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[Guest Post] Thoughts on Women in LARP

2011 October 18

A while ago we asked you all what you enjoy doing with your time, and whether you had any thoughts on your hobbies from a gender perspective. A fair few of you got in touch, and following on from Jo’s post on black metal yesterday, here’s Al on the soapbox…

“That’s pretty geeky,” laughs the guy in the pub. “I bet you don’t get many girls doing that!”

I sigh inwardly. I’ve just outed myself as a Live-Action Roleplayer, and although he’s never heard of it before, my drinking partner instantly knows that all larpers are young, socially awkward, computer programmers, and male.

If you don’t know what larp is, it’s often somewhere between Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft and amateur dramatics. We dress, act and speak as our character – so mages cast spells using vocals, and combat is resolved using specially-made “safe” weapons to hit each other. Sound silly? Damn right, and a great deal of fun too.

I’ve been larping for 16 years, and although many systems and genres exist, I mostly enjoy standard “fantasy” settings, with warriors, wizards, trolls and the like. A game might be 8 friends playing in a local wood, or several thousand at the largest of the weekend fest events.

Rules and Regulations

What’s it like larping as a woman? Well, there’s the rules, for a start.

The rules of a system cover combat mechanics, magic systems and character creation. Superficially, for the past 15 years these have been gender neutral. In every system I have played, skill sets are available to any gender – a woman can play a battle-hardened warrior, just as much as a man can play a one-hit healer.

Illustration showing a white woman with red and orange wild hair in a purple gown. She is holding a crystal ball and wizards staff and wears large ram horns on her head. Illustration: Miranda Brennan, all rights reservedLarp is a physical sport, and other restrictions have far more impact upon your character choices than gender. L has been larping for nearly 20 years. “If you don’t have the physical ability, you are far more restricted from playing a tank than if you are a woman,” she says. “In my experience, what affects somebody’s ability the most is personality: a combination of being larger than life, able to take initiative, play your character, and be part of a team.”

As well as the rules, game creators invent the world into which characters must be placed, and these can come with social prejudices. Usually these are fantastical (“We hate the unliving!”) but a few reflect more real-world issues. For example, a society might be defined as “matriarchal”, such as many of the Drow from the Lorien Trust events, or the Tritoni from Profound Decisions‘ Maelstrom system.

Is this a problem? Perhaps. Cultural distinctions add flavour to a game, but by singling them out, other cultures risk being tarred as “patriarchal” by default. But players who don’t wish to interact with these issues in their games can usually opt out.

“I’m fine with Maelstrom, where there are a couple of cultures with strongly ingrained gender roles,” says R. “I can simply avoid playing a member of either culture and there is still a lot of game available. I don’t want to stop other people roleplaying gender politics just because it’s not something that interests me.”

Young, Geeky Men

Larpers should be used to stereotypes – as we’ve already established, we’re all single, misanthropic male students, yes? Well, no. Larpers are doctors, lawyers and teachers (and, yes, students and computer programmers). We often started as students, but most of my University friends are still larping, and are happily partnered (usually to each other).

Photo: a young white woman with long blonde hair wearing Roman-style armour. Photo by Flickr user Ara from the Odyssey LRP photo pool on Flickr, shared under Creative Commons licenceAnd today, “male” is definitely right out. Women play at every level, both as players and game organisers, designers and plot writers.

We have our own stereotypes. We’re familiar with the Metallica Warrior (rock t-shirt, black jeans, £80 sword) and the Drunken Bum (turns up, drinks beer, smokes rollies).

Women in larp face stereotypes too. The most persistent is the “Healer Girlfriend”. She only came because her boyfriend insisted she’d enjoy it. The description is damning – you aren’t a proper character. Worse, your actions are only defined by a man, and you just exist to enhance his weekend (and act as a trophy for him to parade, of course).

R, who has been a key player and organiser in her local group for many years, agrees. “The stereotype is certainly sometimes accurate, but I don’t think it’s fair because applying it is patronising and dangerous. Even to people it does apply to.”

Healer Girlfriends do exist, albeit briefly. “I effectively started at the Gathering as a Healer Girlfriend,” says L. “In my experience, one of two things quickly happens; either she gets bored and stops playing, or she finds her own game.” L found her own game, becoming one of the most renowned characters – and players – on the field. To call her a Healer Girlfriend now would be laughable.

Another trope is the “Shelf” – the larper in a corset, often generously endowed, and invariably flaunting cleavage for (predominantly) male attention. Characters might resemble the likes of Ce’Nedra (from David Eddings‘s novels), or Tika Waylan (from the Dragonlance books) – or some less salubrious counterpart. Are these roles compatible with calling larp a feminist-friendly sport? Personally, I’ve always struggled with this. Empowerment does not equate to equality.

Ultimately I must have faith in those who choose to play these parts. We have a responsibility to resist stereotypes, and expect more from our fellow players. In film, the corset-wearing pretty girl is too often a bit-part to the male lead, but no larper writes a character in order to be part of the scenery. In your head, this story is all about you. There’s a place for these heroes, and a panoply of other characters, pleasant or otherwise – I could count on one hand the characters I’ve played that I wouldn’t detest if I met them in real life.

Real Life

Ah yes, real life. We tend to let our hair down at events. Late at night, you’ll find more than a little drinking, carousing and singing of some shockingly ribald songs round the campfire. That said, larp events are, for most, a safe, welcoming, accepting place to be.

“I generally find male larpers polite and gentlemanly,” says P. “I don’t remember any instances of sexist behaviour, but then, I don’t feel particularly vulnerable to that type of abuse, and particularly these days I feel confident to challenge it or ignore it. The main sexist type of behaviour is a tendency towards protectiveness, but I don’t find that offensive.”

“I have had someone try to stop me doing heavy lifting during setup and takedown because it’s a ‘man’s job’.”, says R. “That’s hardly related to larp. It’s a piece of sexism ingrained into society in general, which does need a kicking.”

Things have changed over the last 10 years, says P. “The proportion of female to male larpers has improved a lot in that time and changed the dynamics in the field.”

Larping men seem more liberated. The Gathering is one of the more child-friendly events; of the parents I counted this year pushing prams or herding toddlers, nearly a third of them were men. (Think that’s not good? Try counting the same thing in your town centre tomorrow). When there’s no social difference between genders, there’s no pressure for women to “stay home” whilst the men go out and fight the battles. We draw our characters from fantasy, but women aren’t relegated into playing The Arwen.
Illustration: on a blue background a young black woman with elf ears and green hair poses in Roman-style armour with a shield with a dragon on it. Illustration by Miranda Brennan, all rights reserved

Playing Your Part

In larp, you must physically represent – physrep – your character. Costume, weaponry and armour is available to turn anyone into a warrior or a wizard. However, a tall, balding, overweight man can put on a pair of pointy ears and call himself an elf, but he’ll be a tall, balding, overweight elf none the less.

Does this restrict a woman’s game? In other forms of gaming, there’s nothing to stop you playing a character of another gender, but this is much harder in larp. Effectively portraying another gender takes more care, physically and socially, than most larpers are able to put in over the course of a weekend in a tent. The easy option is to go “panto” – fake breasts and falsetto, or badly-drawn beards and that testicle-airing stance of the “man”. Such characters make me wince. They rely on stereotypes – invariably negative – that are almost always drawn from our out-of-character world. Not only offensive, but immersion-breaking to boot.

That isn’t to say that gender-reversal can’t be done well – it can. But for the most part, a woman can only play female characters. Does that really matter? I don’t think so. All larpers make sacrifices over what they can play – the overweight can never play svelte, the clumsy can never play jugglers, the tone-deaf can never play bards. P says she has never felt restricted in her character choices by her gender. “Physical ability has been a much bigger restriction for me,” she says.

I Love Larp

Writing that last paragraph made me remember why I love larp so much. There are so many other things we can play. The recluse can play a talented diplomat; the coward can play the hero. And more pertinently, women can play characters with real power. There is no glass ceiling. A woman playing a warrior will be judged and accepted not on her gender, but on how well she can wield a sword and shield. In Profound Decision’s Odyssey campaign, when a woman was elected Autocrator of Carthage – a bloodthirsty and vengeful nation in-game – nobody gave a damn about her gender, merely whether she could deliver us the victory we so deeply craved over our arch-nemeses, the foul dogs of Rome.

So what does it matter if you can only play women? If you’re judged by your actions, not your gender, not a jot.

Introduce yourself as head of a guild, and you will rarely see that condescending attitude so common in the real world that shouts, “Gosh, and you’re a woman as well! How very clever.”

Take up a battleaxe, gather your spell cards, ally with your foes and betray your friends. There’s a thousand others in this field who don’t care if you’re male, female or neither. Sharpen your wit, hold the line, and cross swords, for they’ll show you no quarter.


  • Al has been larping since he fell in love with the hobby at University fifteen years ago, and to his continuing surprise, never grew out of it. He is currently attempting to bring up his kids to be free of gender expectations, as well as awesome swordfighters.
  • Illustrations by Miranda
15 Responses leave one →
  1. October 18, 2011

    Nice article, Al!

    The best thing for me about LRP (mostly from a crewing perspective, I don’t play very much) is that there are lots of friendly people to meet and chat to. And it’s great to be able to get some fresh air of a weekend!

  2. ribenademon permalink
    October 18, 2011

    I think its naive not to recognise that no matter how fun the game is, there is still an incredible amount of sexism present in and out of character that whilst not intended in the system is being brought in from the society playing the game. Its also wrong to think that its only men that are bringing the capacity for sexism to LRP. I agree that little sexism is to your face in LRP, however I don’t think its exactly absent.

    There is nothing stopping a woman from becoming arch warleader of X or playing a musclebound warrior, or a man from playing a healer should they want to (which seems a little strange that a historically male role has become equated with female weakness in LRP), and there is nothing enforcing play of anyone within a patriarchal or matriarchal society.

    Existence of patriarchal and matriarchal societies within LRP is complicated. The drow for instance are supposedly a highly corrupt and evil form of the beautiful and lovely elves that skip around the woods in the sunshine. Symbols of their evil and unusual weirdness include their black skin, living underground, and women leading them and in fact being physically superior to male drow specimens -all these things are supposed to signify their wrongness and inherent evil -not just being interesting cultural trappings or existence as a tribe of elves who happen to be led by women. I do not believe that there is a matriarchal culture in a LRP world background where that culture is basically a bunch of good guys and total unproblematic winners.

    The other thing is LRP is not totally fantasy, so much of it relies on real world analogues and derives from established themes that its impossible to say that there is no element of patriarchal influence -especially that no one (men or women) are bringing any personal hang ups from real life -invisible and perceptible or not or even cultural.

    Amazons as a pertinent example in mythology are monstrous women on the edge of the civilised world that do sex and kill men and kill undesirable babies. Following another key LRP inspiration, in LOTR, there are no prime female characters, Galadriel is clearly pretty hard and awesome but has a few pages chatting to Frodo about how she is too weak for the ring and likes looking at her magic pool, Rosie -Sam’s love I don’t think actually speaks. Arwen is a trophy character, Eowyn is a lot better but basically gets shat on for not staying in Rohan to be good. Oh and there is a monstrous girl spider called Shelob.

    Have a look at the gender balance of patrons and staff of IC brothels some time. Whilst in Maelstrom certainly the (female) leadership characters of such institutions are wealthy and powerful, to an extent (at least) its driven by a male expectation of female sexuality as available, consumable and cheap. Admittedly this varies from system to system -e.g. in ‘strom the brothel is a sex heavy sex obvious simulation/equivalent whereas in LT last time I checked the faction brothels would be outside/in another obvious IC area and someone would rub your shoulders for a copper. It seems totally mental to me that roleplaying a glorified male ideal of sex work is fun, interesting or empowering.

    It can be argued that if men are stoopid and want to waste their IC cash whilst someone in a corset dances round them -then women (or anyone else) should exploit it. However it narrows and defines women’s roles in LRP and focuses on limitation, whilst one woman might have a great time playing a character making money working in the Chamber of Delights and then using said money and influence from people she has met to powerplay and build her own personal powerbase etc. it can also limit and impact other women in the field. If there is a strong OC game history of female characters being prostitutes and healers, it becomes harder to bust through that glass ceiling to play a warrior or anything else, without being defined necessarily as anything else first.

    The women I know who in LRP who are not that adversely affected by sexism in the field, often end up playing aggressive in your face characters because anything too ‘feminine’ opens them up to male players essentially looking down on them and attempting to exploit them in one fashion or another, even if its just ignoring them and rolling over them. I totally accept that some men and some women want to play hard fighter types whatever, but I also believe that there is also a sense that women MUST play some crappy healer slag OR something totally opposite. That this binary of role exists in a way that it does not for men is what suggests to me that there is a bunch of sexism at LRP.

    Many LRPers are unfit, a bit overweight and so on, the idea that comparative physical prowess holds women back is simply not true. If a faction’s scouts all had to do so many press ups or pull ups or run a certain distance before being allowed to be a scout (and this being accepted!) I might agree with you. I don’t think there is any required physical fitness to be a warrior at LT, Maelstrom or anywhere else. However I can well see the attitude taken in the field that there is some kind of physical prowess required so as to exclude others.

    Its impossible to call it a female friendly feminist support -but only as impossible as anything else, rather I would say LRP is highly positive in of itself as it allows all genders to play and compete alongside each other without restriction, its the players that allow and perpetuate the sexism that does exist and thereby introduce restriction upon both women and men.

    Anyway I enjoyed your post, its not meant to be critical the stuff I say above -just another perspective. :)

    • Miranda permalink*
      October 18, 2011

      I think this is a really good set of comments, thank you for speaking up!

      I agree that little sexism is to your face in LRP, however I don’t think its exactly absent.

      I have definitely had some moments of subtle, well-meaning under-the-radar sexism at LARP events. I feel more comfortable at small-group, non-LARP scene events – urban LARPs, WoD LARPs, or semi-closed community events rather than the biggies like ‘Strom or Lorien, which can require quite a bit of investment (also, camping = argh). Which means my experiences below may be atypical – I don’t know.

      Over the last few years I’ve arrived in a couple of male-heavy games and had one or two male characters suddenly offer me protection, which can be fun to play with/subvert, but also is a well-worn narrative path that often wasn’t what I was initially going for at all! In the past I’ve definitely “gone with it” to avoid upsetting anyone who meant well, and even played up to it because I wanted to stay relevant within the plot.

      I think partly this happens because the romance around protection pledges and so on is not a dynamic that’s possible in a male-heavy setting without transcending a towering amount of heteronormativity, which (sadly) some (many?) LARPS seem to find very challenging indeed. And some of the LARPs I’ve played in have, despite the best efforts of the ref teams, often been male-heavy.

      So when I’ve showed up as a newbie, on some unconscious level at least, there’s been the odd guy who’s had a reaction of “aha, a LADY. New LADYplot dimension now possible!” The silliest iteration of this sort of thing was when I had a dude at an urban-setting game continually go on about protecting me, ostensibly because I was playing the youngest, newbiest combat character. Except, I had the most strength dots in the room. I was the hardest bastard in the game for long periods. I didn’t need protecting. However, being short, curvy, female and so on seemed to mean he couldn’t get his head around that.

      I now anticipate this sort of stuff as an occasional hurdle to be cleared – not so much, as you say, as a feature of LARP specifically as a social dynamic in general. I’m most comfortable, for these reasons, playing with a consolidated group of existing friends of mine. I have, for the record, met a great deal of different men LARPing – and for every irritating assumption I’ve also encountered ace people who’ve been nothing but a pleasure to game with. So like a lot of hobbies, really.

      But I’ve had Healer Girlfriend Treatment happen to me in a high fantasy LARP even though I’d written a bloody detailed background for the character I was playing, and several times a few years ago I’ve had Ref Girlfriend crap where it’s assumed that I’m Only Playing Due To My Relationship, or the recipient of Special Plot, Insider Knowledge, Lenient Treatment, Exclusive Shinies, or all of the above in a contradictory celtic knot of stupid. I wouldn’t deny that a bad ref – of any gender – might engage in these things, but the particular form discussions about this stuff has taken between other players and myself has often been dismissive, snarky, or stamped with the implication that I’ve somehow obtained the above Stuff by providing the ref with sexy fun or whiny cajoling that has Clouded His Refly Judgement. Gendered, in short. Kind of like in Anthony and Cleopatra when everybody thinks Anthony’s been messed up by Wimmin And Their Woman-Business. Which surely sells the ref’s critical faculties just a bit short.

      And yeah, I find Drow quite, quite problematic for the reasons you mention, too. They’re just not designed with the idea that anyone is gonna show up to play – either as Drow or as ‘standard’ elves, who are the pale, pale light-sided analogues to Drow – who isn’t white, I think. Or that’s how it looks to me, anyway.

      Back on the heteronormativity front (and the “analogues in the real world” front) it’s been fascinating watching Odyssey’s ref team blog through the ups and downs of navigating the expectations of their player base around History Versus Fantasy. I think they’ve reacted commendably to the issue of arena heckling and homophobia, too.

      I love the sense LARP gives, though, of imaginative possibilities. I’ve met a whole load of amazing people through LARP – and a good lot of them make up the readership of this site. Which is surely a positive advert, eh. :D

    • north5 permalink
      October 18, 2011

      I agree that little sexism is to your face in LRP, however I don’t think its exactly absent.

      No, you’re quite right, it would be nuts to say so. Larpers are a subset of society, and society is inherently sexist. It’s a better subset, sure, but still exists within UK culture.

      I also believe that there is also a sense that women MUST play some crappy healer slag OR something totally opposite.

      This isn’t something I’ve really noticed. IMHO the women I play with play all sorts of points on that spectrum, if such a thing can be said. Often, a “weak” skill concept (like healer) will be played with a “hard” character concept, like Political Badass.

      Maybe you’re right, I’ll keep my eyes open …

      Many LRPers are unfit, a bit overweight and so on, the idea that comparative physical prowess holds women back is simply not true.

      Oh, that’s not what I meant at all – rather, physical prowess holds back those who … well, lack the physical prowess. Running around in mail with shield all day is just not possible for some players – some women can’t manage it, and some men can’t manage it. For those players, playing a hardcore Tank is out of the question.

      My point was that such physical requirements are more of a constraint on character choice than mere gender.

      I don’t think there is any required physical fitness to be a warrior at LT, Maelstrom or anywhere else.

      I don’t agree. If you’re not fully ambulatory, quick, well-coordinated, and cardiovascular enough to wear armour without grinding to a halt, you will be a poorer warrior than someone who can.

      “Soft” skills like Body Development or higher damage calls can nudge the scales, but only so far.

      Its impossible to call it a female friendly feminist support -but only as impossible as anything else, rather I would say LRP is highly positive in of itself as it allows all genders to play and compete alongside each other without restriction, its the players that allow and perpetuate the sexism that does exist and thereby introduce restriction upon both women and men.


      • Miranda permalink*
        October 18, 2011

        the women I play with play all sorts of points on that spectrum, if such a thing can be said. Often, a “weak” skill concept (like healer) will be played with a “hard” character concept, like Political Badass.

        Yes – I’m lucky to know a lot of imaginative, versatile gamers (across a range of genders) in this regard who put a lot of effort into character creation and background-building. I’ve been thinking about trying a Big Scene LARP lately, and if and when I do, it will be in their company.

        With this: for those players, playing a hardcore Tank is out of the question. – I’d say it depends on the LARP subgenre. For “classic” big LARP-scene jobbies, I understand that that’s the dominant dynamic – for smaller-scale stuff, urban gaming, or games where combat is implied or played out weaponless (World of Darkness LARP springs to mind, and I don’t just mean Mind’s Eye Theater rules, which I’ve never played), then you can literally be anything you want. Which is how I came to be the aforementioned combatbeast without setting foot in a gym. :D

        I had a good discussion a month or two ago with a LARP team organiser (possibly Odyssey) about accessibility and the game, and how wheelchair users could be involved inclusively in it, so hopefully things where there could be improvements are evolving and moving forward bit by bit.

        Gaming for me is a bit like going clubbing: with the right people around you, who actively make the experience better by their company and are interested in the sort of game you’re interested in (be it number-crunchy-stats-tacular or super-story-focused) it’ll be ace. The more open-minded, welcoming and diverse a player base there is, the better the game will be and the more people will learn from each other. To get there, more people have to feel like they can take the plunge, though, and I think things like the Odyssey blog, which is reassuringly open about the feedback it receives and its attempts to build on it, are good things in this regard.

        (Slight tangent: I think the physical build thing is a complex thing, because strength and size and “athleticism” do not always correlate in the way we often popularly think they would. From my illustrator’s viewpoint, this is a good post on that! )

        • wererogue permalink
          October 18, 2011

          I was going to post this thread, but it’s already here :) The one thing I’d add is that while sexist behaviour (in some cases, *extremely* problematic sexist behaviour) is present at most LARPs, they also have a higher-than-normal population of people willing to stand up and out it, and fight all the way to the top to get it changed (or at some systems, sadly, get themselves banned).

          Great article.

        • north5 permalink
          October 19, 2011

          With this: for those players, playing a hardcore Tank is out of the question. – I’d say it depends on the LARP subgenre.

          Oh, yes, totally. I mostly just play – and therefore wrote about – “classic” fantasy larps; a tank would be expected to wear armour, swing a sword, hold a shield, stand in line. In Steampunk larp, it would be enough to wear an Electrum-Infused Longcoat and carry a Thermobaric rifle – enough for anybody!

          I wouldn’t like this just to be about combat, either – I am not co-ordinated enough to be a juggler, funny enough to ringlead a carnival, or mathletic enough to manage a bar in a multi-currency system. I could do all these things in Tabletop, but these are the restrictive, hard skills with which larp is inevitably riddled.

          • Miranda permalink*
            October 19, 2011

            I’m terrible at leadery scheming types, seriously. Even though I technically teamlead this blog, that spills into my gaming not one jot, sadly.

            I just don’t have the gift of strategy OOC, so it’s hard to convincingly have it IC. So I agree on not being able to wing everything in LARP. Maybe it comes with experience? I currently see almost no plot coming before it’s in my face, and can’t strategy my way out of a paper bag. At least I do good surprise reactions… every game needs someone to supply a hugely genuine “WHAT WAS THAT?!” :D

    • October 21, 2011

      Fantastic comments, I couldn’t believe the naivity of the article either and I kind of thought on a feminist blog it might be useful to have someone writing who recognised and could spot sexism at LRP. Turns out you’re all down here :)

      I think it’s not that LRP is a more sexist environment than anywhere else, but that it is a predominently white male hobby, and the preconceptions and privilege of the players don’t suddenly disappear because we’re roleplaying. I play a leader of a matriarchal society, and recently sat through a ritual in which someone told a story about a famous male hero, naming all the rulers (except one, when I reminded him, at which point he acted quite pissy) as male, saying that all the children learning to fight were male, and using phrases like ‘the dog was so strong it took 3 men to hold him back’ and I thought ‘you know what, this is a lot more complex than just saying women are in charge.’

      • Miranda permalink*
        October 21, 2011

        That’s a great example right there, yes, of how deeply a whole lot of attitudes, especially when you’re working with mythic sources, run. Which isn’t to say “myth=sexist” but matriarchal dynamics aren’t the same as, and exist in a unique and therefore rather complicated space compared to patriarchal ones which inhabit language (“it took three men” etc) much more readily.

        “it is a predominently white male hobby, and the preconceptions and privilege of the players don’t suddenly disappear because we’re roleplaying.”

        Yes, I absolutely agree. Your average LARP field is a sea of white- and class plays a role too, especially in high fantasy games. Kit = costs. I have played with people of colour (so I illustrated accordingly. Also because the Elves are Assumed White Except When Drow Who Are Evil trope annoys the piss out of me), but they are rare.

        From my own editorial perspective (I’m BR’s ed, and a LARPer!) I don’t think we should be too harsh on Al, though, who has started the discussion (and is commenting as north5 in this thread), whose aim is to introduce a hobby he clearly loves and wants to help improve, and who did, at my suggestion, interview several LARPing women for this piece. Their experiences are not the same as commenters’ but I am glad they’re having those experiences.

        I don’t think it necessarily follows that he is not a person who “could spot sexism in LARP”, and while I’m loath to put words in his mouth too much, I think he was also hoping to interest new people and focus on the positives… I definitely have had some great games, but I suspect very strongly that field-LARP is a very different environment to my urban games, and I do wonder if I’d have more to shut out and go “la la la” to myself about in a bigger game. Definitely.

        If anyone else would like to pitch a response article which dialogues (respectfully of course!) or offers up further food for thought I’d be very pleased to hear from them ([email protected]).

        I’m very pleased he did write it as now I’m getting to hear from everyone on here as I work out which “big” LARP to dip my toe in…

        Ooh, and I’d like to get our Sarah C’s view on matriarchies in LARP as she was in the Tritoni mentioned in the article, I think.

        • Miranda permalink*
          October 21, 2011

          Wow, I just googled “LARP women”. The first link – the first – was titled “Teh Sexay” and is a forum thread about LARP as a useful geek’s modus operandi for “picking up chicks”.

          First google results are tailored, and the thread itself isn’t so bad and is mainly people sharing dating anecdotes – but even so, that (and the predominantly male-identified poster count) illustrates something, doesn’t it.

          I’m not saying it’s not a great place to meet partners (I’ve done very well on that front myself) but the language, and most of all the fact that when I google “women” I get “dating” and “sex” as first associations, speaks volumes about who some games are often seen as primarily being for… more work/discussion/etc needed, perhaps!

  3. maxcarrion permalink
    September 6, 2012

    I don’t know how to say this without sounding like an awful pig but…. So?

    I can’t disagree with many of the posters, sexism exists in myth, sexism exists in larp, prostitution isn’t the same as equality – even pretend prostitution for pretend money, but I see a lot of moaning and very little acknowledgement of the simple idea that men are not women.

    Sorry to say it but I’m a sexist, at larp and not at larp I treat men and women differently (which seems to be your entire premise of sexism) but I think you have to look pretty hard to find a problem sometimes and other times I think you need to clearly explain the problem to bone headed men like me who just won’t get it otherwise.

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed but men, especially single geek men, but many men, will go to extra efforts to spend time with and impress women, especially women who dress up in corsets and share hobbies with them. It may not be intentional or even conscious, but it’s going to happen, it happens in real life, it happens at work, it happens at larp – sorry, but there’s very few things more natural then men and women treating each other differently – even as a child, if my Dad yelped in pain I would expect him to be fine and tough it out, if my mother yelped in pain I rushed to help – there’s preconceptions deeply ingrained in just about everyone and I’m not sure pointing this out is ground breaking sociology.

    I will freely admit that I am more inclined to offer to escort a woman of my faction on the paths than I am a man, maybe that makes me a sexist pig – maybe it just means I prefer the company of women, I’m more likely to try and date a woman than a man too – at what point is choosing your interaction with one gender over another not ok? That’s not belittling the choice, but a serious question, where is the line where it’s ok to treat genders differently. In my opinion that line is at duty of care – if I can be reasonably expected to offer someone an opportunity then that should be regardless of gender – battle leaders and faction leaders chosen on merit, to not hold someone back on their gender – fine, tell me I cannot roleplay differently with a woman than I do with a man, no chance.

    Some specific examples
    Drow are matriarcal and evil – so? That’s how they were written decades ago (incidently attitudes were very different decades ago), people want to play that culture let them, gender politics has a massive influence on history, fantasy and everyday lives, why can’t it enter “some” larp – especially in bigger systems like LT there are plenty of other factions that are not matriarcal or evil, don’t like it play something else.

    All women in fantasy are tainted – this is pretty true, it’s hard to find many examples where female characters arent at least one of plot device (princess peach), love interest (Arwen), non combatant (Rosie), part of a feminine empowerment plot (Eowyn) or overtly sexualised (Red Sonja). There are a few though and, well, so what? There’s lots of stereotypes and honestly I’ve seen plenty of larp women playing traditionally male stereotypes and many larp men accepting this without question.

    Where’s my equality? I’d quite enjoy playing a prostitute in larp – they can certainly bring in the coin and I think there’s some psychological pay offs I’d quite enjoy, like being made to feel desireable and of value and I certainly wouldn’t mind giving a few shoulder rubs for it. Sadly there just isn’t the demand for it. Personally I think this anti-prostitution sacred cow is destructive to everyone IRL and have no problem with attractive people using their bodies for profit, whether it’s modelling, porn or prostitution, it’s just lucky for women that thier opportunity for profit is much much higher – of course this only applies when people aren’t compelled or tricked into these things, which is much harder to regulate if you make the whole thing illegal and therefore unregulated but this is a whole other discussion but I don’t think a woman who choses to profit through her sexuality (provided it isn’t to others detriment) should be held as a pariah.

    I’m not denying the existence of sexism, I agree it’s a real issue and should be seriously considered, but I think in that consideration you have to respect the fact that men and women ARE different, they are “generally” different physically, motivationally, psychologically but far and away the most important fight in the battle against sexism is ensuring that the “generally” different can be permitted without being a barrier. (e.g. men are “generally” better at and more drawn to spacial tasks, like, say, flying an aeroplane – trying to make 50% of all pilots women would be ludicrous as they only make up around 5% of the applicant pool but ensuring a woman who is of a certain standard and at a certain ability receives the same opportunities and priveledges as a man of the same standards/ability – that’s where we should be aiming, surely)

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