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!