I was watching the Signals from the Frontline live-cast on Twitch, and one of the folks in the chatroom posted an excellent question – regrettably, I didn’t save it, but in essence the question recounted the posters experience with some folks using “rape” as an insult in the proximity to some young kids in the game store. The poster asked if this was just a one-off problem with a bad group, or if the hosts thought this was an endemic problem in the hobby.
I’ll be honest that I was disappointed with Frontline, who basically said it wasn’t a discussion for the podcast. So I’ll give my answer:
Yes. It’s a problem in the hobby as a whole. It’s pervasive, inescapable, and it’s not okay.
The very fact that I expect this post to be a little controversial is a problem, because I don’t think it should be – this hobby should be open and welcoming to anyone, regardless of their race, gender, gender presentation, sexual orientation, or really anything other than the desire to get together and play an overly sophisticated game of toy soldiers.
But right now, it isn’t.
I’ve been playing this game for a long time, and an undercurrent of sexism has always been there. It ranges from just the implicit assumption that a gamer is male (“Hey guys…”, assuming a spouse is female, etc.) to prize girls in short skirts at the LVO to semi-off color commentary about female-oriented factions in the setting (the various slang terms people have used for my beloved Sisters of Battle) to the widespread and prevalent use of rape and other sexual violence-related language to describe having lost an overly sophisticated game of toy soldiers. There are other, more toe-curling examples I’ve run into, but the short version is it’s rampant. That is not to say every gamer, or every game group does this. Indeed, the group I play with right now is, by and large, awesome about stuff like this.
The issue is I’m never surprised.
Not when it shows up at an event, or a comment thread, or a casual comment over a game. Nor is it exceptional – pathetically, this kind of thing doesn’t stand out.
And that is not okay. It’s wrong, for a number of reasons:
- Because it’s wrong. Just flat out.
- It’s bad for the hobby now. Some number of women (I know some of them) have bounced right off the hobby because they were made to feel unwelcome in it. You’ve lost potential opponents. Potential tournament winners. Potential painters whose work inspires you.
- It’s bad for the hobby in the future. I don’t have children, but if I do in the future, I’d love to pass my hobby on to them. To teach them about the game I love. But if I had a daughter? I don’t know that I’d do that to her.
That the hobby is presently male-dominated is not an excuse. “Well, when men get together…” is not an excuse. We, as a hobby, need to make it clear that there are no excuses for being exclusionary, for driving people out of the hobby.
Which brings me to why Frontline’s response on the podcast was so disappointing. It was a wasted opportunity. They hand-waved this off as something that they can’t really discuss, just some social thing, a local group problem, etc.
Frontline, for better or worse, has a pretty significant voice in the hobby. “Yes, it’s a problem, and no, it’s not okay” would have actually meant something from them. Every time it’s ignored, or you don’t call someone out because it’s just how they are, or “Boys will be boys”, or any other excuse to not stand up to it, what’s actually happening is you’re tacitly endorsing it. You’re letting people continue with the assumption that it’s okay, because no one said anything.
I think it’s especially galling that they took a pass on it after commenting that they thought it was inappropriate for (according to rumors), some judges at the ATC tournament in Tennessee to openly carry fire arms. They’ve talked about social aspects of the game before. That’s not why they let this slide.
It’s a problem, and it needs to be dealt with. So when your opponent makes a crack about your female models, uses “rape” as a description, or anything else – just do your part. A quick “Hey, could you not?” is enough to help.
Help make the hobby a little bit of a better place.