This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Sexist Fantasy Illustration by Clyde CaldwellThe trees bent aside like twigs to make way for the creature that stepped out of the darkness. It’s appearance was grotesque and alien. It wasn’t until it opened its colossal jaws to choke out a guttural roar that the adventurers even realized where its mouth was. Yaril drew his blades and stepped forward.

“Alright kids, we do this by the book. I’ll try and sneak behind the bastard.” His apparent confidence was belied by the tremor in his voice. Graft none the less nodded silently and began pulling an arrow from his quiver. Behind them, Vortican was already mumbling the beginnings of a spell, arcs of magical energy gathering around his fingertips.

“I’m going to seduce it.” Tassandra said. The rest of the party’s jaws dropped in unison. It was Vortican who spoke first.

“How do you intend to do that?”

“Well…ya know. I look at him with lusty eyes, and open my mouth just a little. Then I turn so he can get a really good view of my ass, with a little sideboob for good measure. Then I take this big stick thingie I have and hold it like its his penis, just to make sure he gets it.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not a valid strategy.” Yaril managed, still dumbstruck by his companion’s foolishness. “I’m not even sure that thing is a ‘he.'”

“Shut up, it will totally work!” were the last words Tassandra spoke, before the entire party was devoured by The Beast Who Hates Sexist Fantasy Art.

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6 thoughts on “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

  1. Funny write up, but I wouldn’t consider the picture attached to this post sexist, so the punchline kills it.

    I did take the time to look over your site, before posting and particularly identified with a few things that you wrote in “A Personal History of Role Playing.” Although my experience was slightly different and in a completely different decade.

    My point being, I was trying to figure out where you were coming from, but I’m stumped.
    Why do you think this picture is sexist?

    1. Because there are three men in the picture in completely reasonable poses. They’ve identified some type of danger, and they’re preparing to engage it.

      The one woman in the picture is in a completely unnatural pose which exposes her ‘assets.” Why is every male character facing forward whilst she’s facing backward? Why is she twisting in that unnatural way? It might be possible to achieve that pose, but it’s not a pose which would ever actually occur in real life. Rather, it’s the kind of pose one might see a pinup girl make.

      I’ve got no problem with porn, enjoying sexuality, or anything like that. But this, ostensibly, is a party of adventurers engaging in adventure. So why is the woman sexualized? She’s got a sword, she’s got armor. She should be preparing for battle like the other three.

      Not only does this kind of art alienate women, and put them off from joining us in our hobby. But it just looks silly. I’m a straight guy, I like looking at sexy women. But I’m also capable of engaging with women on levels other than a sexual one, and I would like fantasy art to reflect that for my sake as much as for the sake of women gamers.

      This is a pretty commonly written-about phenomena. Here’s a link with some examples if you’re interested:

      Thanks for the comment, and for reading my site, by the way! I’m always happy to have new readers, and to engage them in discussion. <3

      1. Your point is well received.

        I had recently been discussing the same issue with someone else. His argument was that scantily clad women = sexism, which I disagreed with. So admittedly, that was the first thing I looked for in the picture (and obviously found no such thing). I did not pick up on the subtle nature of the woman “striking a pose” (I use the word “subtle,” because because my brain ignored it, being so common).

        Thanks for opening my eyes to that.

        1. I’m no expert, but my feeling is that sexism of this type is context sensitive. So yeah, I would agree, scantily clad women? Not inherently sexist. I like scantily clad women! I’ve got a whole folder on my computer filled with pictures of scantily clad women–and women who are less than scantily clad! If anything, it strikes me as sexist to question a woman’s right to be scantily clad.

          But if the woman in the above picture was scantily clad (as is also common in fantasy artwork) I would have been bothered by that as well. Because in this context, being scantily clad makes no sense. Again, it not only reduces the woman from an adventurer to a sexual object, but it breaks my suspention of disbelief, and makes the artwork less enjoyable for me.

          Thanks for approaching a discussion about sexism with an open mind! I hope that doesn’t sound patronizing, but it’s just such a rare thing to encounter.

          1. No worries. Regardless of sexism, I did want to understand what your thoughts were and your remark doesn’t sound patronizing at all.

            I’d like to meet the person who is offended by being labeled open minded. ;]

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