Advice Friday: Am I being too sensitive about my new D&D group's offensive jokes?
|A lady wood nymph wearing a circlet and gown cavorts in a misty forest carpeted with purple flowers, ALONE because her adventuring party SUCKS.|
One of my favorite podcasts is Hannah and Matt Know It All, where the hosts react to advice columns, offer different advice, and get enraged about things. This concept is right up my alley as a person who reads pretty much every advice column. (Another great take on this concept: Here’s That Bad Advice You Were Looking For.) I occasionally send Han and Matt columns that I want to hear them take on, but there are so many advice columns out there, churning out so much new content each week, that they of course don’t have the time to take on every listener request. (Matt always sends me a sweet personal response though!) Then I realized: why wait for them? I can respond to advice columns too! It’s not exactly “on brand” for Frugal Bagel but, hey, personal finance + TV is not a super synergystic combo either. I am making it my brand.
The most recent thing I sent Han & Matt’s way: a Dungeons & Dragons group dynamics question from the /r/relationships subreddit! This is now deleted, but it read as follows:
Oof, that DM! What a prince, right? The use of the specifically phallic verb “castrate” is the gross cherry on top of the gross sundae: as if the health and vigor of his actual penis depends on his ability to make sexist, racist jokes without censure or pushback. Even when he asks.
My table's Dungeon Master [20/30?M] thinks that I'm [20F] being too sensitive to his jokesSo I joined a small DnD club at my uni a couple of weeks ago, I've always been interested in role-playing and heard great stuff about a DM here so I decided to give it a try.
Before our first session the DM told us that this was a comedy/fun campaign, no serious role-playing, I was a bit disappointed at first but after my first session with the musical troupe (4 Bards and a Fighter as their security) it turned out to be a blast; everyone was having fun and the DM was incredibly hilarious with great NPCs and story.
But I noticed in the second session we had the jokes were starting to get a bit insensitive; there were lots of sexist jokes about prostitutes and wh*res, lots of irl racist stereotypes being projected onto fantasy races, and I guess I was generally uncomfortable but I played along and laughed since all the guys were practically in tears.
The DM later approached me and told me he noticed how he noticed how I was this session and was wondering if I was unwell, I said yeah and told him the above about how the jokes made me feel. He responds by telling that I'm being too sensitive, ruining their harmless fun, and to grow some thicker skin or just not show up to the next session.
He told me he's "not willing to castrate the campaign for someone's feelings." All the guys including the DM were inviting and friendly even though they're all veterans at this (save for this confrontation) and they're the only DnD table here. I'm just wondering who's in the right here.
I expected this DM to be raked over the coals in the comments, but, disappointingly, most of the upvoted comments sided with him: he “shouldn’t have to change” for the comfort of someone playing the game he’s supposedly designing for their pleasure. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised - Reddit in general has earned a reputation for insensitivity, hostility to women, and generally the worst stereotypes of geeky white men. The Relationships subreddit is usually not like this, however. I’m not saying it’s a good place to seek refuge when your actual relationships hit stormy seas - it’s often bonkers and usually gives terrible advice - but it’s usually not so angry, hostile to women, and specifically opinionated about D&D group dynamics. I feel like the thread was probably linked to on 4chan or something.
The question was deleted (probably by a disappointed and/or harassed OP) before I got the chance to reply myself (not that it would have made a difference). Granting that these tools will probably never read my PC SJW snowflake blog, I have some things I want to say to them.
This is why girls don’t play D&D.Actually, I know a lot of girls who play D&D, because the people I know who play D&D (of all genders) are capable of having fun and making jokes without resorting to oppressive, gross, sexist, racist “humor.” But I’ve given up trying to play in random groups, because this is what you find when you don’t pre-vet your players.
There’s no reason why D&D shouldn’t be good for girls. Imagination, collaboration, and group relationship-building are not things that girls are known to hate. The high fantasy milieu leads to storylines focusing on important relationships with majestic Pegasi, needlessly complex royal lineage, outsmarting tricksy fairies, and doing favors for mermaids. You know, THINGS GIRLS HATE.
But any activity or group or job, no matter how fun, can be completely ruined by hostile, toxic bro culture.
Same topic, different activity: a recent article on Autostraddle in which a Pacific Crest Trail hiker talked about quitting after 454 miles of a planned 2,000+ mile hike due to the hostility and creepiness of the (mostly male) fellow hikers. Here was an activity she absolutely loved and was good at, with a community widely lauded as being welcoming and friendly, and they were so consistently shitty to her in a thousand ways big and small that they made her hate what she used to love.
Congrats, boys. You can make anything horrible.
Women not liking jokes that denigrate women: it’s not rocket scienceSome attempted to argue the OP out of her feelings of discomfort by claiming that the jokes were not directed at her.
She doesn't even say these jokes are directed at her specifically and it seems to be part of the humour. If D&D needs to be totally PC then she's in the wrong group.Hmmmm. I wonder why jokes mocking and sexualizing women would make a woman feel mocked and sexualized.
“I didn’t mean you” doesn’t hold much water as an excuse. It is an inherently hostile act to set cost-of-admission to your special little group be the toleration (or participation in!) shredding your own/your group’s dignity. It’s just not a cost that these white dude recognize, because they don’t have to pay it.
The “everybody likes it” defense breaks down as soon as someone doesn't like itCommenters echoed the DM that the OP should STFU about the jokes because everyone else liked them.
It's his group and they're all fine with the jokes, OP is new to the group, you can't expect them to change the whole group dynamic just because OP doesn't like it.But clearly not everybody in the group was fine with it... because the OP wasn't. And the OP is in the group. "Everybody likes it" is by definition no longer true! (If it was ever true! Because you would never find out that somebody doesn't like it if they're so uncomfortable that they don't speak up!)
If you believe that Cards Against Humanity style offensive humor is all in fun as long as everyone is having a good time, then the only way that works as a humane, non-asshole way of life is if you are willing and able to switch it off as soon as someone isn't having a good time. That means that when someone says "This is making me feel bummed out and uncomfortable," you say, "Oh, okay, it's no longer all in good fun, we'll switch things up."
The correct response to "those jokes bummed me out" is "I won't make them anymore"Commenters loved to front like the DM was only joking around. He did nothing wrong!
[H]aving fun joking around with members of your friend group isn't being an asshole. Being an asshole is purposely seeking to insult or provoke people, neither of which has he doneTo be clear, the reason he's an asshole isn't necessarily that he made jokes that made the OP feel bad - that could have been out of ignorance and insensitivity (which are not defensible qualities forever but these are young folks.) The reason he's an asshole is his response when she admitted the jokes bummed her out. Instead of being mortified that he inadvertently hurt her feelings, he dug in his heels and insisted that she was in the wrong. It is no longer possible to claim that he caused offense out of ignorance, because he has been told. For the record, the correct response was, "I'm sorry and I will change."
If “everybody likes it”, is it still okay to make racist and sexist jokes? (Hint: no)Let’s leave aside the fact that this player didn’t like it, and that should have been reason enough for them to stop: one of the points brought up by the commenters is that everybody else was having fun, so this type of humor is okay, just as valid as any other. Liking or not liking racist/sexist jokes is a personal preference thing.
Nope! Racism and sexism are wrong even if everybody present likes it! I bet everybody in the KKK really enjoys what they’re doing, but that doesn’t make them right.
Postulate: speaking mockingly, disrespectfully, and hostilely about entire groups of people is wrong. Reason: human dignity.
Some dudebros like to hide behind the excuse that comedy is an exception to other kinds of hateful speech, that it’s “all in fun” or “just a joke.” Only it’s not. The science is in: Denigration humor reinforces the idea that hateful attitudes are socially acceptable. Racist jokes make people more racist! Sexist jokes are only enjoyed by people who believe those sexist ideas on some level! Surprise!
Also? This type of “humor” is just plain not funny. Andrew Ti of Yo Is This Racist? puts it best (via Grantland):
That shit is seriously only funny to idiots. People who spend a lot of time defending racism like to point out that racist jokes are OK, as long as they’re funny — which might conceivably be true, except for one glaring problem. The problem is that when you’re relying on the glorious power of stereotype to make your comedic point, you are, by definition, not making an original observation about humanity.Racist and sexist jokes fundamentally rely on the most tired cliches. No comedian ever made it big reciting knock-knock jokes we all learned when we were five, so amateur comedians need to get over their own cleverness for lazily pointing at literally the first-to-mind shitty stereotype from the cultural soup.
“Fuck newbies” is not a great attitude for a group seeking new members.A frequent theme in the comments was that OP had no right to express any opinion (even when asked!), or to expect the group to take her wishes into consideration, because she was the newest member of the group.
It's alright for OP to feel uncomfortable with the jokes going on, but she still can't expect them to change their whole group dynamic for a brand new memberThis is such a weird attitude to me. Who says that the newest member has any less standing than any other player?
It bums me out when geeks create arbitrary hierarchies to judge and rank each other. As people who have, historically, been bullied and excluded, can we not?
D&D groups are usually pretty small - four to six players. Usually, each player has a distinct role (fighter, healer, mage, and so on) that makes her indispensible to the group if they want to accomplish all their objectives. It makes no sense to let a new player/character into the group, and then insist that they have no right to impact the culture of the game because they are new. Of course they are going to impact the culture of the game. They are one-sixth of the story’s “authors”!
D&D is most fun when everyone is contributing. If this group actually wants to attract new players, it would behove them to welcome the feedback and unique contributions of new players with as much vigour and joy as those of the older players. (If not more, at first. After all, when a new major character appears in a story, don’t you usually expect to see the storyline focus on them for a little bit?)
If the group doesn’t want new players, it seems like it would be easier to simply refrain from advertising the group and actively seeking new players. Of course, I suspect this entire line of argument is moot because it’s really just a plausibly “objective” veneer to cover up sexism.
Games are supposed to be fun, you guysThese dudes would say this too: ugh, why you gotta bring PC rules and regulations into it? This is supposed to be fun.
There are so, so many ways to have fun that are actually fun for everyone. That don’t rely on crushing others to get your jollies. D&D is a collaborative game; there are no winners and losers. You’d think that would be enough of an object lesson: you can have fun at nobody’s expense!
If you can’t come up with jokes and story ideas without resorting to racist, sexist cliches, you need to think a little harder. If you’re not willing to think for one second, your game is dull.