: I roleplay like a little sexually-irrelevent nerd
In marginalia somewhere, Matt Wilson asks me, "Do you mean suggesting that there is a 'man's playstyle' is ridiculous? Or something else? Cuz I think it's key to the issue."
In that conversation, I meant that suggesting that good roleplaying is somehow male is ridiculous. Obviously.
But here's a thing to consider (and I'm talking strictly for myself, here, not for Tony in any way):
I'm 14. I'm shy, I'm clumsy, I'm physically weak, I hate sports, I have pimples, lame hair, ugly glasses, no fashion sense. I'm eager to please my peers in a way that makes them despise me. Girls find me (rightly) unattractive at a time when I'm desperate to attract them. Boys find my totally hopeless desperation to attract girls useful as an object of derision.
I hate myself.
I have a vision of a possible future self, whom I wouldn't hate: he's mature. That means all of wiser, stronger, more confident, more compassionate, and reasonably sexy. I DON'T KNOW IF I WILL EVER BECOME HIM.
So one day, many years later, I turn around and look, and I'm like, holy crap, I roleplay like a man! And I make a little astonished laugh.
Man, woman. Man, boy. Man, creature. If I were to say "I roleplay like a man" and mean it, I wouldn't be saying so to contrast myself with women.
1. On 2006-04-10, Brand Robins wrote:
I love this post.
I especially love the fact that it is problematic, sympathetic, empathetic, and vulnerable all at once.
Chris go "He also made Kill Puppies..."
BR go "As a note on the "problematic" part...."*
Chris go "Though..."*
BR go "True that."*
Instead of trying so hard to please my peers that they despised me, I actually tended to go out of my way to preemptively annoy my peers so they'd despise me for that instead of all the other stuff, but, basically, yeah, that was me, too. And to this day I still boggle when something/someone -- say, my wife & child -- confronts me with the fact that, hey, I'm a man now! ("Really?" goes the 14-year-old entrenched in the back of my head. "What does that even mean?")
Now, here is the strange, glorious, possibly fucked-up thing:
When I roleplay male characters, they tend to be cold, controlling, and repressed; at best they have mild martyr complexes, at worst they want everybody else to be a martyr, too. They are not people you'd want to meet and, often, not people I really enjoy pretending to be.
But when I roleplay female characters, they are passionate, intense, and expressive; at worst they self-destruct spectacularly, at best they ride through hell towards the possibility of redemption -- and, just in the my last two years of play, towards the possibility of forgiving themselves.
So: I "roleplay like a man" by roleplaying a woman. Go figure.
SF go "As for being "reasonably sexy"..."*
This may or may not be news to anyone, and hell, it may be off-topic, but I feel it worth pointing out.
Meaning rests more in the interpretation than it does in authorial intent. Meaning doesn't exist without an interpreter. You can intend your words in a certain way until you're blue in the teeth; it will have little bearing on how people interpret you. In a written medium, the words are everything.
So when you say something, you want to be as cognizant as possible of how that something is going to be interpreted. And then you try to craft the words such that the likely interpretation will match your intent.
So, when you say, Vincent, "I roleplay like a man," you need to be aware (and I'm not suggesting that you're not) that people are most likely going to latch onto the man/woman angle.
Once you've assessed something and determined that a likely interpretation may not match your intent, you have to decide whether or not you want to rephrase a thing. It's rarely an easy call. Sometimes, like in the case of this here post you've made, it just takes a whole slew of extra words to explain yourself.
CCB go ""I role play like an adult""*
Boy, it hit me the other day: by Jewish law, I've been a man for just short of 20 years. By US law, I could have fought and died as a man 15 years ago, and I elected a President instead (though I haven't had much luck since).
I went to look at pellet guns the other day (I love machines, I love target shooting, and I consider the NRA to be an organization worthy of deep suspicion, so it's a logical choice) and the guy told me I had to be 18 to buy one. I thought, "Boy, that was a long time ago."
When I was, oh, probably 19 or so, something clicked with the characters I was playing. They very suddenly stopped being machines of vengeance and became avenues of moral exploration. That's not to say that "vengeance" is necessarily off the table, but it very, very suddenly became one color in a subtle spectrum. Coercion (the cause of the vengeance) remains a hotbutton issue with me, but other things are usually more interesting: religious orthodoxy, pragmatism, violent solutions causing their own, larger problems, placing family above all else...
I could see, the moment my character was a Taoist monk instead of a vengeance-soaked cowboy, that something changed.
But look! See how gendered these options are? It took me time to understand women (insofar as I ever did) to be able to play one. And that took actual sexual maturing to make it happen. Like, actual, long-term sexual experience. And because it's me, the largely-straight male, having those experiences, it makes it a different experience than if I were a woman. Just like it's a different experience if I were gay.
Gender is really close to the core of a person, I think. I don't know if it has to be that way, but I think it usually is. So when you play a game where you're kinda trying on variations of yourself, you'll necessarily play a character that's gendered in a particular way (in addition to having input from every other aspect of your personality).
So now I roleplay as a man. "Adult" has other implications that maybe I don't want to imply when I say that. "Man" says some specific things, given the nature of manhood I've inherited, internalized, and grown into my own. It means a particular perspective on child rearing, on violence, on skill and knowledge. I think Vincent said "man" because it's what he meant. But I know for goddamn certain that he didn't mean that there's quantitative value to it over roleplaying like a woman or something else.
RaC go "No."*
NinJ go "You don't see the gendering in Taoist monk and cowboy? The fuck?"
Actually, you know what? Upon furhter recollection, I want to revise a marginalia I just marginaliated, all front and center.
Of course I'm sexist. But I don't admire it in myself, and maybe that counts for something.
I don't think you're sexist. I think you and I and everyone are part of a sexist system, so yeah, we're going to do and say sexist things until we become aware of what those things are and decide to change them, and even while we're trying to change them. It's not a matter of individuals being in or out. You can't not be a part of it. You just have to decide if you're going to fight or acquiesce.
Ditto what Ninja Monkey said. There IS a meaning, a positive meaning, to being a MAN. This whole thing resonated with me because I've had a long, hard time coming to terms with that, and now, at 31, I feel like I've barely come to terms with that. It took a decade of spinning wheels and one short, fucked-up, failed marriage, but I'm finally starting to get a handle on that portion of my identity.
Thing is, there are so many negative aspects to what "manliness" means in our society that one hesitates (or at least I do) to identify oneself with that, and for most of my life I shied away from the whole idea of masculinity, resented it, even, because it seemed to have no place for, and even a harsh condemnation of, a sensitive, artsy-fartsy guy like me. So yeah, there's issues there.
And now that I've come to consciously acknowledge that yeah, I'm a MAN and that is good, there's a whole other danger in steering clear of the whole set of sexist attitudes that permeate our culture, as Matt said. So it's tricky, and I still have more questions than answers.
Living in western society, there's a five-box system. Five boxes, give or take. The boxes are: white; middle-class (you can sub in "college-educated" for this one pretty interchangeably); male; straight; able-bodied. If you can tick all of the boxes a number of things are true, the two most important things are:
Firstly, you are, in terms of money, employment, social status, better off than you would be if you couldn't tick all of those boxes, ceterus parabus. This is because of biases inherant in society -- biases founded in things like racism and sexism -- and this means you are the beneficiary of these biases. To make that explicit: you as someone who can tick all of those boxes are the beneficiary of racism, et al. Even if you didn't mean to be, even if you don't like to be, even if it makes you feel like crap thinking that you are, you are.
Secondly, being in a position to tick all of those boxes limits your perspective on the issues facing people who can't. It takes a considerable effort of imagination -- of empathy and sympathy -- to understand at all the position of the people who can't tick all of those boxes. This is an ongoing effort that would, from a standing start, take years.
These two things make me sad, to think of them as being true. Sadness isn't a reason not to believe them. One uplifting thing though, and I think it's genuinely uplifting, is that these things seem to be generational. We are less bigoted than our parents, and our children will be less bigoted than we. One of the ways in which we make this true, is by being aware of the problem and acting on the awareness.
Which is a long winded way of writing that, Vincent, when read you describing yourself as sexist and as not liking that about yourself, I think that's a hopeful thing, a positive thing.