For many women in gaming culture, sexist behavior happening is cause to look up and say, “Oh, is it a day ending in ‘y’ again?” It is depressingly common, and as I’ve said before, if dudes had to put up with half of the bullshit from their “friends and allies” that we do, they’d run in terror. On top of whatever misogynistic crap that we have to put up with in the rest of our lives.
As I am a firm believer that you should get to have at least one space in your life that is free of jerks, I would like to talk about how to address sexist behavior when it crops up in your gaming circles. And in some cases, tell you how to recognize that behavior for what it is when something happens that unnerves you but you can’t quite put a name on it. I’d also like to point out that bad behavior does not have to directly target you to affect you.
So, first off, what do you do when someone says or does something egregiously sexist in front of or to you? There are multiple ways to handle this, depending on your comfort levels. If you feel safe, or like everyone else there has your back, call that shit out. “Hey, that thing you just said was really sexist. And I’d appreciate it if you knocked that shit off.”
If you’re not sure about the rest of the group, you can talk to or email the problem player or the GM privately. Clearly state what the problem behavior was and how it effected you. Be prepared, no matter how calm and clearly you state the issue to be called over-emotional and hysterical. If your GM engages in this behavior, it may be time to switch gaming groups.
If you witness this behavior directed at other women in the group, or even other guys (i.e. homophobia, calling them pussies for not wanting to do something…), first, ask the person who is being picked on what they would like to do about it, if they would like you to call that shit out in the future, or if they would like you to back them up to the GM. Do let them know that you will be speaking to the GM about how what was said bothered you, leaving them out of it as much as possible if they don’t wish to confront it.
Now, what constitutes sexist behavior: misogynistic slurs like bitch, pussy, or the dreaded ‘c word.’ Unwanted touching often with the insistence that they just want to massage your shoulders because you look tense. Constantly giving you unwanted explanations for things you already know because you have been playing as long as, if not longer than they have. Trying to play your character for you and offering advice you haven’t asked for on how to play your character. Hitting on you via your character. Raping your character without having previously cleared this with you as integral to the storyline.
Now, dudes. How do you deal with this when you see it? If nothing else, a simple “Dude, not cool,” goes a long way. Do not make a big deal of it unless the person being picked on is ok with it. Talk to them separately, or email. You can also talk to the GM separately. If you’re the GM you can kick the offender out of the game. If the GM is the big offender, you may have to find another GM, which I understand can be challenging, but even one sexist person can have a seriously deleterious effect on your group.
If you’re having trouble keeping players, particularly female or POC or queer players in your game, a sexist asshole(s) might be to blame. And you don’t have to keep them around. It is ok to kick people out of your groups because of bad behavior. It really is, in spite of what the Five Geek Social Fallacies tell us.