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Girls in Roleplaying

So why are there so few girls in roleplaying? Here's an article that has a look at that question - and maybe provides an answer to the question "Why are there any girls in roleplaying?"

Girls in roleplaying

by Heidi Manning

Did you know that only 5% of all roleplayers are female. Why aren't there more? And what kind of people are the ones who play?
I find that most of the female roleplayers I have encountered have strong personalities. They either don't notice that roleplaying is a male-dominated hobby or they don't see it as a problem.
There would be a few things that would attract females into roleplaying: fantasy, creative expression, clothing, and achievement to name some of them.

Brought up on a steady diet of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, escaping into fantasy is certainly one of my preferred options. However I think Cinders and Beauty are a bit weak for me. Though they were always beautiful, they didn't DO anything. My favourite characters are beautiful but intelligent and do stuff.
It's so hard to find books with strong, intelligent, and beautiful female heros that sometimes it's easier to create your own. Some people write them, others pretend to be them.

Creative Expression
The genres of fantasy, science fiction, history, cyber-punk allow free rein of creative expression. You can play with anything as long as your imagination lets you. You can be anything, wear anything, say anything. You can be a world class gymnast style thief, even if you could never even run around the sportsfield at high school. I think that in our ever-incerasing high-tech world, and a world that says that youc an eb an artist, or a business-person but not both, it's important to have balance, and roleplaying as a hobby allows that. Why particularly for females? Roleplaying shows us there aer other otions in life thant being a wife and mother. Even though school and the media do occasionally show us these other options, there still is a strong prevalence on finding that right guy (or right orgasm), and making sure you have matching shoes to your handbag. How mundane!

I don't think i've met a girl in roleplaying who didn't like dressing up in fancy clothing. I personally have a great love of fashion so my view may be slightly skewed, but nonetheless, there are some absolutely magnificent clothing choices worn during roleplaying conventions particularly. And actually, even within small campaigns. I remember playing a game, where I specifically asked a player what they were wearing.. and then later brought it up when that scruffy adventurer tried to speak to a Duke...(yeah yeah, I'm mean).
Roleplaying gives us the chance to wear clothes we would love to wear in public(and some do) but are afraid to.

There's finishing an adventure, completing a goal, winning treasure, and those ever controversial trophies. Completing goals is one of the most self-affirming things to ever do, and roleplaying certainly provides plenty of those. And the trophies.
Would I have ever done another convention if I hadn't received a trophy at that first convention.. I'm not sure. When all the trophies in high school are given to the sports stars, it sure is nice to be given a trophy when you're not one.

But now with all these great reasons, why so few females? I have a few possible reasons, and would love for comments on this.

  • One possibility is that girls are encouraged way too early to focus on the opposite sex, and looking good for them, which means that their creative expression is channelled into finding that guy.
  • Another that girls often get casual work during high school, often earlier than guys, and so have very little free time to spend in the same way that boys do.
  • Another, roleplaying does seem to be a mentor hobby. You get into it, because someone teaches you how to play it, and you then have friends who all play together. There's not enough girls now, so there won't be more in the future. If girls are shown how to play by boys it all too soon becomes a flirting match (not that it isn't that way now grin )
    As evidence for this theory, Macquarie Univeristy Roleplaying Society (MURPS) from 1993-1998 had approx 20% female membership. Why so high? Well there were girls at the Orientation Week stalls recruiting members. Girls are more likely to ask questions from another girl.
  • Girls are more likely to give up if they don't think they are any good.

I'm certainly glad that I took roleplaying as my "hobby of choice", and I have tried over the years to get other younger girls interested in the hobby. But they were put off by the fact that there was no other girls their age doing it. I think it could be a "Catch-22" situation. Anyway, I'd like to thank all the women and girls currently in roleplaying, especially Kel who took me to my first freeform.

Heidi says

Heidi has stated that she'd like to see more addendums to this article put up here - so respond away and I'll see what I can do!

We already have some responses - feel free to Take a peek!