The Seven-Sided Die

Selling games by selling bodies

Posted Wednesday December 24, 2008 at 11:36 PM

Edit to add: Welcome, readers from the Paizo boards. Flame-free comments are welcome. Some important points to keep in mind to avoid saying clueless things: I understand that you're protective of your iconics, but they're fair game for social criticism. Please don't confuse "exploitive" with "offensive"—they're different words. Having a female friend/being a woman who doesn't see any problem doesn't necessarily mean there's no problem, just that that woman doesn't think there's one. There's a difference between criticising an example of a cultural phenomenon and "speaking for all women"—I'm doing the first, not the latter. A female CEO doesn't give a free pass on exploitation or sexism: see Jenna Jameson or Sarah Palin. For context you might want to read my first post on this blog, White privilege in fantasy fiction and gaming, and consider whether the comment you have in mind will get any traction here.

I made an account at Paizo's online store when I wanted to take a look at their Pathfinder RPG beta, so I'm on their mailing list. I got a promotional email from Paizo yesterday that I was compelled to answer.

Some of you might have gotten the email I'm talking about. It's a "Season's greetings, have a discount coupon" sort of promo email. It's one of those emails that's nearly all image. Since my mail reader doesn't load external images until I say it should (for security reasons), it initially just looked like:

Dear D7: [have a big-ass image]

Minus the editorialised replacement text, of course.

The image is of a big-breasted, skimpily-dressed, White woman fondling an enormous candy-cane with a come-hither look, sitting inside a wreath against a snowy background. (She must be cold. Or maybe she just has DR/fire.) The wreath is topped by "Season's Greetings", and the words "from your friends at Paizo" sit just beneath her coyly-crossed feet and elaborately-impractical costume. Curiously, her ears are hidden so she's of indeterminate species. Maybe they didn't want to be on the wrong side of that all-important elf fetish divide.

Yes, I'm being slightly caustic. Here's the non-caustic email I sent them in reply:

Thank you for the discount coupon and well-wishing. However, I have to take exception to the image. I imagine many of your customers appreciate being shown random cheesecake, but it's not terribly professional or respectful to your female customers. I do hope you had something less exploitive of women for your female customers. Even if so (and especially if not!) this is a good time to stop and consider how this kind of careless skin-selling from a major publisher sets back gamers' attempts to make roleplaying less of a horny-boys' club. FYI, the group I run games for is more than half women.

If none of that made any sense, you're welcome to ask what I'm on about. Part of the problem is that this kind of image is considered normal in the industry, so people don't have much of a handle on what might be problematic about it.

Sincerely, d7

I'm curious what their reply, if any, will be. Paizo is known for this kind of cheesecake and fanservice, and I can only imagine the company culture that must hold sway when that's their public face. I'm not expecting much. If only they'd realise (and care) how hostile to women gamers this kind of thing is.

Comments (103)


Thursday December 25, 2008 at 01:44 AM

Well said. In all of my time observing your fascinating culture, I have never come to understand how it is the female half of its population is treated not as humans, but as objects. It seems strange indeed - irrational and counterproductive.

Your friend, Ficus Softball Palin MCXXVI

(I love you. -your wife)


Thursday December 25, 2008 at 03:35 AM

I'm not on the Paizo email list, so I haven't had occasion to see this piece of... marketing. But as a female gamer trying to get the industry to cut the cheesecake, I applaud your efforts and look forward to hearing the results. If at any point there's some part of this I can contribute to, let me know?

Go get 'em!

Ravyn’s last blog post: Dangerous Demeanors


Thursday December 25, 2008 at 06:18 AM


I really should think about this stuff more. Most of the time I just roll my eyes and ignore it, when I know I should at least become disgruntled. It would be nice to try and curve the industry away from the objectification that has become so mainstream.


Thursday December 25, 2008 at 01:01 PM

A little perspective and background might help to stop the shrill cries of foul.

Objectifying woman for profit is a bad thing. And if I believe that was the point, even for a second, I would be right there in backing what your point of view.

The ' big-breasted, skimpily-dressed, White woman fondling an enormous candy-cane' has a name, it is Seoni.

Seoni is on the paizo iconics, a set of characters designed to showcase different aspects of the pathfinder campaign setting. She is a fan favourite, much loved by many of Pathfinders fans.

Now to understand why I don't think that this was a soulless case of commercial exploitation of the female form, I would like to point to Paizo's track record with it's iconics. Rare is the leading produce in roleplaying which is promoted by such a diverse and inclusive and respectful set of iconic character. I cannot think of another company, which has a product with a black woman in heavy plate, carrying a sword and board with not an inch of skin on view save her face. I cannot think of another company who's main product line has a perfectly normal, slightly grumpy middle ages gay wizard as its poster boy. Or for that matter an 'Arabic' priestess in respectful clothing and armour. Ethic and cultural groups other than white European, varying body types, powerful and respectful roles for woman. Sensible treatment of sexuality. All this and more can be found in the paizo iconics.

Even Seoni, doesn't fit quite into your complaint. She isn't 'white', she is from a distinctly none anglo-saxon culture and ethnicity. Although I will be the first to admit it would be hard to tell, if you had only ever seen this picture of her.

So, why was it that Seoni appeared on what is to all intents and purposes a piece of fan service? Well the answer is right there. Fan service. A Christmas Seoni has been on the books as a piece of fan art, bounced around for week. As i have said, she is a solid favourite of the community. Unlike may companies, Paizo is active on its message boards. At least one member of staff saw we wanted it and so, in a customary fashion we got it.

Its cute, it is a little bit ironic and it is a sign that unlike so many companies, paizo actually listens to its fans. The fact it worked nicely as a marketing tool, that's just good business sense. Some of seoni's fan art, including that by woman is far bawdier.

I consider my self a feminist. Frankly we have bigger fish to fry than a tongue in cheek image meant to make seoni's fans smile. How about rather than having a go at a company who have actually done a great deal to reverse some of the negative trends in D'n'D and actively moved to increase diversity in its productsm, we concentrate on improving pay equality, putting an end to sex trafficking and stopping female genital mutilation.


Thursday December 25, 2008 at 01:27 PM



Thursday December 25, 2008 at 01:58 PM

I'm trying to understand where you are getting this line: "Paizo is known for this kind of cheesecake and fanservice" If you look at the covers of their products only 2 are of scantily clad women, one of which is a Succubus.

The artist polled the community on what type of holiday picture they wanted him to draw, and this got 4 votes for every one that the other 6 suggestions combined got, so he went with the vast majority of the community..

I havn't seen the art yet (my email got lost somewhere) But intend to see it when it is posted on the store blog tonight. So I can't really comment on the art itself yet


Thursday December 25, 2008 at 02:15 PM

You're reading way too much into it. I don't see any sort of "come hither look" there in the slightest. She's smiling, and not provocatively, that's all. And she's dressed the same way she's usually depicted, just with Santa style fur fringe and such, and given the character's class and origin, it makes sense.

You're looking too hard to find something that isn't there, and it's wierd for a guy to be generalizing about what all women should want or be offended by. You're offended, that's all I can take away from this. Some moralizing busybodies see nudity in abstract art too, but it doesn't mean that it's there to find.

The Last Rogue

Thursday December 25, 2008 at 03:37 PM

By the by, I received the e-mail and found it to be much more innocent than you described. She is not fondling the candy cane, she does not have a come-hither look.

AND she is human. She is Seoni, one of their Iconics, in this case a Varisian Sorcerer. I believe she was second on that list.

The Last Rogue

Thursday December 25, 2008 at 03:41 PM

Also reading on, I feel you may be misinformed about Paizo's 'fanservice' atmosphere. I play 4e, not PFRPG currently, and I still post at Paizo. The reason being is because there is a fairly high level of discourse, an atmosphere that fosters discussion about our hobby, and a communicative staff that lends its insight when available.

Also, a fine number of women posters (more than I've seen elsewhere) are diehard Paizo fans.

I do not mean to begrudge your opinion, but it is my feeling that you may be taking one nice gesture (a Holiday Card) and spinning it with some preconceived notions based on a general principle you believe holds true.

Before belittling a company in a public forum, please, please, dig a little deeper and see if your opinion still stands -- if it does, then great, for then it becomes an informed opinion.

Season Greetings, The Last Rogue.


Thursday December 25, 2008 at 05:21 PM

Oddly enuff the 7 female gamers I know liked the pic. The female art directer and CEO at paizo seemed to like the pic. The female gamers on paizo's boards seem to like the pic.

If ya didn't like it cool, but don't take offance for others as a whole since they do not seem to be bothered by it.

Oh and last year we got niffty goblins in a tree


Thursday December 25, 2008 at 06:02 PM

Huh. I must be gaming with the wrong people.

I would say roughly a quarter of the players in my last few games both as a GM and a Player have been women. In some cases closer to half.

Of those I can think of maybe... three individuals who might have taken offense to the image. I'm certainly not offended. I'm offended by Paizo's shipping rates. I see nothing wrong with a little good girl pin up art. I find the horny boys club generalization to be far more offensive and damning.

And if you want to talk about objecification, What about the men of fantasy? The knife cuts both ways.

I need to get some distance between this post and myself; need to calm to the point of rational thought again, but my first impression of your post, attitude and letter is that you are arguing from a position of collosal ignorance. Sorry.

I hope you post their reply (if you haven't already).


Thursday December 25, 2008 at 09:38 PM

I'm a female gamer. I appreciate that the RPG industry is trying to appeal to a more diverse demographic, and I do think it's good to remind them of things like that.

At the same time, I would have appreciated that email. Why? Because I don't feel personally diminished by cheesecake, and I happen to be gay. So for me, pictures of scantily clad women are where it's at.

I would be offended if they'd sent a seperate "beefcake" email to females on their mailing list. Who wants to see that? Probably straight girls, whom I no more speak for than male gamers speak for me.

I guess what I'm saying is, it's great that you're reminding Paizo to put more thought into how they represent women in PR. But don't think we women are so fragile that we just can't deal with designers or gamers objectifying us.

The Livewire

Thursday December 25, 2008 at 11:13 PM

Quick someone tell the female CEO of Paizo that her underlings are sending out images.

Wait, her and the female art director already knew?

Move along, nothing to see here.


Friday December 26, 2008 at 03:39 AM

I've added some landing text and basic rebuttals to the top of the post, since this has been linked from the Paizo forums. So far the vast majority of comments have been good. Only two were trolls or flames. I knew this post wouldn't be popular, so I'm rather pleased at the quality of comments so far.

@Anon: I've seen Seoni, and at first guessed it was her. I changed my mind when I remembered that Seoni wasn't day-glo White like this character. Maybe Paizo's art director isn't as comfortable with non-White characters as you think. Maybe it's a colour-balance problem. In any case, the rest of your defense amounts to excusing one case of sexism because the company is otherwise really good on diversity, and the fans wanted it anyway. Really, that just makes this that much more of a bad choice. Sexism doesn't work on a karma system where you're allowed to get free passes by being good the rest of the time. Second, being fan service doesn't make it any less exploitive. Actually, it makes it obvious that that's exactly what it is: the female form put to service the viewer. Third, bigger fish to fry doesn't mean the small things deserve no criticism. I'll let the big fish fry the other big fish. This here is a small blog in the small pond of roleplaying commentary. Finally, being feminist doesn't mean we're somehow immune to patriarchal influence. It just means we've made a commitment to recognising and resisting it where we can.

@HAHAHA: Thanks for bringing some contrast to these comments, highlighting just how reasonable everyone has been. You've used up the one troll slot, though, so the rest of the trolls can blame you for their deleted comments.

@cpt_kirstov: You seem to be alone in believing there's no fanservice here. See the rest of the comments.

@Bemused: Perhaps "sultry" would be an acceptable synonym. A woman doesn't have to be drawn provocatively—leering or licking her lips—in order to be inviting an objectifying gaze. That's she's dressed similarly to how Seoni is usually depicted misses the point. If I'm saying that this depiction of a women is problematic, do you somehow suppose that I don't think Seoni's usual outfit isn't too? I'm not generalising about what all women are or should be offended by. I don't think Anne Coulter would think there's any problem with the image. However, it still reflects the cultural attitude that women's bodies are for other people's pleasure. Yes, that's hard to see for most people, but it wouldn't be a problem if it was easy to see.

@Rogue: I'll take your word that this is supposed to be Seoni. This woman only looks like she's dressing up like her, though, given that her facial features and skin colour don't match. Sure, sometimes a giant candy cane that a half-naked woman has her fingers gently wound around is just a giant candy cane, but sometimes it's a big ol' Freudian phallic symbol. That's always a judgement call, but I think I'm safe in judging her relation to it to be deliberately suggestive by the "look, boobs!" fanservice context.

As for public forums and nice gestures, none of that really matters. Given that I hold the belief, based on a good solid theoretical grounding in power and oppression, that certain things can't be excused, I'm not going to assume that if only I could dig deeply enough I'd find something that excused the inexcusable. Paizo's intentions don't change the fact that they're perpetuating a cultural attitude that's harmful.

@seekerofshadowlight: Having certain genitals doesn't mean that someone is infallible about the treatment of other people who have the same genitals. Specific women participate in the oppression of the class of women all the time. See Anne Coulter or Michelle Malkin. Having read the thread, I'd be surprised if female gamers who didn't like the image would be comfortable speaking up about that in significant numbers. That kind of selective data results in what's called "manufactured consent".

@Dr Checkmate: I would appreciate hearing your thoughts when you come back to this. On the subject of women who do or don't object to these kinds of images: Most women who are bothered by the way women are portrayed in roleplaying games naturally never became gamers. Of those that become gamers, some are just going to not have a problem with it. Of the rest, many are going to suck it up because they love gaming and don't want to deal with the sexism of everyday life in their escapist hobby. And yeah, the objectification of muscle-men in fantasy is problematic too, but not to the same degree. Because our culture gives the balance of power to men, the objectification of men just doesn't have the same meaning as the objectification of women. If the situation were reversed, this image wouldn't be problematic, but things are only problematic or not because of the cultural dynamics that they hook into.

@Swordgleam: Thanks for pointing this out. This is where my email fell down, in making heteronormative assumptions about sending something different to female customers. I should have just left that part out, but I decided that leveraging their heteronormative assumptions (and cheesecake as a promo is heteronormative) would be more effective. That was a poor choice on my part since it compromised my principles. So, thanks for making me think about that harder. Really, though, they shouldn't be sending either cheesecake or beefcake to their customers. Using objectified bodies to promote product is exploitive.

@The Livewire: I think I've covered this enough in other replies. Thanks for playing.


Friday December 26, 2008 at 07:48 AM

So, you are using this image as a specific example of a general issue with their portrayal of their iconic female characters? I'm honestly asking...

When I look at the image my first thought was "Huh, that's not their main art people doing that... it's not as good as some of their other artwork." When I try to see your point I... really have to stretch to get it. I'll grant the skimpiness of the outfit, but she's not gleaming white (At least not on my screen). And as for the candy cane... even with the notion that it's suggestive in my mind I don't see it. She's not holding it to her lips, she's not holding it to her body, it's not between her legs... she's just sorta holding it. I wouldn't say there isn't an issue in a general sense... but in this instance I just think, it's a weak argument... shrug

justaguy’s last blog post: Curb stomping quaists for fun and profit


Friday December 26, 2008 at 09:18 AM

Not exactly that, no. It doesn't have anything to do with her being an iconic character. I'll grant you that the candy cane thing is a judgement call, and "day-glo" is definitely hyperbole. She's Whiter than she ought to be, but it's not the main point.

The point is that the roleplaying game industry has long had a problem with assuming that their customers are male, and that those male customers should have (semi-)naked women in their game books. Putting women's bodies on display for the benefit of men takes something huge away from women in general (the freedom to not be defined by or reduce to their bodies) in trade for something very small for men (the momentary pleasure of the viewing). Yes, gay women complicate that picture, but it still works out as a net loss for women in general ("we're going to objectify your gender for our pleasure, but you can at least get some visual pleasure out of being objectified in the ways that we enjoy!")

So, being admitted fanservice, this is a pretty blatant example of a big industry player saying that it's okay to objectify women. Apart from how it reinforces that wider cultural idea, it also reinforces the idea that gaming is a boys' club—girls are allowed, but they have to be complicit with reducing women to things used for visual stimulation.

There are certainly situations where skin is fine. We're adults after all, and none of us want sterilised games that only deal with G-rated issues. A mass mailing doesn't fall under that kind of exception, though.

Tarren Dei

Friday December 26, 2008 at 01:14 PM

Hi, I'm the self-important jerk, Tarren Dei.

The criticisms I made of your blogpost over on the Paizo 'Seoni as Santa' thread were that you were speaking of women gamers as a group and you were speaking for women gamers.

Stuart Hall argues that when people racialized as black participates in identity politics by speaking of 'the black experience' they are walking on thin ice, politically. Judith Butler argues that when 'woman' participates in identity politics by speaking of 'women's experience' they are walking on thin ice, politically. Both are in danger of giving strength to the apparent reality of racializing and sexist discourses by speaking from the position of the construct of those discourses. When a 'white man' wishes to participate in identity politics by speaking of the opinions or experiences of othered people, he'd better use quotes. Otherwise, he runs the risk of grouping a large number of people with very different opinions together as if they all shared one view -- his.

You've wrote "If only they’d realise (and care) how hostile to women gamers this kind of thing is." Which women gamers found this hostile? You also wrote: "I do hope you had something less exploitive of women for your female customers." Politically, you've taken a giant step in the wrong direction. You're actually suggesting women gamers should not be shown certain images? Again, I ask if you were contacted by a group of women gamers who found this exploitative?

The Last Rogue

Friday December 26, 2008 at 01:53 PM

My issue is not with your perception of the holiday card -- I am not a drug, I am not here to alter your perceptions.

However, I do take umbrage with the tone you use to describe Paizo. I'd say that the mailing of this card, regardless of how you interpret it, is not something from which final conclusions can be made about a company nor how it runs its business.


Friday December 26, 2008 at 02:07 PM

All I am going to say is when you're convinced there's a fire beforehand, a candle will look like one to you.

Its true, showing female skin in artwork attracts people but its not just males that it attracts. I've seen many female gamers find such artwork nice, while others loved it.

Look at it this way. The elf rogue of pathfinder is very humble, dressed from toes to neck with standard rogue equipment. The sorceress, as you'll see many women in reality, is a seductive outlook character.

If your question is 'why are there no scantily dressed men in artworks', I'd have to tell you to look again with a neutral perspective. I'm sure you'll find there's a fair share of half-naked men in the books too, its just that this does not seem to offend anyone so it goes unnoticed. When a woman is depicted half-naked however, to some people this is immediately sexist and/or offensive.

I'd say the social phaenomenon here is that in this day and age people still take offense from this type of artwork, and that sexism is invoked on such matters when there really are far worse examples of it.

My suggestion is instead of wasting your breath on a subject like RPG's, that has always involved such artwork and such concepts, on both sexes (see succubus/incubus), use your time to talk about real problems, like for instance the fact that in certain countries women have their genitals mutilated at birth because its the way their religion works.


Friday December 26, 2008 at 02:10 PM

If you don't like it, don't buy their products. I don't like cigarettes, so I don't buy them. I don't like Playboy, so I don't buy it.

If you have a lot of time on your hands, I would venture over to the Reaper Miniature website and start harping on them for their Sophie mascot.

Seriously, you have enough time for this? I'm busy recovering from Christmas eating and the gluttony of presents I gave out, to come home to find Seoni in my inbox wishing me a Merry Christmas.

Get your head unstuck from your politics and enjoy the season.


Friday December 26, 2008 at 02:30 PM

I'm not a woman, nor am I the 'great white hope' who must speak up on behalf of those poor helpless females who can't decide for themselves what to find offensive or not, so I'm not gonna ride in on my glistening steed and be all offended on their behalf.

It would be nice if other men would follow that principle, and cease the inherently sexist practice of getting all worked up about women's issues, because it's the 21st century, and if a woman is bothered by something, she can certainly speak up and say so, without some big strong (and terribly condescending) man riding in to protect her from the oppression of the patriarchy.

Don't like the treatment of women in our culture? Try not perpetuating the idea that they are weak and need to be defended by men. It's never really been true, and it's not terribly realistic.


Friday December 26, 2008 at 03:18 PM

I'm not going to repeat the comments earlier, most of which I agree with. I do want to point out that I find it offensive to even suggest that Lisa Stevens (Paizo's CEO) is similar to Sarah Palin. Frankly, I find that far more insulting to Lisa than the X-mas image seems to be to you. If you want to highlight a perceived insult, I suggest you stop throwing them around yourself.


Friday December 26, 2008 at 03:21 PM


Friday December 26, 2008 at 05:49 PM

'However, it still reflects the cultural attitude that women’s bodies are for other people’s pleasure.'

The profond ignorance of this statement is shocking. A woman's body, is exactly for the pleasure of others. More accurately, a womans body looks the way it does exactly for that reason. Sexual dimorphism has very likely been a powerful shaping influence in both male and female form and mind. It is in the interests of woman to be attractive to males, so over time, the female form has changed to become more attractive to males. Since it benifits males to be sexually attracted to females, those changes have been reinforced by similar changes in the male brain to be more attracted to aspects of the female form. There are good reasons you get 'leg men', 'breast men' and 'bum/hip men.' But it goes deeper, male bodies have been as effected by this as womans. It is just another selective presure on life.

Sex is the single most powerful driving force in any of our lifes(save a very, very few people.) It need not be a negative thing, and it certainly need not be paternalitic. After all, bonobo females control their society through sex.

Please go and read The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature.

I was going to leave it there, but as someone who appreciated the beauty of the female from and some who considers them selves a feminist, I feel the need to go a little further.

Depicting the naked and semi clothed human form is a mainstay of fine art. Many of our greatest works of art are nudes, especially female nudes. The depiction of nude or semi-nude need not be an abusive act. One need only look at Diana and Actaeon, for example to see female nudity in a position of power. Female beauty and sexuality is a deeply empowering thing, which should be embraced. Yet, at moments like this, you and others like you, look at one of the many tools of empowerment that woman can use to great effect, and say 'it is wrong and weakening to use your beauty.' Well your wrong, human beauty in all its forms should be embraced and encurraged.

Further still, when you try to portray, a single tongue in cheek nod in the general direction of cheesecake, as an abuse, being wrong and bad, you do more damage to feminism that a hundred such drawing. It is the shrill cry of 'oh noez breasts' or any number of other examples of stupidity done in the name of gender equality and womans rights which gives feminism a bad name, one that it does not truely deserve.


Friday December 26, 2008 at 06:05 PM

First of all, i think you are really barking up the wrong tree on this case. The holiday Seoni is nothing if not G-rated. In fact, I could go to the mall and find more risque pictures of woman in Santa costumes there. With Paizo having a substantial track record of very open-minded portrayal of homosexuals, different ethnic groups and a general low amount of profiling, I could name a number of RPG publishers more deserving of such a harsh interpretation of what, to me, equals a greeting card.

That being said, there is something I have felt the need to comment on for quite a while, and you just managed to be the straw that broke the camel's back.

The picture might be taken to objectify Seoni. However, that is a deliberate interpretation of the picture. It is not the only such interpretation. It is not even the most likely, especially given the positioning of the cane, the facial expression, ... all of which might have easily been chosen differently to push that particular message, had it been the intention.

If we were to avoid everything that might offend someone, or that might be interpreted to possibly infringe on anyone, not only does this run contrary to some ideas i personally hold very valuable.

It also speaks of a huge amount of cowardice in our (sub-)culture. Certainly, the stereotype of the gaming nerd calls for painfully low self-esteem, but do we really need to reinforce this notion among overselves by policing us of anything someone might feel offended by?

To me it is a beautiful picture of a familiar character, which offers a bit of additional holiday cheer. Asking if someone might subconsciously be a racist, sexist, homophobe, heterophobe, or any other negative designation is certainly possible, but except for the most blatant pictures I avoid doing so. To me, it seems to be an assumption of bad faith.


Friday December 26, 2008 at 06:45 PM

{Maybe Paizo’s art director isn’t as comfortable with non-White characters as you think.}

The art director in quest is KOREAN. As in ETHNICALLY KOREAN. As in BORN IN KOREA.

Anything else you'd like to say that is completely wrong?


Friday December 26, 2008 at 10:59 PM

exploitation now!


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 12:06 AM

Honestly, any discussion about feminism and its relationship to sexualized art is going to be an unbelievably ugly and unwieldy argument. Know why?

Because the relationship between feminism and sexualized art is as complicated as the relationship between feminism and sex. To equate feminism to sex-negativism or even porn-negativism is unbelievably misleading. Feminism as a movement has been marked by multiple waves and reactions to reactions; it's certainly the case that Sexual Revolution feminism looks nothing like Suffragist feminism, and to be completely honest, we're at a point in time where the word "feminist" means very different things to different people depending on what perspective they're coming from, and consequentially, it's never all that safe to make any blanket assumption about what a "feminist" response to something looks like.

As far as the specific image, it's honestly even more of a thorny issue. Why? Because the image in question was quite transparently a parody of and reference to 1950's pin-up art. The problem this presents is this: Yes, said art can safely be said to have been exploitive of the women involved, however, at the same time, multiple later arms of feminism regarded the models and images of the 1950's pin-up world as feminist icons: this art, and the models involved, can be regarded as the vanguard of the Sexual Revolution, possibly the most important series of events in 20th-century feminism. There's a reason why Bettie Page's passing earlier this month was so widely mourned in feminist circles, after all. So, to say that a transparently pin-up-style bit of art is necessarily or automatically exploitive or degrading of women, and incredibly offensive when viewed from a feminist perspective... well, it seems a bit myopic.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 12:34 AM

Women gamers should make and play their own games, and leave us guys to our games.

Personally, I don't find candy cane girl attractive, however that's just my personal preference, my preferences are for more sophisticated women than that.

It's bad enough women try to run our lives into the subterranean hells of the abyss in the real world. Now they want want to do that in our fantasy worlds as well?

I think not. You are welcome to try though. Publish or perish baby.

Jared Jeanquart

Saturday December 27, 2008 at 12:49 AM

Yeah, Seoni is Paizo's Miss Fanservice. I understood the card as a sort of joke, as in "yeah, we know you guys like Seoni, so of course our cards look like this. har har har" Its a guy joke, mocking our brainless fondness of scantily-clad ladies.

And the previous posters have it right on the money about candles and such like. Find something actually important to complain about.

(and for the record, I prefer the Rogue and the Barbarian to Seoni.)


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 02:04 AM

More examples of Paizo's objectification of women and fear of non-whites can be found simply by looking at their other mascots:

Oh wait.

With all the sexism and racism that actually does crop up in geek culture, you decide to go after PAIZO?! You need to find some targets that actually do deserve ire, like say the comic industry. It will draw quite a bit less ridicule than jumping at shadows at the very least.

For the record, I see posts like this blog entry and GameDaddy's whining about female gamers as two sides of the same coin: Neither are particularly healthy attitudes.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 03:47 AM

@d7: Thanks for your understanding. I went off a little more than I would have liked, and I apologize.

As to your "edit to add" and response to me above... Hmmm... the Sociologist in me can't quite put his objection in to words, so he'll have to think it over. I do think the objectification of males is a problem of equal severity, but I want to be able to say more than, "so there :p", yah, know?

The Philosopher in me is just amused by the whole semiotic mess that we have here.

Just ordinary me still says your criticisms don't adequately take the context that is Paizo and their product line and over all marketing strategy into account, but I acknowledge that that doesn't make your criticisms any less valid.

takes his ass off his head Why does anyone think that thing makes a good hat? Again, sorry for the attitude.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 05:13 AM

I agree that "I'm a woman and not offended" is not, in itself, a complete and valid arguement. At the same time, I have to ask: how many women saying that is it going to take before it's decided that whatever they're talking about isn't really offensive, and the ones who find it hostile are being oversensitive? A sizeable proportion? A preoponderance? A plurality? A majority? All living XX chromosome humans on the planet?

You're a straight white male, and I'm going to take a wild guess and say you're middle class or above (judging by the disposable income that lets you game) and probably at least nominally some flavor of Christian (because you didn't also get offended by the wreath and candy cane). Which officially makes you the least oppressed demographic ever. It doesn't mean your opinion doesn't matter. But it also doesn't mean you need to feel guilty. I think Set was right on the money: minorities don't need anyone else to defend us. It's great if you want to help, but you don't need to take the lead any more.

I'm also a big fan of the anon comment at December 26, 2008 at 10:49 am, but then, I'm a sucker for any references to Artemis, even in the watered-down Roman version.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 07:00 AM

Whether sex as sales technique is kosher is a complicated issue. It looks like there are some strong arguments in favour of this particular example not being problematic, at least within the context of an otherwise sensible company.

So I would have no problem with this ad were it not for how it replicates a common thread in gaming-geek culture. This particular style of cheesecake /beefcake references one improbable standard of beauty over and over again. Yet another mesomorphic ectomorph body; late teens to early thirties. Broad shoulders, thin waist. Gender normative.. White-looking. Offering the female as explicitly sexual, and implicitly aimed at lads who are presumed to be straight; the male as powerful and sexually oriented towards impressing women with status, skill and strength. Statistically improbable breasts given the rest of her body. Etcetera etcetera. Again and again and again. It's as if gaming artists only have the same two models for 80% of their artwork (have you taken a look at the 4th ed D&D illustrations?) - a model that looks like waaay less than 1% of the population.

No, this picture is not a problem on its own. And the company sounds smart, even commendable. But within the context of gaming it's another bland disappointment.

Bland. I guess that's what bothers me.

The kind of bland that makes me wonder where that legendary geek insight, invention and creativity is. What does it say about our culture or ourselves when our heroes don't even look like us?

We're geeks. We're creative. We can imagine different forms of hero and sexy; more varied and inspired ones.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 07:19 AM

Tarren Dei, you win the internets. I wrote something petty and jerky, and you replied with something not only reasonable, but that indicates that you actually know what you're talking about, unlike the majority of the other commentors. I am humbled, and I can't even be displeased that you "won" that volley.

Yes, I walk on thin ice, but that's because I try to be feminist despite my gender. There's no thin ice here from speaking for women because I'm not even trying to. I'm speaking out against an attitude that has harmful consequences in our society (to women most directly, but it hurts everyone in some way). I don't need to speak "for" anyone but myself as a member of this society to do that. Besides, since you're familiar with feminist writers you'll know that what I've said is only the most trite and well-established basics of female objectification and the implied male gaze. So not only am I not speaking for women, I'm actually being fantastically unoriginal by just getting on board with what many women have already said and written.

My bad about the comment about hoping Paizo sent something less exploitive to their women customers. I already wrote my mea culpa in a reply to Swordgleam.

Now let's reply to the other comments from this morning...

@The Last Rogue: Plying its customers with cheesecake automatically puts a company in a certain category, CEO, art director, and gender notwithstanding. Yes, I was caustic in the post. I wasn't in the email. It's my blog after all, and if I want to be caustic that's my prerogative.

@Vak: The "but women like it too" defense is old, old hat, and doesn't hold water. It's still a body being objectified, and it's in a culture that routinely oppresses women with the "death by a thousands cuts" method. It's one of those cuts, and I'm pointing that out. My question is most certainly not why there isn't more beefcake, and I'm sorry I didn't make that clear. Your last point is kind of silly. Let's make an analogy: "Instead of wasting your breath on genital mutilation in countries that have always involved such practices, use your time to talk about real problems like world hunger or impending mass extinction." It's some kind of stupid Badness competition where only the monumental evil is worth resisting. Actually, we have plenty of breath to resist both the large and small harms.

@Doug: I like the analogy trick. It's illustrative. How about, "If you don't like beating women, don't beat them." Doesn't really work, does it? If I'm saying that mailing customers cheesecake is a perpetuation of a bad part of our culture, d'you honestly suppose that being silent is going to further my beliefs? As for time, you had time to read the Paizo forums today and to comment here, so you've sort of said something stupid, haven't you.

As for your link further down, you're saying that to be a roleplayer I (and, by implication everyone, including women) have to just accept that cheesecake is part of being a roleplayer or "pack up my dice". Last I checked, being a roleplayer only required roleplaying. Also, "this bad thing here can't possibly be worth the effort to improve, because look at that other bad stuff!" isn't a valid argument. And then you questioned my masculinity. Hi everybody, meet Doug. Doug is the poster boy for the sort of man who thinks caring about women's rights is for "pussies". You're an idiot to post that kind of dick size contest bullshit in a feminist gamer's blog, Doug.

@Set: Hi, I'm not a great white hope either. I think you failed to read the linked-to post in the lede of this post, and the part about the difference between "offended" and "exploited". You'll note that I never claimed to be offended, nor did I claim anyone else was offended. I claimed that the image is harmful, not offensive. I didn't claim women are too weak to speak up, either. If you want to know, I do think that by being a man saying the same thing that other women have already said (see my reply to Tarren), that I'm perpetuating the idea that men care about the fair treatment of women just as much as women do. You, however, appear to be a man riding in to protect the male privilege to ogle scantily-clad women. That's pretty lame, and pretty counter-productive here.

Interlude: Damn, but the quality of comments is going downhill. I'm going to have to tighten up my moderating standards.

@Joel: Sarah Palin is a counter-example to the claim that "if someone is a woman, they can't possible participate in the oppression of women!" I didn't compare them at all.

@Anon.: Evo-psych aplogia for the exploitation of women exist only because there are people ignorant about what evo-psych research means. Evo-psych is an explanation of why we do the things we do, not a justification for continuing to do them. Consider: We have an instinct to kill things when they make us angry, or when they have something we want. We're supposed to be all civilised about that, though, and the same goes for not blaming instincts for how women are treated.

I've got nothing against fine art, or nudity. I've got a problem with how women's bodies are used (and the term really is used), largely for men's sake by the RPG industry. Female sexuality is empowering when it's owned by women, but disempowering when it's co-opted for men's pleasure. Seoni is fanservice, not sexual power. Her entire existence is to put boobs and legs in front of eyes. It doesn't get any less about female sexual empowerment than that. Hence, this is far from an "oh noez, brests!" post.

@TerraNova: The exploitation of women at malls somehow makes the exploitation of women's bodies elsewhere okay? lolwut? "RPG nerds" have a horrible, awful track record of policing their own: just look at this post and the comments. Y'all are telling me that I'm wrong to object to the commercialisation of female exploitation, in more numbers than this blog has ever seen. I think the policing is already too much and goes the wrong way.

@sean: You seem to be implying that Korean women as an entire class have magical powers that make them immune to some of the most powerful memes of Western culture. That's kind of counter-productive to your point.

Besides, I only speculated (that's what "maybe" means) that the art director was part of why Seoni got White-washed. There's plenty of other possible reasons why that happened. I don't know why this depiction of Seoni is White, but that somehow she was drawn White is undeniable. It's funny how only non-White characters only ever accidentally get drawn White (ahem Regdar?), while White characters are never accidentally drawn non-White, isn't it.

@GameDaddy: OMFG, GameDaddy. Hey! Everyone that mistakenly thought I found the Seoni pic offensive? Look over here. This is what's offensive.

GameDaddy, I'm sorry you have a deeply screwed up relationship to women as a gender. Women aren't an alien species, and contrary to your rant, there's less difference between men and women gamers than there is between different male gamers. Just FYI, more comments like that kind of women-hating crap will get sent to the circular file.

@Dr Checkmate: I thought about the objectification of men thing a bit more, too. I think it's more problematic than I gave it credit, but sorting out how it works would take some pondering, because the male and female situation is culturally non-analogous. One difference is that the male imagery is still (mostly) aimed at a male audience. Not for pleasure, but instead as a persistent water-torture message about what "real" men should be like. (See some victims of said messages above in our commentors Doug and GameDaddy.) There's more layers to male objectification than that, too.

In general I don't have a problem with Paizo. I think they make good products, but there's a fly in the ointment where it comes to their portrayal of women. There are certainly worse companies, but because I like what Paizo is doing otherwise is makes it just that much more disappointing. I haven't acknowledged enough that they have an otherwise-good track record, you're right.

@Swordgleam: Oh, I'm not Christian, I'm just solidly Western enough that the Christmas symbols didn't tweak my "hey! unfair!" radar. There's problems there, yeah, but I can't tackle everything and I personally prioritise women's rights when I have to choose how to spend my breath. Anyway, enough tangent.

It's hard not to look like I'm taking the lead here, because I'm naturally leading my own blog. I really feel like I'm just a follower of (much more articulate) women who have done this more and better elsewhere, and it's only natural to apply it to the subject that I blog about. (I'm a fan of Amanda Marcotte and Mighty Ponygirl, for an example of people whose lead I'm can only hope to follow, not to mention Butler, Fausto-Sterling, and other luminaries.)

And to completely reverse the order of my reply to your comment... I don't know what percentages are necessary for a definitive answer to whether something is offensive or not. I think cultural values like this take a long time to change, and it's done in small pieces. There are lots of voices on either side, and the definitive answer is only going to come once this particular cultural divide becomes old history. That's the only way cultural values become obvious: which ones die out and which ones thrive. Obviously I've got an opinion on which values should win out, but I can only trust that the larger discourse will prove me either right or wrong.

Like I said before, I don't have a problem with fine art. I'm not going to futilely attempt to prove some kind of nude-friendly credentials, but I'm not hostile to nudity or enjoying the human form, including women's. I would love to live in a society where women weren't treated as second-class and had their bodies co-opted for exploitation. We can (mostly) appreciate Michaelangelo's David without worrying that it contributes to a pervasive cultural devaluation of men, but we can't yet say the same for images of the female form.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 08:16 AM

As soon as you start ascribing subconscious malice to someone, you are on very thin ice indeed. You begin telling the person you know better what they intended or did than they themselves. Some people (me included) react very poorly to this, since you are in effect putting yourself as the only authority whose words are to be followed.

As for the general consensus of these comments disagreeing with you: The joke goes "One ghost driver? HUNDREDS!" Maybe your position does just not find so many supporters for a reason. While naturally, the group is not always right, and you should not blindly follow it, check their bearings once in a while. You might be surprised, and not just in a bad fashion.

I tried to put this in gentler terms last time, but might have been too polite. When you call on any group to "police itself" of potentially offensive materials, materials that might infringe on the rights of group X you are also saying "Group X is too weak to hold their own in this society. Too weak to defend themselves, so we need to all hand out concessions." That is not how a free society works. Neither would I feel any kind of appreciation for such a measure if i benefited from it. In fact, it is quite telling about the ones championing the measure.

We as a subculture have been in the business of policing ourselves for decades, and i think our track record is quite significant. Heck, even though it is far from common usage, several major publishers favor female pronouns, the classic "damsel in distress" has become a rare exception, and fantasy settings have, as a rule, become so gender-neutral as to almost seem laughable. In fact, most fantasy worlds are more equal than earth ever was. That alone tells us most gamers are intelligent, thoughtful persons who want to do the right thing. Putting ever-more restrictive "speech codes" into place just smacks of condescending attitudes and patronizing to me.

I hope you consider these points. In case you do not wish to publish this comment (your right, it is your "house"), I would appreciate if you contacted me via email.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 09:07 AM

Stating that the human form, both male and female has been shaped by evolution to hold power of the opposite sex is not apologia, it is accepting the causes. You stated the female form was not for the pleasure of other. It is, so is the male form. Many of our attributes, for the size of our eyes to the shape of breasts and bums are all the way they are, to influence mating choice. These things are not gender negative, they are incapable of being, they are forces of nature, not petty human concepts.

You say using a drawn pin ups is an objectification and abuse of woman, that it is an example of male power over woman. I will flip it on its head. No woman suffered in the creation or as a result of this picture, Company, with a female C.E.O., is likely to benifit as a result of the image and the companies fan base will be drawn in even more towards supporting their products, at the expense of a minimal number of potential customers. A female art director is getting major support from the companies fans. Numerous female fans are getting to see a cute but powerful character put one over on the boys with nothing more than a little smile and some clevage. All the while poor, dumb smuck guys like me are left with a cheezy grin and lighter pockets. Who has really suffered here, woman or men. The men who have had their hard-wired predisposition to buy something with legs on it, or the woman who are major players in a company that leads the way in providing diversity in the RPG industry.

I am sorry, but your wrong and your giving those of us who actually want to make the world a better place on these issues a really bad name.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 09:21 AM

And some replies for comments just approved...

@drow: Care to elaborate?

@Greg: You've given me something to think about. A parallel that I've only recently been exposed to is the veil in Islam. Especially in Iran, the Burqua is an extremely complex symbol for similar reasons. It stands for oppression, of course, but it also stands for feminism because of its history in the feminist resistance as a means of safely smuggling women and anti-Taliban, feminist, and other literature. (Lesser versions of the veil are similarly complicated, but I already knew that. Burquas, though, blew my mind.) Until I learned that, I naïvely thought that extreme versions of the veil were always bad.

So... Seoni as a feminist icon? Judging from what other commentors have said about her being an icon of sexual power, there might be something to that in Paizo's original intent. No, wait. I know why that's not jibing for me: Betty Page is a feminist icon for feminists. She's celebrated by feminists for her sexual empowerment. However, her sexual empowerment, and her basic sexuality, has also been co-opted for exploitation. So, taking a utilitarian calculator to that, the current cultural view of Page and other pinups is overwhelmingly sexist despite their justified celebration by feminists.

So (still thinking out loud here, and feel free to tell me I've taken a wrong turn or missed something) what does that give us about Seoni? I think that whatever her intent, she's an unalloyed sex symbol for most of the Paizo fanbase. I think I'm safe to bet that the hornboys were the determinant demographic in Seoni being this year's Christmas Card. (Am I wrong? How did goblins get to be the card last year?) If that's the case, then Seoni is posed in that image in service to the hornboys, and by implication the image serves an exploitive role rather than an empowering role.

She might be meant to be an empower(ered/ing) female, sexual figure otherwise, I'll grant you that. But, I think Paizo fell down in this particular use of her image.

Still, you've given me something to think about when I'm thinking about how pinup-style art plays into feminism.

(Oh, for the record I'm a sex-positive feminist. Nothing worse than calling sex dirty to oppress the gender currently most disempowered around the subject of sex.)

@Jared: That's a good example of how sexism and the objectification of women also has negative consequences for men: Being a brainful guy who thinks women aren't just designed to perfectly satisfy male desire is generally not appreciated in this culture. Thanks.

@Mikaze: I'm going to pick some nits here, because I think that kind of defense isn't nearly as good as you do. The first image could easily be fit into the stereotype that Black people are more aggressive and war-like. The second image is just plain Orientalisation, which is never simple or unproblematic.

Now, you're going to say that I'm being unfair, and I am. The point is that publisher's can't win if they're not supernaturally careful to avoid indulging the two big "ism" of sexism and racism. Paizo's depictions of Seoni are undeniably scantily-clad, and the loudest fan response is unabashedly of the "I'd hit that" variety. Not all the fans are doing that, yeah, but Paizo is deliberately fuelling that particular response with fanservice like this.

I'm not a comic nerd, so why should I blog about comics? If I tried, I'd be laughed at for being woefully unknowledgeable. So, no, I'm going to talk about sexism in roleplaying. Why Paizo, you wonder? I just shook my head at the sexploitation in Paizo's otherwise-good products until they sent more of it to my Inbox. That specific poor choice is what I'm taking them to task on.

And for the record, thanks for sharing. I think I'm trying for a more healthy attitude about how women fit into our culture. I didn't put up a big disclaimer that I'm sex-positive or that I don't think women need men like me to "protect" them and treat them like precious, precious porcelain dolls. I think that's the flipside of the coin you're thinking of, and if so I'm definitely not there.

@TerraNova: Your comment gets published automatically since I've approved one already.

Meh, you didn't say anything before that I wanted to follow, since we're speaking about people thinking they're an authority to be followed. Now you're saying something of interest. There's something to say for speaking your mind plainly, even if you're coming across a bit harshly. My bearings are well-checked and are frequently taken in for testing by third parties despite my selfish wish that I could already be perfect, as you might see from my receptive replies to a few commentors. (At least some of those are above in this very comment, so you get a free pass on that.)

When I call on gamers to stop objectifying women, no, I'm not saying women are too weak to say so themselves. (Counter example: would men speaking out against wife-beathing mean that those men think all women are too weak to speak out on it? Should men just be silent about wife-beating? No, it's a problem for everyone, not just women who are abused, and everyone can and should oppose it.) I'm agreeing with a significant number of women who've put thought into this, which most people choose to ignore. Feminists are often dismissed as man-hating harridans. Note that nobody has dismissed me for that, which means I'm reaching different people. My voice is one more, and more voices = more mindshare for the cause. Men can totally contribute to feminism without trying to "speak for" women just by saying "me too!" The problem, of course, is that I can't just say "me too!" in a blog post and have anyone know or care what the hell I mean.

I don't dig "free" societies. I think libertarianism is misguided. If you want to see what "free" decisions do, check out the tanking economy in the US, which was a direct result of the steady stripping of regulations on the banking industry since the 1980s. Clearly, individual banks used this increased freedom to do things that were not in their own self-interest, and less-powerful people are suffering for the banks' bad "free" choices. Also, consider the Pinto, which Ford decided not to recall because settling lawsuits for untimely deaths due to exploding fuel tanks was cheaper than recalling and fixing all Pintos with a $5 part. "Free" societies/markets do stupid, self-destructive, and sometimes plainly evil things, and I'm not for that. I'm much more interested in just societies.

You're right, the industry has gotten a lot better. However, things like that camel-toe crotch-shot Exalted cover still happen. Are you suggesting that because they've gotten better, we should just thank our lucky stars and not say anything about the camel-toe or the Seoni service? I'm not advocating codes, I'm raising a voice in the hope that more people realise that there might be a problem. I don't think people are deliberately or subconsciously malicious (I think those that are are very, very few, and sick, sick puppies), but I do think that most people don't spend the time to think about this stuff, or have never heard it suggested that maybe there's a problem with that "hot chick" on the cover of the latest Favourite Game supplement, that is maybe connected to why those girls last week couldn't take an innocent wolf-whistle without freaking out and running away.

Actually, I do sorta believe in "free" markets/societies, but I don't think humans are infallible enough to pull it off. We're not perfectly rational because we make ideological and emotional choices. To put the last nail in the free market's foundational premise, perfect rationality wouldn't result in correct decision anyway because we don't ever have perfect access to even what we already know, leave alone the problem of not knowing everything needed to make a particular decision well.

@Anon.: Sorry, no. You can't believe in evolution and know what you're talking about and speak teleologically about the products of evolution. Our petty human minds can choose how we fold biological facts into our culture. The way we've done it in the West is not the only way, and it's a way that (among other effects, good and bad) punishes women for being female.

"Putting one over on the boys with nothing more than a little smile and some clevage"? You must be joking. You're saying that a women (fictional, whatever, it's the message that counts) is succeeding because of her breasts and viewer-pleasing demeanour, and that makes her a role model? And that men are soft-brained tit-chasing powerless instict-driven meatbags? (Speak for yourself.) That is incredibly demeaning. Worse, the male bit is exactly the argument used to excuse rapists for their crimes. If you can't see how demeaning what you wrote is (to both women and men) you'll just have to take my word for it that you're really, really on the wrong blog, have the good grace to stop making sexist comments on a feminist post.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 09:28 AM

Amy! Sorry I missed your comment in the pile. Thanks for it: you're often, as here, more articulate and concise than I.

I can see what you mean about blandness, and I didn't think of the lack of creativity it shows.

(Hey Sean, here's another good example of how an ethnically-unWhite female art director doesn't have magical powers of perfection by virtue of her gender and race when it comes to being an art director.)

I'd say more in reply, but your comment doesn't need me.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 09:57 AM

I think you are changing the subject here. I have not said free-market systems are necessarily the best economic system, and I am not a libertarian. I strongly sympathize with some of their ideas, but like any ideology, they have taken a few decent precepts much too far.

Feminists as men-hating harpies. Yes, there is this perception. I think it is natural that when someone sees a comfortable status quo threatened. Just as it is natural for someone who perceives herself at a disadvantage to become somewhat bitter. However, I think we are past that age already. Most woman I know (and that includes my ultimate boss, who juggles 7 figures on an almost daily basis) consider the feminist movement a success, with little need for additional drastic campaigning. In fact, I heard one very gratifying quote a few weeks back: "If we start tearing up men's magazines, when will romance novels be banned?" Equality means offering each and every person the choice on what they enjoy - not making sure that everything in the world is enjoyable to each and every person.

Now, back to the original subject: Woman need as thick a skin as men. Sorry, but feminism to me also means taking them to the same standard, not just affording them the same rights. One of these standards (one i also apply to minorities, sexual orientations, and any other potential -ism) is being able to see something they might not wish to put up on their bedroom wall, and accept it as an expression of anothers preference.

The Seoni image is miles away from that ugly Exalted cover (which disinclined me from buying that particular book - A much stronger statement than all the blogs in the world, I would think). A hardcore feminist might not want to put it up on their walls - but I expect them to be willing to let it slide much as I expect the black activist to accept a rural scene of the old south, which includes a black man wistfully looking into the sunset.

Small tangent about the Exalted Cover: I find it ugly. Just plain bad art. It might have been an attempt to cash in on a panty shot, but seriously - that "aesthetic" is just an appeal to the lowest instincts of the readership ("Bewbs an bootey"). I find it not so much offensive (if you look inside an Exalted book, you will see worse), but plain insulting. But that is my opinion, and I accept that some fans might have liked it. I finally caved because my group needed some of the material inside the book, but the art evolving from "classy with nudes" to "slutty nuns in boobland" was a contributing factor in me getting out of that gameline on second edition.

You speak about effecting social change. Your change will come by people claiming their place, not by them being handed emancipation by a loving authority. One of the things that will bring about that change is us being confident in what we believe in. That confidence in part stems from not second-guessing if something might indirectly be harmful to the "cause", but in going up against the things directly and strongly harmful.

In the meantime, I would not think about it too much. Do not be an oppressor. Speak out against gross injustice (neither the christmas card nor the Exalted Cover apply, but i remember a TSR-era cover with a woman being flame-grilled by giants that might be borderline sexist). That is enough.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 04:11 PM

Thank you so much for this! I got flamed right off Paizo's messageboards about four months ago for making the same arguments -- that perpetuating the gaming culture of "women as objects" alienates female gamers and consumers. Women are, by far, the largest demographic of consumers in this country. I, as a woman, a consumer, a gamer, and as someone with enough disposable income to blow on quality gaming products, was seriously offended to learn that apparently I, and the characters I love to play (who DON'T look like they moonlight as succubi), don't matter to their business.

When I got Paizo's holiday email, holy good god, I got pissed off all over again. They have really high quality products and fantastic stories, so why would they lower themselves to the lowest common (and I really mean common!) denominator?


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 04:15 PM

Also: It's just bad art. Poorly drawn, bad, ugly art. For christ's sake, her head is WAY too small for the rest of the body. :P


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 06:37 PM

I've gotten some sleep and decided to go about this a different way.

You sent a non-caustic email to Paizo, chastising them for the use of Seoni in this manner. Then, on that same day (Christmas Eve) you post a caustic, inflammatory, sarcastic, and accusatory public message about that very same topic... before Paizo had a chance to respond to your email. Is this two-faced behavior the mature thing to do? The most productive thing to do? Aren't your actions the equivalent of telling mom at home that you don't like bologna sandwiches in your school lunch, then yelling to all your friends in the schoolyard that your mother is an idiot and she can't make you the sandwiches you like?

Do you know that Paizo is known for having a strong, positive relationship with its customers and its community? Do you realize that Cosmo and Allison read every piece of email they recieve? Don't you think that a reasonably-worded complaint like this would have gotten an answer? Do you think that not posting this on Christmas Eve is the best way to get your message across? How are you helping by doing this?


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 06:53 PM

Anon, your comments have been deleted. I don't think "leave if you can't realise that you just said something incredibly demeaning" is a very complicated concept.

(Comment to Sean excised for being irrelevant now.)


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 07:11 PM

@Sean: There's a disconnect between what I wrote to Paizo and what I wrote here in my personal blog, yes. Contrary to the apparent popularity of this thread, my blog isn't much of a schoolyard and is more like that tiny bricked-in courtyard that only the nerds hang out in. In that metaphor, it's not really out of line to say "mom, I really don't like bologna" and to say in the courtyard "dammit! I hate bologna!" If the guys half the schoolyard away in the Bologna Love Club get offended and decide to fill up the courtyard, the metaphor gets all bent out of shape and starts to fall apart.

As for it being Christmas or whatever, I'm not really operating on the same schedule y'all seem to be assuming. I currently have Mr Baby the Tiny Dictator napping on me, and Christmas Eve or Day aren't really any different than any other snowed-in day for me, this year. Maybe when he's older. As for it being inconvenient to Paizo, I rather think it's the Bologna Club guys that have blown this up at an inconvenient time. I certainly didn't expect this teapot tempest when I posted about what was on my mind, in my small-time blog of all the silly places. I also don't think that I'm responsible for Paizo's feelings, since they are, y'know, a company and they make the big bucks to deal with slightly-sarcastic customers.

Besides, they emailed me a bleached beachball-chested pinup girl for Christmas. Really, their timing was bad.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 07:31 PM

@Kristen: Thank you for reminding me that I'm not alone in thinking this way. That kind of being run out of town on rails is the kind of hostility I'm trying to highlight here, so thank you for sharing your experience. Yeah, Paizo is so good in other ways, and that just makes the ways they're not good all the more disappointing.

@TerraNova: I don't know how I can convince you that I'm not trying to speak from authority. If you want to hear what the real authorities on feminism have to say, there's lots of literature out there that you can pick up. I'm not saying anything new or creative here, I'm just rehashing what's already been said. I'm not handing anyone emancipation, as if that was even possible with only words. (It might be possible to use words to convince more people to not undermine other people's emancipation, which is what I'm attempting.)

And, on that point, feminism is most definitely not "finished". Women still occupy the worst jobs in the country, women are still killed by their husbands or boyfriends in statistically-disproportionate numbers, women still get bombarded with images of "beauty" that are unattainable to the point where some of them die when they get elective surgery to make themselves slightly closer to that supposed ideal. Society has slowly incorporated some of the very early feminist ideas, but it still has a long way to go.

I don't know why you think women should have a thicker skin, because hi, I'm a man and I'm doing the complaining. It's not "for" women, either. Why does everyone assume that a man, talking about what he thinks men should and shouldn't do in order to be decent and fair human beings, is somehow speaking for women? Should only women point out how men's actions are less than ideal? (For clarity, "men's actions" here is more about the "my chestnuts are a roasting" Paizo fans who voted for T&A fanservice. I'm commenting on how women's actions are less than ideal too, because, hey, maybe I'm commenting on how people's actions are less than ideal, speaking as a person.)


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 07:45 PM

Re: Feminism being "finished":

I'll be post-feminist when the world is post-patriarchy.

Re: Lisa Stevens, Paizo's CEO:

Phyllis Schlafly was a woman too.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 08:14 PM

While I appreciate the 'watchdog'ing you're engaging in here, I agree with the majority of paizoians that it's misplaced in this instance.

I'm a guy and also a feminist as I presume you'd call yourself. I'm rather sensitive to exploitation, etc., in general. This provoked at most a wry chuckle at the brazenness.

This somewhat reminds me of an interview with Nichelle Nichols I just watched (Uhura from Star Trek). She mentions people coming up to her and saying, "How terrible it is that you were forced to wear those miniskirts on the show." Her reply, and I don't hope to quote her eloquence, was that it was an expression of female freedom and sexuality.

It seems the gap between sexist "exploitation" and patriarchal "repression" can be rather narrowly defined.

For the record, it is Seoni - she's wearing the same outfit (essentially) as on the frosty cover of Pathfinder #5. That cover on its own provoked a bit of discussion in this vein.

It's also a tribute (as Doug hinted at) to Reaper's "Holiday Sophie" - a succubus miniature that gets a holiday rendition each year.

Tarren Dei

Saturday December 27, 2008 at 08:26 PM

What's with the (implicit) comparisons of Lisa Stevens to porn stars and arch-conservatives. Can't you make your points without insulting people?


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 09:30 PM

d7, now we're drifting into some of the vastly more thorny issues surrounding reclamation and re-evaluation of history. Taking the strong version of your reasoning, there, pretty much any effort to reclaim or push for a paradigm shift regarding a term or an icon is doomed to failure; there are certainly very few that have already become a net positive before any reclamation effort has started.

Moreover, if we do apply this standard to other areas of art, we end up being forced to call, say, the New Burlesque movement exploitive, because this rather distinct genre of performance art happens to share a common ancestor with modern strip clubs. That's not really a line of argument I'd seriously entertain.

I do think, and it wasn't something expressed in your initial post, that one does need to understand the image as a pastiche, and one tinged with a not-inconsiderable bit of irony, at that. Again, you mention nowhere in the blog post above, but upon viewing the art in question, I immediately was able to make the connection to some rather iconic pieces of WW II nose art; it was clearly an intentional reference to pin-up art as a whole

So, the next question is, if something's being reclaimed, does that make it fair game for someone to adopt such a reference without it being "off-limits", even if they're not explicitly promoting the same social agenda? Provided, of course, it's done in a self-aware fashion and it isn't intended to further oppression, that is. My intuition is "yes"; to argue otherwise, it seems, would undermine the entire purpose of reclaiming terminology and iconography. And even the issue of reclaiming aside, there's the self-aware nature of the art. By analogy, it may have been offensive when Tropic Thunder featured a character in Blackface for the entirety of the movie -it certainly was not being done to directly advocate in the manner that Spike Lee's Bamboozled used it, and indeed, the point in Tropic Thunder was largely to elicit discomfort- but nevertheless, it would be foolish to call it exploitive per se.

So, back to this specific issue of this image. Are there other valid lines of complaint? Sure. It is basically the literal example of a company pandering to its sweaty-palmed male fanbase. However, it's really worth noting that the specific content of the image itself-a pastiche to 50's-style pin-up, an ironic nod to 1950's pop culture and a grasp at an image that can live up to the fanbase's requests while still failing to truly offend- was actually the wimpy way out in this situation.

Also, re: burkhas/veils and feminism in Islam,

It actually is quite a bit more complex than even that. Many in traditionalist societies regard modesty in public as part and parcel of sexuality, and look askance on westerners' demeanor and attitudes towards sex. We call it sex-positivism, but to more traditionalist cultures, the stereotypical public displays of sexuality that marks shows such as Sex in the City looks every bit as oppressive and exploitive as modest clothing often seems to us. Ironic, that.

Basically, the Sexual Revolution was a watershed in 20th-century feminism, but that's hardly true for feminism the world over. Food for thought.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 09:37 PM

Given that you're deleting comments you don't agree with, deleting entire posts of mine so you don't have to address them, and can screen anything you want so nobody gets to see it, it basically means it's impossible to have a fair debate with you here. Enjoy being right in your ivory tower.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 09:51 PM

Sorry Sean, I thought your later comment indicated you regretted the previous one. Here it is in full:

seankreynolds wrote: {Hey Sean, here’s another good example of how an ethnically-unWhite female art director doesn’t have magical powers of perfection by virtue of her gender and race when it comes to being an art director.}

My one quoted female doesn't make me right, any more than your one quoted female makes you right.

{You seem to be implying that Korean women as an entire class have magical powers that make them immune to some of the most powerful memes of Western culture. That’s kind of counter-productive to your point.}

Yet somehow she's managed to emerge from all of this with a strong sense of her Korean identity, to the extent that she's traveled back to Korea, is a fan of Korean films, has "Korean" as part of her blog name. But hey, I could be wrong, I only work with her every day. And the next time your Knight In Shining Armor tactic gets yanked out from under you, go right ahead and change tactics by making racist accusations like "Maybe Paizo's art director isn’t as comfortable with non-White characters as you think."

Furthermore.... Seoni looks the way she does because she's a sorcerer. Sorcerers don't wear armor, it interferes with their spellcasting. They're Charisma-based spellcasters, which means that their power stems from their strong personalities, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and physical attractiveness. It makes sense for a young, attractive sorcerer to show off his or her body. It attracts attention and is a reflection of that person's Charisma. Hey, let's take a look at Hennet, D&D 3e's iconic (MALE) sorcerer: Note the bare chest and tattoos. Note the obvious man-nipples. Note the fetish clothing. Is this sexist against men? Objectifying of men? Or is dressing in a revealing and sexy manner pretty typical for a sorcerer, regardless of gender?

What about Paizo's other iconics, are they sexist too? How about Lini, the druid? Is this not sexist because she's covered up? Druids wear armor, sorcerers don't. Or is it not sexist because she's a gnome rather than a human, and not within the normal human bounds for something you could consider attractive, and therefor sexualized?

How about Merisiel, the rogue? Hmm, she's covered up. Right, because rogues wear ARMOR. But wait, she's showing cleavage, that's so impractical in armor, therefore it MUST be in the illustration just for the sake of sexual titillation, yes? OR maybe Merisiel's covered up because her Charisma is 10 and her personality is not the outgoing attention-getting type?

Someone already linked Kyra (the fully-dressed Persian-style cleric) and Seelah (the fully-armored African-style paladin). Are they sexist? No? Is it because they wear armor?

What about Amiri, the lightly-armored female barbarian? Watch out, she's going to sex you up with her bare midriff! Ladies, prepare to be offended by this strong ass-kicking woman! You don't know it yet, but this image is OFFENSIVE and SEXIST and EXPLOITIVE.

What about Sajan, the Paizo iconic monk? Sexy bare chest! Sexy abs! Monks don't wear armor, so we can sex him up all we want. Offensive? Sexist? No? Is it because he's a man? Is it because he's not white?

Really, Mr D7, who are YOU to say "this is offensive, this is not, this is sexist, this is not"? I don't recall any Council of Women getting together and nominating you President of Deciding Whether or Not We Should All Be Offended. I don't see a hue and a cry from women gamers that they're offended by the Seoni image.

It's okay if YOU are offended by this image. You have the right to be offended. But you don't have the right to declare it to be offensive or sexist or degrading to all women.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 09:57 PM

Now for why that now-restored comment is dumb. First, you make three mistakes that are getting other people's comments left in the moderation queue: 1) You think I'm offended. 2) You're excusing Seoni's Christmas pic because she usually looks like cheesecake. 3) You're trying to argue that nobody should object to blatant exploitation if the company is otherwise good about not exploiting people. 4) You think I'm speaking for all women.

Those would have gotten your comment ignored and left screened because it shows you're not reading the thread, or even the italic text added to the top of the post. But hey, if you want to say things that make it sound like you can't read in my ivory tower, go for it.

If you want to be part of the conversation, catch up.

(The rest of you, feel free to talk amongst yourselves. I have a leisurely brunch to enjoy and some newly-unwrapped gaming books to read, and maybe blog about later. I'll try to reply to comments I haven't addressed when I can give myself some more internet time.)


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 10:27 PM

{1) You think I’m offended.}

If you're not offended, why are you complaining? Who, before you sent that letter and started this blog thread, told you they were offended by this picture?

{2) You’re excusing Seoni’s Christmas pic because she usually looks like cheesecake.}

Seoni has looked the way she has for almost 2 years now. You didn't object to her appearance before. Why now? And there's a perfectly valid reason she looks the way she does, which you're conveniently ignoring.

{3) You’re trying to argue that nobody should object to blatant exploitation if the company is otherwise good about not exploiting people.}

No, I'm saying that your opinion of "blatant exploitation" is not a universal opinion, and therefore your whole argument is flawed from the start. Especially as you can't explain why Seoni's pic is exploitive, but Sajan's, Lini's, Merisiel's, Amiri's, and Hennet's arent.

{4) You think I’m speaking for all women.}

Let's take a look at what you said.

"I imagine many of your customers appreciate being shown random cheesecake, but it’s not terribly professional or respectful to your female customers."

So you're taking a stance on behalf of Paizo's female customers.

"I do hope you had something less exploitive of women for your female customers."

You're claiming that the art is exploiting and that Paizo's female customers would prefer something that is (in your opinion) less exploitive. So again you're speaking on behalf of Paizo's female customers.

"Even if so (and especially if not!) this is a good time to stop and consider how this kind of careless skin-selling from a major publisher sets back gamers’ attempts to make roleplaying less of a horny-boys’ club."

You're generalizing the gamer population as a horny-boys' club, as something exclusive to women.

"FYI, the group I run games for is more than half women."

Sounds like you're speaking on behalf of your gaming group, at least.

"Part of the problem is that this kind of image is considered normal in the industry, so people don’t have much of a handle on what might be problematic about it."

Problematic to ... the women gamer population?

Looks like you're speaking for more than just yourself. Maybe not ALL women, but certainly all gamer women.

{As for it being Christmas or whatever, I’m not really operating on the same schedule y’all seem to be assuming. I currently have Mr Baby the Tiny Dictator napping on me, and Christmas Eve or Day aren’t really any different than any other snowed-in day for me, this year.}

Baby or not, if you are saying that you didn't know it was Christmas Eve when you posted this, or that you didn't take into account that that Christmas Eve might be a busy day for other people, you are either (1) an idiot, or (2) thinking that I'm enough of an idiot to believe you. I don't think you're an idiot, so you must think I am one.

I've dealt with real sexism in the gaming community. I've had a manager say that women couldn't play on the men's baseball team because women are "too frail." I've had a friend's daughter be told by her gaming group that she couldn't wear tight clothes because it was too distracting, and then told that she couldn't wear loose frumpy clothes because it was too much like pajamas and therefore distracting. I have a friend whose gaming group made her play topless and made her perform sexual favors for the GM. I know online gamers who use the word "rape" as casually as punctuation, even in front of female gamers. And I've dealt with homophobia in gaming, where online gamers use "gay" or "ghay" or "faggy" as synonyms for "lame," even around my gay gamer friends. And I've dealt with real sexual violence, from friends in high school and college who were raped by their boyfriends, to another friend who was abducted and raped when she was a teenager.

So when I see a privileged white male such as yourself call a piece of art depicting a fan-favorite character who's always shown dressed in job-appropriate revealing clothes (yet still showing less skin than I can see on a college campus in summer), wearing those SAME clothes, presented as a PG-rated holiday pin-up, and you call that "skin-selling" and "exploitive," maybe, just maybe, you need a little perspective about some of the REAL problems are.


Saturday December 27, 2008 at 10:48 PM

My dyslexia is kicking in. Christmas Ever = Christmas Eve, white mail = white male


Sunday December 28, 2008 at 01:42 AM

privleged white males, eh?

Sean K Reynolds: White? check Male? check Privilieged? most likely, depending on the definition.

I'm inclined to sympathize with the points you're making, but you're wallowing in hyperbole throughout that post. Come on.


Sunday December 28, 2008 at 04:14 AM

1) There are a lot of reasons to oppose something other than gut offense. One possibility is political agenda. Another is personal principles.

2) Paizo had the poor taste to mass-mail it to me. One person can't tackle all the world's windmills. Besides, all I did was say in my personal blog, "Hey, this thing happened recently and it sucks." That's the essence of blogging, right? Or have you somehow figured out how to write about 100% of your subject of interest, instantly? Can I borrow your infinite legions of ghost writers sometime, if so?

3) That it's exploitation can be determined without recourse to opinion. It's pretty obvious in this case because the image was created explicitly as fanservice. That's exploitive. The blatant part comes from having significant schooling in recognising examples of exploitation (not just of women), and this blowing out the radar scope. I suppose you can call that "opinion", but in the completely subjective world you're implying with that defense, everything is "opinion".

4) There's some nuances here that you're missing, and some things that you've understandably misinterpreted because there was a lack of context.

Nuance: something can be disrespectful of someone without that person ever hearing/seeing it. I don't need to ask anyone's opinion on "Joe is a stupid jerk-face", even Joe's, to recognise fairly easy that it is the opposite of respectful of Joe. Should only women object to people's poor behaviour when the target is women? Should only Black people object to people's poor behaviour when it targets Black people?

Context: I used the "I hope you have something less exploitive" line as an attempted clue-hammer. It doesn't accurately reflect my position because it's tailored for audience and brevity. Really, I'd prefer that everyone not be sent exploitive images by Paizo, but I hoped that the disconnect between cheesecake and their (straight) female customers would give them something obvious to think about.

Context: Uh, yes I'm generalising the gamer population as a horny-boys' club that chases women away from the hobby. What planet are you on? Go read the Paizo thread, read Kristen's comments up a few, read Ravyn's near the top, read I Am a Gamer. What many guys consider appropriate commentary on the sexual characteristics of a woman, fictional or not, drives many women away from whatever environment that condones that behaviour. (Clarification for the slower kids in the class: not speaking "for" women, just making an observation of, y'know, stuff that anyone with eyes and ears can see even while lacking a vulva. I'm not sure when people starting thinking that was a perceptual organ.) That can be Paizo's forums, comments on this post (hence my deletion of the most egregiously-sexist and clueless comments), or all of gaming.

That my group is more than half women? That's trying to clue Paizo that women play roleplaying games too. Their forum voters are not representative. Neither is my group, but of course they can only make decisions based on what they know. Hence my telling them something relevant.

"Problematic" is an interesting word. You're using it wrong, for starters. Something is problematic. Not a transitional verb in that usage. There's no "problematic to" construction, though there is a "problematic for" construction that doesn't do what you want either. (Its conjunct is filled by an task-noun.)

The image is problematic, meaning it does not have a simple "good or bad" property. It's good in some ways, and bad in others. By pointing out that the are things about the image that are problematic, I'm hoping that people will actually think about the possible negative consequences of the image. All this "noz! is 100% fine!" push-back is just denying the first premise of the conversation here. I'm not going to suddenly abandon my feminist understanding of this image (though I might refine it, as Greg and Dr Checkmate prompted me to), and anyone who is commenting without the basic idea that there is at least some smidgen of a possible problem with this image is just going to be laughed at and/or ignored. Elements of the image are problematic for fostering a culture of mutual human respect. I do hope that it's not women's job to magically make our culture better while men just sit around and be asshats?

No, I'm saying I don't care that it's Christmas. I'm not blogging for Paizo's or your convenience. Besides, are you seriously suggesting that Christmastime is an inappropriate time to discuss a Christmas card? Should I blog about it in July? Again, it's their bad timing for emailing me institutionalised sexism for Christmas.

"Real" sexism and "stupidly obvious OMFG I can't believe you said/did that/that's illegal" sexism aren't the same thing. You're disproving your credentials to speak intelligently about sexism, you know. You've "seen" obvious sexism, but apparently not thought too much about it or studied why it exists. The worst (in terms of long-term and wide-spread effects on people) is the subtle, non-obvious sexism. Do you wonder, maybe, what kind of environment could possibly make men (and some women) think that those actions are things they should do? Maybe it has something to do with the ridiculous commonality of lesser, implicit acts of sexism that you and other commentors are thoughtlessly defending here.

I do know where the real problems are. They're in the giant blooms of sexism like rape, and in the seeds of those blooms like a guy saying "check out the ass on her" without being censured for being a sexist ass. You can't eliminate the extremes without dealing with the fertile ground that nurtures them.

(Consider the typos fixed.)


Sunday December 28, 2008 at 05:28 AM

Oh, I should have amended that last sentence to read "20th century Western feminism, but not feminism the world over". Funny that I omitted the most relevant word in that sentence.


Sunday December 28, 2008 at 08:58 AM

{The worst (in terms of long-term and wide-spread effects on people) is the subtle, non-obvious sexism. Do you wonder, maybe, what kind of environment could possibly make men (and some women) think that those actions are things they should do?}

Somehow I knew you were going to suggest that "exploitive imagery leads to exploitive behavior." Let's start banning RPGs and video games right now because they're going to cause mass outbreaks of violence and sexism. And let's paint black any depiction of a woman that doesn't meet your standards, because apparently you're the authority on what is exploitive and what is not, whether or not that something personally offends you. "I don't find this offensive, but others may" has ALWAYS been a good reason to self-censor.


Sunday December 28, 2008 at 09:00 AM

{I’m inclined to sympathize with the points you’re making, but you’re wallowing in hyperbole throughout that post. Come on.}

I'm not sure what your point is, Chat. I'm not the male claiming on behalf of women that a picture is exploitive of women, the white person claiming that Paizo has problems depicting non-white characters, etc.


Sunday December 28, 2008 at 01:56 PM

  1. Not all Paizo customers disagree with you, D7. I had this argument last summer, however, so I'm not going to get my dander up on an old topic; this is my one and only post on this topic, here or there. If you want to read up on it, here's the link to a thread started by Paizo customers for no real reason whatsoever:

  2. Paizo should be held to a higher standard because they market themselves as progressives when it comes to their content, such as including an abortionist and a gay paladin in their Rise of the Runelords starter town, having a lumber company be a villain in their Falcon's Hollow starter town or having an emergent democracy in Golarion. They hold themselves to a higher standard than this card. You know better.

  3. The argument that culture doesn't matter (or matter very much) is an awfully weird argument for a cultural worker like Mr. Reynolds to make. The power to influence is not the same thing as the power to control or coerce, I agree, but that's a far cry from having no impact on the world. Cultural power has been one of America's tools for decades: with our products comes our way of life, our ideology. So long as East Berliners wore Levi's jeans, we were making progress in winning the Cold War.

  4. For me, all art creates an assumed audience for it, suggests a preferred way of reading it. I don't like what Paizo assumes about me when it sends out cards like that pander in this manner. That's not me, it doesn't reflect my two gaming groups interest in the game, and it doesn't make me want to buy Paizo's products.

*And Mr. Reynolds, if you're going to make the Sajan argument, please explain why your company didn't put out a beefcake and cheesecake XMas card. Do that, and you wouldn't have had to get a prescription to get your rising blood pressure under control...


Sunday December 28, 2008 at 08:36 PM

  1. Customers agreeing with him doesn't make him right. Customers agreeing with me doesn't make me right.

  2. Again, Seoni is wearing the same clothes she always wears. Why is this more exploitive of women than, say, putting her on the cover of Paizo books such as The Pafthfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting, The Pathfinder Chronicles Gazetteer, The Hangman's Noose, The Skinsaw Murders, Sins of the Saviors, or the Pathfinder Beta? Would Kyra, Merisiel, Lini, Amiri, or Seelah in that same pose (also wearing their standard clothing) be exploitive? Or is it just that Seoni shows more skin than them? Or is it just that Seoni is a woman and attractive, and that showing her AT ALL is exploitive toward women? And as for "holding ourselves to a higher standard," perhaps part of that understanding is not always taking yourself seriously? Is Tina Fey being exploitive of women because she appears in a skimpy "patriotic" outfit on the cover of January's issue of Vanity Fair? Or is she being ironic? Or funny? Or does she understand that it's possible to show an attractive woman and not have it be exploitive? Personally, I think Tina Fey is really attractive and looks great in that picture. Doesn't make me want to buy the issue. Exploitive? Not exploitive enough to be successful?

  3. I'm sorry, I just ran into the disconnect between where illustrating an attractive female RPG character on a holiday card sent to RPG customers encourages discrimination and sexual violence against women. Likewise I don't see a connection between the approved-and-promoted murderous violence and looting in RPGs and violence and theft in real life.

  4. "For you." Enough said, there. Though I'll point out that my artist/dancer/actor ex-girlfriend and I had a LONG argument about what makes art art, and her answer is that if ANOYONE thinks it's art, it's art. If I take a picture of a fork on a table, if someone thinks that picture is art, it's art, even if my intent was merely to document the dirty fork for my lawsuit against the restaurant. So art doesn't have to be intentional, and therefore art doesn't assume an audience, or a presumed way to interpret it. Art is SUBJECTIVE; while it's possible for the creator to have an agenda, it's entirely possible for the viewer to miss that entirely and have their own interpretation of it. As for what Paizo assumes about its customers when it puts Seoni on the holiday card, I'm pretty sure the assumption was, "She's the most recognizable iconic and it would be fun to portray her in a classic pin-up pose." I don't think the assumption was that you would find it erotic, and associate those erotic feelings with Paizo, and therefore spend more money at Paizo. I could be wrong, Lisa is quite devious. ;) Personally, I am sorry that you didn't like the art piece on the holiday card. But at the same time, I don't think the intent was to suggest that you are a lecherous horn-dog whose only exposure to females is in the form of silly RPG art.

*If it were me, I probably WOULD have done Sajan as the cheesecake. Why? Because I like turning things on their heads, and it would have amused me to have the "traditional" holiday pin-up be a handsome, buff male character (and he's bald, too!) instead of a female. But I didn't have anything to do with this art decision. Maybe next year they will do a beefcake & cheesecake holiday card ... based on the comments on our message board, there certainly is an interest in the beefcake.


Monday December 29, 2008 at 12:09 AM

Sounds like someone who profits off of objectifying a historically marginalized population. Would you like to rationalize that some MORE?


Monday December 29, 2008 at 01:19 AM

Sean, would it make more sense if I pointed out that it's not the act of illustrating, but how (mostly men) respond to it that makes it objectifying? Paizo's fault is that they deliberately aimed to satisfy the sorts of people (men) that make the "My chestnuts are a roasting" sorts of comments. Those kinds of responses to an image of a women (no matter how PG) creates at atmosphere that says to women "your bodies aren't for you, they're for us". That's how Seoni-as-Santa promotes an atmosphere in which violence to women is easier. It lowers the bar.


Monday December 29, 2008 at 01:32 AM

Sorry, Mr. Reynolds, but since you're the only paid member of the Paizo community posting here, you're the lucky shnook who gets to represent.

Since I'm trying very hard to keep to the spirit of my promise not to engage in this debate twice in six months, I'm going to agree to disagree with you on your post.

The only reason I'm posting again is because you were kind enough to reply, so I thought I'd take advantage of having the attention of a VIP in gaming to ask you a question with a follow-up:

What role do you think that our culture's repetitive use of certain representations of women's and men's bodies have in promoting various eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, muscle dysmorphia, and others)? If so, does that play a role in your company's art orders; if not, should it?


Monday December 29, 2008 at 05:01 AM

Sean, I thought a bit about your point about violence and sexism, and I don't think they're analogous. Violence in entertainment is more akin to sex in entertainment. I think we can agree that more sex in entertainment doesn't lead to people have more sex, just as more violence in entertainment doesn't lead people to be more violent.

A better analogy with sexism would be violence against a particular group of people. So, those recent current-events-inspired tactical shooters that feature "brown" people as the primary bad guys do, I think, make people more likely to be hateful of and do hateful things to anyone who they perceive as "brown".

It's the same with sexism. Being in a culture that repeatedly condones sexism gives people more license to be sexist. As the late Anon pointed out, men have certain instincts when it comes to women that cheesecake feeds. If that's not accompanied by a persistent cultural message of respect for the bodies thus portrayed, then there's going to be fewer reasons present in mind for a man to treat real women respectfully. Cheesecake thoughts are habit-forming, and those are bad habits for everyone in this culture.

(Interestingly, that's why there's a difference between beefcake and cheesecake in terms of exploitation. Beefcake commands respect, cheesecake doesn't.)


Monday December 29, 2008 at 02:33 PM

I'm not sure I entirely agree with that, art is subjective, so cheesecake can be as commanding as beefcake, or powerful and liberating. From my personal experience, the people who like pin-up art the most, of the very tame and 50's style like the Seoni-Santa, are my female friends, in particular my girlfriend, who draws images similar to that.

The chestnuts are roasting was crude, but it certainly wasn't Paizo's intention to provoke that, just make a gentle nod to the community. And I'm sure if you'd ask them they'd agree.

And if you maintain otherwise it just amounts to schewing intent and purpose for your own agenda, which is ultimately wrong, no matter how good or right your cause, and sexual equality is both.


Monday December 29, 2008 at 02:44 PM

d7 said: (Interestingly, that’s why there’s a difference between beefcake and cheesecake in terms of exploitation. Beefcake commands respect, cheesecake doesn’t.)

I say: In what way is it different other than gender? I, sir, take great offense to your statement. That is purely sexist.

Robert N. Emerson

Monday December 29, 2008 at 08:39 PM

Beefcake does not command respect, I mean, seriously, Fabio is a giant Himbo that graced the cover of a lot of bodice rippers in his day, but no one respects him.

Beefcake and cheesecake, since as far back as I can remember, are usually used to identify female and male models, or a particular style of art that you'd see on various magazine and book covers, or as vehicular art, or what not. Sure, mileage may vary on what is obviously a personal thought or opinion, but equating beefcake to commanding respect is out of touch, in my opinion.

I don't run to the muscle-bound male-model with his shaved chest for help in a crisis, the thought doesn't even cross my mind, nor does it enter my mind that such imagery commands respect. Generally, models entice a lascivious response because that is how they make money, by looking attractive, and the respect moniker never even enters the picture.

As for exploitive material and imagery, well, in my not so humble opinion, there is a huge difference between viewing such imagery and acting out on any potential negative urges. There is a vast difference between having impulses and acting out on said impulses and if all we do is insulate ourselves from this impulses, instead of dealing with the inability to control them, then you are just creating a bigger problem for the future with a mediocre band-aide for today.

I have played role-playing games for over twenty-five years now, as well as viewed all sorts of material that could be considered questionable or exploitive, yet I have never even been tempted to engage in such activities, as I am a reasonable and sensible person, with a proclivity to rant and rave from time to time.

Personally, I think it weakens a society to not consider its self strong enough to survive the existence of something that a segment of the society finds offensive, as legislative morality always fails and it treats the People as if they are too weak, too stupid, and incapable of handling anything difficult.

Look at the folly that is the War on Drugs, which steams from the mistake of Prohibition of Alcohol and the organized crime infrastructure that it created. Look at the ignorance of gay marriage bans, book burnings, and other such insanity, all of which steams from one segment being offended by something, to the point of feeling outraged by its mere existence.

Personally, I see no offense in finding someone attractive and looking at them, just as I do not see offense in said person feeling upset by it and saying someone to the person and asking them not to stare. The issue occurs if the person does not stop staring, once asked to stop, as opposed to them staring, in the first place, being the issue.

Personally, I thought the image from Paizo was nice, as it looked like the old pinups that you'd see the late Bettie Page do. Sure, some folks found her offensive, just like some folks find Playboy to be offensive, as opposed to tasteful, and there are even folks who find the Suicide Girls offensive, even sexists, all of which I, personal, find odd.

Now, in an effort of full disclosure, I am a white male, in his mid-thirties, who by no stretch of the imagination could ever be called affluent, and I find woman attractive on many levels, of which sexually is one of, and I'll never make an apology for it, as I think women are generally strong enough folk. But, I was raised by a very vocal, strong willed, independent, and all around cool single mother, so my perspective is prone to being bent, however I avoided being a serial killer, per profile, so I consider it a win. chuckles


Monday December 29, 2008 at 08:40 PM

@SlatzGrubnik: If the only difference were gender, then you'd be right and my words that you quoted would indeed be sexist. However, there is a lot of stuff attached to gender that brings unavoidable things to depictions of each gender.

Half-naked, muscular men are objects of power and command respect by what they represent to the dominant creators and viewers of those images (men). They challenge the viewer and resist the viewer's attempts to make them anything other than they are. This is just a result of the history of men as a gender, and how and why they have been and are depicted in art.

Half-naked, voluptuous women are objects of desire and represent a "giving" to the dominant viewers and creators of such images (men). They are designed and received as objects to be consumed visually in the same way cheesecake is to be consumed: as a purely pleasurable device.

Hence, beefcake commands respect and cheesecake doesn't. You'll notice, too, the subtle fact that beefcake != men and cheesecake != women. They're depictions of men and women for a certain purpose, with particular messages built into them and established cultural roles. They are very much different in ways other than simply the gender of the object of view.

@Celt: Art being subjective doesn't really excuse art that, historically, has almost always been interpreted as "I'd like to hit that" (or the historical equivalent). Sure, cheesecake could mean something else because it's art and art is subjective, but the fact is that it's rarely experienced with any other subjectivity.

I do think that there is something to be gained by women reclaiming pin-up art, but it does need to be reclaimed, and Chestnut men still have the dominant grip on it and hence the loudest voice in determining what cheesecake means to the culture at large. People like your girlfriend and friends, who've taken control of their relationship to cheesecake away from culture, are the exception. For everyone else it's still a big dose of toxic cultural messages about what women are valued for, how they should look, and the how women and men are supposed to relate.

And, I do think it was Paizo's intention to serve that, if not necessarily provoke crude comments. The crude comments just illustrate why Seoni is demanded as fanservice. If Paizo wants to be progressive, they can't pretend that satisfying desires for T&A because "the fans want it" is part of that.


Monday December 29, 2008 at 10:14 PM

Replies to new comments, and to some of the other ones I didn't reply to while Mr Reynolds was adding casual sexism to his famously-cantankerous reputation:

@Robert: Fabio is mocked because he's Fabio, not because he does beefcake modelling. He's the exception. Conan and other muscle men depicted in RPG products are more what I'm talking about, since that's actually on-topic.

Of course there's a huge difference between viewing such imagery and acting on less-than-civilised impulses related to the imagery. As you say, you are a reasonable and sensible person. Others are not. For those people, being surrounded by images of women as sexually available servitors lowers the bar on their worst urges. There's a reason that the rates of murders and sexual abuse of women are much, much higher than those of men. You're not part of that directly, but condoning objectified images certainly tells those uncivilised men that we don't really mean it when we say they should respect women as dignified human beings. There's no "profile" here, I'm talking about how it effects* the culture that individual men and women operate in.

I'm certainly not advocating that this sort of thing be legislated. It doesn't need to be, and it would be counter-productive to do so. I'm advocating that Paizo not participate in it, and that people be aware that cheesecake isn't harmless. If the majority thought that way, there would be no need for legislation. Then, there would be lots of room for sexy depictions of women that weren't exploitive (like there is room now for sexy images of men that aren't exploitive), because they'd be produced by and for people who aren't interested in the "servitor" and other negative aspects of the image. As an analogy, holiday snaps of children on the beach aren't considered exploitive, despite a tiny and disgusting portion of the population that will look at them with exploitation in their thoughts anyway.

As for the image recalling Betty Page pinups, it ain't the 50s anymore. Standards of how women are treated have gone up since then, I hope. Would you think a depiction of naked Black slave girls that was commissioned specifically as T&A fanservice was harmless because it recalls old art? I would hope not. The point being, that being like old pinup art doesn't make any difference to the objectification built in to a current-day image.

@Greg: I had to think about it for a while, but yes, I do think it implies that complete reclamation of a term or image is impossible, and I think that's accurate. Not even the biggest reclamation projects have succeeded at forcing the wider culture to treat the words as reclaimed: consider the reclaimed words "fag" and "nigger". They're still used as epithets, despite being reclaimed by certain subcultures. The paradigm shift, which is bigger than any single term or image, has to come before the culture as a whole will recognise a term or image as reclaimed.

Certainly, Paizo can't claim that they're even trying to reclaim pin-up art when they're doing it to satisfy their fans' demands for boobs. If Paizo was trying to do that, they failed as soon as they turned a blind eye to why the fans were requesting Seoni.

@Tarren: RTFT. You're living up to your reputation as a contrarian with nothing useful to say. You had such a good start. I'm disappointed.

@Majuba: It's been a long time since Uhura's skirt-wearing was a symbol of sexual liberation. If a new Star Trek series started and all the women had to wear miniskirts, it wouldn't be "sexually liberating" because it's not the sexual revolution anymore. That inch of ground is already won, and feminism is working on the next inch, where women are allowed to enjoy their sexual liberation without being objectified for it.

It's not necessarily a good idea to follow Reaper's lead here, not if Paizo wants to be progressive on how they represent people. Nor do I think Seoni's normal costume is unproblematic, so that's not much of an excuse either.


Monday December 29, 2008 at 10:41 PM

Wrong sir, You cannot say there's nothing wrong with 'beefcake' and say there is something wrong with 'cheesecake'. Beefcake is defined as an image of attractive men with muscular physiques. Cheesecake is defined as an image of an attractive woman that is scantily clothed. It could be said that one exploits men just as the other exploits women. Either they're both right, or they're both wrong. You cannot have it both ways, and say one is right while the other is wrong, that is called a 'double-standard', and is very sexist.

Personally, I think there was nothing that bad about the picture in question. I have seen worse in Disney movies.


Monday December 29, 2008 at 10:41 PM

I agree Seoni does look a little paler than usual but I attribute that to different artists and don't think that was on purpose. I don't really like the picture of her not that is is risky but I don't think it really looks like her. I for one don't know a lot of female gamers so I don't know if they would be offended but I know my wife isn't, she likes it. I always figure no matter what a company does it will offend or displease someone. If they didn't put Seoni on the email than the fans would have been mad that Paizo didn't listen to them and when they did some people were offended. I figure you can't make everyone happy all the time.


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 12:12 AM

d7: I'm curious as to whether you draw a connection between the repetitions hyper-feminine depictions of women and eating disorders. If you do, do you draw a connection between hyper-masculine images and male body image disorders, referenced in my question to Mr. Reynolds above. If you don't, please explain to me why culture has an impact in the one case and not the other.

Robert N. Emerson

Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 12:33 AM

To me, as always, intent is more important then perception and assumption, so I do not believe in punishing those who are civilized for the actions, be it actualized or in potential. By that thinking, guns should be universally outlawed, due to the potential of a few to use them negatively, as should any non-inclusive thought system, belief, philosophy, ideal, so on and so forth, ad nauseum.

The fact that such imagery exists, in spite of the inability of those with impulse control issues, or generally ignorant people, does not say that it is not really wrong or an issue, instead it shows the difference between those who can handle it and those who cannot. All removing such imagery does is remove it, it solves not one single problem, it probably makes it worse. Although this is my personal view, I am fairly certain that sexual crime within various religious groups and their hierarchy is increased in those groups that have celibate clergy, thus making them external toward society, while those who allow for marriage in their clergy have less.

Now, we could either outlaw all religious, since it obviously can lead, in potential, to such issues, or we can let people be spiritual leaders while still having corporeal based lives and families.


Whenever something is repressed in the group, because of the fact that some cannot handle their [insert vice here], it rarely fixes anything. I think an informed and reasoned society is much better than a shielded and stifled society, or else you are going to create the Morlock and Eloi paradigm, which is not a good idea, either.

As for the whole slave girl motif, race should not matter, at all, so long as the intent of the peace is positive, not negative. If the goal of the piece is to promote the enslavement of a race, the negative objectification, in actual not assume, then the piece has issues. But, if the piece is just a piece, with art being just art, then there is nothing wrong with it. I'd rather see examples of real history, rather than have it glossed over and sanitized, simply because it reminds us of our mistakes and, hopefully, keeps us from making them, again.

Fiction is fiction, just as Harry Potter doesn't promote neo-paganism, satanism, homosexual agenda, or any other bit of wingnut thought, neither does men and women, wearing skimpy outfights, while they run around the known and unknown world killing folk and taking their stuff.

Now, if you really wanna worry about art that promotes negative behavior, wait for a picture that outright says, "Thanks for supporting our company, we hope this picture gives you an erection and makes you rape."

Paizo's intent in the picture is obvious, as it is a piece of fantasy art, in a stylize pin-up, with a cartoonish female figure in provocative clothing. If you see offense in it, as well as others, I am fairly comfortable in guessing that, by far, you are in the extreme minority and that it was not Paizo's intent or desire to do so.

I feel that turning society into an over sensitive, political correct entity will only succeed in dumbing us down, making it worse, and retard society, instead of enlighten it and move it forward. There is a lot of art out there, which truly is art, that was inspired by some cultures that, by today's standards, are very backwards, callous, and demeaning toward various segments of society, male or female, but that doesn't make something any less artistic.

If I could link to it, I would, but there is another company provided peace out there of a beefcake Santa and a cheesecake Mrs. Claus, with her curled up around his leg in what you could, easily, call a Howardian pose, ala Conan, and while I'm sure some could find it offense, I find it enticing and enjoyable without the urge to sow my rapine urges.

Robert N. Emerson’s last blog post: Review of Rite Publishing's The Living Airship by Soren Keis Thustrup


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 12:35 AM

@roguerouge: I do think there's a connection between hyper-feminine depictions of women and eating disorders (and a lot of other things). I also think hyper-masculine images are damaging. However, unrealistic images of men are differently problematic in our culture than those of women, and I'm not going to try to deal with those subtleties when talking to someone who doesn't even understand the basics.

@Dreamweaver: Oh, I think it was an accident too. But, consider that only non-White characters are every accidentally drawn White, and White characters are never accidentally drawn non-White. There's a one-sided bias at work that causes those accidents.

Re your wife, read the italic text at the top of the post.

If a company decided that they weren't going to do any cheesecake shots, I'm pretty sure that nobody would be "offended". I have a game book right here that doesn't have a single cheesecake shot in it, and I haven't heard anyone complain about it. (Shaintar, for the curious.) If Paizo not being sexist contrary to fan request gets them in trouble, it's their own damn fault for deliberately creating a reputation for pandering to their fans' whims. At some point in the process, Paizo is responsible for deciding to indulge a particular whim.

Tarren Dei

Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 12:46 AM

"@Tarren: RTFT. You’re living up to your reputation as a contrarian with nothing useful to say. You had such a good start. I’m disappointed."

You claim to have an account at Paizo just so you could take a look at the Beta version of the Pathfinder RPG, but you know me well enough to know I'm a self-important, contrarion, jerk with nothing useful to say. I think you've spent a bit more time at Paizo than you let on.

I'll pop back later this evening with something that I hope adds to the conversation, but, for now, I'll say this: your insults are not warranted by your theories. If sexist discourses are pervasive in society and, if, as I'm sure you'll agree, the implications of discourses are not fully understood by those who reproduce them, then people will continually produce sexist discourses even when they consider themselves to be well-meaning and well-educated. Labelling people as 'sexist' or suggesting people are 'racist' simply personalizes something that is a general social trait.

In other words, we are all sexist, D7, to the extent that we all participate in sexist discourses. Some of us simply do it more self-reflexively than others.

I've been reading feminist theory since I was 15. I grew up encountering racism on a daily basis. However, as my understandings are informed by the society I am in, I, like you, continue to struggle with my participation in racist and sexist discourses.


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 12:47 AM

Well, I've decided that you're either nutters, sadistically PC, or just trolling for attention on your blog. It is a fact that you've accused many people you don't know of being sexist and/or racist, you're making up your own definition of words (such as "cheesecake" and "beefcake"), and you're clearly embraced a double standard which, if anything, shows that you don't think men and women are equal. I applaud your effort to protect women (as misguided as it is), and I won't be posting here any more. Good luck, and good gaming!


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 12:53 AM

d7: How does your assessment account for "queer"? Much more than the ones you reference, it's rather the poster boy for reclamation in language; in pretty much every circle I've ever encountered, the presumption, when used neutrally, is that the word itself is being used neutrally. And yes, part of the issue is the unwieldiness of saying LGBTQ (and, depending the inclusiveness of the term being used, let's throw in an A,O,P,I,U, perhaps repeating a few letters, in no particular order after the first 5), and part of it is also that queer had fallen out of vogue as the pejorative of choice for sexual minorities. But more to the point, "queer" has gained considerable traction, to the point where claiming that complete reclamation is impossible does require at least a little denial of reality.

Were this true, "pagan" would mean the same thing it meant 1000, or even 100 years ago (in both cases, a pejorative, but a very different pejorative in those two eras).

To go out on a bit further of a limb here, though, we're talking about iconography, not language, and in particular, we're comparing historically exploitive iconography where the harms, while real, were largely incidental, to historically spiteful language, where the entire point was the harm, and it seems rather safe to argue that they obey very, very different rules.

Mores change, cultural fixations and symbolisms change, and yesterday's exploitation forgotten or reanalysed. Are modern history buffs with enthusiasm for the Tuskegee Airmen or the Negro League or even of Blaxploitation films like Shaft or Foxy Brown furthering the cause of racial inequality? Are women who like period dress furthering the exploitation of women through their enthusiasm for corsets? Or, are they rather acknowledging a valued and important part of their heritage as minorities or women, however complicated by the inequality that they stemmed from?

I'm sorry, but the world you're presenting is awfully small, by my estimation. It's a world where I'm Wrong for cherishing the segregation-era heroes that are a part of my cultural heritage, and it's a world where most of my nerdy female friends are Wrong for thinking corsets are cool, or for thinking pre-liberation female sexuality is something to be enshrined as equally heroic. See the problem?

Tarren Dei

Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 03:08 AM

After thinking about it while putting the kids to bed, I don't see any point in adding more here. Any conversation that attempts to address the often contradictory and incoherent area between politics and desire should be undertaken with great respect for those participating in the conversation. I'm not seeing that in this blog.

Tarren Dei

Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 03:15 AM

Actually, no, I'll add one more thing.

@ Sean: No, he's not nutters or trolling for his blog. He knows the arguments well and has put a lot of time into thinking about them. I don't agree with his approach but I don't doubt his sincerity.


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 03:50 AM

@Tarren: Oh good, you brought some game this time. I was wondering if you'd just googled those names you dropped earlier, and I'm glad I was wrong.

The insults are mostly aimed at the men rabidly refuting a charge sexism against a company they're fans of. They're not worth my time beyond the entertainment they give me watching them run into a cluestick they can't see. If you read up-thread, you'll see that anyone who had the barest idea of what they're talking about got a much more reasonable answer.

And, yes, I only have a Store account at Paizo. It's just that you seem to pop up in all of the threads I've enjoyed reading over there, and not in a way that contributed to it beyond a smug sense of superiority. So, maybe that's just my bad luck, or maybe you're all over the boards like that. Possibly you're just condescending to the people saying things that I find interesting, and contribute constructively elsewhere.

Yes, we all participate in sexist (and racist) discourses. It's unavoidable while being part of this culture. I'm not free from it, but I try as hard as I can (as I was saying in the other article) to see and mitigate it. The reproducers of sexism that are unmindful and heavily invested in the status quo aren't going to be converted by a post like this no matter how much I wish it could. So, I mock them when they're clueless enough to try that shit here, and meanwhile I try to have a fruitful conversation with the clued-in people.

I'm curious then. Do you think it's futile to oppose things like Paizo's Seoni? I mean, I don't think so, but it sounds like you've been reading this stuff longer than I have.

@Greg: That's a good point. I do think "queer" has only been reclaimed because it has long since lost currency as a slur. Maybe that's enough to be able to reclaim a word? I can't see how it would be possible to entirely reclaim a word that is in active use by an oppressing group.

Hm. Iconography does work differently that direct slurs. What they share is the embedded cultural control they are implicitly created to exert. There's enough else that's different to make them work differently in reclamation efforts. Is it enough of a difference?

I see the problem, though. But, is that difference not accounted for by "safe" spaces that are created in which to value these things? I'm thinking about more public spaces where the dominant cultural meanings will strongly contest (in bad cases, by violence) the reclaimed meanings. Of course, I can't figure out how the burlesque revival fits into that. It's very thorny territory, and I'm not sure there is a right answer.

Something to consider in looking for an answer is the oppressor's tendency to embrace and co-opt the victories of the oppressed. The only thing that patriarchy is concerned with is sustaining the imbalance of power, so it tends to rewrite the boundaries of the conflict so that "losses" are recolonised with oppression. That tendency really complicates attempts to analyse a particular image.

Bringing this back to Seoni, I'm more inclined to believe that positive image of her as an iconic in general (though I'm still not sure about that). In the Christmas card, though, she was drawn specifically to satisfy a request by people not interested in the reclamation of pinups by women. The devil's in the details, and I can't yet see any way for that particular detail to not be damning. In the context of the reclamation of sexual liberation-era imagery, I'm seeing that as as sexist because it's a recolonisation of the symbol by oppressive men, with Paizo's (possibly unwitting) help.

Can Paizo really intend and sustain Seoni as an empowered character despite her fans?

@Sean: Since you can't tell the difference between thinking men and women are equal and thinking that men and women are treated inequally by society, I don't think you have the analytical skills or theoretical grounding necessary to add anything constructive here. If you really do care about sexism and learning more about the less obvious kinds, consider looking up some of the authors that have been cited so far when you've got some distance from this argument. Though I wouldn't suggest starting with Butler, because reading her is like reading Kant.

Paizo Watch: Paizo’s Boobgate « Turbulent Thoughts

Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 03:51 AM

[...] Paizo Watch: Paizo’s Boobgate December 29, 2008 — Wyatt HAHAHAHAHAHA. [...]


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 04:47 AM

@Tarren: I must have hit "submit" after you commented again. Sorry about that.

If you're going, thanks for participating as one of the reasonable ones.

I don't pretend to think I've made friends by this approach, but I also don't think there's any profit to be made respecting certain opinions on this subject. If they don't appreciate the at least the possibility of complexities coming into the discussion, there's little hope that they will actually be a "participant". I've been weighing giving people a more even response, but I haven't been able to accept the degree to which I would be condoning certain comments by giving them a "fair" (in the Fox sense) hearing.

An alternative would have been to just delete comments that were out of line and keep the discussion fairly high-minded, but there are obvious problems with that. Another alternative would have been to just ignore the people who don't get it, but I don't think I could have remained comfortable being their "publisher" without pushing back. My demon is a pleasure in mocking the clueless, and that's certainly been cavorting about more than does me credit.

I'm going to remove the bit at the top, since you've proved me wrong. Some people are going to say that I'm hiding it, but meh. You've reversed my esteem of you enough that I don't want it to stand in the archives.


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 05:13 AM

About the only thing that personally disturbs me about this situation is how quickly ANYBODY becomes an "Internet Troll Looking For Attention" when they post ANYTHING about ANYBODY when it comes to RPGs. I remember my mostly satirical review of OSRIC (I'm still getting hate mail for that one). Whatever merit or not this situation has, I'm rather saddened that the fan response is always "LOL U R A TROLL ATTENTION GRUBBER WITH NO LIFE AND NOTHING BETTER TO DO".

Seriously people, other human beings can have negative opinions without doing it to grub for hits on their blog.

Wyatt’s last blog post: Paizo Watch: Paizo’s Boobgate


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 06:58 AM

I think this conversation could benefit more from people pointing out what they'd like to see as alternatives. Thus I will try to furnish examples of what I'd like to see in a "reclaiming" gaming pin-up:

Women over the age of nubility.

Women who look confident and in control of their own sexuality. (There has been a lot of improvement here over the years, but you can never have too muchof a good thing)

People wearing clothing that is practical to their profession. Practical clothing can be very sexy if you know what you're doing. Swap out that fetish-club clothing for some adventuring gear. Heck, it can even still be leather!

If a woman is skinny, then maybe she can have small breasts. And if she's big-breasted, then maybe she can a significant degree of body fat.

People who have jobs that need muscles should look like the people who perform those jobs rather than professional gym models (bulging pectorals are a product of a modern gym, not swinging a sword - washboard abs are created more by dieting than by work).

Women in masculine professions who look a little butch. Not Hollywood butch (i.e. Fried Green Tomatos) but actually dykey. Just now and then.

People of a variety of colours.

Men being portrayed as sexy. Any men. At all.

Pin-ups that look like they came from the same demographic as their audience. Or that looked like such a character might actually look like.

If anyone can provide some links to examples, that would be lovely.


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 09:25 AM

Hi Wyatt. To be fair, it was only Mr Reynolds that accused me of trolling, and only after significant antagonism from me for his insistent position.

But yeah, the flood of rabid fans is lame. The signal to noise ratio is just so poor. But, I can't complain that much because they've publicised this post enough that there are some people here now who have thought-provoking things to say. And, the worst of them have either been driven off or

@Amy(11:58): Right bloody on. I imagine that's the sort of thing that Amy #1 up-thread was thinking of when she invoked roleplayers' geeky creativity.

@Greg: Y'know, I can get on-board with the idea of reclaiming pinups, after reading Amy's post. I got my head too far stuck up my, ah, theory, that I wasn't seeing the possibilities. Yeah, I was letting my world get too small. Paizo didn't pull it off, but I think that's due to lacking the depth of commitment and awareness of the pitfalls and alternatives necessary to do it right. I mean, the artist they chose is an obvious boob artist based on the links a deleted comment provided.

@SlatzGrubnik: Sorry, I missed your second comment until now.

The difference is in how gender is filtered through culture. So, no, something can be true of cheesecake and not true of beefcake, such as one being exploitive and the other not. That said, I don't think that beefcake is unproblematic. It's just that the objectification of women has much more direct harmful consequences (due to the cultural disempowerment of women) than beefcake does. Ideally neither would happen, but I think I'm justified in tackling the worse one first. If feminists were committed to the idea that everything about women and men were equal, we could hardly coherently claim that women are treated differently than men, could we?

@Robert: I seem to keep missing your comments in the pile, too.

Again, I want to emphasise that I'm not advocating an enforced removal of images. I would like Paizo to decide that it's not right to participate in the production of such imagery, in the same way that they've decided that it's not right to participate in the production of all-White gaming products.

I agree that shielding a community from vices has major negative consequences. What I'd like to see, rather than repression, is a deliberate non-participation in the objectification of women by people and companies in the RPG community. I know it's unrealistic on that scale, but Paizo has given the impression of wanting to do that.

Well spoken on the art bit. I'm not sure how to ferret out the nuance I'm looking for, but it is about intent. I do think that the Paizo forum readers who voted for this Christmas card had those kinds of negative objectification intents. Paizo's satisfaction of those might have been naïve, but if so it's all the more important for them to think about this harder.

The thing about art is that it does communicate messages. Many would say it's not art, otherwise. It doesn't have to be labelled as promoting violence against women in order to carry that message or to have that effect. The message doesn't even have to be intended by the artist or the art director. It just has to be passed unimpeded from the culture, through the artist, through the art, and into a receptive or perceptive mind.

Really, I don't think taking old art that has become objectionable and refreshing its negative features with a modern rendering is a good idea. Best leave the mistakes of the past in the past and, yes, appreciate the art for being art. But, why create more art that makes those mistakes? If art is the communication of culture, do we really want to keep repeating the visual equivalent of some pretty nasty things about women?

Again, not that I'm advocating censoring such images. But, an artist that is just rehashing the sexist imagery of the past shouldn't be unquestioned just because it's art.

I suspect that I'd find the beefcake/cheesecake Santa and Mrs Claus similarly problematic, so just as well. I appear to have my hands full right now.

Dave T. Game

Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 06:35 PM

d7, for whatever small amount it's worth after this epic comment thread, I had the same reaction you did from that email.

I also find Mr. Reynolds's reactions here to be unprofessional and off-putting.

Dave T. Game’s last blog post: YouTube Tuesday: Singing about Kissing Wookies Edition


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 09:01 PM

I'm glad I'm not the only one who was a bit surprised to see Sean K. here. I'd think this wouldn't matter to him or any of the Paizo designers. What bothers me more is the kind of unneeded outcry that this mustered. It's just a blog post. The attack dogs are unnecessary.

Wyatt’s last blog post: It’s my birthday!


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 09:22 PM

Not all that surprising. I'm surprised that it got linked from the Paizo forums, but once it was I was expecting something like this. Gaming + feminism is a pretty strongly opposed combination.

I understand why Sean brought up the bugaboo of violence in games, because gaming is generally under assault for it's more controversial elements. Gamers are used to pushing back strongly against any criticism of our hobby.

Golarion Goblin

Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 10:19 PM

Keeping the vitriol to as low as I can muster, as long as the good folks at Paizo don't send out dead-baby greeting cards, I don't see anything wrong. Is that imaginary character being objectified? I don't know, she's IMAGINARY. How is this any different than a local fire department putting out a calendar of firemen? Y'know, I'd like to quote my wife in this matter: "Nerds, like regular men, like tits"... God, do I love my wife. Anyway, she has a point; People like looking at pretty things. Be they fan-favorite sorceresses, a well-prepared meal, or magnificent architecture, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you honestly and truly found what was sitting in your inbox to be that offensive, well, that's your prerogative. I however, and a great many others like me, happen to like what we deem pleasing to our eye. So, in closing, I hope that this entire debacle can be nipped in the bud for next year, and move to a gender neutral doppelganger grace Paizo's card next year.

With boobs. Big ones. Y'know, for the wife.


Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 11:05 PM

@Goblin: You called women you like to look at "things" and compared them to a well-prepared meal. Enjoy your big plate of FAIL.

Golarion Goblin

Wednesday December 31, 2008 at 01:28 AM

@d7: facepalm I see. Pronoun war, the lowest bit of trolling. Enjoy your opinion. No matter how wrong it may seem in my eyes, it's yours to treasure, always. Now, I'm off to ogle my wife in lingerie as she bakes me pie and bears a son to carry on my name.*

Golarion Goblin

Wednesday December 31, 2008 at 01:34 AM

Actually, the thing that I find truly disturbing after re-reading your original post is that you said Seoni must have "DR/fire". First of all, it'd be either fire resistance or fire immunity and secondly Damage Reduction deals with physical damage inflicted by weapons, natural or manufactured, not types of energy. I can no longer in good conscience continue this diatribe with someone who can make such a novice mistake as that.


Wednesday December 31, 2008 at 07:58 PM

@Goblin: Well, the most charitable interpretation I can make of both your comments it that you're trolling, judging by the way you're invoking symbols of privilege at the end. And you're expecting me to take you seriously?

(By the way "thing" is not a pronoun, though that's admittedly not a novice mistake. It's just a noun.)

Re DR: It's been a while since I was a d20 gamer. I don't really care to get the details of a system that I've abandoned right in the fine details, especially when I'm skewering a representative of that system. If you want to geek about it, I can respect that from one geek to another, but I don't really care about it.

Wednesday December 31, 2008 at 11:33 PM

(Just giving contentless support for a noble cause, not knowing enough to contribute. Keep it up, d7.)


Thursday January 01, 2009 at 12:50 AM

Thanks, Tommi.

Aside to Psychic Robot and anyone else whose comment doesn't make it out of moderation: if you are defending the image without basic knowledge of the theories I'm using to question it then there isn't much to say, and I don't have so much free time now that I can give y'all an intro course on feminism.


Thursday January 01, 2009 at 03:23 PM

If women stopped posing in person for pictures like this, because they have the unsatiable need (not saying ALL women, just far too many) to be told how beautiful they are, all we would have is art like this that, without the semi-porn industry would be less inspired and less explicit.

See the idea of something like this just exploiting or offending women isn't a fair assumption. One implies indirectly that all men appreciate it. What about guys trying to recover from porn habits, or men who are trying to be faithful to their wives? Constant images like this erode against the will and genuine intent. Society tells me it's ok to me a horn dog, its natural! My wife doesn't look anything like that, and she never will. But perhaps she has more value that a poster girl who doesn't exist anyway? 6/10 of the female minutres I scan the internet for trying to find one for my wife's characters are porno or topless. It's pretty sad.


Friday January 02, 2009 at 02:14 AM

The sexism in marketing in general is creating objects for stimulating the deepest parts of our brain. The parts that have to do with survival and yes reproduction. Why it has gotten so far in recent times is beyond me. Creating a super sexualized stand in for our physical reality goes back thousands of years and spans all cultures. After all the desire and pleasure derived from sex is simply nature trying to keep a species viable. It's just the newer parts of our brain that has a problem with it.


Tuesday January 06, 2009 at 12:42 PM

Hi, It has been said here and elsewhere that Seoni's body is a major part of the problem, and I'm not trying to express an opinion on whether the use of it is a problem, or sexism or not, just on the reality of her, a least the Wayne Reynolds version.

1} The whole Seoni is totally unreal thing totally bugs me, not because I like to stand up for fictional characters but because I know a woman who is almost identical in shape to her, though I don't know Seoni's height, and this woman has coppery hair, no tattoos, some piercings. But the point stands, thats naturally her shape, there may be an argument for Seoni having unnatural bouyancy, but that's a maybe exotic use of prestidigitation. If modern can use tape, why wouldnt a mage use a cantrip? Also, the 0-level pseudo bra has immediate combat benefits, i.e. sports bra but vastly superior. So it wouldn't be for entirely cosmetic purposes. I state no opinion on her actual clothing, as that battle is fought elsewhere.

2} Again, I'm not expressing an opinion on the sexism of the matter, nor anything to do with exploitation. But I know, personally someone who looks like this, and saying Seoni has a pornstar, surgically rendered body is irritating to me on behalf of her. Equality includes people who are different, rare and sometimes unlikely. They still exist as people, don't make them a target, just because your attractive doesn't mean your don't deserve equality, an equal say in and support from a movement based on the empowered meant of women.

People are different, maybe not many people have Seoni's body shape, or Sajan's for that matter, but some do, in reality, as a fact. And hey aren't PC's supposed to stand up for and be part of the minorities? Pretty woman can be a minority, oh and as a final note, all levels of cleavage and 'what's too much' aside, a woman with large breasts is supposed to show some cleavage according to the dictates of simple fashion knowledge, regardless of her size and shape. Covering it up makes you look bulky and much heavier and chunkier in the chest area that you actually are.

Whatever else though, this was a rant to protect at least the Wayne Reynolds image of Seoni, specifically her physical shape as shared by a real natural person, whom I based this argument off.

My two cents on the matter.


Tuesday January 06, 2009 at 11:05 PM




Why is nobody lamenting the wholesale slaughter of primitive demi-humans to procure their refined metals?

You people and your silly priorities.

DonnytheDM’s last blog post:


Wednesday January 07, 2009 at 12:14 AM

@pendagast: Careful there. You're suggesting that all women who pose for cheesecake pictures have the same motivation. You're also putting the blame for these pictures' existence on such models, instead of the people who want the pictures. You can't reasonably suggest that what the photographer or artist looks for in a model, or what they know will sell, has nothing to do with it.

As for exploitation, you've got the wrong end of the stick. Not all men have to appreciate it for it to be exploitive.

@Russell: One nit first: You said that sex in marketing stimulates "our" brains, and from the rest of the comment you're clearly talking about men only. Last I checked, there were slightly more than 3 billion women in the world that you're not taking into consideration.

Super-sexualised representations aren't the problem. The problem is what they're used for in specific cases, and in general by a specific culture. Just because "all" cultures have done something (and I'm not sure that's backed up by fact anyway) doesn't mean that they're doing it for good reasons. At the risk of having people invoke Godwin's because they don't understand it: both Nazi Germany and WW2 United States went to war. You can't say that both were "right" or even the same just because "warring goes back thousands of years and spans all cultures." It's just not a meaningful argument.

@CELT: Certainly, there are people who look like Seoni. I think the point those commentors were making is that Seoni's body type is very rare, but incredibly common in RPG illustrations and mass media. It's not that your friend has a body type that's problematic, just that there's a huge mismatch between what companies like Paizo choose to be typical (rhymes with "iconic") and real bodies.

The porn-star comments weren't helpful, no. But, to suggest a charitable reading of them, I'd think they were trying to point out that this is the body type typically aimed for by media, which reaches its extreme with plastic surgery and porn stars. Pointing to how common these extremes are just demonstrate that there's a problem with idolising and normalising a rare body type over others.

@Donny: Now I know the difference between good traffic and bad traffic! I never thought I'd enjoy checking my mail and seeing that there were no new blog comments.


Friday February 06, 2009 at 10:41 PM


Completely agree.

Though if you need some traffic, suggest talking badly about pathfinder in general, it is like opening a quantum jackass funnel directly from

Worth it, if you are looking for a laugh though :)

DonnytheDM’s last blog post: Playtest: There's a RITE way, and a wrong way