Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fighting women

I am running an ongoing campaign using my RPG system Heroes By Trade.  My players are Wendy and Pinkie Pie, and I am running an NPC to go along with them.  My character is a large furry troll who is really good at being tough, breaking things, and doesn't talk much.  A perfect NPC.  :)

One of the things I am making a point of is making the world have lots of women in positions of influence and importance.  Fantasy worlds are usually terrible at this and have men doing everything.  This is something I would think about a lot in any case but it is particularly important because I want Pinkie Pie to have the experience of adventuring in a world where women aren't relegated to support roles all the time.

I have actually found it pretty easy to do this with the important people.  There is an Empress, not a King, and keeping some kind of gender balance among the powerful and wealthy has been simple.  I even have one race in the game that has no sex or gender at all so non gendered people are a thing this society is used to and they appear here and there.

But I find it takes a lot more concentration to not default to male pronouns for random dorks.  When I am building people with motivations, names, distinguishing features, these people end up in some kind of good gender spectrum.  But when the characters get attacked by a bunch of random gangsters I find that I default to calling all of them 'him' as they get mowed down like chaff.

Isn't saying 'mowed down like chaff' kind of ridiculous?  I haven't ever mowed down chaff!  I have no idea how easy that is.  Maybe it is actually really difficult and I have been lied to by this saying all my life.  I wouldn't know if that was the case.  Now I need to head to wikipedia and look this up...

I don't think this is a huge problem, because I try to stay on top of and mitigate it, but it is interesting that this is the way my brain processes it.  I am probably inured to this norm by all the action movies I have watched, which certainly have a huge male bias for the main villains and heroes but a much larger bias among the henchmen.  Specifically, that they are henchmen, not henchwomen.

There are lots of reasons for that, and I am sure at least a part of it is that you can't sell a male hero who busts into places and then punches all the women he sees in the face until they are unconscious.  You can have a male hero do that to men no problem though and audiences won't freak out about it.

Pinkie Pie doesn't obviously react to people in the game based on gender.  I was a bit surprised by that because she is really focused on gender in real life, and being a girl rather than a boy is a huge part of her identity.  I am creating a world for her where violence solves most problems and societies need singular powerful people to save them from evil, and those aren't exactly things I want to impart even if they are fantasy staples.  But I can avoid making the world she romps through full of just men though, so I am going to do that, if nothing else.

1 comment:

  1. I have this problem in D&D all the time. All my NPCs default to male, and I'm consciously trying to change that.

    And also in my made-up stories for the girls, and my default assumptions of gender in stories where it's not clear. It's been quite interesting to have this bias in my outlook revealed.