Friday, December 31, 2010

Just another Thursday Night on the blogs.

"There are sexist messages in RPG art and maybe we should think about that."

"No, that would just make the artists make shitty art."

The first is a no-brainer. The second, I don't agree with, but the guy saying it is smart and makes strong interesting arguments. Also, several of the comments are smart, specifically from Trollsmyth, TheCramp and Telecanter. Several others are mind-numbingly stupid.

Ah, the internet....


  1. I have spotted your excellent commentary in several discussions about this, Chris. They intrigued me enough to lead me back here.


    Keep up the good work.

  2. Well, thanks! Here's hoping I didn't alienate anyone in the process.

    Well, anyone I'd care about. I hope I thoroughly alienated the people making "Girls are ruining RPGs/something-something-Football" arguments.

  3. What bothers me is not actually the sexism (in the art direction or the comments about it), that I can just roll my eyes at and ignore. What bothers me is when people cavalierly claim that having the sexist cheesecake art is "good" or "natural" and that any attempt to reform or attempt to be more inclusive is "bad" or "unnatural". That really chaffs my ass.

  4. @Greg

    What chaffs my ass is when people say "sexist cheesecake art" as if a work of art had sociopolitical opinions of its own and that this phrase had some inherent, stable, nondebatable meaning.

  5. @Zak

    Oh great, I got into arguments on your blog so I guess it's only fair that you to come do it on mine now. :)

    I and several of my artist buddies do a lot of what is undeniably "cheesecake." One of them is Molly Crabapple who's stuff is *certainly* cheesecake and she wouldn't deny it. I wouldn't call it sexist. But when Greg says "sexist cheesecake art," I know what he is referring to - it's a lot easier than breaking out phrases like "male gaze" and "agency" and the like when trying to talk about a book cover.

  6. @Chris

    Well I don't know what he's talking about.

    There's art that looks -bad- and the people who make it should stop making art and die and all their work should be burned. And there's art that looks good--and it should be kept and treasured and those who make it should showered with fried chicken and oral sex, no matter what alleged "message" someone think it's broadcasting.

    Since all art is either good or bad, therefore these two options cover all images ever produced.

  7. @Zak

    I'll agree that people who make things that look good deserve dump trucks full of crunchy breading and nimble tongues and call it even.

  8. I think there is a huge difference between cheesecake art & demeaning art. I think it can be hard to tell that difference. I don't think it is hard to say "Gor is pretty messed up," but I also don't think you can condemn weird bondage art wholesale. It is tricky, but the point isn't any particular example-- it is the length & breadth. If women are only ever portrayed as damsels in danger of rape & torture-- then you are unlikely to attract women who want a sense of agency.

  9. @mordicai

    We obviously know different women.

    Either way, the punishment/reward bad/good dichotomy still exists, breadth or no.

  10. I'm not saying art of girls getting tied up isn't awesome in its own right; but contrast the "dudes who are kicking in doors with skulls on their belt buckles" motif of DnD to the "Girls who may be on the arm of the dude, or maybe holding his leg, but probably getting molested by a bad guy" -- I don't know.

    The passive/active dichotomy is the one that really gets me. I don't care so much about chain mail bikinis-- but I want to see women that you might imagine are awesome, rather then women who are worthy of contempt or pedestaling.

  11. @Zak

    "We obviously know different women."


    That's ultimately why I think the value of this discussion peters out quickly when it's just a bunch of cisgendered dudes talking. That doesn't mean we aren't allowed to argue it, far from it... but it does mean our opinions on the topic ultimately mean shit all compared to the people it has the most impact (or no impact) on.

    I've had enough conversations with my wife to know she would agree with Mordicai, and with the idea that art is good or bad, but also that she gets more out of art than "I have a lot of blue" or "I am a urinal with a name on it" and she prefers art that doesn't say "you are primarily for raping."

    From what you've said, your friends wouldn't agree. Some of the female porn models I know would agree with Mordicai and what I just said. Some wouldn't, and some would have entire other opinions from both of us.

    But I think this is as far as you, I or anyone else here can get, and I'm cool with that. And I wanna know where my chicken's at.

  12. @Chris

    No. I'm not dumb. I can hear and repeat what i hear women say.

    The idea that art can say (especially most RPG art--what fucking RPGs are you guys -playing-?) "you are primarily for raping" is painfully ignorant.

    I don't know about your wife, but no woman i know has ever even appeared in RPG art.


    "Only an idiot would think RPG art says 'you are primarily for raping'. That is immature and it's condescending to women who actually think about these things."

  13. Okay, Zak? You critically misread *something* about my tone, my intent... I don't know what, but you veered off a cliff there.

    I never said you were dumb. I've explicitly said the exact opposite in this post and several other places. I have no clue how you got "Zak Smith doesn't know what he's talking about" out of "Men arguing about how women do or do not feel about art is only so valuable."

    "Painfully ignorant?" Now I'm going to call bullshit - you know what I meant, you just disagreed and chose to frame it as a literal statement to make it look ridiculous. I meant that in context an image can contribute to a rape culture - but I can practically hear your eyes roll at phrases like that so I was avoiding them. Yes, I think this stuff applies to RPGs: They don't get a pass for being just games.

    We disagree. I get it. I thought we were having a discussion - I didn't realize either of us was actually pissed about it, but I'm going to assume you are if you're going to insult me. I assure you I wasn't and at no point did I purposefully insult you or Mandy. I'm left to assume you either took something I said the wrong way or just don't respect me enough to care what you say.


    Like I say to Zak above, you know what I meant - I think an image can contribute to rape culture. I don't mind you disagreeing, but I wish you wouldn't call either me or Kitty an idiot or immature, or imply we don't think about these things. We both got a kick out of the pic you just posted on your blog with your face buried in "Second Sex," as Kitty had bought a copy from our used bookstore that same day, with the same cover. Beyond academics, though, I assure you we've had to think about these things much more than anyone deserves to.

  14. Yeah, the phrase "Rape Culture" just smells like Kool Aid over here.

    If anyone anywhere in any walk of life looks at a painting or drawing--and again--What The Hell RPG Pictures Are We Talking About Here?--and changes their morals, ethics, or behavior toward others in any way because of it, they are mentally defective, and we should not police art in order to cater to mental defectives.

  15. Which takes me back to the point that you're taking anything anyone says on this topic, and responding to an extreme version of it no one said.

    We aren't talking about images of women being raped. We are talking about a body of work in context and all the sociological signals contained therein, as Mordicai pointed out. When you are a kid of any gender and the only images you see in your brother's or your dad's games are of women existing primarily at the sufferance of or for the purposed of men, that shit adds up.

    I didn't say a kid's going to look at the cover of some book and go rape someone because of it. See above Re: Context.

    I didn't say anything about art being policed by anyone, anywhere, ever. I'm pretty sure this very discussion started with Trollsmyth's very polite, almost painfully gentle "hey, maybe we should think about this some more."

    But now we're just going in circles, which I have no interest in.

  16. "When you are a kid of any gender and the only images you see in your brother's or your dad's games are of women existing primarily at the sufferance of or for the purposed of men, that shit adds up."

    Yeah, and then you turn 13 and you realize everything the culture tells you is a lie and you think for yourself and then--congratulations--you're a grown up.

    And if you don't, I don't need to know you or make games for you or draw pictures for you.

  17. @Zak & Mandy - Hi, I'm the immature idiot who apparently doesn't think about things (except in reality I'm the opposite of all of that and I think about these things an awful lot). Zak, if you think art can't send a powerful message to women that we are primarily for straight men's sexual enjoyment, all I can say is it must be nice to be a privileged asshole who doesn't have to live with the cumulative effects of millions of images that send that very message to girls/women and boys/men every single day. I realize nothing I say about this subject will change your mind; anyone who thinks the phrase "rape culture" "smells like Kool Aid" is clearly not interested in thinking about this topic from a viewpoint other than their own. It will suffice to say that anyone who thinks art can't send a powerful message, including the message that "You are primarily for raping (or for men's sexual pleasure, regardless of your consent)" is willfully ignorant and also has never given much thought to the role propaganda has played in history and culture.

    PS: After this I don't intend to engage with trolls who have so thoroughly mastered Derailing for Dummies.

  18. I appreciate you stating your position clearly enough that I can be sure we completely disagree and that you are exactly the kind of person that I am glad isn't talking to me.

  19. Closing this thread. If anyone else really needs to chime in, email me or get your own blog.