gave were about. I would even go so far as to say their issues are (much?) worse than ours, given what I see and read.

However, I'm also sure that we have plenty of issues of our own, it's just I think I don't recognise them, in general, because I'm on the majority white male side of the situation.
 
#20
Is that playing straight into the stereotypes that I am trying to avoid? I'm reasonably sure there must be women who aren't that great at interpersonal skills, and some that are good in a fight.
No, it's embedded into the character set-up and stats. An example would be the You Only Die Twice, Cthulhu game, at Seven Hills. Once the fight started the two female characters really didn't have much impact or opportunity to help the team. This was despite the GM being very careful to include everyone and get everyone in play, it was just inherent in the stats. It's not the only example but it's the latest in a regularly occurring list of them.

Please can we not judge ourselves against the US? I honestly believe their issues are significantly different from ours.
Are they? Our police don't carry guns and therefore don't shoot black people. So on the surface, yes America seems far worse. But in the embedded culture? Can we really judge unless we either ask a person of colour, or are a person of colour? I know that there are black people in my wife's Audio Engineering field fighting for equal representation and inclusivity. I know that a mate of mine who is under 30 and was born in Pakistan and grew up in Liverpool still hates going back to Birkenhead because of his nightmarish school days. And I recently had a white bloke at a convention tell me off for having a laugh and mess around with a friend, because in his words she was Chinese and so she would be "too polite" to tell me I was upsetting her. He said this after coming over to us but never actually asking her is she was OK. Turns out I wasn't insulting her (I was singing "I've got a golden ticket" to her), yes we were having a laugh she re-confirmed this was OK after he left, and surprise surprise we're much closer friends than the random white guy thought. But to me the insult there was more against her, because he imagined she couldn't speak for herself. So yes, we don't shoot black people here, let's give ourselves a pat on the back.

Andrew
 
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