• How to Build Sexism

    by  • March 11, 2012 • Essays • 9 Comments

    When you’re building a world for a game, you might want to add sexism to the mix. Here’s a way you can do it.

    Get a piece of paper and make two columns. Put men on one side, women on the other. Write down a list of gender roles for men and women. Don’t worry about making sure there are the same number of roles in each column.

    Write down what punishment happens when someone steps outside their gender role. These punishments don’t have to be balanced for each gender role or each sex.

    Write down what reward happens when someone stays in their gender role. Like punishments, the rewards don’t have to be balanced. Furthermore, the reward can be for either sex.

    As you’re doing this, check for inconsistencies, contradictions and a lack of balance between rewards and punishments. When you find them, seriously consider enhancing them. When you don’t, seriously consider adding them.

    That’s sexism.

    If anyone wants to give this a try or share their thoughts, comment!



    I'm a tabletop roleplayer, a larper and a video gamer. I run games, play games, remix games, talk about games, critique games, read games and have opinions about games. Sometimes, I do that online. I also have a passing fondness for making food.

    9 Responses to How to Build Sexism

    1. avatar
      Ben Lehman
      March 13, 2012 at 00:15

      I just wanted to say that I really liked this article. Nothing to add.

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      • avatar
        Kim Lam
        March 13, 2012 at 02:03

        Thanks Ben!

    2. avatar
      March 13, 2012 at 16:41

      One thing I find very useful to do when thinking about politics (whether regarding gender or race or classes or the political institutions themselves) in campaign settings is to spend some time developing and exploring the distance between the ideology and the practice.

      (Trigger warning on all three links)

      I wrote a piece exploring this for one society in one campaign setting on my blog: http://retiredadventurer.blogspot.com/2012/02/dawnlands-women-on-plains-of-kadiz.html

      Here’s a related piece from rpg.net on the same topic but with a slightly different emphasis: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?603801-Atrocities-in-games&p=14717814#post14717814

      This can be used to drive adventures. From the same rpg.net thread, here’s one of my introductory adventures for the setting, assuming the PCs are from that same culture: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?603801-Atrocities-in-games&p=14722880#post14722880

      Anyhow, I hope these are of interest.

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      • avatar
        Kim Lam
        March 14, 2012 at 15:12

        Thanks for the links! It looks like you put a lot of thought into the nuances of the sexism in the culture, which is pretty cool.

      • avatar
        March 16, 2012 at 08:21

        Your links reminded me how complex a role playing game can be in terms of story and choices. Thank you it is something I forgot could exist in RPGs.

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    3. Pingback: Gender in the Fifth World | Gaming As Women

    4. avatar
      March 19, 2012 at 19:51

      If any of you are interested in how sexism can be well built in a setting and used to enrich a story go read Homeland the first book in the Dark Elf Trilogy by R. A. Salvatore, the man does an excellent (and disturbing, nauseating, etc.) work describing the Drow society of the Forgotten Realms settings city Menzoberranzan and how the Drow are in fact inflict pain, madness, death and rape (this last one is done by the women that rule the city to both the men and women that are their subordinates and it can be both physical and mental and can be done in person or trough a proxy) on their own kin long before they ever even bother to go menace the surface races and they only bother with surface dwellers because their goddess tell them to (in order to keep her people in her thrall and under her complete control) otherwise they would be happy just stick to the above mentioned city ,,politics” and to go bother their neighbors when they want that extra little oomph in their lives.

      This is used to show us that most Drows are not in fact ax crazy and/or sadistic in their lives for their own satisfaction, most Drows are evil because by the time they are adults their society has twisted them so much by its own lack of morals, empathy and laws that they do not know how to be anything else but ax crazy and/or sadistic.

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      • avatar
        March 19, 2012 at 20:54

        This would be fine if the setting was used to reinforce the message that “sexism is bad”. But as it is, there’s a whole lot of horrible baked into that setting that just gets REINFORCED by the narrative, not the least of which is that a matriarchal society is of course degenerate, amoral, and inherently evil. Because anything run by women is automatically evil, amirite? (Let’s also not forget that drow play into the “dark skin = eeeevil” trope as well, which is wonderfully racist in addition to all the bullshit sexism). You also have rape used as a shorthand for evil, which is not only repugnant and sexist but lazy writing in addition. The outcome of “all drow are evil” actually makes the setting MORE sexist, because it’s logical extension of inherently misogynistic assumptions about what a female-dominated society would look like.

        I’m sorry, but Kim’s post stands as written.

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        • avatar
          March 19, 2012 at 22:23

          ,,I’m sorry, but Kim’s post stands as written.”

          I am sorry but I can not understand the context of that statement. Please explain to me as if I was a child (no sarcasm intended).

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