>Paizo: Thanks for not being full of race fail, but…

>do you think you could maybe be a little less full of gender fail?

[Hi, kids! Just a little pre-amble. I wrote this when I hadn't been blogging for very long, and parts of it are super slut-shamey. And that's awful! Unfortunately, this being the internet, I can't take it back. It's out there forever, so there's really no point in trying to pretend I never said it.

I have since regretted the slut shaming I did in this and a few other early posts and have made a point not to do it in my current work. So please consider this post in context. Thanks.]

[Preamble and Disclaimer: All of these can be seen at much higher resolution if you click the images. I recommend doing this. And as always, none of this is mine. All Pathfinder material is copyright Paizo. I don't own a thing.]

So the first time I heard anything about Pathfinder was actually in a forum thread about positive female characters. Someone linked to pictures of Seela – Pathfinder’s iconic paladin, and Seoni – Pathfinder’s iconic sorceress:

These pictures blew my mind, especially the picture of the paladin. Two completely kick-ass, non-white female characters! And okay, sure, the sorceress is a total slut-bag, whatever. But oh my god I loved the paladin so, so very much. This is what I wanted and never saw in my fantasy art! It made me so very happy to know that there was an RPG publisher out there whose head wasn’t completely up its ass when it came to gender/race issues.Now that’s not to say that Paizo gets a total pass on the race front. Paizo is still guilty of race fail on occasion, like with the official photo promoting their 2010 GenCon costume contest. For the contest, they had a photo of someone costumed as Seoni, the aforementioned sorceress:

Sing it with me kids! One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong… I mean, come on guys. I’m sure it couldn’t have been too hard to find a racially appropriate model to pose for this photo. It’s not like white women have a monopoly on big fake breasts! And oh yeah, thanks for promoting your products at GenCon by encouraging women to dress up like cleavagey skanks. I mean, please. Wayne Reynolds really doesn’t need more encouragement to draw shit like this.Then again, as this photo taken by Sean K Reynolds shows, it’s not like this is the first time that Paizo has used boobs at GenCon to sell their products:

And the thing is, if it was Wizards or Blizzard or the like, I’d roll my eyes and call it par for the course. But it’s doubly disappointing coming from you, Paizo considering your obvious attempts to not completely whitewash your settings. Why take so much time to balance your depictions of non-white characters if you’re just going to make all of your female characters standard fantasy cheesecake?When you go through the portraits that are posted on the official Paizo blog, you do see a very diverse mix of ethnicities. But for the most part the portraits of women are at least mildly problematic. To illustrate my point, I’ve compiled a bunch of their portraits – which I’ve rated on a scale of WTF to awesome:WTF:

/facepalm

Okay. So first of all, mummies are not that hot. There’s this thing that happens where all of the moisture is removed from their bodies, which is what makes them mummies in the first place. There is absolutely no way that a mummy would have breasts that perky, or such a curvaceous backside. Also, real mummies are wrapped in so many layers of cloth that there’s no way they’re just going to start walking around.

Then we have Naked Dinosaur Chick. And again, seriously, what are you thinking? We’ll leave aside the question of why the dinosaur isn’t trying to eat her and consider the problem of her nudity. There’s a reason why women’s bike shorts have a lot of crotchal padding. (Yes I’m inventing words. Shut up.) It’s because bicycle seats can be painful for extended periods of time. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that having your crotch pretty much in direct contact with a dinosaur’s spine has got to be way worse.

And flying chick… So many anatomical problems. Like her shoulder connecting directly to her ribs. Or her lack of a neck. Or an ass. If you’re going to publish ridiculous cheesecake, at least get the basic anatomy right.

Bad

Hey look! Big fake boobs! At least the drow looks somewhat badass, which is more than can be said for the other two. I do have to give Wayne Reynolds props for that. His cheesecake women are at least never passive princesses waiting to be rescued. But it would be great if he could do NON-cheesecake badass women too. [Note: apparently the drow is by Steve Prescott, whoops! I'll stand by my comments about the art, and my comments about Wayne, but he didn't actually perpetrate this particular cheesecake indignity.]
Yawn. Cleavagey noble, check. Woman with cleavagey/disintegrated clothing, check. The “Persian Princess” on the right is actually disappointing because she comes SO CLOSE to being completely awesome. I love the costume, love the sword, love the jewelry, and love the fact that she actually looks Persian. So why, oh WHY the random cleavage? It’s like running 4.75k in a 5k race, then deciding to quit and go to Tim Hortons for doughnuts.Meh

No surprise here, numbers one and two are Wayne again. Come on, Wayne! It’s like he gets art direction asking for fully covered women and says to himself, “well, no one will notice if I stick in some cleavage”. It’s especially ridiculous on the woman in plate mail. Why go to all the effort of getting plate mail made if it doesn’t protect from heart-stabs?? The woman on the right I included despite being fully covered because she’s just… so… insipid. But that’s a judgement call on my part, I guess. [Note: Number one was also miscredited and is actually by Steve Prescott. Though, again, I stand by my commentary on the art and my commentary on Wayne's art in general.]
Awesome

THIS! Oh my god, this! More of it! More of it, I say! THESE are the women I want to see in my roleplaying products. The cleric on the left is everything that the Persian Princess should have been! The duelist in the middle, I heart her so much! And Seela the paladin remains one of the best pieces of fantasy art I have seen ever! Yes I need this many exclamation points!See, it’s stuff like this that makes me delighted, makes me think that someone out there is listening to us! We’re finally getting the strong, non-sexualized female avatars we’ve been asking for! But then you turn around and do shit like this for the holidays:


(from 2009 and 2008 respectively)

And that just makes me disappointed, because these are supposedly a “thank you” to your customers. I’m not a customer, but even if I was I wouldn’t want to be thanked this way.So I guess how I feel about Paizo is kind of like how I feel about Enterprise. There’s just so much raw potential for awesomeness, but the reality just fails to deliver.

About wundergeek
In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

46 Responses to >Paizo: Thanks for not being full of race fail, but…

  1. nevynxxx says:

    >Just a comment on the Costume competition. The model wasn't picked to be a model for a promo photo. That was the previous years winner, which kinda makes sense to me.

  2. wundergeek says:

    >Yeeeeeesssss, but… In both of their posts promoting the contests, they used this photo. And honestly, the fact that Jenny Poussin is a fan seems to me like Paizo is cynically using that for justification to post cheesecake photos to promote this contest – so that if anyone calls them on the ridiculous cheesecake promo they can say "but this was made and modeled by FANS!". The telling point is that in the reminder announcement for the contest, Fiction Editor James Sutter says: "And yes, you've seen this picture before—the question is, have you seen it enough?". The message is clearly "hey look at this smoking hot chick" and not "hey look at this awesome and amazingly detailed costume".I'll admit it's an impressive costume. But I maintain that Paizo's motives for choosing THAT photo to promote the contest are anything but innocent.

  3. >This is going to be a two part answer. First on the racial diversity of Paizo character design: Always a good thing. Being one of the few (if only) African-American (or Black if you like) RPG publishers I think it is a GOOD thing to show ethnic and racial diversity in the artwork. Paizo always kicks ass for that and I hope they continue to!Second, women and sex appeal. Sorry but you lost me on that one. Paizo knows it market: majority male. And males (and some females) like scantily dressed women (which I am one). When doing my artwork for many of the females in my products, I over sexualize what they physically look like or what they are wearing. Why? Because it will cause males (my main base of customers) to stop and look and in the gaming of marketing that would be considered a WIN! Now would I over sexualize males and place them on the cover a product I created? ABSOLUTELY if it helped draw interest which in turn would equal additional sales. For me this is an issue of helping me generate sales. Sad but true. But I do understand where you are coming from and I do support you so saying what you think is right.

  4. Joe Mcdaldno says:

    >Anna, I'm kinda surprised that you'd place the persian swordmaster woman in the "bad" category.She looks like a totally empowered bad-ass. She's got a mean blade, and I get the impression she knows how to use it. Her expression is bemused, almost taunting – she knows she'll win, and she's surprised you would even have the audacity to tangle blades with her.And, she's also sexy. But, not because the artist slapped some big cleavage onto the page. Because her sexiness is part of who she is. She's deadly, with a trace of provocative mystery. She's cloaked in rich colours, but not hidden under them – the bare arm and chest are captivating, breathtaking. Her sexuality is unabashed, and I don't think that's the same thing as saying that her sexuality is exploited or made obtuse.Her cleavage is part of how she carries herself. The message she sends is: I don't fear you. I could kill you in a split second – furthermore, I'd enjoy it.Since I first saw that pic, I've pointed to it as an example of fantasy art that's actually sexy, instead of just sexualized.I mean, I agree with most of your examples. But I was really surprised that you gave that swordmaster a "bad" grade.

  5. >I looooooove the picture of the cleric. I used it as direct inspiration for my character when I was playing a Pathfinder game. I was completely surprised to find a depiction of a female D&D character that didn't seem to be all about the sex appeal. Apparently, a woman CAN be enthrallingly badass while covering up her vulnerable parts. The detail of the costume is amazing. Seeing the image again makes me want to play her so badly! YES, we totally need more character depictions like this!

  6. Parthenia says:

    >Dear Louis, you're not the only African American RPG game designer/publisher. It seems that you're trying to generate sales at the expense of the integrity of your company and respect of your customer base. Sex sells. Sexy women can sho' nuff sell some product, but so can quality. At what age do you expect your male customer base to decide they want more than just an absurdly drawn piece of female on the cover of your publication, and are more concerned that your products deliver fun beyond the initial titillation of a scantily clad pointy eared blue she-elf? Is your customer base part of some male-only tribe that has no interaction with people of the opposite sex? Because while your customer base is mostly men, the women in their lives might want to play and purchase your products, too. What of them? Do you care if your male customer base has friends and family like Anna who object to the artistic treatment of women in your products, but also want to spend money on your customer base?Also, to say that the primary reason it's okay to feature these images is because mostly males buy your product seems like a bit of an insult to your primary customer base. All they want is tits and ass in RPG art? Okay.Reminds me of a conversation I had with a dear friend who spent several years as a very successful stripper. She believed her customer base (similar in demographic to yours) were suckers, because all she had to do was jiggle her breasts, smile pretty, and they gave her money. I don't think her customers would appreciate that bit of truth, but who cares, I guess.Yes, it's important to show diversity. How forward thinking to have brown characters that provide more than just magical negritude. So why use stone-age marketing tactics (i.e. tits and ass to sell something that doesn't really have anything to do with tits and ass)? Cheers, Juliaanother black RPG designer/publisher (who loves sex in her RPG's and in their art, appreciates pin-up art, erotic art, the female body, and is not a prude, but would rather let her game design help her male and female customer base exercise their imagination with a fun, sexy, play)

  7. Chaltab says:

    >Hi, I was just wondering if you were familiar with the term 'slut-shaming', trying to make women feel guilty for enjoying sexuality. I'm asking because of your reference to the female sorceress as a 'slut-bag' which sort of seemed hypocritical coming from a feminist blog.Obviously there's no actual woman being shamed here and the fact that there's a male publisher commissioning these drawings is what makes it problematic, but I think there can be a place for cheese cake art in fantasy as long as there is parity for male characters.Of course, RPG character classes probably aren't the best place for that.

  8. Plasma says:

    >Soo… Paizo shows an example of a woman dressed in a costume of a character… and you're saying it's racist that they DIDN'T choose a woman of a particular race?I mean, if it was an actual cast list, for a movie or something, then yes race is important. But this is for a /costume contest/, open for everyone! To say that their examples have to be of a particular race is despicably racist!For the rest of the post, you're screwing the results. It's not fair to just say "all images of women with cleavage is sexism", you have to compare the ratio of provocative women with the ratio of provocative men. Otherwise you get the double-standard that a man with little clothes is normal, but a woman with little clothes is nothing but sex appeal.

  9. wundergeek says:

    >Chaltab: There's a difference between slut-shaming and pointing out the subtext in images designed for the male gaze. The fact that these are imaginary women is a critical difference, because these are imaginary women designed with a MALE viewer in mind. Yes it's hyperbolizing to call them slut-bags, but when the subtext to these images designed for male viewers is "P.S. I'm fuckable if you want"… Now I'll admit that I regret the "splash damage" of my comments about the photo about the female cos-player. My impression was that Paizo had hired a model, and it turned out not to be the case. But the fact remains that Paizo chose THAT photo to exclusively promote their contest. Still, this is the only instance that I feel any guilt about this.I will stop complaining about slutty character designs when there are an equal number of slutty men across all product lines. But I can't say that I anticipate this happening any time soon.

  10. wundergeek says:

    >Plasma: Man. See, there are problematic elements with their choice of photos. It reminds me of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Prince of Persia, and a score of other instances in which characters get whitewashed when an actual person is chosen to represent them in film, television, or other media. Yes Jenny is a fan, but Paizo chose THAT photo to promote their contest. Knowing now that the woman in the photo was NOT a paid model, I don't know that I would cry racism. But I'll say that it's still problematic, and maybe a bit unfortunate.As for me "screwing the results" (skewing, perhaps?), go through a game book some time and count the number of men versus women. Then go through and count the number of sexualized women versus sexualized men. The myth that there are "just as many naked men as naked women" is just that – a myth. If we lived in a hypothetical world where there were nothing but fully covered, non-sexualized, powerful women and books were splashed with half-clothed highly-sexualized men, sure I'd complain. But that's just not the case.

  11. Salabra says:

    >Thank you for this blog!I have been posting on this topic on various forums for a long time now. Women are often ill-served by RPGs and particularly by the illustrations which often present us as little more than tits-n-ass window dressing.By the way, did you know that moulding breast-bulges into armour for women is both unnecessary and potentially dangerous (see http://l-clausewitz.livejournal.com/384382.html)?As you say, fantasy can be abysmally sexist, but science-fiction can be just as bad. Space-armour with screw-off boob-covers that look like tea-cosies, anyone?I’m happy to have art that is relevant *and appropriate.” For example, in my favourite game world of Tékumel (www.tekumel.com), scanty clothing — or none — is common for both genders in most areas because (apart from the poles and the desert at night), the temperatures range from hot to hotter.Similarly in a modern or futuristic game, a female character who has the skill ‘Entertainer — Lap Dancer’ should look like a lap-dancer *when she’s working* but not necessarily when she’s in the bar after a day on the ski-slopes — and *never* when she’s in the captain’s chair of Free Trader Beowulf.Keep up the great posts,SallyPS: Have you seen the cover of “The World of NeoExodus,” Porter’s latest freebie PDF? The fighter not only has *ample* cleavage — thus painting a target over her heart for every arrow on the planet — but her hips are only protected by a stupid little belt, while there is a wee gap at the top of her cuisses (thigh armour) that renders her vulnerable to a strike at her femoral artery and the possibility of bleeding to death in double-quick time.

  12. Chaltab says:

    >Wundergeek: I didn't say you shouldn't complain about the representation of women, I'm just saying that you need to be careful with the language. Terms like 'slut-bag' have cultural baggage regardless of how you intend it to be taken.

  13. Anonymous says:

    >I'm a paleoconservative, straight, white, gun-owning, Iraq vet, politically INcorrect, married, 33 year old man. I'm definitely not a feminist. .I agree with you about this art issue. The level of fanservice is just too much. Should Paizo continue to use illos of NPCs such as scantily-clad dancing girls or villainous seductress, when and where the story/setting calls for such? Sure, but they need to scale back the softcore crap and use some common sense. They've crossed the line between genre appropriate and just plain tasteless on multiple occasions, methinks. Female adventurers should be dressed as sensibly as men in the same professions, and they should have their fair share of scars and physical flaws, too. The cheesecake armor really pisses me off to no end. It's just stupid. Are these women trying to get killed in combat? I've also posted about this issue over at Paizo's wesbite. Please do swing by and post there yourself. Maybe the art direction will improve with critical input from the fans? We can hope.

  14. Anonymous says:

    >I posted here as 'anonymous'- but I'm 'ewan cummins' on the Paizo boards. Here's the thread:http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/paizoPublishing/pathfinder/campaignSetting/general/cheesecakeFactorTooMuch&page=1#4Keep on fighting the good fight!-Ewan

  15. Anonymous says:

    >Cant' say I agree with your blog's stance myself (I personally don't think that Paizo has that much in the way of "genderfail"). But in the interest of fairness , what say you to these…http://paizo.com/image/product/catalog/PZO/PZO9026_500.jpeghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderChronicles/PZO9202-Urgathoa.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/Blog/2010CardWallpaper.jpgThe above was the X-mas card for 2010, for those not in the knowhttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderCompanion/PZO9414-ChelaxianDevilBinder.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderRPG/PZO1114-Heretic.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderRPG/PZO1114-Cheers.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderModules/PZO9523-Scolding.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/Blog/PZO1114-ThrowAnything.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderRPG/PZO1115-InquisitorSketch.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/product/catalog/PZO/PZO8022_500.jpeghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderRPG/PZO1112-PreviewMonster1.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderChronicles/PZO9202-Iomedae.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderChronicles/PZO1111-Varisia.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderChronicles/PZO1106-Chapter-3-opener.jpgCyrus

  16. wundergeek says:

    >Ewan: Hey, thanks! I appreciate the support, even if most of the responses you got were along the lines of "she's looking for stuff to complain about". But I'm happy that you gave it a go. :)

  17. wundergeek says:

    >You're shitting me, right? Out of all the counter-examples, why would you pick half of these? Let's just go through the list here:1) Great character, great design – WHY THE RANDOM CLEAVAGE? Also, why are only dudes fighting monsters on the cover of the book while the only thing a chick gets to do is sing?2) For fuck's sake, if she's dead she's not going to give a shit about people seeing her tits. Also – if the rest of her is that rotten then WHY THE FUCK aren't her face and tits rotten also?3) Awesome. No complaint.4) Hey look! I'm not wearing pants and only the strategic placement of my legs is covering up my ladybits! Also, the anatomy of my arm is fucked up and I've got sideboob showing! I'm totally, totally a cheesecake woman!5) Meh.6) Hi, guys! Who wants a beer? I'm a woman so it's totally my job to get it for you. Also, have a look at my tits!7) This is the first non-shitty portrayal of women that you've picked. Fully clothed and with a sense of agency. I know Paizo does lots of stuff like THIS, so why pick your shitty previous examples?8) Um. Okay. Not sure what I think.9) GOD DAMMIT WAYNE REYNOLDS. THIS CHARACTER IS FUCKING AWESOME SO WHY THE FUCK DOES SHE NEED TO HAVE HER TITS HANGING OUT??? AAAAAARRRRG!10) Not cheesecake? NOT CHEESECAKE? She's wearing transparent fabric that shows her midriff and sideboob, plus I can see nipples.11) What the fuck? She's a walking fetish. There is no fucking way that wearing chains as clothing is comfortable.12) Awesome. You've now picked two fantastic Paizo women. I find it ironic that you would pick her out as awesome and fail to realize why the others are NOT AWESOME.13) Another example of great character design with random cleavage.14) This one gets a reluctant pass. I would like it if her skirt was longer – it seems like an attempt to appeal to the schoolgirl fetish to me. But the boobage is minimal so it gets a thumbs up with a half-hearted eyeroll.So, go back and actually read my post. Cause, wow. Most of your "counter-examples" just really suck and actually make Paizo look WORSE than they really are.

  18. Eoin says:

    >Goddammit… I just lost a huge post…Anyway, te point I was making, now in succint terms.-Some of the images you called by Wayne Reynolds are by Steve Prescott, it shouldn't degrade your point, but it makes it look like an attack and you less researched. That hurts the argument.-Calling depcitions slutbags and paizo customers horny geeks will polarise paizo employees and fans who don't already agree with you against you. Those are the people who want to agree, not Ewan, not even me. People who don't see a problem, or better people who could make a difference.-Don't expect it to be sudden, there will always be some sex. That isn't bad in itself. Especially if its spread around. (P.S. Sexy images of men do not equal less clothes the same way sexy images of women do to men. So more scantily clad men isn't the point. Images of men who are randomly uncloth for story purposes as frequnelty as women is though).-It's not just paizo, they send off art orders, which will not always have sexulaise in the text. Fantasy artists adding this are alot of the reason for some, not all, of the worst offenders above. This is something that can't be fought be never hiring or sending art back. It's a business, they need artists and art is expensive.-They are guilty of not be picky enough sometimes. -I beleive they are amenable to changing this. And slowly but surely, we can influence this. There will always be bad images from artists when a deadline ran out. This has happened with many things paizo didn't want int heir art and had to use anyway.So I say start a topic on the paizo forums, where it's easiest to get to the designers. Don't be in your face agressive, it turns people either totally for or against you. But you don't want people who are already on your side. Never rage respond liek you did to Louis Porter Jr., there will be trolls. Ignore them. If anythina sk for Russ to delete them with prejusdice, and state this in the start of the thread.If you want to change peoples minds, and not just stand on a soapbox, I think paizo is a good place to start.I'm all for joining the discussion. But not on this page. To use incredible hyperbole, don't be the black panthers of sex issue discussion. Be Martin Luther King.

  19. Eoin says:

    >Twice your website has cancelled a long post.I'm going to fire out some bullet points. Don't take them aggressively.-Using words like slutbag and horny geek polarises people who read. And you don't want to convince people who agree with you, you want to convince people who might agree with you if you didn't put them on the defensive.-Paizo are guilty of having plenty of cheesecake, and overlooking the worst of it. This is not the whole picture, they send out art orders and the artist in most cases adds alot/most of that. This is an industry wide thing. Paizo can't just not hire them, and art arrives near the deadline. They have printed images their not happy with before. They will again.-We can change their acceptance rate with cogent debate. I beleive their amenable to making things better. And we have to start somewhere.I think there is a better way to talk to them. I think it can make a difference, and thats the point isn't it? Either people are polarised and we sit in groups who agree with the person on the soapbox and decry that things aren't the way they should be. Or we bite the bullet and work slowly frustratingly towards change.

  20. Eoin says:

    >Damned Blogspot.Hopeful that you respond, and I'm looking forward to it.

  21. wundergeek says:

    >Eoin: Blogger's spam filtering BLOWS in that it flags pretty much everything as spam and doesn't flag ACTUAL SPAM. I've been checking a couple of times a day, but if your comment disappears it's not me. I have not moderated a single comment on this blog and I'm not going to! Unfortunately, there is no way to disable it. Google's official policy is "flag stuff as not spam until the spam filter stops sucking", which is NOT helpful. Anyway.Re: picking on Wayne – I'll be more careful. Wayne has a pretty distinctive style, but I'll be sure to check next time.Re: Calling people slut bags… Okay, so I've previously apologized for the stuff I said about Jenny Poisson. I thought she was a paid model, turns out she's a real person. I regret that. However, I won't apologize for calling imaginary women skanks when that is exactly what the artists are designing them to be. (see this post here: http://gomakemeasandwich.blogspot.com/2010/12/just-for-record.html) I'm not against sex or sexiness in RPGs. I just want a diversity of depiction that doesn't exist. And yeah, Paizo should be more aggressive in sending "leathery nipple trainwrecks" back to the artists – they sign the checks after all.I recognize that there's an emotional tone that I take here that some people find alienating. But this is an emotional subject for me and it's not something that I can divorce from my emotional perspective. I have a lifetime of body issues and personal shame that is reflected in this exaggerated, dehumanizing cheesecake art. Yes there's a lot of anger here, but that's because I don't want things to change slowly and gradually. I want things to change NOW. I want to stop having to look at art that reinforces my body issues. I want this art to stop being made before an entirely new generation of female geeks is made to feel insecure in their bodies the way the culture has trained me to feel insecure in mine. If all of this makes my blog not "useful" to some people, that's fine with me. I'm more than happy to be the cranky feminist that nobody likes and let some other women be the "reasonable" feminists.Again, go read that post I linked to. I'm not judging the people who buy Paizo's products. I'm judging the producers who are using stereotyped depictions of women for personal profit.

  22. wundergeek says:

    >Cyrus: I'm out of time to look today. I'll have to get back to you tomorrow.

  23. Anonymous says:

    >Well, Anna, I did find some folks on the Paizo forum who incline our way on this issue. Others disagreed but were respectful and thoughtful. Several people were just rude. I was even told that if Paizo were to use an illustration of a flat chested heroine with buckteeth this would 'send a mixed message.' What can you say to that? I went into this thinking that having so much cheesecake was just tacky and silly- an aesthetic issue first and foremost. Now I think that you're on to something with the whole sexism and misogyny angle.-Ewan

  24. Salabra says:

    >“I recognize that there's an emotional tone that I take here that some people find alienating. But this is an emotional subject for me and it's not something that I can divorce from my emotional perspective. I have a lifetime of body issues and personal shame that is reflected in this exaggerated, dehumanizing cheesecake art. Yes there's a lot of anger here, but that's because I don't want things to change slowly and gradually. I want things to change NOW. I want to stop having to look at art that reinforces my body issues. I want this art to stop being made before an entirely new generation of female geeks is made to feel insecure in their bodies the way the culture has trained me to feel insecure in mine. If all of this makes my blog not "useful" to some people, that's fine with me. I'm more than happy to be the cranky feminist that nobody likes and let some other women be the "reasonable" feminists.” Well said, wundergeek. I teach at a girls’ school, and I’m painfully aware how the crushing is the pressure on women to conform to some man’s ‘ideal woman.’I regard myself as a reasonable woman and a reasonable feminist, yet I would judge Cyrus’ first group of pictures even less charitably than you do. The only ones I liked were ‘Scolding’ and ‘Iomedae’ — and the latter gets a raised eyebrow because of the length of red material hanging between her legs like a loincloth that’s come adrift. Why does her armour look like lycra exercise gear around the waist, hips and thighs? Why isn’t she wearing leather chausses, covered by a haubergeon with cuisses/tassets, as a male in this style of plate would?Cyrus’ second lot are, IMO, marginally better (I love the Archer), but I still have issues with some of them. The Certainty-wizard, for example, is in fur, implying that she is in a wintry area — why are her thighs and forearms bare? And even the poor gobbercrys has to show a bit of boob!Just a few thoughts.

  25. wundergeek says:

    >Cyrus: Your second selection is better, though there are a few cringe-worthy women. The giant woman with the hammer… *sigh* If I never see another plate mail bikini, it will be too soon. Also, the drow cleric – why the random cleavage? And WHERE ARE HER PANTS?? And yeah, what Salabra said about the woman in fur – why the lack of pants if she's dressed all in fur? That's just impractical. That being said, I did very much like the battle herald and the archer.

  26. Anonymous says:

    >The battle herald, as I noted over at Paizo's forum, rocks my world. She's actually dressed much like a late- medieval knight. That armor looks good, solid, battle ready. She has a scar on her face, a rare thing with pictures of fantasy warrior women. She looks as if she's leading troops into batttle, not standing around looking 'hot.' It's totally kickass. More of that, less 'sexy armor.' -Ewan

  27. Salabra says:

    >Glad to see that we are making an impression, Ewan.Buckteeth and flat-chested sends a mixed message? *Sighs* About says it all really. I wonder if Paizo would accept the range of body types, scars and ‘deformities’ I’ve given my characters over the years!Still, most of these games are created in the USA, where everyone has to be perfect, especially in medialand — where, for example, the young, beautiful female CSIs attend crime scenes in white slacks and high heels with their faces made up, their nails painted and their long hair unbound (instead of the coverall suits with gloves and hoods that they wear here in Oz and in UK) and where Pauline Quirk (qv – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maisie_Raine ) and Caroline Quentin (qqv – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Murder_%28UK_TV_series%29 ) would not be *allowed* on screen, let alone playing reasonably high-ranking police officers!

  28. Anonymous says:

    >Re: Body Issue thing and medialandWhile Paizo might not be that all that huge on the scale of portraying unfavorable female imagery to the whole of society when compared to something like Hollywood or the mainstream media, I suppose that the whole thing about body image is way more bigger than just being about cheesecake pix from games, specially when you put kids into the mix- for instance, I can't think of any equivalent to Susan Boyle for the teenybopper kids-pop-muzak scene (there actually might be such an individual existing, but I certainly wouldn't know of one)In all fairness to Gobbercrys, her pix-pose was kind of playing off of that Ship of Ishtar cover (ie. http://paizo.com/image/product/catalog/PZO/PZO8022_500.jpeg). Gobbercrys usually more like this:http://paizo.com/image/content/Portraits/gobberCrystal.jpgAs for the drow cleric, if it's of any consolation, Paizo's got some dwarf that don't has no pants worn either:http://paizo.com/image/content/CouncilOfThieves/PZO9025-DwarfEnforcer.jpgWith Iomedae, you could say that divine power is involved as far as the "armor" she's wearing is concerned.Apologies about the Giant hammer woman one: it was more the anime-like expression and the gleeful way she was going to pound the horned thingy on the ground that made it funny to meI suppose I could've pointed to pictures like these, but it would've been too easy:http://paizo.com/image/content/CrimsonThrone/PZO9010-LeavingKorvosa.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderCampaignSetting/PZO9229-Cover.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/GameMasteryModules/PZO9509-dinosaurambush.jpghttp://paizo.com/image/content/GameMasteryModules/PZO9511-Glabrezu.jpgCome to think of it, Paizo's also got plenty of underdressed guys depicted too- would it be of any help if I listed those as well? (if it's okay by you, of course)Cyrus

  29. wundergeek says:

    >Cyrus: I'd be interested in seeing any links you care to post, sure.

  30. Anonymous says:

    >To be clear, the 'mixed message' comment came from a fan, not from anyone on the Paizo staff. -Ewan

  31. Salabra says:

    >Three problems seem to beset RPGs and RPG illustration — two are endemic to ‘Western’ culture and one specific to the FRPG genre:• The first is the obsession with ‘beauty,’ especially female beauty (As a lesbian, I can’t quite get my head around ‘male beauty’ — my gay male friends have tried to educate me, but…). This is nothing new of course — it probably goes back beyond Homer (for whom physical beauty was a sign of noble birth, which ‘automatically’ made for nobility of character) and it’s adaption in folklore (where the ‘noble birth’ link was often skipped)— but ‘beauty’ is a notoriously slippery concept, and in its current incarnation a very narrow one.• The second is the hyper-sexualizing of the female breast, especially in the US, but to a lesser extent in the rest of the Anglosphere. Rather than being a bodily organ whose primary purpose is feeding children, *and* may also afford sexual pleasure, both to its possessor and to another, the female breast has become a *sex organ,* first and foremost — or even nothing *but* a sex organ. This means that the female breast cannot be treated naturally, either in its exposure or in its concealment. Yet this prurient fetishization of ‘tits’ is a very recent phenomenon in human history — one hopes it will also be a temporary aberration.• Finally, as I’ve often said before, female breastplates don’t need mounds! Or to extrapolate to generlities, RPG designers and illustrators need to take a course (or at least read a few books) on how period armour and weaponry actually *work*. Sure, FRPGs are *Fantasy* Role Playing Games, but in a hobby that works itself into a positive frenzy over the mechanics of combat in an attempt to make it as ‘real’ as possible, one would expect a similar attempt at ‘realism’ in what PCs and NPCs actually wear.

  32. Anonymous says:

    >Salabra- I made similar points regarding armor for women, over on the Paizo boards. Several people agreed with me. A number of the guys who disagreed with me were rude, dismissive, or defensive. Cyrus is one of the guys who politely disagreed with me.-Ewan

  33. Salabra says:

    >Oh, goody … another group of folks to annoy! :DI will toodle off over there and have a looksee … besides which, I really do not want to seem to be dominating wundergeek's blog!

  34. >So don't buy it. Don't buy stuff unless it is artless or they do a good job of making the women look like either lesbian truckers or it is a xerox of a Lackey novel (complete with David Guest look alike and his black eye).I buy it. I have a penis. I stare at boobs when they cause my mind to go "someone likes boobs more than I thought," and they went out of their way to show us that indeed–they love boobs.Plate mail and boobs causing you pain? Go play another game without Reynolds amazing artwork.But for you to be shouting into the abyss like this, I'm going to reanimate Frazetta and puppeteer him to make more of his own cheesecake art which spawned this fanboy exercise to begin with. And I'll send every luscious assed woman on ink to your email. And afterwards, I'll hear from every occupied basement in North America, "Thank you Bruce, for bringing back the Frank."You can have your opinion, but now that you're finished, go make me a ham and egg without the body fluid, and do that–please.

  35. Salabra says:

    >Your mother must be proud of you, young Bruce…

  36. Anonymous says:

    >You think that was bad, you should read some of his really mysogynistic stuff. Ewan

  37. camazotz says:

    Just discovered your blog today and am enjoying it greatly; I’m a guy, and honestly this has been an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve been in tabletop gaming for many years now both as a gamer and author, and have often lamented the fact that female depictions in fantasy and SF art always skew toward unrealistic and implausible…on the other hand, I’ve been well aware that as a male I know this art is aimed at selling a product or image through sex, and that men are just so gullible when it comes to these tactics. Anyway, just wanted to say I appreciate what you are doing, as does my wife, and its giving me pause to review carefully those works I have selfg published and re-eavaluate my art therein. Also, curious if you have given Wizards of the Coast the same evaluation/review that you have Paizo’s art, I would be interested to see how the two competitors stack up in terms of gender role/presentation in their visuals.

  38. Cyrus says:

    Re: WOTC evaluation/review

    http://gomakemeasandwich.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/mixed-messages-in-dd-4th-edition/

    It predates the Paizo one by two months.

    Cyrus

  39. Pingback: Happy Birthday! Looking back at a year of GMMaS. | Go Make Me a Sandwich

  40. When I was a young man and playing Dungeons and Dragons I had two types of characters I made consistently. The first was a bare chested Barbarian that looked like Conan. I didn’t care about the practicality of fighting that way, this was a fantasy character!!! Being a member of the SCA I know it is not wise to fight dressed like that but the fantasy is still just as strong today as it was back then, Look at all of the barbarian miniatures out there that look like Frank Frazettas paintings! Everyone is OK with that but you put a woman in a chainmail bikini and you should be strung up.

    This is fantasy!!!!! So it doesn’t fit with your idea of fantasy that’s fine, but where do you get off telling someone else that their vision of fantasy is wrong? For example I am an artist. I don’t like Picasso! I cant see why he is considered a master. Dose that mean that the art community should turn their backs on his art? No! Picasso painted things the way he wanted and saw things and I am ok with that. I know there are people who like his art and prize it and when I look at art books on the masters and see a Picasso do I stomp my feet and start yelling about realism? No! I move past it to the masters I like.

    On the issues of race, I don’t look at a fantasy game rule book and think Racism, This is a guide book, If you want to make a race look different that is your prerogative.

    You may not know this but Jenny Poussin is a gamer, she plays Pathfinder and this is her character http://mggmg.blogspot.com/2011/09/jenny-poussin-fantasy-barbarian.html?zx=fe392f70fc2afc64. This is her fantasy character, She could have chosen any thing she wanted but she chose this! There was no Man forcing his ideas on her to make her choose this, it was her choice! I can respect your opinion but not everyone shares your opinion just as many don’t share mine but that is ok. There is a group of “Adult” models and actresses that are gamers! I would be interested to see what they have chosen as their characters.

    I make miniatures and don’t like GW orks, that is ok so my choices are to find another company or make my own so I made my own. It looks like you have some choices to make, if you like the art in Pathfinder, find another game that doesn’t have art that offends you, stop looking at the art or make your own game. To try to impose your ideas on the creators of pathfinder is wrong. This is their vision not yours they have just made it possible for you and others to share in it but if you don’t like it no one is holding a gun to your head telling you, you have to play it.

    You say you don’t like this kind of fantasy being forced on you but you want to force your ideas on others fantasy?

    • wundergeek says:

      First of all, muscled meat-heads like Conan that men have to deal with are ABSOLUTELY NOT THE SAME as the dehumanized stick-women that women see all too often. Does Conan have his rib cage removed or his spine snapped to make him more sexay? No. Go read that post I just linked you to before you try and argue that point any further. Conan at least gets to have anatomy that, while implausible, is possible for a human to achieve. The bullshit cheesecake women like Seoni? Not even possible without actually removing anatomy that makes them human. I’d expect you, AS AN ARTIST, to know the difference.

      As for issues of race, racism and other forms of discrimination in geekdom are important. Patting yourself on the back and saying you don’t see race or you think it’s irrelevent? That makes you actively part of the problem.

      And yes, I KNOW Jenny Poisson is a fan. The issue is with how Paizo chose to promote that image. Seriously, go read the previous comments. I respond to that in comment #2, dude.

      Lastly, as for the issue of “if you don’t like it, make your own game”? Guess what? I HAVE. Wrote the text and illustrated it myself. BAM.

  41. “muscled meat-heads” “dehumanized stick-women” “discrimination in geekdom” the problem with the hobby is not the artist but bigots like you. You are as bad as any bigoted person with your comments. You are a Game Nazis who would have everyone conform to your way of thinking slandering people who you don’t know trying to make them feel less of a person for personal choices. Just because someone lifts weights for a living or even a pastime doesn’t make that person a Meat-head! Just because someone gets Breast implants doesn’t make them a slut bag! You are as guilty of discrimination as anyone I have ever had the miss pleasure of writing to!!!! You sound like a poor little person who was bullied in school! Get over it I weighed 120 when I got out of high school. I was bullied, Big Deal!!!! You don’t hear me complaining about. It hasn’t consumed my life. I am married, I have a family; a job that I can use my skills and enjoy. Life is good. If I don’t like something that is my right but I don’t have the right to force it on others!

    On race in games, if I am doing a Japanese based campaign I use oriental characters and creatures from their mythology. If I am doing an Aztec type game I do the same! If I am doing a Norse saga game I use things from Scandinavian myth. I don’t feel the need to have Elvin Samurai or even a Caucasian as an Aztec character, Or a Moorish Viking but if some else wanted to I wouldn’t tell them no because they are racists! So people of different race are not represented as much in the art, that doesn’t mean you can’t change it in the game you are running. I don’t recall many games that have such strict rules that say you can’t have a dwarf with dark skin, or that orcs have to be green, or the armor you have on your female paladin has to be completely functional. If your imagination prohibits you from customizing the game you are running because it isn’t on the written page I feel sorry for you. So you have made a game good for you. I hope it isn’t as limited as your imagination is, and why are you so concerned with others works? Stop bitching about other rights to be creative and focus on your own!

    As an artist I do appreciate the human form in all of its complexities. I did not say that I am in favor of people getting their bodies changed to look sexier! I simply said what right do you have to tell other people what their version of Fantasy is or should be? It’s FANTASY!!!!! Who made you god over the creativity others want to express? Besides if someone “wants” to undergo surgery to look a certain way who are you to tell them they are less for doing so!

  42. After having had time to reflect on what I said I feel I should apologize for the comments about being bullied. As I said I was 120 pound out of high school, I had a concave chest and couldn’t gain weight to save my life in fact I was unable to joint the military because I didn’t weigh enough for my height. This went on for several years. So after some time I started eating better and working out. It wasn’t easy but I made an effort, Now, I weigh 220 and am 6 feet tall. I look more like my Norse ancestors than I ever did before. Do I still have issue with my body? Yes but that is because I stopped working out for several years when money was tight, I was working 2 jobs and I was getting 2-3 hours of sleep a night. It took its toll but I know what I have to do to repair it. Having been on the receiving side of teasing for many years going from one side to the other only to be labeled again for taking care of my self makes me a bit touchy. I know how it feels and I don’t think it has a place in the hobbies that people have. I am here to have fun.

    Now I will not apologize for the statements about letting people have their fantasy the way they want. I can sympathize with you about body imaging, but I also look at the art for inspiration. Yes I know not all men look like or want to look like Conan but for me when I see Frazettas art it makes me want to do better with how I take care of myself so that I can get back to what I aspire to look and feel like. That is just me and I don’t force it on my children or other people. It may be fantasy art but it encourages me.

    Fantasy is not the same for everyone. I love listening to my kids and their ideas as well as my nieces and nephews. For them Unicorns can stand on rainbows, there is still gold at the end of a rainbow, Santa is a real person, there are terrible monsters in the basement after dark. To let them have their fantasy is aw inspiring. It is magic. I would never go and ruin that for them (with the exception of the monsters in the basement). As adults our fantasy changes, for allot of men it is governed by hormones. I know it has happened to me. It is part of me and I know it is part of many men. My boys when younger used to rub the breasts of most of their aunts, grand mothers, and other women we knew, not for sexual reasons but because they were breast feed as babies. I don’t think that ever fully leaves a males mind even as adults. I still have a healthy appreciation for Breasts but the hormones have changed it from nourishment to a thing of sexual desire. Is that a bad thing? It could be but it can also be a good thing. Mt wife has had to have breast reduction surgery. I still love her and I still like her breasts. The appreciation is still there. I did not encourage her to do it; it was her own wish for health reasons. I was there to support her in her decision. I have never encouraged any one to get body altering surgery nor would I. That is a decision that they have the right to choose. Would I treat someone differently for doing so? I would hope not. I had a friend I worked with that went from a woman to a man. I still respect him for the person he is just as I did for the woman he used to be. He did this to correct a feeling he had about himself. Did I encourage it? No, but I don’t treat him badly for doing it either. It doesn’t matter how I fell about it it was his decision.

    I am sorry you have had all of the issues with body imaging that you clearly have had and that it has affected you so, but I still feel that if you are offended buy someone else’s idea of their fantasy don’t subscribe to it. Don’t let it affect you. Create your own as you have done and leave the others to their fantasy. Is it worth all of the grief to subject yourself the constant reminder of how you feel about yourself? Trying to change the image of someone else’s fantasy is like trying to change who they are. If you can respect their ideas they will respect yours but that doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. I will not tell you how to correct your feeling or give you suggestions. That is not my place.

    With art I know what I like to see and yes again hormones do have an affect on it. Dose it change? Yes my interests have changed slightly over the years.

    With racism in gaming I stand firm in the fact that just because and illustration dose not show all of the possibilities of race or racial identities, that shouldn’t change the fact that game rules are more or less guidelines for what you can do. If you want to play a race of elf but with different racial origins than the same old same old, just do it! Make the fantasy your own but I don’t feel it is my place to tell the makers of a game to change things to fit my idea of what I think their fantasy should be. I just take what I like and change the rest to make it fun for me.

    I truly wish you the best and hope you have piece in your life. Games are meant to be fun if you don’t have fun they are no longer games.

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