Apparently, according to the data, LARP has a woman problem. We make up around 30% of those who identify as LARPers in the UK (although, there is apparently evidence to show that women are statistically more likely to fill a survey in), but attitudes towards women, their roleplaying and their kit don’t seem to have caught up with that statistic.
I recently started researching for a talk I was going to give about women in LARP and some of the difficulties and barriers that they might face. I’ve postponed giving the talk but instead I thought that some of my research might find an outlet here, on this blog.
As is traditional when talking about issues that directly affect women I’m now going to issue a strange form of apology. I know that there are many roleplayers who don’t see a problem with the way things are, or who think that ‘the woman problem’ has been solved. There are those who like to use roleplay to escape what they consider the political correctness of their everyday lives and don’t want to have to think about also being politically correct while enjoying their hobby. And of course, there are those who just don’t believe that women’s issues are a topic that should be discussed in public spaces. If you all into this diverse group of people then please do feel free to skip over the posts in this series. Although I hope that perhaps you might just have a read of one or two and reconsider your stance, and then consider what you might do in order to improve the experience for your fellow roleplayers and for many women at LARP.
I’ll take this opportunity to tell you a little more about me. I’m currently studying for a degree in History of Art and I generally use Feminist and Marxist methodologies – that is, I use visual culture to explore women’s issues and those other issues that intersect. My primary interests tend to be gaming culture and photography, so I am largely twentieth-century onwards in my studies. My dissertation is likely to be on the visual representation of women in gaming, so some of that will probably spill out onto this blog too.
My initial exposure to LARP, as a woman, wasn’t actually that great. I was invited to photograph Empire and so I had to buy kit before even attending an event. I became increasingly frustrated and disappointed because I couldn’t find a reasonably priced basic costume that was fitted to a woman rather than a man and that wasn’t frilly blouses or dresses. Of course, now that I’m within the community it’s a little easier to source these items, but as a newcomer that can really dampen the spirits.
I was also really surprised that to find out that in fantasy worlds where people can fight dragons and spit fireballs from their hands, there was a notion that women at LARP can’t do things as well as men. I kind of assumed that because it’s a fantasy world then people would just treat others equally, but it seems like that is not the case on occasions. I’d like to leave a bit of video here from Nordic Larp Talks Copenhagen 2015. Ann Kristine Eriksen is discussing what happened when her and sixteen friends made an all-woman regiment for a Danish LARP. Just watch it for about two minutes or so – until 7:00.
So I’ll leave it there by saying that I have a whole load of things that I want to look at. And slowly (but perhaps not regularly) I’ll make it through the list. And I hope that you’ll stay with me as I write about these topics, because I believe that they’re important to talk about.
You might also notice that as this site grows it does some things that you might not consider to be the default norm. You might have to think twice about the way you search for things, or you might find some of the use of language a little alien. Don’t panic! Just open your mind to the possibilities of a society that treats women as equals – both in fantasy and reality!
I look forward to following your articles, as I’m especially interested in this topic. I currently am producing a webseries about LARPers. As I’ve been researching the market, it’s become increasingly apparent to me that we are the only LARP show that is being produced, directed and written by women. Additionally, we are one of the few to have a woman lead character.
I feel like this is extremely important.
Hey Kristen, do you have a link to your webseries? I’d love to see it!
Sure thing! http://www.basicadventuring101.com
Great post and glad you liked the video with Ann!
It’s a great video, really interesting! I now just wish I spoke Danish so that I could join in with the conversation that’s going on in Denmark!
The conversation is going around in the Nordic and international roleyplaying community so I think you are fine with English 😉
There is a really cool project on tumblr that you might want to check out called 100larpingladies which is aiming to show the diversity of women in larp by getting women to submit their larp experiences
Also the larpettes fb group, though primarily American, is s really cool all women safe space that is really good for advice 🙂
[…] I wrote a post some time ago where I mentioned how hard it was to buy basic women’s kit that wasn’t really expensive or frilly blouses. A few weeks after that I investigated trying to buy myself a gambeson (because I didn’t have time at that point to make one) but became increasingly frustrated that I had the option of ‘man size’ or nothing (except for one lone manufacturer who makes a kind of Eastern style women’s gambeson). The problem with ‘man size’ is that I’d have to buy a 40″ chest to accomodate my figure, but I only have a 28″ waist. And of course the gambeson would drown me around the shoulders, arms and hem and I’d end up having to take it all up and in anyway. (And as anyone who sews will tell you – it’s generally harder to modify an existing garment than make one from scratch). […]
[…] way that people use such lazy stereotypes frustrates me. I linked before on this blog to a recording of a talk from this year’s Nordic LARP Talks in Copenhagen by […]
I am involved in a local larp. Yes the males outnumber the females but there is no assumption about differences of competencies. Our lead writer is amazing when writing NPC’s. He tries to give a lot of them neutral names so they can be played by either male or female crew. I can play whatever sort of person I want, it’s wonderful.
If I am crewing an event, my input is just as important as the input of the men. I do fill certain roles that are often considered “women’s roles” but that is generally because I don’t mind playing those roles. One of my main NPC’s is one of the most powerful NPC’s in the system. The main reason why there aren’t a lot of powerful female NPC’s for us is that there hasn’t been that many females playing the roles.
I really hope that this type of inclusion spreads through all LARPs.
More feminist bleating. Men interacting with women is sexist.
But they’re too stupid, or is it really dishonest, to acknowledge that they turned up as an exclusive womens group!!! They excluded men from there ranks and whinge when in contact with men.
Ban these people from LARP. They are here to destroy it. She admits she comes directly from gaming where the feminists just lost Gamergate.
Google it people.
Feminism is cancer and destroys everything. Kick ’em out.
Feminism is nothing but lies and shame. That’s all these people bring to LARP. Shame to silence the male voice. The lies, correctly identified, are false allegations.
Role playing on the battle field is a male space. If women are to join in, play by the male rules or go do your own exclusive womens LARP by yourselves and have fun with your cats.
Time for the men to form ranks. With the women who love them.
But these are settings based on the the medieval period of europe yeah. Where women were second class citizens as were the majority of the population. And these are some fairly socially reclusive/awkard people. I’m trying to picture what you imagine it should be like, and how you imagine that would occur. Like maybe some kind of revised medieval period, where everything is different from how it actually was? If theres a fantasy you want to live, I am sure there would be others who also like your fantasy.
No, they are fantasy games set in fantasy worlds where you can do things that aren’t possible on Earth.
I have no problem with a capitalist/free market approach to lapping. If a group likes to use traditional roles and another likes to let either gender play any role (This has been my experience as the more common) the popular arrangement will grow and the other will shrink.
I see female larpers to as frequently play the maiden, the wife or the fighter. In general the guys seem much more limited in their preferred roles. But again that is free choice.
In my experience whenever ideologues try to inject their ideology into a fun activity it tends to become less fun.
[…] Guide has census data that shows the gender split at LARP events across 29 different countries. To be sure, men are the […]