Some of my lady-friends have voiced a common complaint: they have to organize the freaking Halloween/Christmas/Goodbye parties at work, not because they want to, but because they’re asked to. It’s a thankless job, and one that seems to fall deferentially on the shoulders of the employed woman.
I can’t help but notice a similar dynamic on my local larp scene. It’s no secret that larp tends to skew male, at least in the New Jersey area, though I’ve seen changes in gender balance for the better during the three years I’ve spent watching the scene.
Although more women than ever are attending games, I noticed that a proportionally smaller number of the women take on leadership roles in game or out of game. While there are wonderful women GMs and storytellers on the scene, generally, men predominate. Often, when I see women on GM teams they’re doing traditional lady work (read: often-thankless organizational jobs behind the scenes) — gathering props, making player databases and other clerical work, booking venues, etc — not the high-profile creative work of inventing stories and running plots. Maybe this is a lag problem — a lot of women are new to the scene, and perhaps want to familiarize themselves with it before stepping up. Maybe the women on the scene are happy with the status quo. But maybe encouraging more women to run games would help the balance too.
I don’t think that anyone has created this imbalance with malice and forethought; the gaming community is far from the only part of our culture with skewed gender ratios. But like other skewed areas of our culture — politics, science, etc — the gaming community has a lot to gain from including more women. And the imbalance isn’t going to change itself. According to my physicist husband, whom I trust on matters like this (because SCIENCE!), polarized systems in nature stay polarized unless you put in work to change the balance. In other words, unless people actively try to get women more involved in running and designing games, inertia will prevail.
Here are some strategies for changing that imbalance: seek out and mentor women GMs and game designers. Gently encourage your female friends to step out of their comfort zones and start running games. Publicly thank women who do clerical work for your game. Think twice about assigning clerical work to women. Support women who do run and design games. Invite women to your games specifically and listen to their suggestions and concerns.
I think larp is a beautiful medium for telling stories, and I think women have a lot to add to this conversation. Where one woman goes, many women follow, and that’s good for everyone.
Watch this space in the coming months for some link love aimed at lady gamers. I’m sure there are some other cool venues for women gamers and game designers out there, but for starters, check out these Beautiful Brains Women in Gaming Chats or RPGirl Zine. There’s also the Facebook group The Larpettes. Know of more lady-gamer spaces? Let me know in the comments.