Thursday, September 7, 2017

An Unexpected Gender Experiment

When I resurrected my gaming hobby several years ago, I did it as a father bringing his 4 daughters and wife into the hobby. For me, this was a really cool experience and I wanted to share it so I started this blog, the Pink Dice Chronicles. Now, years have passed, daughters have grown up and moved out and it is me and friends just playing now. Along the way though, I found that I wanted to help more people in the hobby, so I started a twitter account, and the PinkDiceGM twitter handle was born.

On twitter, I accidentally started an unexpected gender experiment. I left off anything to indicate my gender, not on purpose. With a name like PinkDiceGM, I must be a woman, right?   So the experiment began without me even noticing it.

Now I've been around the internet (been online since '92) and I know there are always jerks and trolls. Twitter is no exception. When I ran into jerks here and there, I did what I have learned to do. Engage politely, and then block if needed. I had to do this a lot. The biggest difference, in hindsight, was my experience was filled with a lot more people arguing semantics. At first I didn't think anything of it. Now I wonder. Were these arguments targeted at me because of my perceived gender, because they certainly weren't based on merit of argument. I also had the experience of having to block several followers for plagiarizing my content. When you post a #GMTip one day and see someone else posting it reworded the next day as a #DMTip, it feels rotten. Again, I block.

At least once along the journey I was also accused of being an overly sensitive millennial, which anecdotally I also find amusing.  Keep in mind that I've been gaming for over thirty years across every version of D&D. I'm no millennial; my daughters are millennials, not me, not that it matters. It's just another useless label.

Throughout all of these negative experiences, no one ever stood up for me. I had to stand up for myself. Is that just part of our culture, to let folks fight their own battles, even when someone is obviously being a jerk? I don't know.

The other side of the coin I saw was the attraction of people looking for women in gaming. Several times people tried to include me in special lists and refer me to people as a "woman in gaming". I felt a bit of disappointment, as did the people that made the mistake, that I wasn't a woman. Being an overweight middle-aged straight white guy in the hobby is nothing special, and my voice isn't that unique.  For me it is sad in two ways. It is sad that we have so few women in the community. It is sad that my contribution is somehow judged differently by my gender, for better or for worse.

I remember the countless horror stories about being treated badly at the table. I recall the entire groups of people that have been ignored or portrayed poorly in our gaming culture. I hold to heart the matra "Not about us without us".  In these times ahead, it becomes even more important for us to focus on protecting those in our community. Complacency is the enemy here. If you see someone unfairly attacked, get involved. If you see diverse voices and ideas being ignored, say something.  Keep in mind, that for everything you might believe, the opposite might as well be true. We don't all have to always agree, but we should all be working to allow all voices to be heard without fear.

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