Writing about gender, power, and privilege

I’m not starting this thread to shut down discussion on any others. When anyone’s got comments to make about gender in a particular game or topic of conversation, we’re going to make them. This is not a ghetto.

But there are some big questions about gender and what it means to write about gender that keep coming up in thread after thread. Could we come up with some kind of a ChoiceScript gender Frequently Argued Questions thread here – like the one KageTehVamp started on how best to handle love interests – where we can discuss our various positions for easy reference?

We might even sort out a couple of misunderstandings. Who knows?


Well, as perhaps the most notorious social justice campaigner on the site, I guess I should start us off.

Due to the fact that I push my views whenever I get the opportunity, you all probably already know what they are, and are beginning to find it quite obnoxious how often I remind you of them.

This is why I think this is an excellent thread, because if we can put all these views in one place, nobody has to get sick of seeing them.

Incidentally, I would like to draw your attentions to this blog post:

Specifically, the parts where it says “A core tenet of the Choice of Games philosophy is to make all our players feel as ‘at home’ as possible. There are enough games out there where the player has no choice but to play a male protagonist. There are enough women who have been turned off roleplaying games as a result. There are, similarly, enough games where the only romantic opportunities are with the opposite sex. Enough other people are perpetuating those stereotypes; we’d like to do better than that.”

Furthermore, this blog post:

Relevant quotes: “I’ve worked to promote equality for the LGBT community in my non-gaming professional life. So I started off with a firm commitment to the idea that our games had to be good on gender issues.”
Also: “Many video games assume a male protagonist, and I actively wanted to avoid that presumption. At the same time, our games require a certain amount of identification between the player and the character. A game that’s written in the second person runs into problems if the player can’t accept that ‘you’ means both the character and the player.”

So, think about that for a bit. A core tenet of CoG from the creators of the official games themselves is that there are enough male viewpoints in RPGs, that presumption should be actively avoided and that players should be made as ‘at home’ as possible, that ‘you’ should refer to both the player and the character, even when it requires historical accuracy be sacrificed. Just thought it might be worth mentioning that.


Yeah, that blog post was the sort of thing that got me interested in Choice of Games to begin with, and I don’t feel like I’ve been disappointed.

Okay (in the interests of covering all sides of the argument), let me (as a het-male) mention the reasons why a number of men who otherwise are perfectly fine with equality end up eventually railing against the concept (or at least seeming to). It often times feels like women (not all, but a significant number) say they want ‘equality’ until it comes to giving up all the benefits (as minor as they may be) of being a woman. One of the most obvious is abuse. Some women find it fine for a woman to abuse a man, but find the opposite abhorrent, and then they want men to treat them perfectly equally.

Then there’s the question of ‘what is polite’? For many men, it feels like a lose-lose situation. When on a date, if I step ahead to open the door, I’m condescending, if I don’t, I’m an asshole. If I pull my wallet out first, I’m implying that she can’t pay for herself, and if I don’t, I’m a pig. Indeed, I’ve personally met women (specifically one woman I personally know jumps to mind) that will readily complain about both, not to mention that, of course, a number of women (and men) fall on both sides of what is ‘right’ making the ‘correct/polite’ action both up to what feels like a coin flip, and making it feel like you’re unable to ask what is ‘right’ without being rude (what you’re trying to avoid in the first place) just to top it off.

That’s not even mentioning that current cultural trends do indeed tell men that they have to be both, at the same time. They have to both be masculine (open the door and pay for meals) and be considerate of women’s equality (treat her no differently than any man). It’s, frankly, a very confusing prospect for a young (or even older) man that doesn’t know hot to act.

For some of us (those that don’t care about cultural norms, or that align themselves with a specific, more clearly defined, subculture), it’s easy, as either we simply obey our own rules, or we obey the usually more clearly defined subculture’s rules. (I personally fall into the former category.) But for those that are ‘mainstream’ and are trying to be kind, it’s just, well, too much to understand, and that doesn’t even touch on the concept of how our raising has already influenced us, and how that may come into conflict with societal standards and expectations.

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@Reaperoa That makes sense, actually. It’s confusing. If I were a man, I don’t know how I’d get around those problems. Certainly I find the “Don’t hit girls” thing condescending. I’d much rather the rule was “Don’t hit people” and I consider abuse abhorrent, no matter who is perpetrating it. As for doors: If the woman is in front of you, running ahead of her to open the door for her is condescending. Running ahead of her to open the door when you yourself are not even planning to go through that door is right out. However, if you are in front of her, and planning to go through the door yourself, you should hold the door open for her. Though this also applies if the person behind you is male. As for restaurant meals? Absolute fucking minefield. I can’t help you there. I honestly don’t know what the best way to deal with that situation is. I always get my money out first, then offer a split just like I do when I’m eating with my female friends.

I definitely see where you’re coming from with the “It’s hard” thing. Our society is permeated with the debris of patriarchy. Digging those out and smoothing over the bumps left behind won’t be easy, but I am confident that it can be done.

Issues with gender, race, culture, etc. usually boil down to upbringing (as @Reaperoa stated) and the failure of many to view life from another individual’s perspective.

I’ve mentioned in another thread a while ago that I’m physically disabled and I see how people treat me as a prime example of the failure to consider perspective. First off, people don’t see my race or gender first – strangers see the wheelchair and interact with me on that level first. Many times it is positive – they get doors for me, ask if I need help, and do all sorts of nice things for me due to the wheelchair.

People’s first reaction to me is not always a good thing of course. Sometimes I am treated like I have a mental disability. Sometimes people talk to my companions and ignore me even when I am trying to purchase a product in a store or pay for a meal at a restaurant. They ignore me due to whatever preconceived notion they have of the ability for a physically disabled person to handle a business transaction. Often, I am seen as weak or someone that should not have a voice, or I am pitied. Even when someone does something nice for me (e.g. opening a door for me), I often wonder if it is politeness or pity. I tend to be an optimistic person so I assume it is the former, just to keep my blood pressure down.

The reason I bring all of this up is that it is difficult for people to break their preconceived notions. The best way I have found to break through to strangers is to let them get to know me, or hope they meet other physically disabled people who can alter their perspective.


Hey you know, this reminds me that there was something I wanted to ask @SacarletGeisha that would just be a total non requiter in any other thread. Well except maybe the thread about my idea to make a Slasher Flick CoG game.

But anyway, I’ll ask it of everyone here. As I mentioned I had this idea to create a 80s style slasher flick CoG game which I don’t think I’ll be able to get around to any time in the near future, but I just recently thought about how damn sexist those are. So. Is it possible to make a slasher flick based CoG game (Think Friday the Thirteenth derivative, but with your choices determining whether you and the other NPCs survive) with all the stupid characters, sex, and violence, without it being stereotypically sexist? How would one go about doing that?

@Shoelip Yes it is possible to have all those. All you have to do is to examine tropes, how they interplay with kyriarchal power dynamics, and then change it up.

I am for haveing a choice of gender and it is probobly the best option for buissnes. But would be fine with slight varyation and things made slightly harder or easyer as long as there equal.

@ScarletGeisha Er… I don’t… I was actually asking you because you actually know about things like kyriarchal power dynamics and stuff…

LOLZ @Shoelip the ackward moment when… (:

It’s okay, personally have NO idea what that is :confused:

I feel especially embarrassed because I’m pretty sure she explained this to me once before and forgot what it means.

@Shoelip Here is a good (understandable) article (IMO) on the definition of the word:
Google is your Friend and Overlo- um… continuing on.

@Canisa Yea, I’ve known women (and men) who’ve flat out said it’s okay for women to hit men, but not the other way (facepalm worth, at the very least). It’s not helpful that fighting is, essentially, one of the most time honored ways of men (and women, though to a noticeably lesser degree of both prevalence and common societal acceptance) to work out their aggression and settle arguments, and isn’t going to go away any time soon. Most (if not all) of my best friends I’ve traded a few punches with, and I am by no means unusual in that regard.

It also doesn’t help that ‘don’t ask for help’ is still a fairly commonly accepted social expectation men (or boys trying to become men) have to contend with while trying to puzzle such things out.

Personally, I end up adapting myself to (what I think are) the expectations of the person I’m dealing with. If I think the woman expects to be treated slightly different, (chair pulled out, door opened, ect.) I try to do so. If I think she expects me to not, I don’t. (My social anxiety, surprisingly, seems to help in this regard, as I’m constantly looking for cues as to what’s expected.) As for fighting, I never start a fight, but I never back down from one. Gender is no issue there for me.

As for what I’d personally recommend? If you’re in a normal setting, hold a door only if you’re going though yourself and releasing it would basically be closing it on someone’s face. To men specifically, if you’re going somewhere with a woman, and it’s business related, do not under any circumstances treat her at all differently than you would a man. If it’s a date, do the open the door/pull out the chair thing unless she seems to indicate otherwise. However, do it only if you can be subtle about it. Don’t step in front of her to open the door and don’t try to pull out her chair if she’s already reaching for it. That’s just rude.

As for paying, I’ve always heard that now it’s expected that whoever does the inviting also does the paying. However, I’d recommend everyone always carry more than what you’d expect to spend if you end up having to pay for everything.

@JimD I end up always holding doors for disabled people, but that’s mostly a habit from having two disabled parents (although I only ever went somewhere with my mother as my step-father was bedridden). I never got the whole thing with why people treating the physically disabled as though they are mentally disabled (although I’ve never really seen it happen as my mother’s always been a very boisterous person, and it’s practically impossible to ignore her in such a way). Sometimes though, it’s difficult to tell what to do, and a faux pas is, well, understandable. I remember talking to my best friend’s uncle. He’s unable to use one of his arms (I just know it’s from a motorcycle injury), and keeps it in a sling. I don’t know what brought it up (I think he brought it up because I didn’t say anything about it at all, which, I guess, is unusual), but he mentioned that people often times say “I hope you get better” thinking that it’s from a recent injury or something, and then become uncomfortable when he doesn’t ‘get better’. Strange how saying what feels like a small, common nicety can end up being so… awkward? (I can’t think of a good word to describe that.)

Also it’s a fucking pet peeve of mine that people on the bus in the reserved seats never seem to get up until the bus driver has to come up and tell them to move. Seriously, if you see a wheelchair coming onto the bus, and you’re sitting in the one place where it goes, why do you need to be told to get up? (Also, I hate foot injuries. My mom’s run my foot over I don’t know how many times with her chair, and that’s probably a quarter-ton with her in it.)

If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your opinion on something like Katawa Shoujo (http://katawa-shoujo.com/)? I mean that question both conceptually, and in execution (if you’ve looked at it at all). Personally I loved Hanako’s route (where, to get the best ending, you had to realize that ‘it’s not about you’.)

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@Reaperoa Of course it’s commonly accepted social etiquette that the woman never invites, so by your rules the man will inevitably be the one paying anyway…

Actually it’s more than just commonly accepted social etiquette. It seems more like an ironclad law of human interaction. If the man doesn’t take initiative then they aren’t worth paying attention to. Women are allowed to be timid, men are not.

@Shoelip, on the slasher thing, I guess I’d say, absolutely, we could write a script with all the stupid characters, sex and violence of the original genre. Just don’t give either sex (or any race) a monopoly on:

needing to be rescued

and probably a couple other things I can’t think of off the top of my head. But it wouldn’t be impossible – you’d just need to be careful of the well-worn pitfalls like always having the black kid die first.

Any thoughts from the gallery on how well Scream did at this?

Oh, and no rape, please, for the reasons I’ve been trying to sketch out elsewhere.

@Shoelip That’s actually not at all true anymore (neither in general acceptance, nor in practice). While Hollywood/mainstream stories still often times play the whole concept of a man chasing the woman, it’s become socially common for women to chase men (and even Hollywood has started to grown in this regard, to some extent). Of course mainstream media (and often times people in general) usually puts a very negative spin on this. Most often, women that do chase a man that like end up being called a ‘slut’ (or for the older women, the slightly more regal sounding ‘cougar’) regardless of anything else.

Really though, the concept that only men chase women, and never the other way around, has arguably been outdated since the sexual revolution (again, both in mentality and in actuality). While, yes, a lot of people play to this (women try to get a man to say things first, men see themselves as the ‘hunter’ in a relationship, which is kinda tied to concept of ‘cougars’ which is normally seen as a reversal of the ‘standard’ roles), once you’re actually looking, you’ll (probably) find that women are, at the very least just as aggressive as men in seeking out relationships.

(Sorry if I’m a little… wandering in my thought process. It’s late.)

@Reaperoa It’s possible people treat me differently than others with physical disability as my disorder looks severe. I have a disorder similar to Stephen Hawking (just mentioning it for reference) and though I have more function than him, I use a similar wheelchair and have a similar body style. I remember when I first used a motorized chair, a good friend said I looked “more handicapped” than before. So, people do think of disability in degrees. And I don’t blame people for that; often they are not exposed to it. Or their exposure is a televised telethon which attempts to build pity for the disabled to raise money for a cause. So they have little framework for an appropriate reaction when first we meet. Luckily, I have had very few negative interactions once people get to know me.

Wow this is starting to sound like a public service announcement.

My pet peeve is use of disabled stalls in public bathrooms. My wheelchair won’t fit in any other stall, so I may have only 1 or 2 options. Able-bodied people may have 4 or 5 options but seem to always go for the disabled stalls first. Sucks.

I had never heard of Katawa Shoujo, so it’s difficult to give an opinion but on a brief perusal, it looks awesome. It looks to empower people with disabilities, so I am all for that. I will definitely review it more thoroughly.

And it doesn’t help that body fascism constantly promote able-bodies as the only way to be beautiful.

Oh well. I guess I’m just not desirable. In my entire life of over 20 years I’ve had one woman who I know liked me and ever was even sort of assertive about interacting with me. And she was living with her boyfriend, whom she did like. I was just a distraction or a flight of fancy or something. I only found out about this after she one day suddenly told me we couldn’t be friends anymore.

I get the feeling sometimes that mustaches are highly effective girl repellent.

@Shoelip, I don’t know what your social circles are like, and don’t want to assume anything. There are still plenty of places where a majority of people take traditional, patriarchal norms are taken for granted – including “men must be aggressive, women must be timid/passive.” As you say, that’s a rule that’s pretty shitty for everyone concerned, not just women.

But if you’ve grown up and live in a culture like that, it’s a subculture – an island (literally, if I read your post on Bittersweet’s thread right?). Like Reaper-man said, other places don’t have the same “ironclad laws.” Of course there’ll still be some patriarchal hangover anywhere you go, but there are plenty of places where women are allowed to be assertive (in relationships as in other things) and men aren’t expected to seize the initiative in everything.