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diversity, prejudice, and roleplaying...


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Diversity is something that I think is important in a roleplaying community. Out of character there should be no question that people are judged based on their merits and their personality rather than their ethnicity, sexuality, gender, sex, religion, etc. In character, however, I find that people tend to fall on one side of the extreme or the other.

 

Please note that these present some of my opinions and are used to facilitate discussion; if you do not agree, that is perfectly okay but this discussion should be kept civil.

 

Side one is where people tend to pretend everything is fine, that prejudice doesn't exist, and that everyone is accepting. In my opinion, this isn't the right approach to take. There is injustice in the world and while in fantasy settings you can certainly remove aspects of this, if someone is based anywhere in the real world, ignoring it is wrong (again, in my opinion).

 

Side two is where people tend to go to the extreme and highlight injustices to the point that they are almost blown out of proportion or glorified. In my opinion, this also isn't the right approach; it can be incredibly insensitive and doesn't allow people to address the issue. If in a real world setting, I feel that these topics should be approached with a certain amount of realism.

With those thoughts in mind, I had a few questions for everyone:

 

1. What is your opinion on prejudice in character? Do you fall on side one, side two, or somewhere in between them?
2. Would you say that your character cast is diverse (whatever that means to you)?
3. How do you avoid being insensitive to sensitive topics in your roleplaying or roleplaying a stereotype?
4. What exactly does diversity on a site mean to you? Does that definition change if the site is small? large?
5. How do you feel if you go onto a site and the cast is largely one type (e.g. all gay or all white or all female)?
6. Would you say the characters you play are more aligned with the kind of person you are/you identify as?

 

I'll post my answers in a follow up post. Feel free to add more questions to the discussion if you think of some!

1. What is your opinion on prejudice in character?
I'm sure you've probably guessed from the information posited above that I fall somewhere in the middle. Prejudice is real and it shouldn't be ignored in my opinion but it also shouldn't be used as a tool to bully people or make them uncomfortable. I don't believe in putting people in boxes and wrapping them in cotton wool but I also think it's just as awful to target people within roleplaying or even to fetishise a person based on one of those identifiers.

Prejudice and biases are something that everyone deals with personally to varying degrees. It might be something mild that doesn't affect the world around you, or it might be something that leads to you harming another.

I think when it comes to these topics in roleplaying, they are fine as long as they are approached with sensitivity towards other writers and that there is a reason for them. Whenever I'm writing a character I like to ask myself: why does this person feel this way? What about their life or their upbringing affected them and gave them this world view? Are they a person for whom this view is likely to change with exposure?

 

2. Would you say that your character cast is diverse?
I largely play in fantasy settings where skin tone is more indicative of the region a person is born in than the part of the world they hail from (on a larger scale) so when it comes to skin colour sometimes I tend to be more white-oriented and sometimes I get more mixed. When it comes to gender, sexuality, etc. I am a lot more diverse though. I actually prefer to start most of my characters off as not really knowing their sexuality which allows me to explore it in character and then it's more organic.

 

3. How do you avoid being insensitive to sensitive topics/roleplaying a stereotype?
Research. Plain and simple. If I'm in a situation where it is necessary I will research the topic. I ask people who've been through those experiences. If I don't understand something I get it explained from sources that are directly impacted. It's not always a foolproof method but it helps me avoid putting people in boxes that come from a place of ignorance. I can't be expected to understand a culture that is not my own or experiences that are not my own because I haven't gone through them; I need to speak to people who have had those experiences to understand what it was like for them personally.

 

4. What exactly does diversity on a site mean to you?
Diversity is about seeing a variety of characters from different walks of life. Races, backgrounds, skin colours, sexualities, genders, sexes, religions, etc. Obviously in some more fantasy settings what these mean will change (for example, on our site Gods are real beings and thus there is only one religion so religious diversity is not something that exists in that universe, but were it set in the real world there are many religions that should be represented).

 

4b. Does that definition change if the site is small? large?
I think it does. On a site that is larger (10-15+ characters) I would expect to see greater diversity than on a site that is small (1-10 characters). This isn't because I think people on smaller sites are more prejudicial but because there are fewer characters and thus the sample size is smaller and the data set very small. If you walked into my city and went to my friend's house, it might look like it is not a very culturally diverse city (if that were your only experience with it). If you went into a shopping centre, however, suddenly the city becomes more diverse and that is what a large site (or large sample size) versus a small site (or small sample size) looks like.

 

5. How do you feel if you go onto a site and the cast is largely one type?
That really depends on the size of the cast as I mentioned above. I don't feel comfortable joining a large site where everyone (or almost everyone) is the same unless it makes sense for the setting. For example, if the site were set in Korea then I would expect to see the number of Asian characters to be higher and the number of Caucasian characters to be lower because that is the demographic of that region.

 

6. Would you say the characters you play are more aligned with the kind of person you are?
Yes and no. I would say that I play a higher number of cisgendered bisexual white females, certainly, but I wouldn't say that my entire cast is that way. I have characters that fall on different sides of the sexuality spectrum, I have characters who struggle with gender identity (though they're not currently active because they don't fit into my current setting), I have characters who are male. Playing people like me is certainly comfortable but I'm not afraid to step out of my comfort zone and play someone different.

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1. What is your opinion on prejudice in character? Do you fall on side one, side two, or somewhere in between them?

We have a pre-defined system of prejudice in the HP universe that alludes to but doesn't conform with any RL prejudice (magical blood type), and that informs a lot of central conflict on our site. Because of that, RL prejudices about gender, sexuality, religion, skin colour, nationality, etc. seem out of place and especially ignorant when players try to bring them in and explore them in a world where they're not relevant. I experience enough prejudice IRL, I don't want to have to face the same kind of judgements during my hobby time. 


2. Would you say that your character cast is diverse (whatever that means to you)?

Yes. 


3. How do you avoid being insensitive to sensitive topics in your roleplaying or roleplaying a stereotype?

By writing all my characters like regular people with their own desires and motivations to which their gender, sexuality, race, etc. is a fact not a facet of their personality. There's nothing more cringy than seeing people write characters who are narratively super aware of "diversity" because then it makes every post sound like tumblr madlibs.


4. What exactly does diversity on a site mean to you? Does that definition change if the site is small? large?

A variety of characters actively in play. You can have a Benetton advert's worth of colours, genders, and sexualities but that's irrelevant if they aren't getting the same plot opportunities as whatever the default character is for the demographic of members on the site. That's the same whether it's a small or a large site, not that those are concrete definitions in the RP world either (we're a "small" site at <15 members, but we have 400+ characters between us, so it's all relative).


5. How do you feel if you go onto a site and the cast is largely one type (e.g. all gay or all white or all female)?

Depends on the site and who it's intended for. If a homogenous cast is as a result of the site or plot being created specifically for a certain kind of writer or character then I probably wouldn't think anything of it. However, if there's nothing about the setting, plot, or theme of the site that specifies or encourages this one type of character, then I would be...confused. Either way, I wouldn't join it. I like to play a range of different character types and if they were outright unwelcome or unlikely to get threads then I wouldn't bother wasting my time.


6. Would you say the characters you play are more aligned with the kind of person you are/you identify as?

Not really. There are some overlaps here and there, but the only thing my characters and I have in common in every case is that we all hate mushrooms. That transcends diversity for me. 

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6 hours ago, Belle said:

Not really. There are some overlaps here and there, but the only thing my characters and I have in common in every case is that we all hate mushrooms. That transcends diversity for me. 

 

This genuinely made me laugh just a little bit because thinking about my characters and what they have in common I would say my "hates mushrooms" equivalent is "likes rain and/or thunderstorms".

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