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    Default Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    For the vast majority of D&D species, including humans, there is no difference in abilities between males and females. Temporarily disregarding magic/dragons/falling off 10000ft. high cliffs and not dying/etc, would human society be radically different as a result of this?
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Technically, there's no difference in abilities in human society. It's mainly an issue of attitudes. Given the same circumstances, a woman and a man could have the same level of strength and endurance.

    The problem is, most women tend to avoid those activities whcih would greatly enhance their strength, so examples of them are fewer.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Perhaps more egalitarian, when it comes to women doing work outside the home (even in physically demanding jobs, where the period seems to dictate women be excluded). Domestic power might be more evenly shared.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Wippit Guud View Post
    Technically, there's no difference in abilities in human society. It's mainly an issue of attitudes. Given the same circumstances, a woman and a man could have the same level of strength and endurance.
    Not quite: the bell curves of, say, strength distribution overlap a lot, but the male bell curve does extend further out. Many woman can be stronger than most men, but the very strongest people in the world will pretty much inevitably be (and are) men.

    I don't think that if the bell curves were to be the same, it would change much, though.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    BWL pretty much nailed it. There's a notable but largely irrelevant difference in the maximum physical strenghts between men and women, but that kind of strength just isn't worth much any more. There are also a number of differences in how the two think, physiologically speaking, with each having ups and downs.

    But if the two were exactly the same save for gender-specific functions, then society would still be the same. The ignorant would still find reasons to hate easily-identifiable and excludable groups of people for no reason. Kind of depressing, when you think about it.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Jade_Tarem View Post
    BWL pretty much nailed it. There's a notable but largely irrelevant difference in the maximum physical strenghts between men and women, but that kind of strength just isn't worth much any more. There are also a number of differences in how the two think, physiologically speaking, with each having ups and downs.
    Careful; thinking isn't as clear-cut. There's a number of differences in how the two tend to think, but it's not nearly as absolute; you could point at a man and say "no woman is that strong", but you can't really point at any man and say "no woman thinks that way". Furthermore, the way we think is far more culturally influenced than strength, and a lot of the things people assume are universal actually aren't (for example, the Trobrianders of New Guinea had men do the bulk of their child-raising... because they thought men were just naturally better at it).

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Maybe not-- there were egalitarian and even matriarchal societies in actual history.

    How the society is arranged may have more to do with the average degree of risk that a member faces, because no matter how similar men and women are otherwise, the women bear the children and can't be exposed to as much risk as the men can.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Well, there is one persistent factor in separating the genders, and that's the hormone production associated with each. Testosterone is well known as a naturally occurring chemical that increases muscle mass, and it's almost always found in higher concentrations in men, whereas the opposite distribution is found with things like estrogen.

    Those aren't strong determining factors, but they can strongly influence the attitudes of society based on even relatively insignificant changes.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    The default fluff tends to treat humans as either being influenced by culture than by race or having cultures that are much less monolithic than those of other races, so you would expect gender roles to run the gamut of every conceivable scenario. One thing you should look to as a guide is the role of the sexes in combat; combat is the near-exclusive domain of men in the vast majority of real-life cultures, so female participation in combat can be used as a barometer of gender roles (or lack thereof) in general.

    However, there is a very strong correlation between gender equality and racial/cultural Good-ness; most of the PHB races have gender equality to an extent that is unprecedented in real life, while evil races tend to treat women (or men, as the case may be) like property.


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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Sociology is an absolute nightmare of a field, and I don't trust myself to pick out the good science from the bad without overpowering confirmation bias. Even the most obvious trends have intricate, overlapping roots. Trying to make a prediction from a starting assumption like this? Just about hopeless.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Sardia View Post
    Maybe not-- there were egalitarian and even matriarchal societies in actual history.

    How the society is arranged may have more to do with the average degree of risk that a member faces, because no matter how similar men and women are otherwise, the women bear the children and can't be exposed to as much risk as the men can.
    But such things are less of a concern in a society with acess to divine magic, and the risk of childbirth would be considerably less than in a magicless society with similar technology levels.


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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by averagejoe View Post
    But such things are less of a concern in a society with acess to divine magic, and the risk of childbirth would be considerably less than in a magicless society with similar technology levels.
    Childbirth yes, but if you stand a good chance of being eaten by a (fill in monster here) while out hunting or fishing or farming, those professions are going to be mostly male.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Sardia has the right of it; the chief difference between men and women, sociologically, is childbirth. Namely, the per-child investment for a member of each sex.

    Women are the limiting factor for reproduction; a population with X women and Y men can reproduce at a rate determined by X, and if you add more Y, they can't reproduce any faster. Furthermore, a small number of males can impregnate a large number of females; but (and there's an elegant explanation for this, which I forget) every child born has an even chance of being male or female, so those surplus males are still there, available to be used as disposable fighters.

    Any given female may be just as capable as any given male for any given task, but in societal terms, any society in a race that reproduces like humans will show the influence of this basic difference in reproductive roles. The other option is to take races which have been civilized for a long time and don't necessarily need a high rate of replenishment, as this resembles modern, wealthy societies. Elves would be a good model for this.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Men and women may be physically and mentally equal in terms of their abilities' ranges, but that doesn't mean that their societies will reflect that at all.
    I think that in D&D and other alternate reality settings, it's quite reasonable to have gender divisions based on cultural pressure rather than ability.

    Let's assume for sake of argument that the ability ranges in d20 don't have enough fine-tuning to show the real-world differences between male and female humans, and that on the d20 SRD scale, real-world humans operate the same for both sexes - both sexes are fairly close, after all. Real world society is full of gender-role divisions, even though the abilities of the sexes are fairly close.

    All that aside, even if we have an egalitarian society where the equality of ability is recognised, there are still going to be lots of gender divides. Wet-nursing and Midwifery are likely to remain female-dominated professions, for example, and possibly this might spill over into general nursing. With the alleged divide between the type of intelligence in men and women (that "Mars / Venus" divide of hard logic vs social intelligence), you might see more men in wizardry and more women in the priesthood, for example.

    Things like that should be a general trend rather than any sort of rule... but in the real world, trends can become rules, so that genders, castes, races, etc, become excluded from roles. Even in a good society, it's likely that a gradual "settling in" of "traditional roles" would increase some divides.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Kamikasei's point is a good one, but it assumes a species that tends to have one child at a time (as humans do). If you have an intelligent species where the normal "litter" is much higher then the dangers of putting the females in harm's way are reduced. How the heck it would work in a species that lays eggs is anyone's guess!

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    I like your post Altair the Vexed, it largely reflects my real-world view. Midwives (real world OBGYN) is more dominated by ratio than most fields, etc. I think these roles are largely cocial. While I'd prefer that everything be de-gendered, I imagine some of this will continue.

    I think in a fantasy world (and this isn't a bad thing IMO), it is easy to remove gender roles and bias. There are women generals, warriors, wizards, etc. I really appreciated how WotC de-gendered D&D at 3rd edition (mixing prounoun usage in the rulebooks, "men" to "folk" i.e. Lizardfolk, etc). That represents what, imo, society at large should do.

    In the real world, I'm a strong proponent of the conclusion that gender is largely programed. From baby showers to pink and blue, to "coded" toy aisles and toys, to boys/girls TV shows, books, clothes, magazines, etc. I think people are taught how to "behave" a certain gender, through subtle and not-so-subtle programming and training. I'm glad that is minimized in the D&D fantasy worlds.

    Sure there are aways some realistic differences and limitations- some minor hormone issues, physical strength and features, etc, but by and large gender is learned.

    To Kami's point:

    Quote Originally Posted by kamikasei View Post
    Furthermore, a small number of males can impregnate a large number of females; but (and there's an elegant explanation for this, which I forget) every child born has an even chance of being male or female, so those surplus males are still there, available to be used as disposable fighters.
    Many socieities, i.e. China, India sex-select for males. In fact, there is a huge problem in the world's largest country with this right now, and there are measures being taken to keep the smaller number of girls from being adopted out so rapidly. I wonder how sex-selection and gender offspring preference affects the issue?
    Last edited by Arlanthe; 2007-03-19 at 05:33 AM.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    Kamikasei's point is a good one, but it assumes a species that tends to have one child at a time (as humans do). If you have an intelligent species where the normal "litter" is much higher then the dangers of putting the females in harm's way are reduced. How the heck it would work in a species that lays eggs is anyone's guess!
    According to Races of the Dragon, kobolds (who lay eggs) don't distinguish themselves by gender at all (they still have the pronouns and apply them correctly, of course, but a male can hold any office thta a female can). They tend to gather all the eggs in a tribe together and have a few males and females raise them communally, while the rest of the kobolds get on with their lives.

    Kobolds also don't mate for life, but they do marry. I'm not sure whether marrying is just between opposite sexes, though. It's pretty rare for kobolds to marry, though.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Dhavaer View Post
    For the vast majority of D&D species, including humans, there is no difference in abilities between males and females. Temporarily disregarding magic/dragons/falling off 10000ft. high cliffs and not dying/etc, would human society be radically different as a result of this?
    Yes. It's kind of hard to figure out how, though, since it's such a big change.

    In real life, men and women are very different, physically, mentally, and culturally. D&D doesn't model this, partly because the differences are really complicated, and partly because of the vast amount of hate mail they'd get if they tried, since it's a hot-button issue. :)

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    In real life, men and women are very different, physically, mentally, and culturally.
    No, they really aren't. There are some slight differences physically (mainly due to different hormones due to the difference in sexual organs), but mentally and culturally, male and female humans really aren't very different.

    Yes, there is the stereotype that women can multitask better than men and men can focus on one task better than women, but it's just that, a stereotype.
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    Quote Originally Posted by archaeo View Post
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Yuki_Akuma View Post
    No, they really aren't. There are some slight differences physically (mainly due to different hormones due to the difference in sexual organs), but mentally and culturally, male and female humans really aren't very different.

    Yes, there is the stereotype that women can multitask better than men and men can focus on one task better than women, but it's just that, a stereotype.
    Eh. Going to have to agree to disagree on this one, I think. I've found otherwise.

    I think getting into an argument about it would probably violate board rules, though, since it gets into politics, so I'll stop there. PM me if you want to talk about it.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Arlanthe View Post
    To Kami's point:

    Many socieities, i.e. China, India sex-select for males. In fact, there is a huge problem in the world's largest country with this right now, and there are measures being taken to keep the smaller number of girls from being adopted out so rapidly. I wonder how sex-selection and gender offspring preference affects the issue?
    I remember now the explanation I had forgotten earlier: it applies to the idea that in a species that reproduces like humans (one male and one female mate and produce one or more children), you get a 50/50 ratio of births, and can't maintain a different ratio as stable. Here's why.

    Say you have a variety of genetic factors in an individual that affects whether its offspring will be male or female. It'd be possible for a trait that makes offspring more likely to be, say, male to spread through the population. In that case you would see more males being born than females. Therefore, any females born would have a greater chance of mating and passing on their own genes, so the "genetic value" of having a female child would go up (because it would improve your genes' chance of survival). Thus, traits that encourage females to be born rather than males would become successful. The net result is that all genetic factors influencing birth ratios will settle on a stable, even split.

    The thing is that that's genetic factors for birth. It doesn't take into account intervention by, say, tribal elders casting out female infants to die because they want strong men. In that scenario, I imagine you'd end up with a 50/50 split of births but a different final sex ratio due to infanticide (but also a need for a higher birth rate to maintain the same size of population, because you're automatically increasing infant mortality).

    So, yeah, in summary: policies like you describe would seriously mess with a society. You essentially have society fighting biology, there, and that's a hard fight to win without crippling yourself in the process.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    Eh. Going to have to agree to disagree on this one, I think. I've found otherwise.

    I think getting into an argument about it would probably violate board rules, though, since it gets into politics, so I'll stop there. PM me if you want to talk about it.

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    Without getting into politics on it myself, I'll just point out that it's very difficult to say whether any pattern of difference you or anyone else may see between men and women is due to some inherent, inborn trait of the genders or due to social, cultural, historical factors - so trying to represent them in a fantasy setting where all of those things are very different is especially troublesome.

    The most interesting argument I've heard for an actual, biologically-based difference that could be represented in D&D stats is the one (I believe it claimed to have statistical support, but I don't have the references - nonetheless, the argument is interesting) that says males and females have the same average intelligence (I think it was IQ they were measuring) but a different distribution, so that you were more likely to find males at the extreme high and low ends of the curve. The reasoning was that high intelligence had more survival value to a male animal than a female, and allowing the variation to get that high intelligence also increased the odds of having a low.
    Last edited by kamikasei; 2007-03-19 at 06:28 AM. Reason: merging two replies

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Actually it'd go the other way. If females are selected against, the species will eventually evolve to give birth to more males: Because people who do not 'waste' nine month to grow a female offspring will end up with a larger number of living offspring. So people who inherantly are more likely to produce male offspring will not be selected against and therefore slowly become a larger proportion of the population.

    But back on topic: Males and females have the same goal- to live, but a different set of tools for getting there. If you make their stats identical, the tools will become more alike, and therefore the distinctions between their ways of getting to their goal and the distinction between their roles in society will blur slightly, but since women still give birth and men do not, which with the hormonal requirements is the main difference between the two, I doubt that much will change.

    On another note- whose to say that females and males of the same species have the same stats in D&D? A lot of the races have different vital statistics for different genders, which is an indicator of different strengths and what not and players (I think) are more likely to make their male and female characters in line with their RL stereotypes, which determines the stats distribution of a race more than the 3d6+6/8/10 distribution. SInce having rolled that they decde which race and gender it is.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    I think it would radically change the typical D&D setting. I think a large part of what defined 'male' roles and 'female' roles was based on their physical capabilities. Assuming males and females were exactly the same I think you could see a large variety of different civilization types.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    For sex-selection, see Crocodile eggs and Temperature.

    As far as mental differences(or at least, thought patterns), see Child of Our Time.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by kamikasei View Post
    The thing is that that's genetic factors for birth. It doesn't take into account intervention by, say, tribal elders casting out female infants to die because they want strong men. In that scenario, I imagine you'd end up with a 50/50 split of births but a different final sex ratio due to infanticide (but also a need for a higher birth rate to maintain the same size of population, because you're automatically increasing infant mortality).

    I should have been clearer, thanks for pointing that out. To put it bluntly I was referring to adopting out girls, aborting them, or yes even infanticide.

    Yes men and women are different physically, but despite all looks I wouldn't say "very" since- without going into detail, men and women's reproductive organs differ only in a few protein switches in the foetus, and come from the same material.

    Culturally men and women ARE different- this is where I would argue most of the differnces between the sexes come from. How they are taught to behave and socialize; not how they are biologically determined to behave and socialize. There are some good books on the subject.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    I don't think that "slight" covers the physical differences between men and women... there are certainly a large physical difference between the sexes.

    Difference in ability aside, it's sad that D&D took the easy way out by just not doing any design on gender roles, etc in their campaign settings. Even the most egalitarian societies have gender roles of some sort.

    For contrast: In Yrth (a GURPS fantasy setting), the cultures are described in fair detail, including gender roles; the religions are taken from real world religions, so the first female knight and the knightly order that has female knights as members because of her squire get their own write up, including little facts about how female knights are treated in al-Haz and al-Wazif (when not on crusade), or how other knightly orders perceive them.

    While I'm sure that not everyone wants that kind of detail, it's nice to have.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Well, Orcs are patriarchal, as are evil Frost Giants(those who follow Kostchtchie at least), most Lizardfolk are at least partially patriarchal(Lizard King is still the default), Drow are matriarchal. I can't really think of too many other matriarchal societies in D&D.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicKitKat View Post
    Well, Orcs are patriarchal, as are evil Frost Giants(those who follow Kostchtchie at least), most Lizardfolk are at least partially patriarchal(Lizard King is still the default), Drow are matriarchal. I can't really think of too many other matriarchal societies in D&D.
    Elephants maybe? Though that isn't really a society as such.
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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    In my experience GMs tend to enhance the whole stereotypification (hope that's a word) of gender roles.

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    Default Re: Sex/Gender Roles in D&D

    Personally, I take the position that men and women are still physically different in D&D, but that the difference is not significant enough to justify a statistical distinction (i.e. less than one D&D 'point' in a stat).

    I think the more significant issue regarding gender equality is the same issue which allows drow and half-orcs to run around being heroes; adventurer culture is no more sexist than it is racist or ageist or anythingelseist. At least, that's my take.

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