Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Women in Fantasy and Fandom

Thanks to the guy on G+ who handed me the inspiration for this.

The classic D&D world has a lot of things - multiple races, monsters and, of course, women in chain mail bikinis. Gamers want female adventurers. Gender equality (or close) is a standard feature of many fantasy worlds - especially those built by a group of people around a table. Even if a world in which women have fewer rights is built, GMs always include loopholes to allow for those beautiful, striking warrior women. Maybe they're unusual. Maybe they come from a fringe culture. Maybe a major theme of the world is the conflict between the cultures in which women fight and the ones in which they don't.

In real Medieval history, very few women fought. Most of those who did disguised themselves as men. You find more warrior women in some parts of the ancient world - think Boadicea. Joan of Arc was considered unnatural and burned as a witch. But this reality isn't reflected in game worlds. It's sometimes reflected in fiction, but not always. Modern sensibility says that women should not be property, second class citizens, left at home tending babies, etc.

Here's the disconnect. I hate to say it, and it's less true than it used to be, but often those very same guys who sit around a table insisting women in their fantasy worlds should have rights and equality and a sword or dagger - are the same guys who won't get their eyes off a woman's breasts at a con, talk about finishing the game so they can go ogle Felicia Day (in front of other women, to boot), slut shame women in chain mail bikinis or accuse us of being fake geeks there to pick up guys.

They want equality in their fantasy worlds, but seem a little unclear about it in their real world. I do think things have improved a lot and are improving a lot. There are definitely more women at cons than there used to be. But all of the behaviors I've listed still happen. Is it that equality is more desirable in the abstract? Or are they just after the chain mail bikinis...