(Though this conversation and topic affects many spectrums of individuals, I will be focusing on gender specifically).
Since the early days of tabletop RPGs, a lot has changed, and certainly in terms of visual representation of the players who enjoy this part of their life. At first, convention grounds were overrun by white, older men. Nowadays, however, places like GenCon and PAXUnplugged are diverse grounds of players from all walks of life. There are even panels highlighting how the community can become more welcoming to marginalized folx.
As a queer woman, however, there are days where hope seems bleak. Will we ever truly get to a place of equality within our TTRPG community, or will we always be on uneven playing ground? To answer this question, we have to look at those who exist in our community today who still harbour the old misconceptions of who is a roleplayer.
The commonly held misconceptions (that have been around from the birth of Dungeons & Dragons and still pertain in some areas of the community) are:
- Women don’t roleplay as well as men do
- They are slower at the game
- They don’t want to make similar decisions to men in game
- Women are adverse to lore, history, and the “crunchy” side of TTRPGs
- There aren’t many women who truly enjoy these games
- The few women who do enjoy TTRPGs are simply “posers” and playing to “get attention” (See the terminology “titty streamer” “titty gamer”, etc.)
- Women do not make good Game Masters because they simply don’t possess as many natural skills as men do in this role
- We don’t know the rules
- We don’t like the rules
- Those of us who are vocal about inclusion, accessibility and acceptance are ruining the game
- Women are a distraction at the table for players
There are other viewpoints that still exist, unfortunately, but these are the main ones that I seem to encounter whenever the issues of my gender come up in regards to TTRPGs. Now, many people will argue that only old grognards still fester these thoughts and even many of them are able to let go of them now as the “times have changed”, but this is simply untrue. Many younger individuals still believe these things, even as young as fourteen years from what I have personally encountered. These misconceptions heavily exist in the dark corners of our community.
How can we ever get rid of them? We’ve made so much progress, so that means we will eventually be entirely rid of this viewpoint…yes? I want to believe that, but I just can’t. Because one of the biggest arguments I have encountered as to why women don’t belong at roleplaying tables as much as men do is that “men were there at the beginning when D&D was first created, and women only just started joining this hobby.” Yes, this is an entirely false statement, but it comes up every so often and it feels like a hit to my hope each time it does.
We cannot change the past. We can alter the present and the future, however, working together as a community. But because women were made to feel unsafe in TTRPGs at the beginning of it, we will never be fully there…or at least until the only ones of us alive and playing was never even around for those early days. So give or take a hundred years of roleplaying before this mentality hopefully vanishes.
What can we do in the meantime? Well, at first recognise when it’s happening or arising and shut it down. Show people a different perspective when this is their thinking. What does this look like? For me, personally, it has looked like the following:
- Men undressing their characters in an attempt to seduce my character (even when playing a gender other than a woman)
- Having turns passed over
- Having rules, spells, mechanics, lore, etc., explained when it wasn’t asked for
- Ideas being waved off without consideration
- Being talked over
- Somebody else calling your rolls (the number after the roll occurs)
- People suggesting what to do on your turn without you pausing or asking for these suggestions
- Being talked down to in any subject regarding TTRPGs
- Being treated differently at the table
- Non-inclusive language (such as the term female which can be exclusive in nature, try using the word “woman” instead)
There are so many ways the misconceptions and stereotypes about women in TTRPGs can come about. If you keep your eye out for them then you can attempt to show the individual with these thoughts a different viewpoint, the one where gender (or race, or sexuality, or disability, or orientation, or age, etc.) does not determine a person’s enjoyment and ‘skill’ in a roleplaying game.
As I said, I honestly have very little hope that all these individuals who think this way in our community will have their perspectives changed, at least not until there is a time where roleplayers cannot even remember the dawn of TTRPGs in the 70s. Yet, there are ways we can work together to make them as minuscule as possible.