International Women’s Day 2022

Happy International Women’s Day, my friends.

My name is Elly.  I played Jak in Seekers of the Ashen Crown and currently play Daina on Mourners of Lhazaar.  I’m also the founder and primary author of Savage Tales of Eberron, the human behind the @SavageEberron Twitter account (and our main voice and face on social media in general), and I wear a few more hats behind the scenes of SToE as well.

And I am also, gladly and unashamedly, a woman who her whole life has delighted in gaming.  Whether video games or TTRPGs, these are spaces I have lived in for the better part of thirty years.  I love it here, and I love sharing these spaces with people whose experiences, perspectives, and voices are different from my own.

Something that often goes unnoticed and unrecognized, however, is that there is a unique toll that far too many women in these spaces pay on a daily basis as the cost of participating.  The cliché of a man quizzing a woman in order to make her prove that she has sufficient knowledge to be allowed to speak in these spaces remains to this day a very real occurrence that I have personally faced and continue to face.  The experience of having my voice ignored, dismissed, or outright demeaned — sometimes by men who by their own admission have less knowledge or experience with the topic of conversation than I do — remains a very real and near-daily occurrence.  And the funny thing is, there is a very glaring difference with facing this kind of casual, routine discrimination in spaces where my gender is known and obvious, versus in spaces where my gender is not known or obvious and the default assumption is that the person on the other end of the keyboard is a man.  In the latter spaces, my words are afforded the same weight and value as anyone else’s.  In the former spaces, things are often noticeably different.  And it’s discouraging, and it’s exhausting, and it sucks.

I love the men of Savage Tales of Eberron.  I would not trade them for the world. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that finding this table feels like I won the lottery, and the prize was four brothers.  I love and respect them, they love and respect me, and I could not ask for four better friends and tablemates. But even here, in this space, we’ve run into a few hiccups.  Everyone is fallible, living in community is messy, and all of us have lots to learn and lots of growing to do in order to keep making our communities better for everyone.

My challenge to you on this International Women’s Day, is simply this: value the voices of the women in your gaming community.  Treat their voices with the same default respect and weight as anyone else’s.  Reflect on whether there have been times in your community, or at your table, where there have been double-standards in terms of affording that respect, and if you’re not sure?  Ask the people who would be affected by it.  Change happens from within, but the people around us are often necessary catalysts to help that change along.  And in my communities, I will continue doing what I can to help provoke that change.  I will continue doing it respectfully, and treating everyone with dignity, but I will also continue doing it honestly — and that means calling out the good, the bad, and the ugly.  If there is anything to prove about my right to be in these spaces, or about my knowledge, expertise, and experience, I have proven it many times over.  I know that my voice is valuable and contributes to these spaces in a positive and meaningful way, and I know many women in these spaces who are far more accomplished than I am and yet still have all the same stories I do about ways in which they are regularly dismissed and demeaned in ways that men with similar voices and contributions are not.  It’s an ugly, ugly thing, but it doesn’t have to be a given.  It doesn’t have to be the cost of existing in these spaces.  So let’s all pledge today to work towards rewriting that story into a new and better one.

Happy International Women’s Day, my friends.  Let’s go be storytellers.

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