14 comments on “Bringing Sexy Back: Female Imagery in D&DNext

  1. While I run the risk of flames by merely commenting on this post, I want to applaud you for what you’ve said here, mostly. While I am personally a fan of women who have ‘a little more to them’, I don’t think that skinnier figures should be frowned upon either. In the same way some people cannot help their ‘larger’ figures, some also can’t help being tinier than most.

    Extremely disproportionate/unrealistic body shapes though definitely as well as over-sexed, half naked, bikini armor bullshit. Also, pictures of women always taking the rear, needing help, or doing mundane crap is also stupid.

    Any way thanks for being brave enough to write posts like this, I sure as hell wouldn’t touch the topic with a ten foot pole. I’ve gotta say though the “reward” at the bottom was more nightmare fodder than anything ;).

    • Thanks for taking the time to reply. I have a fair bit of respect for your work, even though you and I don’t always see eye-to-eye.

      That said, I think that people are all to often looking for an excuse to include a “realistic” skinny woman. Yes, there are skinny women and, yes, some of them could participate in the activities we would associate with fantasy adventuring, but they should be the exception, not the rule. I would be perfectly happy with a little “reverse discrimination” where the art skews the other way for a while, if for no other reason than to promote some awareness on this topic, both at and away from the table.

      As for the flame wars, I encourage people to try. Just know that I have advanced degrees in sarcasm and profane mockery. 🙂

      (And, yeah, that picture squicked me out too)

      • I know this is from a while back, but I wanted to say this. While I agree that this is a serious issue and know you meant well, the policing of women’s bodies in general is a serious issue, and that includes smaller women as well as larger ones. All women in our society receive crap about their bodies, and “you look like an adolescent” or “oh my gosh, you are WAY too skinny!” or “you must be anorexic” hurt a lot if that’s your natural body type. I have known girls like this, and since I’ve lost weight, purely by eating better, I get far more discouraging criticism about my body than when I weighed about the same as Katya Zharkova except _8 inches shorter_ and with no muscle whatsoever. The ideal would be to have as many body types represented as fairly as possible without shaming any of them.

        Go back to the 50’s and 60’s. I see this meme all the time: pictures of models from that time, who tended to weigh more, along with tons of advertisements from the era encouraging women to use their products to put on weight NOW! People will like you if you put on weight! You don’t have any friends because you’re so skinny! Etc., etc., etc. And you had people going “Yeah, this is how it should be!” But all I can see is the exact same thing we’ve got today: we were always policing women’s bodies. We were always trying to uphold a little box of perfect that, realistically, so many people are going to fall short of. The ads were every bit as hurtful and harsh as the diet ads you see today.

        BMI is also not a very reliable measure. For more info, please read: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439

        Personally, my BMI is deceptively small (as in, I sometimes can’t wear clothes made for “average” people because I’m too large, yet my BMI places me as nearly underweight!). Then there are people who weigh more due to muscle, so their BMI calls them “overweight,” but they look much smaller.

        Overall, I’d say I agree with your post and am glad people are thinking about this and taking steps in the right direct, but sometimes the tone made me wrinkle my nose a bit because of the above issues. If it weren’t clear, I’m a woman, so this stuff is important to me.

      • I think my tone is always going to come across as wrong for this type of discussion because, well, I’m a guy. My prose reflects that in a way that can’t be changed. Despite the fact that I was raised in a feminist environment and my attempts to avoid as many of the patriarchal traps as I can, I still am subject to a certain amount of bias because I am what I am. I can work to minimize the hurtfulness and callousness of my behavior, but I don’t think there’s a way to eradicate my predilections,at least without amputating a large portion of my passion, imagination and creativity.

        There are several reasons why I am inclined towards heavier women and tend to be more concerned about the societal pressures to be thin than many other feminist topics. To begin with, I’m round-ish myself, descended from Russian stock. I’m of an age where very little of my identity is derived from my appearance or whether or not the average woman finds me attractive. All of us will end up a little saggy and pudgy over our lifetimes because of something that has been referred to unkindly as “millennial sag.” It is, at least in my impression, a natural byproduct of time.

        No, what truly tears at my heart strings is pushing women to be something that is at odds with biology and, through the miracle of Photoshop, may not be real at all. While I am generically disturbed by society’s tendency to police women’s bodies, there’s something about the impossible idolatry of the zaftig that makes my heart ache. One picks one’s battles in life and this is one I find myself called to fight. That doesn’t mean that I am ignorant of accepting of all the other ways a person’s identity and self-esteem can become corroded, nor does it mean that I am unaware that there are perfectly happy and healthy women with a low BMI.

        That said, I wasn’t aware of the weaknesses of BMI. It seemed like a convenient shorthand for the things that I wanted to express. When I use words like “zaftig” and “Rubinesque”, people tend to look at me funny. Hell, neither of those words are in FireFox’s built-in spell check. If you know of better terminology for these concepts – or for more appropriate concepts, if you know of them – please, feel free to help me become a better person (and, no, I don’t mean that sarcastically).

  2. Pingback: Respect HER!!! « The Chaotic Soul

  3. This is a big issue. I know that some of my Facebook friends who are Female Gamers have protested and stopped playing certain video games based on the stereotypes of women within those games. It’s something that WotC and other fantasy game companies should really consider.

  4. Replying here because the “reply” button is not showing up on your post. P: And this got a bit longer than expected, so forgive me. This is something I do care a lot about, and I can tell that you care too, so I didn’t want to skimp on anything here.

    I do understand that. For the record, I would say that, on a general level, the pressure on heavier women is greater, and the pressure on older women is greater as well. Fat-shaming and cultural obsession with youth (particularly for women, who are culturally infantilized) are both big deals. To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with limiting your discussion to solely one such issue.

    It’s just that even to smaller women, the message that “Your body is wrong! Fix it!” can still be extremely virulent and extremely commonplace. I think, if you’re going to engage in this discussion, it’s best not to stick a number on it (as with the BMI) and say, “If it’s not THIS standard, it doesn’t make the cut.” That’s still excluding women, and bodies are simply not given to that kind of generalization. This is not so much a matter of making sure thin women have someone to relate to — because you can just look at Hollywood and fashion magazines and there you are — but one of not quantifying what’s “good” and “bad” when it comes to our bodies. What’s good is being healthy, which is not antithetical to being smaller _or_ to being larger. Binary oppositions (two things are necessarily opposed, one sort is good, the other sort is bad) are harmful. Concepts like “real women have curves” (or anything following the pattern “real women [something or other]”) are also inherently damaging because all women are real women, and upholding one body type as “real” implies that others must be “fake.” Not that you invoked the “real women” concepts; it just seems like something that makes sense to bring up while I’m talking about oppositions and what not to go for.

    It’s one thing to encourage accepting our bodies for what they are, to criticize thought and media which uphold “skinny as possible” as the must-have figure and exclude the many who don’t have it, and to discourage unhealthy behavior in pursuit of a tiny figure. It’s another thing to discourage and exclude a smaller body type *itself* because you are going to hurt women that way. Do you get my gist here?

    Comparing fully-grown *women* to adolescents simply because they’re thin is one thing that irked me in specific. They don’t have the bust and build of an adolescent, they have the bust and build of the women that they are. Again, infantilization is already something we have to struggle with.

    On the other hand, it’s obvious that there is really only one female body type being represented in conventional fantasy material, and it ain’t larger ladies. This is definitely something to rail against! I’m not really sure of something you can use in place of BMI here. Any alternatives to BMI (as BMI itself in medical practice, from what I understand) are geared toward determining a person’s body fat content in order to determine the risk of heart disease, not concerning body type at all. I would just ditch that concept entirely myself due to the issues with it. Bodies really are extremely variable.

    See, this is one of my favorite sites:


    This is a pretty small sampling, so I’m sure there’d be even greater variation if it were larger, but in cases where there are people at the same height and weight (particularly people of the same gender), you can often see some definite variation. I’ve also seen pics before with, say, 5 women at the same height and weight who definitely did not look it. There are so many other factors at play — muscle level, age, fat and muscle distribution, hormone levels, etc. — that I don’t think any kind of chart or formula can really convey body types properly.

    As for what I’d encourage instead… hmm. I think you’re on the right track with your list other than the BMI thing. Rather than that, I’d say this: make sure women markedly larger than your average movie star are well-represented. If everyone looks like Megan Fox in Transformers, you are definitely missing the mark. Make sure proportions check out. Make sure varying degrees of fat and muscle are depicted (this includes the breasts bit).

    • It’s not letting you reply where you want because it prevents too much nesting. If it didn’t, the indentation would cause problems.

      I think you’re missing my point somewhat. I am vehemently opposed to shaming of all sorts, but more so when it comes to women’s issues because, sadly, the denigration of women is more tolerated in our society. Don’t get me wrong, I get all twitchy about the gross mischaracterization of male culture, but given that men hold a dominant position in our society, it calls to me less as something that needs my attention. I feel the same way about anti-intellectualism.

      The thing is, when you’re talking about art guidelines, you have to have a template system so that you can say, “I don’t want this, this or this. I would be more likely to accept *that*.” Again, I used BMI as the system I was most familiar with. In the future, I will put more effort into researching other systems.

      • Huh? Now I’m pretty confused. I didn’t bring up men’s issues at all. Some of the things I talked about affect men to some extent too, but as you’ve noted, they affect women much more strongly, and how they affect women is pretty much all I was discussing. Trust me, I know all about the denigration of women, experiencing it every day. 😛

        I don’t really know what to recommend. You really won’t find any alternatives to BMI that aren’t very inappropriate to your goals (they’re things like waist-to-hip ratio and caliper-measured body fat levels, as indicator of obesity-related health risks) because BMI wasn’t designed for this kind of thing anyway. I suppose the pictures on that chart could be valuable even if the numbers are basically a load of crap.

  5. Your requests are quite reasonable to be honest. A female warrior would look like she could actually world a sword.

    Although if you ever see a fat or even chubby soldier in any army, you know who’s going to die first. Unless they’re a Mage of course, fuckin spellcasters.

    Anyone who can run for extended periods of time in heavy clothes is going to be very visibly strong. No one, no matter the gender, is going to look like Samwell Tarly if they’ve devoted their life (or even a year and a half) to adventuring.

  6. Hello past commentators! Guess what? 5 years later and the issue is the same, but D&D Next (5e) is out, and this edition has been more responsible about representing the female form. Basically, I think this article can serve as reminder to all who play RPGs to be aware of the problem.

    My addition to this topic is to remind us that we are talking about a fantasy game vs realistic bodies. I don’t think they should or can be treated the same. IMHO let fantasy be fantasy, but let’s expand the definition of what is desirable and be mindful of what our archetypes say about our own minds when developing our games. I’m sure you agree that we need to allow for less restrictive/unattainable and more positive ideals for body types, but also that there are far worse examples of body shaming, racism and prejudice towards non-normative choices than we find here in our favorite passtime.

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