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Soapbox: About the Industry

Give Me A Closet

by Sandy Antunes
March 1, 2002  
Recently, I saw a pitch asking for women freelancers, so as to give the work a woman's perspective. Naturally, as a writer, my first thought was "I can do that!" After all, the false truism goes: "Black people write about the black experience, women write women's fiction, white males can write anything".

I admit I used to have an edge in these things-- "Sandy" is an gender-ambiguous name to most and I've been called everything from "domineering bossy male" to "crunchy practical female". In writing, I guiltily think I probably scored a few gigs just because the editor thought "cool, a woman writer!".

So how much of a writer is rooted in their personal identity, and how far can we reach? Does the advent of email and the internet mean that a new era of writing anonymity exists?

In a face-to-face meeting, it takes less than three sentences for an editor to figure out someone's gender. "I met with Chris." "How is he?" "_She's_ fine."

Gender identity exists in the electronic world as strongly as in the real world, but in a far more malleable form. In internet culture there are ways to hide, ignore, or disguise identity because names are detached from the flesh of the person communicating. Names can be imposed by system managers, extracted from "real world" names, or made up on a whim by the user-- there are no conventions and the standard social recognition cues in names are invalid. A large segment of the net population is, by choice or accident of naming, gender-unknown.

Some make their sex (and often sexual preference) quite clear immediately, through .sig files and signoffs. A second group chooses gender to experiment or mislead-- gender-bending as the opposite sex to gain knowledge or thrills. Others, like myself, prefer to be Gender-Not: neither neuter nor male or female, but existing as a person. This is not asexual or coldly neuter, but simply gender-irrelevant.

On the net, face-to-face verification never takes place and people must either presume a gender identity for the speaker, or discard the notion and read the contents as gender-independent. Gender becomes a matter of speculation rather than fact within the internet community, and sex typecasting breaks down. And thus judging the work based on the author becomes more problematic.

But, really, this is no more unique than letter writing or the use of pseudonyms. A deeper look into gender has to examine the history of communication prior to the internet. The closest parallel to email and netnews would be the art of letter-writing, followed closely by cross-dressing and androgyny among the art set. These parallels break down when faced with the ease of anonymity and the speed of communication within the internet-- things just got easier.

There are two approaches towards gender identity, one for the sender and one for the receiver. For the receiver, the issue is a new subfield of communications theory. In the absence of gender clues, what do people guess gender to be? Is it possible to perceive someone as "of no particular gender"? Issues of interpretation versus the raw words are a good starting point to relate to how gender is perceived. Perception is rooted in culture, and the burgeoning Net culture is creating new modes of dealing with identity. As well as perception, however, the crucial issue of motive must also be resolved.

Is "hiding" one's gender an act of deception or simply free choice? The debate over privacy versus "right to know" is strong. For privacy's case, there are advantages to avoiding labels on the net. For one, it tends to encourage people to read your words more clearly, as they have a smaller set of preconceptions to use as shortcuts. Also, it reduces gender-based "flaming". Flames are much easier to ignore if they aren't very personal or miss the target entirely.

Further, choosing to keep net-life separate from real-life is much easier when your net-persona has a different name and different (or no) gender. As a writer, this provides the freedom to avoid being pigeonholed. R. Sean Borgstrom, he or she? Does it matter if the Noblis Redux columns are relevant and good? Is Sandy's business acuma in the columns more validated by RPGnet being woman-owned or not? Is Jocelyn just a hot chick who games?

However, some people refuse to deal with others unless they know who they "really" are. And many people will guess a gender for the speaker, then ascribe the speaker's views to this gender. Such reverse-labeling ("you write like a woman, therefore you are woman, therefore, you are just writing women's rhetoric") is common but fallacious thinking. Internet culture is still developing an awareness on how to communicate in these hidden electronic forums, and given the centuries of written tradition, probably is not reinventing these tendencies as fast as people think.

People can choose their gender or keep it private, and ignore or directly confront gender-based preconceptions that are forced upon them. In that respect, the internet provides, not the first, but the easiest proving ground for a society that recognizes people as individuals first, gender-types seconds. Myself, I like that I can have a gender closet for my identity as a writer. I want credit for my works, but I don't want my works to be "me".

But I still don't think this means I can apply for that "women only" freelancing gig. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
"; } ?>

All Soapboxes

  • See What Sticks by Sandy Antunes, 06jan06
  • Simple Gifts for Pre-Gamers by Sandy Antunes, 09dec05
  • Col vs Blog by Sandy Antunes, 04nov05
  • Running a First RPG for Kids by Sandy Antunes, 07oct05
  • Making It Pay by Sandy Antunes, 02sep05
  • The Hazards of Non-Combat Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 05aug05
  • Just-in-Time Pre-order Hell by Sandy Antunes, 01jul05
  • Cassandra's Industry Report by Sandy Antunes, 03jun05
  • Fiction or Non-Fiction by Sandy Antunes, 05may05
  • I am not a Storyteller by Sandy Antunes, 08apr05
  • A Better Job by Sandy Antunes, 01apr05
  • Advice For Working Writers by Sandy Antunes, 04mar05
  • Startup Fever by Sandy Antunes, 04feb05
  • Why Blogging is Lame by Sandy Antunes, 07jan05
  • Being a Pro Writer by Sandy Antunes, 10dec04
  • Viral Marketing Invitational by Sandy Antunes, 05nov04
  • The 24 Hour RPG Challenge by Sandy Antunes, 08oct04
  • A Decade of Distilled Advice by Sandy Antunes, 03sep04
  • Go Ahead, Hit Me! by Sandy Antunes, 06aug04
  • Promoting Yourself by Sandy Antunes, 09jul04
  • 10 Hurdles to Selling Your Game by Sandy Antunes, 11jun04
  • Let's Team Up! by Sandy Antunes, 07may04
  • Beyond Role and Pla(t)y(pus) by Sandy Antunes, 08apr04
  • Slow Improv and the Post-Kilgallon by Sandy Antunes, 05mar04
  • Paradox Redux by Sandy Antunes, 06feb04
  • Mad Scientists and the Kilgallon Paradox by Sandy Antunes, 09jan04
  • It's Not Your World, It's Mine by Sandy Antunes, 05dec03
  • Murphy's Law for Adventure Writers by Sandy Antunes, 07nov03
  • Eigentesting by Sandy Antunes, 09oct03
  • Atomic by Sandy Antunes, 05sep03
  • Is Writing a Commodity? by Sandy Antunes, 06aug03
  • Designing Amidst the Tides of Gaming History by Sandy Antunes, 08jul03
  • Buy This Book by Sandy Antunes, 05jun03
  • Hobbies by Sandy Antunes, 08may03
  • The Websites That Wouldn't Die by Sandy Antunes, 10apr03
  • The Path to Atrocities by Sandy Antunes, 06mar03
  • Cattle Mutilation: The Game Design by Sandy Antunes, 06feb03
  • Gaming With Children by Sandy Antunes, 09jan03
  • How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1 by Sandy Antunes, 05dec02
  • all i game with, i learned from kids books by Sandy Antunes, 19nov02
  • TCG: The Total Cost of Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 10oct02
  • Game Publishing & The Law by Sandy Antunes, 06sep02
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants by Sandy Antunes, 01aug02
  • Buying Time by Sandy Antunes, 04jul02
  • April 10, 2002 13 New FAQs
  • March 1, 2002 Give Me A Closet
  • January 2, 2002 Let's Go Shopping?!?
  • December 13, 2001 Conflict, Ethics, Winning, and Money
  • November 13, 2001 Secret RPGnet Operations Document Leaked!
  • October 16, 2001 Leadership and D&D
  • September 4, 2001 Leading Industry Site Reports Secret: Sex Sells!
  • August 7, 2001 Any, Anyone Can Be an Internet Success-- Why Aren't You?
  • July 3, 2001 Fine Print, Part U
  • June 5, 2001 Fine Print, Part I
  • May 8, 2001 Pushing Limits
  • May 4, 2001 RPGnet State of the Union special feature
  • April 6, 2001 The Other Magic: Niche Hobbies and Other Markets
  • May 9, 2000 Running a Business as an Old Style D&D Party
  • April 14, 2000 First to Market
  • March 20, 2000 Labor Pains
  • February 15, 2000 One Trick Pony
  • January 6, 2000 Creativity is Bad, Hard to Sell, and Great for Business
  • December 14, 1999 Oranges versus Bananas: Entertainment Costs
  • November 2, 1999 Why Editors Lie
  • October 5, 1999 How to publish a quality game, accept criticism gracefully, and lead a happy life: Pick Any Two
  • September 7, 1999 It Takes a Village (to publish an RPG)
  • August 3, 1999 All Gamer Money Isn't Equal
  • July 6, 1999 Tides of Cash Flow
  • June 1, 1999 Ad-itudes
  • May 4, 1999 Who, What, Give me a Guiness
  • April 6, 1999 The GAMA Trade Show '99
  • March 2, 1999 Roleplaying would have saved Millions
  • February 2, 1999 Games That Won't Suck
  • January 5, 1999 Dangerous Games
  • December 1, 1998 Making Gamers the Old Fashioned Way
  • November 3, 1998 The $1K Company
  • October 1, 1998 So You Want to Start Your Own Company...
  • September 1, 1998 Holy Grails and Marching Morons
  • August 4, 1998 Gamers Must Die!
  • July 7, 1998 Profit versus Prophet
  • June 2, 1998 Acquire! Acquire!
  • May 5, 1998 Power
  • April 21, 1998 The GAMA Trade Show Report, Part 2 (eventually)
  • April 7, 1998 Schroedinger Games, or, the GAMA Report
  • March 3, 1998 Culling the Herd
  • February 3, 1998 Horatio Hornblower's RPG Company
  • January 6, 1998 Double Feature (Us and Them/A Clash of Images)
  • December 2, 1997 "How to Scam Games for Free"
  • November 4, 1997 "Women in Gaming?"
  • October 2, 1997 "Fear of a Gaming Planet" (Welcome to the RPG ghetto?)
  • September 2, 1997 "Rush" (fame and adoration in lieu of pay)
  • August 2, 1997 "For the Money" (convention mating rituals)
  • July 2, 1997 "Good Deeds" (the dearth of evil game companies)
  • June 2, 1997 "Dirty Laundry" (copyright and slander on the net)
  • May 2, 1997 "Communications Breakdown" (company and player schisms)
  • April 2, 1997 "The Quick and the Dead" (dying companies versus new ideas)
  • March 2, 1997 "It's All in the Timing" (on hype and late deliveries, and on genres)
  • February 2, 1997 "Insiders and Outsiders" (who's who and who uses the web)
  • January 2, 1997 "Fits and Starts" (web presences, print runs, live roleplaying)
  • December 2, 1996 "Procastination Season is Over" (delays and new products)
  • November 1, 1996 "Best of Times, Worst of Times" (on rumors, survival, and larps)
  • October 1, 1996 "Post-Con fallout and not that many new games"
  • September 1, 1996 "Our launch, news from GenCon, demos, new LARPS"
  • Our reason for existence

    Other columns at RPGnet

    TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg