Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gender Roles and RPGs - A Discussion

A few days ago, I had a very interesting discussion concerning whether a Biblically-modeled patriarchal family structure necessarily implied that women are worse than men. The discussion also touched on whether or not a Biblical view of gender roles is sexist.
TheoConfidor: I believe that the patriarchal structure is what results in the most fulfillment and happiness for both men and women. A man should be a man, lead his household, be respected by his family and make a difference in the world. A woman should help a man in his goals, submit to his leadership willingly, love him passionately and respect him.

Corax: Are you then implying that women are innately inferior to men in regards to familial leadership? It sure seems like it, that a woman's leadership, "wearing the pants," seems to result in "discord, sadness and strife" in a family, to your eyes.

TheoConfidor: I am not implying that women are innately inferior in regards to familial leadership. In some cases, a wife may be more capable of leading her family than her husband. That isn't the issue. The issue is role-designation and not innate ability.

Since we are all gamers, please allow me to use a simple RPG example. Sometimes my brothers and I play D&D. Each of us has a specific class-role. The cleric should do the healing. The fighter should provoke the enemy and absorb attacks. The barbarian should smash dangerous enemies. The wizard should help by wiping out minions and doing some mobility control. Now, it might be that the fighter is built in such a way that he could do more damage than the barbarian. However, if he chooses to focus on killing enemies rather than taking the enemy aggro, more damage might be done, but it might also leave the more fragile party members open to attack. Stepping out of his role occasionally might be a good thing, but if he continually focuses on dealing damage rather than on tanking, the party will suffer and everyone will be less effective than if he stuck to his designated role.

It's the same way in the family. A man has his role, and a woman has her role. To the degree that each one fulfills their natural role, they will derive fulfillment and also contribute great to the group's success. To the degree that each one steps outside of their role, the family will be less effective and less fulfilled in the long run. Unlike with an RPG where each player can choose their own class, men and women are hardwired to perform their divinely-designated roles.

Corax: Problem with that would be that it still assumes and implies that women are inferior to men in leadership roles, particularly family ones. And that's called sexism.

TheoConfidor: The Bible never teaches that women are inferior to men. Different, yes. Inferior, no. There is no sexism in taking a Biblical stance on gender and gender roles.

Corax: I should also point out that I and no one else is proclaiming that women and men are exactly the same, and no rational feminists would state that either; that's not the point of feminism. Feminism is the pursuit of the end of discrimination against women. Which is based on the notion that men and women are equals (which seems to contradict your views Theo, given your descriptions of domination and such. "Loving" or not, it's still inequality).

TheoConfidor: If women are different than men, then it makes sense that one should treat them differently. Equality (of worth and value) does not imply equality of condition, equality of capacity in all areas, nor equal roles.

Again, in the example of an RPG, would it be reasonable to say that the cleric is more valuable or better than the fighter? Is the wizard better than the rogue? The simple fact is, they all are necessary and needed. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. One is good at healing and protecting, one is good at absorbing attacks and restricting enemy motion, one is good at controlling and special effects, and one is good at delivering the stabby-death. If the party is missing any one of it's members, it will not function as well. Each one is different, but each one is equally needed and equally valuable to the party.

The Christian worldview doesn't have such a limited view of "better-worse" hierarchies as the modern secular person does. In Christianity, all the members of the body of Christ, though possessing different gifts, are all equally valuable and necessary. The janitor who sweeps the floors is is necessary as the pastor who preaches. Those who have the gift of mercy and compassion are as crucial as those with the gift of prophecy. The weak are as valuable and treasured in God's eyes as the strong. The poor are as necessary as the rich. None is better or worse than any other. Each one has been given different gifts and different callings. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (Rom. 12:4-6a)

In the same way, within the family, both the husband and his wife are necessary and valuable parts of the whole. The husband is not complete without his wife. The wife is not complete without her husband. The parents are not complete without their children. The children are not complete without their parents. Together, they are a unit. Each member of the family is necessary and indispensable. However, the husband and wife have different roles and therefore, on the basis of their roles, MUST be treated differently. Discrimination (that is, treating one person differently than another) is a necessary thing as long as one believes in different roles. Would the rogue ask the fighter to heal him? Would the wizard ask the cleric to charge headfirst into battle? Preposterous! Different roles necessitate different treatment.

Corax: You've already stated that men should "lovingly dominate" their wives and wives should "submit to their husband's leadership." It also doesn't help that the Bible says that "Women were created for men." But even then, let's say somehow that purely what the Bible says isn't sexist. That men and women are just different. But wait... the wife is below the man, is supposed to support him and submit to him. Isn't that the definition of inferiority? Doesn't that make her less than the husband? Much as a human being is less than God, he/she is inferior.

TheoConfidor: Hierarchically inferior, yes. Of less value, merit, capability or importance? No.

Returning to my D&D analogy, in Neverwinter Nights, our party was always required to have a designated party leader. Sometimes the fighter would be the designated party leader. Other times the cleric was the designated party leader. Hierarchical leadership was required, but the hierarchy did not imply that one character was better than any other.

Similarly, though I have a boss at work, outside of the realm of work, we are peers. Though, when I am on the clock I submit to him and obey his orders, this does not imply that he is smarter, more capable or better than I am. In fact, in my area of expertise, I am far more capable than he is. The hierarchy exists to best accomplish the task of earning money and creating good products. Within that hierarchy, we each have our roles and responsibilities. My supervisor is the designated leader. Outside of that hierarchy, we are equals and peers. He is skilled in his areas, and I am skilled in mine.

The family structure is the same. Within the hierarchy of the family (which, like a company, has a specific purpose: to raise up godly offspring), the husband is the designated leader. He gives the orders, his wife willingly submits. Outside of that hierarchy, there is personal equality. The wife has her own specific talents, skills and areas of expertise. The husband has his own specific talents, skills and areas of expertise.
A lot of people have an culturally-indoctrinately objection to the concept of submission and the concept of dominance, especially in romantic relationships and the familial structure. These objections are almost always due to a fundamental misunderstanding of submission and dominance. The simple fact is that divergent roles do not imply personal inequality. People function best when they play a role that suits them and groups function best when each person plays their own respective role.

Men are hardwired by God to be leaders. They are inescapably leaders of their own families, and often leaders in other aspects of life, as well. Those men who lead best are the happiest, most successful, most fruitful and most fulfilled. Women are hardwired by God to respond to men who lead well. Those women who have a good husband and who submit to their husband's leadership are the happiest, the most fruitful, the loveliest and the most fulfilled.

I will not deny the possibility that there may be outliers. There are always exceptions to any general principle, and as such, there may be occasional instances where a woman must lead and will find fulfillment in leading. But, the existence of exceptions does nothing to invalidate the general principle. Both Scripture and practical life experience teach that in romantic relationships, men must be dominant and women must submit. Those who deny this crucial fact of life are destined for pain, relational dysfunction and heartache. Those who recognize that this is simply the way life is are able to develop relational habits that capitalize on the differences between men and women, which will result in the most holiness and happiness.


  1. I almost just spent a half hour initiating a D&D-themed flame-war with you. Then I realized what I was actually contemplating doing, and abandoned the idea. Suffice it to say, though, that for a long while I have been arguing that computerized RPGs have very much "one-dimensionalized" the game, and I think your comments add weight to my position. E.g., clerics - perhaps my favourite class - are NOT just "healers", dammit; they possess a score of abilities that make them powerful warrior-priests as well. (And your seeming contention that fighters' primary purpose is to absorb enemy damage(!), and not, you know, fight, is one of the more bizarre things I've read today. But I never played much NWN 'cause I thought it sucked.)

    On topic: part of the problem, of course, is - what is "sexism"? (Or "racism", for that matter?) Is a biblical view of gender roles “sexist”? Who cares? Is it right – that's the question. But the PC establishment has gotten it into people's minds that sexism automatically = bad, and so all anyone has to do to discredit a position is show why it might be “sexist”. However, I'm not saying anything we all don't already know. I really only commented because I haven't had anything to do with AD&D in ages and I felt nostalgic for it.

  2. @samsonsjawbone: Since it wasn't the main point of my topic, I simplified my analogy somewhat to convey my point.

    Regarding modern D&D, I am quite aware that clerics aren't JUST healers. Last year, when we were playing a 4E campaign I played an Elven Cleric multi-classed as a Ranger, who was just as likely to shoot an enemy with an arrow as to consider helping out an ailing party member. However, that doesn't negate my point that each party members must fulfill their role, whatever that may be. Though clerics may be dedicated healers or though clerics may be powerful warrior-priests, the fact stands that whatever they are designated to do, they should do well.

    Regarding your comment about fighters absorbing damage, there are two things you are missing. First of all, as you have stated, you obviously haven't played D&D in quite some time, and therefore you are not used to the new role the fighter class has become in 4E. Secondly, I never said anything about absorbing damage--I said absorbing attacks. Fighters and paladins have some of the best AC ratings of any class, and therefore enemy attacks are far more likely to miss when directed at them compared to other classes. The fighter can absorb a much larger number of attacks, while still taking less damage than some of the more fragile and lightly-armored classes.

    Back on topic: The question of "What is right?" which should be on the forefront of people's minds, simply isn't. The PC indoctrination of our culture is extremely pervasive. That is why it is crucial for those of us who recognize that righteousness is more important than niceness, that right thinking is more important than tolerance, and that moral restraint is more needed than licentiousness, to be bold and assertive in our proclamation of truth!

  3. Ha, I forgot about this thread.

    First of all, as you have stated, you obviously haven't played D&D in quite some time, and therefore you are not used to the new role the fighter class has become in 4E.

    Har har, well, that is definitely true. I thought the third edition was an abomination and haven't really played tabletop or otherwise since the 2e days.

    And yeah, of course you're right that to nitpick about the finer points of D&D is to miss the broader purpose of the analogy.

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