It doesn’t take a skilled gender detective to deduce the target audience of the Rainbow Magic books for early readers. These wildly popular books feature covers that literally sparkle, covered in lithe fairies dressed in pointedly feminine clothing and accessories. The series’ titles boil down to Feminine-Name the Feminine-Noun Fairy (as in Grace the Glitter Fairy or Bethany the Ballet Fairy). They’re published under the pseudonym Daisy Meadows.
These are the girliest girls’ books in Girlville.
Why am I so familiar with these gems of English literature? Because they’re among my six-year-old son’s very favorite books. He devours them, shrieking with laughter at the bumbling goblins. We spend hours playing Rainbow Magic Fairies: “You’re Queen Titania and I’m the Museum Fairy. What could a Museum Fairy’s object be?” Or, “We’re all goblins. Where’s Goblin Steve?” These books are very big in my house.
Well over a hundred Rainbow Magic installments are available, but the plot is always the same. Jack Frost and his goblins have stolen some magical object (the weather fairies’ feathers, for instance). The displaced objects cause some sort of wonkiness (unusual weather, say). Kirsty and Rachel, human BFFs and friends to the fairies, help recover the objects. The goblins are ugly, mean, and male, and they always lose. The fairies are pretty, sweet, and female, and they win through the power of friendship.
Reading the books is actually teaching my son an unexpected lesson: recognizing sexism.
Women’s colleges were born out of institutionalized sexism. So, do we still need women’s colleges?
In mid-December the Huffington Post published a guest editorial by Elizabeth Pfeiffer titled, “Don't Like the Gender Gap? Women's Colleges Might Just Be the Answer.” In her post, Pfeiffer defends the all-female Scripps College. She argues that a school should be defined by “the richness of the community…and the possibilities this kind of environment offers.”
I agree: Schools should be defined by the richness of their community. But that goes beyond a gender binary. How about those whose identity does not fit within this heteronormative binary of man or woman?
Pfeiffer asks, “Why is Scripps, or any women's college, still relevant?” Pfeiffer believes one reason is because of the leadership roles she was able to take on, as well as the idea that women’s colleges instill a sense of leadership. She cites the fact that women's college graduates make up “more than 20 percent of women in Congress and 30 percent of a Businessweek list of rising women in corporate America.”
Jessica Price works as a project manager at tabletop roleplaying game publisher Paizo Publishing—a progressive company with a female CEO. But Jessica’s career reaches across jobs and companies. In the worlds of video and tabletop games, her experiences have run from sexual harassment to seeing real and positive industry change.
Who do you find it difficult to get respect from in the gaming industry? Or has your experience been largely free of sexism?
It's rough sometimes.
Some of it's unintentional. Male programmers will be shocked by the idea of making the default avatar female for a game intended primarily for female audiences. Marketers will think that making a console pink will magically fix its branding problems with women. Studios making games intended for kids and moms will refuse to give a successful female game designer an interview because she's never done a first-person shooter. And regardless of your actual job title, new male employees will assume you're the receptionist, ask you to clean up the kitchen or conference room after them, and believe your ideas came from your male coworkers.
But some of it's very intentional. I've had every inch of my anatomy commented on by coworkers. I've had marketing guys propose that our marketing should consist of me putting on a low-cut top and talking about our product. I've had people insist that I must have slept with someone to get into the industry. I've had guys I disagreed with in meetings suggest that it's because I'm on the rag.
If you make roleplaying games, you’re creating something for people to play. To engage with, experience, and share. But something I hear frequently from women in the gaming industry is their discomfort with self-promotion. I understand that, but it’s a discomfort we have to leave behind—as women and as professionals. If you’re uncomfortable with putting yourself out there, this is an important thing to discuss with yourself and with peers who are good at it.
Sometimes, board games have cool miniatures and artistically admirable player pieces. Other times, they have patently sexist, exploitative and offensive miniatures. Sadly, this week has supplied an exemplar in the latter category. Kingdom Death, a horror-themed board game for 1–6 players and currently in development, just finished its Kingdom Death: Monster Kickstarter. The full game, available to backers of the campaign at $100 or more, contains a generous number of pieces. As the campaigns steadily racked up more backers, upgrades to the base game were unlocked via stretch goals. Creator Adam Poots had set the funding goal at for $35,000. He ended up raising $2,049,721 from 5,410 backers. While it's important to remember that both Kickstarter and Amazon take a percentage of a Kickstarter campaign’s money in processing fees, it's equally important to point out that 5,410 people are really, really excited about this game.