Crossgender roleplay can be a thorny topic at the best of times, but when a player’s portrayal of the opposite sex is offensive and antagonistic, a reader turns to One Geek to Another for advice on handling the situation.
Dear One Geek,
In our gaming group, we have 4 men and one woman. Most of the players play characters of the same sex as they are, but one of the guys frequently plays a female character. This, of course, is fine in theory – however, every time he does so, he plays characters who are as antagonistic as possible towards the female player’s (also female) characters.
We’ve tried having group discussions, personal discussions and even in character interventions about this, but nothing has seemed to work. He just seems to love picking on the other female character, when he’s playing a female.
How do we deal with Ms. Ogyny?
Signed, Notta Hater
Some players have a very difficult time portraying a character very different than who they are as a player (or don’t even bother – we’ve all played with someone who’s characters are all “them” regardless of the setting or character type. Joe the Elf. Joe the Shaman. Joe the Space Marine.) This can cause them to portray different races, sexes or ages as very stereotypical – for whatever stereotype they may identify with that character type. A young person might play any older character as a “grumpy old man”. A person of one race might portray another in a farcical (and yet still offensive) manner. And some men may think they’re roleplaying a woman well, when they’re really being hostile or insensitive to the female players in the group. (The same can be true with women playing male characters.)
Really, however, while on the surface this seems like a male/female issue, it’s at once much simpler and much deeper than that.
As a group, you’ve attempted several methods of communication to let this individual know that his behavior (when playing some of his characters) is unacceptable to the group. It wouldn’t matter if the issue was sexism or racism or excessive violence/sexuality – there’s a social contract between ongoing game groups that allows them continue long-term. That contract pertains to the game staying within what the group determines to be acceptable guidelines. In most cases, this doesn’t have to be hashed out – friends and people who are invited into an existing group are able to pick up on what is or isn’t acceptable, and when they veer out of the group’s comfort zone, most folks will pick up on the rest of the group’s discomfort and move back to within acceptable themes and playstyles.
When someone doesn’t or can’t pick up on the boundaries of the social contract, then sometimes they have to be informed of where those lines are, or at least that they’ve crossed them. Once they’ve had a line pointed out to them, if they are still unwilling or unable to play in a manner that the group as a whole feels is acceptable, they may simply not be a good match for the group, and may need to be asked to leave (a topic we touched on in “How to Split Up The Party”, our August 23, 2009 episode).
In this particular case, since multiple warnings about his playstyle making the group uncomfortable haven’t worked, it may come down to brass tacks. I’d have the DM/GM/ST (or whoever is organizing the games) give “Ms. Ogyny” an ultimatum – either stop playing female characters or stop playing with the group. Since the hostility only seems to come out when he’s portraying a female character, stopping him from doing so with this group may stop the issue.
If not (or if the hostility transfers to Out of Character interactions), he may simply have to be asked to leave the group altogether.
Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Write us at OneGeek@jesshartley.com and your question may get answered in one of our future “One Geek to Another” columns!