Friday, October 17, 2014

The enemy within

Author's note Dec. 31 2014,  Tracy thanks for taking the time to read this post it would have been great if you had done so a few months back when I wrote it. Sorry to see it took you so long to find it. Maybe if you hadn't blocked me? On that note I'd like to add that I'd love to continue our conversation on this matter if you're up to it. Are you? Or will you prove everyone else right by hiding behind G+'s block feature?

BTW thanks for the extra traffic!

Carry on...

I usually keep away from commenting on the whole gamergate issue unless it is something that warrants highlighting as is the case of this article brought to light to me by +Tracy Hurley last week. The article titled "Misogyny and the Female Body in Dungeons & Dragons" develops some points by misquoting the original articles. Tracy's response to me highlighting those points was, should I say, less than professional, and eventually led to a blocking (apparently a common habit of hers). Now if the whole gamergate issue is supposedly about questioning journalistic ethics, which it isn't, it is simply unacceptable to feed these trolls by giving them a reason to point out unethical journalistic practices in the group that supports female rights. Tracy brings up a post that misquotes the original articles to point out issues with gender equality. As rightful as the author's position may be, one can't simply do this kind of thing and walk out unscathed.

If the bogus idea that gamergate is about journalistic ethics is to be trampled, actions like this can't be tolerated. This is like planting or faking evidence in a trial. If caught, the criminal walks, no matter how guilty. The fact that Tracy is willing to go to such an extent as to reference or promote such articles and in doing so open the doors to the trolls to do more damage under the guise of "journalistic ethics" leads me to believe that Tracy isn't interested in the well being of women, she's interested in the well being of the fight. The fight gives her purpose and to perpetuate the fight women she can never let them be seen as equal to men, she is the enemy within.

The article addresses two old Dragon Magazine articles and raises a few points: female characters are limited in classes they can be and taking the thief as an example it claims the thief character is sub-par to its male counterpart. Added to that Tracy claims the rules are portrayed as "special" as if women were an appendix or afterthought. The article as written seems pretty convincing unless you happen to have copies of those two Dragon Magazine issues, as is my case. When you read the original articles you get a different and much broader picture.

Two Dragon Magazine articles are referenced "Len Lakofka. “Notes on Women & Magic — Bringing the Distaff Gamer into D&D.” The Dragon 1.3 (October 1976), pp. 7-10." and "P.M. Crabaugh. “Weights & Measures, Physical Appearance and Why Males are Stronger than Females; in D&D. The Dragon 2.4, pp.19-20. (October 1977)"

With these two magazines at hand lets go point by point:

Female characters are limited in the classes they can be.

Aaron, the article's author, makes an issue of the usage of the word may. Lakofka, the Dragon's article author wrote "There will be four major groups in which women may enter. They may be FIGHTERS, MAGIC USERS, THIEVES and CLERICS.", so based on this Aaron claims it is "clearly sexist language employed in this article (where Lakofka allows women to participate in game fictions through his use of the word “may”)".

Aaron fails to lookup the characters at the time and realize that at the time those were the available classes. If we reference the Moldvay Basic Red Rules (January, 1981, five years after the Dragon article) page B9 clearly reads "A human may be a cleric, fighter, magic-user or thief" Take note that Moldvay uses the word "may" regardless of player or character gender. Lakofka isn't limiting women; fighters, magic users, thieves and clerics was all there was back then.

The thief character is sub-par to its male and basically a sex symbol.

Aaron goes on showing how female characters are less capable when fighting than male ones by using the thief as an example and also focuses heavily on the charm and seduction powers of the thief to drive the point that this is stereotypical and portrays women as using their beauty and body to get what they want. Once again reading the Dragon Magazine article and knowing the rules of the time we see that that thieves did not have the fighting skill of the fighter class, and in particular the female thief requires less XP per level and is multi-classing with magic user. Magic users don't have the fighting skills of fighters, is it no wonder this is conveyed in the rules to these thief-magic-users as well? Aaron focuses on a set of spells he deems sexist, but hides the fact that the female character also has the following spells light, read languages, tarot reading, sleep, mirror image, detect magic, ESP and knock. So less with XP per level and magic use, no wonder fighting skills get hit a bit. Aaron does not do a comparison adjusted by XP and magic power, he just claims "Lakofka works to show the ways in which women fight at a disadvantage to men in a variety of contexts" and leaves it at that.

As a player who, like many of you, has played more than the uber strong fighter I know there's more to overcoming challenges in a dungeon than sword swinging yourself out of a problem. Is Aaron actually reducing the options of women by stating that the only relevant feature of a character is her fighting skill? I believe there's more potential to a thief-magic-user than just sword fighting.

Women rules are portrayed as "special" as if women were and afterthought.

Since the article focuses only on women Tracy goes on to claim this is sexist because "the default is thief is male whereas special rules are needed for a female thief".

Now aside from Lakofka's modified XP levels and spell powers, the second Dragaon article by Crabaugh brings up some modifiers like + 2 CON, + 1 DEX and - 1 STR for female characters. Tracy sees this as "special rules", now she needs to be reminded that math lacks gender and

women + 2 = men + 3, is just the same as: women = men + 1

If the article provides + 2 CON, + 1 DEX and - 1 STR modifiers to women, it could very well been written as - 2 CON, - 1 DEX and + 1 STR modifiers for men. The article would then be centered around men and the so called "default thief" in the rulebook would then be female. All it took was to multiply everything by - 1 and your whole argument got debunked Tracy.

The default is not male as Tracy claims, the default is male and female and only after the Dragon Magazine modifiers are applied does the reference points change, and the reference can be either male or female.


After pointing out the issues with the article Tracy's response came along with some unfit language and when I asked for a structured rebuttal or comment on my comment I got this and was quickly blocked afterwards.

Now I've never played with gender differences like the ones mentioned in the article nor of any other type. Yet that doesn't mean I'm going to accept an article like this as valid. You can't prove the right thing by the wrong means Tracy and your means are obviously wrong.

I see comments out of context to make them seem sexists. I see parts of the articles hidden to emphasize the difference between men and women to make women seem "less" than men. I don't see a thorough analysis that would show that women are equal if not better than men. A tunnel-vision focus on fighting without portraying the other aspects of the character class and its impact on roleplay. 

Overall I see a construction of arguments based on false or biased quotes of the reference material. When this is pointed out the response is to block me so the article deficiencies can't be refuted. To what purpose if not to perpetuate the fight? To what purpose if not to support biased journalism?

We need more than awareness to "level the field between men and women in D&D" as Tracy mentions in her post. We need to move forward and provide working solutions to achieve this. From Tracy I get the following: a misquote of some 35 year old articles, a refusal to have a conversation and a lack of a "fix" aside from "throw it away". It's 35 years old Tracy, are you trying to regurgitate the past to get more fuel to drive your war?

Many of us want a greater representation of women in the hobby, we want a level field, we want this for minorities too, but you undermine this. This is like court, no matter how sure you are the suspect is guilty you can't make up evidence. If you do, the suspect walks.

Tracy, I've tried to be impartial with your position towards others in the past, but now I see you don't want a level field between men and women, you want a fight. A perpetual fight that leads you to dig deep into the past so you may falsely portray an unlevel field so you may continue fighting. You're not interested in the well being of women, in equality, in representation, you're interested in the well being of the fight. You're the enemy within.

The original exchange can be read here

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