Preamble: This is a bit of a tangent, but not really
All right. It’s been too long in coming, but after the debate that erupted in the comments after my first post about M:TG my husband suggested comparing male mages and female mages so that I could compare apples to apples and see if mages really are more passive and to see if there was a difference between gender depictions just among mages. There was just one problem: I had to go through and count all over again.
See, when I initially did the counts I only tallied totals. What he suggested, while a great idea, required going back and recording variables for each figure individually – a much bigger task! While I was at it, I also added a variable called “no class” for figures with no discernable hero archetype; FIgures without a class comprised a large percentage of all figures and I wanted to see if there were any interesting trends to be observed by looking at classless figures. All of this has been a lot of work, what with the re-counting and the fiddling with Excel formulas and the interpretation. Add to this the previously-mentioned decrease in time I have in which to work on research for this blog and that is the result of the radio silence. I apologize folks, but the posts that involve math always take the longest. (Hey, I majored in Fine Arts.)
The numbers I’m looking at today only involve cards from my husband’s collection of cards from the mid-90’s, which is why this is Part 1.5, since this is not quite a tangent but also doesn’t compare the old with the new. As long as it took to put these numbers together, the thought of going back and counting the new M11 set all over again makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spork. So I’m not going to.
[note: the charts didn’t compress too well, so if the numbers are hard to read on your screen, click through to the larger version that will be much easier to read.]
As with looking at the set as a whole, the comparison of male and female figures who are mages displays clear sexist trends:
Women comprise only slightly more than 30% of all mages in the set. Interestingly, female mages are very slightly more active than their male counterparts by a small margin (4%). However, male mages are still more likely to be fully covered. And, unsurprisingly, the majority of suggestive depictions are female – 43% of female mages in this set are depicted as suggestive, accounting for a little more than 60% of suggestive mages overall. (Although, it still deserves mention that this is far better than other areas of gaming where around 80-95% of suggestive depictions are female.)
What is interesting is when the numbers for figures depicted as mages are compared with averages for the entire set regardless of class:
In the overall set, women actually account for a smaller percentage of figures than with the mages. Also, in the overall set the average woman is slightly less active than female mages and slightly more passive (or neutral), which would seem to disprove my hypothesis that female mages would be more passive than other non-mage females in the set.
Now there was something else I hadn’t thought to examine in the old set initially – figures with no discernible class archetype, which account for a large portion of all counted figures:
The proportion of female figures is roughly the same as with mages – again women make up a bit more than 30% of all figures with no class. However, while male and female mages displayed very similar rates of active and neutral poses, female figures with no class are significantly less active than their male counterparts, with less than 30% of all active figures with no class being female. Female classless figures are also less covered than the males with less that 40% of all fully covered classless figures. (Though, interestingly, female classless figures are very slightly less suggestive than female mages.)
What is most striking though when you look at the class archetype (or lack thereof) as a percentage of total representation by gender. The mage archetype accounts for a larger percentage of females than males, though the difference is pretty small with 23% of all male figurs counting as mages as compared to 29% of females. That’s not terribly exciting, I know. But consider the difference in depictions of figures with no class. Not only are female figures with no class less active and less covered than their male counterparts, they also comprise a much larger percentage of all figures; male classless figures accounted for only 31% of all male figures while female classless figures weighed in at a whopping 44% of all female figures! That’s almost half of all female figures!
This is important, because in the majority of instances, hero characters in M:TG and in fantasy art in general will fall into a discernible class archetype. The have such a large number of female figures, who are already vastly in the minority, be depicted as peasants, victims, seductresses, townsfolk, or other non-heroic roles sends a very clear message about the unimportance of women.
Something else I found bothersome is what happens when you look at figures with no class and mages together. These two categories combined account for only 54% of all male figues. Considering that the thief archetype represents a tiny proportion of figures for both genders, the lion’s share of the remaining 46% will be fighters. Contrast this will female figures where the two categories combined make up 73% of all female figures, leaving a little less than 27% of all female figures to be fighters once you take out the handful of female thieves.
And here’s where I reach the end of my ability to point at numbers and venture out into Opinion Land. To me, that difference feels significant, and I really, really don’t buy the argument that the difference in numbers of representations of male and female fighters is due to “historical” or “biological” accuracy. In a universe where dragons, elementals, gods, angels, and magicians exist, the “accuracy” argument doesn’t hold much water.
Also, women don’t have to be kitted out in full plate male to be fighters (though I always do love good images of non-boobular female plate mail.) The fact that women are not as strong as men doesn’t make them any less in their potential to be fighters; there is no law that says in order to be proficient in fighting that one has to be heavily armored and rely on brute strength. And, frankly, in a fantasy universe it’s easy to wave your hands and say ‘well in THIS universe there is no social stigma against women pursuing a career as a fighter’. It seems ridiculous to rely on the “accuracy” argument to back up the under-representation of women in any kind of fantasy art when fantasy as a genre is based on being not realistic.
Anyhow. That’s my rant for today. Since I’ve had my fill of graphs and numbers for quite a while, I’ll be going back to looking at actual images from both sets as originally planned, which should take much less time to finish since it won’t involve numbers.