Is The Pathfinder Setting Ethically Problematic?


Pathfinder Campaign Setting General Discussion

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James Sutter wrote:

For the record, as a representative of Paizo, I think it's perfectly reasonable and even *considerate* to tell us, "This piece of marketing material gives a poor impression of Paizo's take on race and ethnicity." The point of marketing is to show us in our BEST light, so if this is making people think poorly of us, that's a problem.

If folks want to discuss Garund and portrayals of the various ethnicities, that's also an important conversation, but a different one. I hope that folks who dig into the setting will see that we're trying hard to avoid the racism (and sexism, and homophobia, etc.) inherent in many games.

Last but not least: everybody remember to stay friendly. :)

James, that's an excellent response. And I appreciate both the attitude and the editorial statement.

As I said, when I made my own campaign world, I deliberately did my best to avoid any overt comparison that could be made about my world based on the real world. I did so precisely because I am well aware of how much scrutiny some people will apply to questions like this.

So it's worth considering, from a public image perspective if nothing else.


Cerberus Seven wrote:
Maybe because in most of those cases, it's NOT actually racism. The OP fails to deliver a logical argument on numerous levels. Why are pirates worse than evil looking knights? Can't pirates be cool, even virtuous to an extent? Why are talking gorillas racist but orcs done up as vikings aren't? I know which one I automatically associate with the higher degree of savegery due to common stereotypes. Why is it wrong to have a pale undead in the south but not in the north? They're undead, who cares what race they are? Why is he comparing black people to monsters like the one in Thuvia or the Mana Wastes? There's a couple non-human races on either side of the Inner Sea, but only one side gets racist connotations assigned to it? YOu see what he's doing? He's inserting carefully hand-picked racial stereotypes into a fantasy setting that has almost nothing to do with Earth and for which the illustration of Avistan and Garund can provide numerous non-offensive explanations for. You're not seeing a problem with the map, you're seeing a problem with the idea of the map as he has put it into your head.

Are there viking orcs on this map? The Linnorm picture doesn't look like an orc to me, at least at this resolution. If not, why do you keep talking about them?

And it's not so much that pirates are particularly horrible as that there are multiple depictions of white people, some as evil, some apparently good and very little for blacks (or Not-Africans, as he puts it.)

The Osirian/Egyptian qualifies, but also comes off as Semitic/Arabian in appearance more than black. As I said before, I can't even tell at this resolution if the Sodden Lands pirate is white, black or completely armored. If you create an African analogue (Southern continent, desert North, central Jungles, apes, Egypt analogue in the NE corner - Oh yeah it's an African analogue) and appear to replace the local population of the central jungles with talking gorillas, you really should expect to be called out as racist. If the poster had actually included a more representative sample of what's there in the setting, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

It's not at all a matter of the OP seeing random gorillas and assuming they were supposed to represent Africans. It's a matter of seeing Gorillas where you'd expect black people to be and making the connection. For that matter it's a bit of a misrepresentation. As cool as Talking gorillas are, they're really only a tiny part of the Mwangi Expanse.

And it's a complete joke to say the setting has almost nothing to do with Earth. Many of the cultures are direct analogues of Earth cultures. Or at least of popular impressions of them. There's other stuff mixed in too, but he's really not making up the Garund<->Africa, Avistan<->Europe thing.

Silver Crusade

James Sutter wrote:

For the record, as a representative of Paizo, I think it's perfectly reasonable and even *considerate* to tell us, "This piece of marketing material gives a poor impression of Paizo's take on race and ethnicity." The point of marketing is to show us in our BEST light, so if this is making people think poorly of us, that's a problem.

If folks want to discuss Garund and portrayals of the various ethnicities, that's also an important conversation, but a different one. I hope that folks who dig into the setting will see that we're trying hard to avoid the racism (and sexism, and homophobia, etc.) inherent in many games.

Last but not least: everybody remember to stay friendly. :)

For the new page before it gets lost to Grar from either side.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

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magnuskn wrote:

That many of those western literature myths were quite racist ( Tarzan, especially ) is another topic and beggars the question if we are to disown them because they hark from a somewhat less enlightened era.

Tangent

Spoiler:
See, I never saw this. Were the initial tribes Tarzan encountered savage and (IIRC) cannibals? Yes. That didn't change the nobility of the Wazari (whom he saved) or the degeneration of the people of Opar, or the twisted 'Christians' in Tarzan Triumphant. MAn of his times? Yes. Racist, no.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

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Some posters here seem to think that any portrayal of analogues to real world cultures are necessarily racist.

I think that's a very faulty assumption. Tropes do not necessarily equal racism. Can they be racist? Sure. Do they have to be? Nope.


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Charlie Bell wrote:

Some posters here seem to think that any portrayal of analogues to real world cultures are necessarily racist.

I think that's a very faulty assumption. Tropes do not necessarily equal racism. Can they be racist? Sure. Do they have to be? Nope.

Paraphrasing Tolkien again, re: Orcs.

"I created monsters. Actual monsters. Not people acting as monsters but honest-to-god monsters. You look at the monsters and see black people. And yet you call ME racist?"

Silver Crusade

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Have not seen this poster, but:

Personally I'd love to see Nantambu's presence in the Mwangi Expanse pushed a bit more to people new to the game and looking for a bastion of positive to match those in Avistan. :)

What tended to be a problem earlier was the uphill fight to get artists to get ethnicities for certain areas right. That's gotten a lot better over time, so now you can find art from Nex and Geb(high magocracies both) and Alkenstar(the birthplace of a lot of new technology, including firearms) and elsewhere that represents their people as their actual ethnicity.


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WillowX wrote:
Can you link to one? I am an outsider to this community and don't see such a topic.

OP, if you're still reading, there is a good discussion of the subject here

In particular, look at the fifth post down, by Odraude, one by Mikaze after that, and one further down the page by James Sutter (who is part of Paizo), where he said:

James Sutter wrote:
If the Mwangi Jungle seems particularly pulpy, that's because it is--from the beginning, our mission with that region has been to show that it's possible to have awesome pulp jungle adventures WITHOUT the racism inherent to many of those old stories.

And from Odraude's post in that thread:

Odraude wrote:
In fact, if you read Pathfinder's Heart of the Jungle, you'll find that the Mwangi have several great cities and empires in Garund. Kibwe, Nantambu, Osibu, and Senghor are some examples of cities that are fairly big and based on some of the North, West, and East African cultures (Songhai, Mali, Aksumite Empire, etc) in addition to the more jungle cultures of Africa.

Generally, having read a lot of discussion by Paizo staff on the subject on the boards, and having read through some of their setting material (including the book that poster was advertising) it seems to me that Paizo takes diversity and issues of representation very seriously, and is thoughtful about it, both in their products and on these boards. It's actually why I started picking up their stuff (though more for their commitment to LGBTQ diversity rather than race, fitting within the LGBTQ acronym myself).

Any missteps, like the impression you got from the poster, are almost certainly inadvertent, and counter to what I believe to be Paizo's goals, but are also probably worth pointing out.

Paizo Employee Customer Service Dire Care Bear Manager

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I have removed a bunch of posts. Please assume that fellow posters to the Paizo forums are coming here in good faith to discuss issues they feel are important. If you do not wish to take part in a discussion, please feel free to leave the thread. We also have a convenient "hide thread" button, please avail yourself of this technology if you need to. Accusing people of sock puppetry and/or trolling is inappropriate. If you feel a post or poster is violating the messageboard rules, please use the flagging system or bring it to our attention at webmaster@paizo.com.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

thejeff wrote:

It's not just "This region contains demonic apes and gnolls", it's "This region contains demonic apes and gnolls where I would expect to find black people and there aren't actually any black people shown in that area."

We may have to just disagree here.

Idea: the poster is supposed to show adventuring options for adventurers who want to explore different lands and fight bad guys.

So... crazy "vikings."
Devil worshipers.
Gnolls.
Liches.
Pirates.
Demon apes.

Would it be less racist if the Africa-analogue continent, instead of showing demon apes for your character to fight, showed "black guys" for your character to fight?


Sleet Storm wrote:

Oh really?

Golarion has probably the most interesting african settings I have seen in a fantasy world yet.

Have you seen Garund, Nex and Thuvia all predominantly black ethnic settings, and none of them are cliched,also Nex and Thuvia are among the more prominent and influential settings for flavour and lore.

Gnolls are not new and have always been from the desert so having them located in Garund/Mwangi is not racist.Assuming that Gnolls and sentient apes are somehow an analogy for black people on the other hand is racist.

I agree here. I do not rally like golarion, particulary the not-europe continet, but the Mwangi expanse is just so cool.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

Mikaze wrote:

Have not seen this poster, but:

Personally I'd love to see Nantambu's presence in the Mwangi Expanse pushed a bit more to people new to the game and looking for a bastion of positive to match those in Avistan. :)

What tended to be a problem earlier was the uphill fight to get artists to get ethnicities for certain areas right. That's gotten a lot better over time, so now you can find art from Nex and Geb(high magocracies both) and Alkenstar(the birthplace of a lot of new technology, including firearms) and elsewhere that represents their people as their actual ethnicity.

I got confused when somebody mentioned upthread about white Gebbites. Aren't the people of Nex, Alkenstar, and Geb all ethnic Garundi?

IIRC Geb in particular was founded by the old people of Osirion, who are ethnically Garundi, not the more modern Keleshites who came to Osirion when the Keleshite Empire conquered it.


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Sean K Reynolds wrote:
thejeff wrote:

It's not just "This region contains demonic apes and gnolls", it's "This region contains demonic apes and gnolls where I would expect to find black people and there aren't actually any black people shown in that area."

We may have to just disagree here.

Idea: the poster is supposed to show adventuring options for adventurers who want to explore different lands and fight bad guys.

So... crazy "vikings."
Devil worshipers.
Gnolls.
Liches.
Pirates.
Demon apes.

Would it be less racist if the Africa-analogue continent, instead of showing demon apes for your character to fight, showed "black guys" for your character to fight?

Possible, though it raises questions about the Varisian, Taldor, Osirian, Absalom, Qadira, etc pictures. It doesn't seem like all of those are portrayed as things for your character to fight. And just a little strange that all the African analogues are things to fight while many of the European analogues are not.

Silver Crusade

Charlie Bell wrote:


I got confused when somebody mentioned upthread about white Gebbites. Aren't the people of Nex, Alkenstar, and Geb all ethnic Garundi?

IIRC Geb in particular was founded by the old people of Osirion, who are ethnically Garundi, not the more modern Keleshites who came to Osirion when the Keleshite Empire conquered it.

Yeah, you got it right IIRC. I think there was a lot of crossover with the Mwangi as well over the centuries, but I think the majority population for the High Magic Stack O' Nations is Garundi.

Inner Sea Magic presents art for Nex and Geb(the actual guys that is) too, and they're definitely either Garundi or Mwangi.

(Dragonslayer's Handbook just came out and has a nice picture of an Alkenstar variation of that character type)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Annabel wrote:
In fact, Tian Xia reeks of orientalism (a concept described by Edward Said), both in form and function.

I am sure you can substantiate that somehow beyond "Because I said so", right?


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The reality of the modern world is that content creators have to factor in the hyper-offensensitivity that exists in the real world as part of their marketing campaign. To not do so puts them in the position of defending their intentions. Of course no matter how hard a company tries to avoid this, it is virtually impossible for any content producer to escape SOME potential for being accused of "isms". So to mitigate that they have to actively promote an agenda that is specifically combating "isms" in all forms.

That's just the way the world is these days. That's not all bad, of course, things like "isms" should be actively combated.

Tolkien had a racialism agenda in his book. It was deliberate and acknowledged by the author as a racial allegory. The racial allegory in Lord of the Rings was the relationship between Legalos and Gimli, and by extension the relationship between the "races" of elves and dwarfs. And the message Tolkien very deliberately created and nurtured in his magnum opus was one of racial reconciliation and mutual respect and friendship.

And even so, Tolkien was still accused of being a racist because his orcs had dark skin.

It's a tough row to hoe if you are a writer, producer, director or in any other way connected with creating content.

In general I try to give content creators the benefit of the doubt, instead of immediately assuming the worst. But that's just me. I know I'm in the minority in this, as in many other things. Not that I care much, I'm not much for trendy causes. I'm more about real change.


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James Sutter wrote:
If folks want to discuss Garund and portrayals of the various ethnicities, that's also an important conversation, but a different one. I hope that folks who dig into the setting will see that we're trying hard to avoid the racism (and sexism, and homophobia, etc.) inherent in many games.

I think that both of those things are related in this context. First, it is clear from participating in Paizo published adventures, that there is more progressive thought put into character and race representations (sans Orcs and... a few others) than in many other published table top games.

That being said, just because someone else has seen something they see as racist, heterosexist, cissexist, sexist, etc, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist, just because Paizo has done something good in another realm of the game design. In fact, because Paizo has had to buck a history of racism and sexism in table top games, doesn't mean that there still isn't work that can (and should) be done.

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Idea: the poster is supposed to show adventuring options for adventurers who want to explore different lands and fight bad guys.

I guess part of my objection is that not-Europe is full of humanoids that not only represent the potential challenges of the area, but also the dominate focus of both the stories and of the "people." While on the other hand, not-Africa, which it may be populated by non-white humanoids, is overshadowed by there clearly "more interesting" talking apes and gnolls.

Of course, this may just be a marketing maneuver, in which you place the things the PCs "are going to kill" on regions of the map, but I think you have a double bind here. First part is that the not-Europe is portrayed as "more civilized," and thus full of intelligent and crafty civilized opponents. Second part that the not-Africa is "uncivilized" thus full of monstrous humanoids, of which the only the PCs can deal with (otherwise there would be non-white humanoids to contend with). Whether any of this is intended, I highly doubt. But from my perspective, Golarion picks up an awful lot from "our world," and in this vein, it's hard not to see "our racism" impressed on an otherwise racism-less fantasy world.

All this may be fine from a marketing perspective. Though I'm somewhat put off by the racist, heterosexist, cissexist, sexist, etc things I see in Golarion, perhaps it doesn't phase most Paizo consumers (or at least not enough to put them off buying some product. I own some core books). In this case, being senstive to these particular nuances of how racism, heterosexism, cissexism, sexism, etc operates through culture (and in this case, a culture of consumption (Mark Gottdiener)) may actually be immaterial. But whether it is immaterial or not to Paizo, that doesn't make it not exist in the "real world."


thejeff wrote:
Are there viking orcs on this map? The Linnorm picture doesn't look like an orc to me, at least at this resolution. If not, why do you keep talking about them?

Belkzen, the very gothicy looking helm of bone on the orcs head. Very much evokes a feeling of vikingesque raider. Portrait from the Land of the Linnorm kings made me think dwarf, but it could also just be an Ulfen male.

Quote:
And it's not so much that pirates are particularly horrible as that there are multiple depictions of white people, some as evil, some apparently good and very little for blacks (or Not-Africans, as he puts it.)

See, this is a problem. Why does it have to show people as CLEARLY black or white? What does that even mean? Numeria isn't fully 'white', Varisia certainly isn't, Cheliax and the Mediogalti Isles we can't even see their faces. The only one that's fully white is from Ustalav and that's because it's a fricking vampire! No one that looks like Samuel L. Jackson is on the map. Yes, this is a problem, but only because it is lacking Samuel L. Jackson. It's not Earth, we're not doing a census, it's fantasy, let's stop looking for bias where there's no reason to suspect it.

Quote:
It's not at all a matter of the OP seeing random gorillas and assuming they were supposed to represent Africans. It's a matter of seeing Gorillas where you'd expect black people to be and making the connection. For that matter it's a bit of a misrepresentation. As cool as Talking gorillas are, they're really only a tiny part of the Mwangi Expanse.

Yeah, there's also dinosaurs, catfolk, Mana-Waste mutants, an entire sunken kingdom of ancient serpent-folk, and other stuff. The point is that everything cool and powerful down there isn't human for the most part. They're not putting out a map to show the various races of Golarion, they're putting out a marketing tool to show you the unique elements and threats of a game-world. If anything, the side with Avistan looks boring in comparison to the side with a mantis-helmed person, a pharoh, a giant talking gorilla, some sort of demon, a trident-holding pirate, and an undead demi-god. Considering the map's purpose, you have to really try hard to inject any semblance of racism into what is otherwise a very distinct message: Garund looks cool as hell!

Quote:
And it's a complete joke to say the setting has almost nothing to do with Earth. Many of the cultures are direct analogues of Earth cultures. Or at least of popular impressions of them. There's other stuff mixed in too, but he's really not making up the Garund<->Africa, Avistan<->Europe thing.

Yes, because outside of the odd racial and ethnic distribution, inclusion of non-human intelligent species, obvious religious diversity, massive geograhpical differentiation, complete lack of connection to the corresponding Earth land's linguistic and governmental tendencies, and the fact that they look completely different, Avistan is absolutely unmistakable from Europe. INSPIRATION was taken from real-world cultures because seriously, what else would they be based on? It's humans designed human cultures, some reuse of concepts is going to happen here and there.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If there are races which are "always chaotic evil", it will offend some people. Since humanity ( and in particular non-white humanity ) is not one of those in Golarion, maybe it's time to not desperately try to make allegories how non-human monster races are somehow similar to humans.


Annabel, I want to thank you for clearly demonstrating the difficulties Paizo and other content creators have in providing "suitable" material for publication. That was quite a list of "isms" that Paizo has to have on their checklist to ensure that they don't offend you.

Hopefully Paizo is paying attention and is adding a few to their already well-thumbed list.


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Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Annabel, I want to thank you for clearly demonstrating the difficulties Paizo and other content creators have in providing "suitable" material for publication.

The thing is, I don't actually believe that the work they do needs to be "suitable." Rather, that because (like any form of participatory media) Paizo draws on what the participants understand from there own live, they are bound to draw on racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism etc. The question is, when that happens (and it will happens) can we (as both participants and producers of this culture) recognize and identify this things for what they are (your "-isms," if you will).

Paizo has shown that they recognize some of these things in the past, I am sure that this trend can continue.

Adamantine Dragon wrote:
That was quite a list of "isms" that Paizo has to have on their checklist to ensure that they don't offend you.

This isn't about me. You need to stop pathologizing the emotional state of those you disagree with. Whether I am offended or not has no bearing on this, and you are using it as a ploy to deflect critique.


Annabel wrote:


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
That was quite a list of "isms" that Paizo has to have on their checklist to ensure that they don't offend you.
This isn't about me. You need to stop pathologizing the emotional state of those you disagree with. Whether I am offended or not has no bearing on this, and you are using it as a ploy to deflect critique.

When you enter the debate, it becomes partially about you Annabel. That's the nature of public discourse. You are the one presenting your argument, so you are by necessity crafting an argument that you consider appropriate.

"Deflecting critique" has never been one of my goals Annabel. I'm all about critique. I made no comment whatsoever about your, or anybody else's "emotional state" and I used no emotionally charged terms in my points. Very deliberately I might add.

Accusing me of "pathologizing the emotional state" is a far more obvious "ploy" than anything I've done or said.

You're doing a fine job of representing the offensensitivities that Paizo has to deal with. That's all I'm pointing out. And while I find the whole thing quite amusing from a philosophical perspective, from a marketing perspective I am dead serious. Paizo should add your latest "isms" to their list if they aren't there already.

Forewarned is forearmed after all.


Seems like the title of the thread should be called "Is the Pathfinder Setting Ethnically Problematic?" Am I right? Am I right?

I am not right :<

But to be more serious lest I become accused of making light of the topic, I know that Paizo takes representation issues very seriously. Moreso than any other gaming company I know. There may be certain pieces of media that don't showcase this, but I think a more complete overview of the setting reveals that they do. As always, context is key. Keep up the good work, Paizo.


Annabel wrote:
The thing is, I don't actually believe that the work they do needs to be "suitable." Rather, that because (like any form of participatory media) Paizo draws on what the participants understand from there own live, they are bound to draw on racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism etc. The question is, when that happens (and it will happens) can we (as both participants and producers of this culture) recognize and identify this things for what they are (your "-isms," if you will).

Seems like for a company you believe is fairly progressive, you don't have a lot of faith in their ability to emulate and incorporate the better angels of human nature. I'd figure that if any gaming company would treat people equally and discard those things in their feedback that are intolerant in one way or another, it'd be Paizo. Any particular reasons you feel this way?

Annabel wrote:
This isn't about me. You need to stop pathologizing the emotional state of those you disagree with. Whether I am offended or not has no bearing on this, and you are using it as a ploy to deflect critique.

The thing is, I'm not sure anyone on this thread had heard of cissexism before you mentioned it. I certainly hadn't and I have a friend who's both well-read and speaks often on the subject of sexism in general for, um, numerous reasons. It seems most people would just assume that you could file that under 'sexism' in general. It's wrong no matter who it affects, so why toss out terms that only further confuse and divide people into smaller groups? Let's just call it all bigotry and be done with it.

All this ---^ is just my $0.02, anyways.

PS: you are clearly very smart and I'm dividing my attention between this and work right now. If I misread anything in your message, apologies.

PPS: sorry for calling you a lurker earlier, if it caused offense. to my knowledge, it simply means 'one who reads but does not post'.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm still not sure why a gorilla race is offensive, if there is an actual human race in the setting which is very much not that gorilla race.

I should start a protest group against the discrimination of snow elves or something...


magnuskn wrote:

I'm still not sure why a gorilla race is offensive, if there is an actual human race in the setting which is very much not that gorilla race.

I should start a protest group against the discrimination of snow elves or something...

Hey, those pointed-eared, arrogant jerks have enough of an advocacy group in Hollywood as it is, don't throw any more cash their way. Get behind the Bias Against Dwarves Society, that's a cause worth fighting for.


magnuskn wrote:

I'm still not sure why a gorilla race is offensive, if there is an actual human race in the setting which is very much not that gorilla race.

I should start a protest group against the discrimination of snow elves or something...

There is absolutely nothing inherently offensive about a gorilla race. The issue here is that, on the poster map, not in the actual setting, the gorilla race appeared to stand in for human (black) inhabitants of the jungle area.


Cerberus Seven wrote:


The thing is, I'm not sure anyone on this thread had heard of cissexism before you mentioned it. I certainly hadn't and I have a friend who's both well-read and speaks often on the subject of sexism in general for, um, numerous reasons. It seems most people would just assume that you could file that under 'sexism' in general. It's wrong no matter who it affects, so why toss out terms that only further confuse and divide people into smaller groups? Let's just call it all bigotry and be done with it.

For the record, I'm quite aware of cissexism.


Cerberus Seven wrote:
Seems like for a company you believe is fairly progressive, you don't have a lot of faith in their ability to emulate and incorporate the better angels of human nature. I'd figure that if any gaming company would treat people equally and discard those things in their feedback that are intolerant in one way or another, it'd be Paizo. Any particular reasons you feel this way?

I guess there is a few things about this. First, it obvious that Paizo has done a lot of work to overcome the kinds of problematic aspects of previous table top games in terms of race, gender and sexuality. In this regard, I think they're progressive.

But there are always things (and might always be things) that are problematic in these games. My point is not that they won't (or can't) improve their stories and settings to incorporate more progressive themes, but rather that because real world human beings are playing and building these worlds, they will (whether intentionally or not) pick up the sexism, racism, etc in our world, and it will become part of Paizo's world. They can (and do) work to remove some of the very obvious "bad" things, but it's going to happen. Honestly, I know that if I made a world, I am 100% sure that there would be things problematic within it. But the point is that I can recognize those things, in the same way that Paizo can recognize problematic thing in their world.

Cerberus Seven wrote:
The thing is, I'm not sure anyone on this thread had heard of cissexism before you mentioned it.

Yeah... That's something that happens. I knew that for some people the term is new, but I used it in part because it has some traction, and I think a google search makes clear it's meaning.

Cerberus Seven wrote:
It's wrong no matter who it affects, so why toss out terms that only further confuse and divide people into smaller groups? Let's just call it all bigotry and be done with it.

I guess I come from a school of thought where if you want to talk about something, you ought to name it. So, I use the term cissexism because it is a thing that needs a name, and now that it has a name, it can be talked about.

Re:PSS: I understand the term, I didn't take it as an offense. And I am (was?) a lurker. :P


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Unless I am mistaken, there was a text blurb on that map. Unless it specifically said "These are the human-type equivalents in Garund", I'd say the reasoning that they "stand in" for black humans in that area is quite specious and a "looking how to best be offended" type of opinion.


Apologies if this is too far off-topic. Mods can feel free delete it if they think it is.

Annabel wrote:
Though I'm somewhat put off by the racist, heterosexist, cissexist, sexist, etc things I see in Golarion

May I ask what in Golarion you see as cissexist? Or heterosexist?

The only thing I can think of that might qualify as cissexist is that the majority of NPCs are cis-gendered. But to my mind, given that we trans people are a very small minority, that in and of itself is not cissexist, so long as there is an acknowledgement that we exist, space for us and our identities within the game and game setting, and so long as there are some trans NPCs within the setting. (I guess others might disagree with those criteria.)

And there are some trans NPCs. Sure, not a lot so far, and with gender identities translated from a modern context into a fantasy one (which is a difficult minefield in and of itself). The ones I know of are in "Curse of the Lady's Light" and "Mother, Maiden, Crone." My understanding is that this is an issue that's come on their radar only in the past year or so, and I'd expect there will be more in the future. They've also said at least one of the iconics is trans, which to me seems significant. (I guess one might say that's all fine, but they haven't gone far enough.)

Outside of maybe an NPC called Miss Feathers, about whom I don't know much of apart from what's been mentioned on the boards (I think she's a drag queen? If so, cool.), I haven't seen them fall into the usual tropes of trans representation. I think they've even removed the "cursed" classification for a magic item that causes gender change.

I also haven't seen anything that indicates heterosexism within the setting. Quite the opposite, really. Plenty of gay and lesbian NPCs appear the books. They've revealed that one of the iconics, who appears in a lot of their art and on their covers, is a lesbian, and have done so in a non-exploitive manner. And again, there are a couple of bi characters, and one gay character (not yet revealed) among the iconics. This is probably the most LGB-friendly fantasy setting I've ever seen. As a bi, trans consumer, I feel very welcome within Golarion.

So, I don't know, could you give some specific examples of cissexism and heterosexism in the seting?

I understand and partly agree with the OP's concerns about the poster they saw, and I agree that their are potential pitfalls in terms of race within the setting. I'm planning to read Dragon Empires Gazetteer and Heart of Jungle soon, partly to see how well they navigate them.

And in terms of sexism, yes, there have been some issues with the art, but they generally do a good or at least improving job in their depiction of women, certainly have that as their intent, and have been responsive to discussion about the issue. (Again, search the boards, you'll find a lot on the topic here, and Paizo staff often get involved in the discussion in a respectful manner.)

Annabel wrote:
In this case, being senstive to these particular nuances of how racism, heterosexism, cissexism, sexism, etc operates through culture (and in this case, a culture of consumption (Mark Gottdiener)) may actually be immaterial.

Respectfully, I think some of the posters on this board are sensitive to some or all those nuances, and I suspect that Paizo's handling of them is one reason why they purchase and use their products.

Edit to add: If the tone of my post wasn't clear, I actually am genuinely curious about that first question I posed. I think these are good discussions to have, even when people are in disagreement to each other.


magnuskn wrote:
Unless I am mistaken, there was a text blurb on that map. Unless it specifically said "These are the human-type equivalents in Garund", I'd say the reasoning that they "stand in" for black humans in that area is quite specious and a "looking how to best be offended" type of opinion.

Many of them, actually. As such, I'd like to renew my appeal that, if anyone has the relevant text for each kingdom portrait, they post it and/or link to a viewable source.

Project Manager

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derrick mcmullin wrote:
Skeld wrote:


He's not going to be hurt and I certainly hope he doesn't get verbally abused. The Opening Post might be critical and fighty, but there's no reason this can't be a reasonable thread.
-Skeld
That's what I would hope and I bear the man no ill will. I really think that accusations of racism push peoples type without thinking buttons. I would love to see a post from one the designers about the thought process that went into designing those areas.

I think that, while everyone here is human, most of the staff here also make a pretty good effort when someone calls us on our portrayal of various characteristics with analogues in the real world to not give a knee-jerk defensive reaction, to consider what they're saying, and to check our own assumptions. That's not to say we always agree with the person, but I know that those comments do get discussed.

We try pretty hard to be inclusive. We don't always get it right, but we keep trying. I feel like we're getting better, for example, on our portrayal of transgender characters.

One of the things the editors and developers check for is whether a group of characters is all male, or all female. They also check for whether everyone has one particular skin color in an art order, and they ask whether those things have to be that way for a good reason.

We're navigating what, I think, can sometimes be a pretty tricky space. A lot of the traditions we draw from (and for which various creatives here have a lot of fondness), such as pulp, Lovecraft, sword-and-sandals epics, etc. are interwoven with attitudes and tropes that are pretty problematic (women as chattel, noble savages, savage dark people hordes, etc.). Updating those strands to be less dismissive of anyone who isn't a white male while attempting to keep the flavor that made people love those genres in the first place can be a tricky process, and I know we don't always get it right, but I also know that doesn't stop us from continuing to try to get better.

I think, especially in recent years, that our creatives have done some very cool things with subverting some tropes, throwing out others, and attempting to give a lot more life and diversity to our India, Asia, and Africa analogues (which, if you poke around the message boards and our products, I think you'll see). Is there room for more growth? Absolutely.

As you note, we all draw on our own lives in what we create, and given that none of us are of African or Indian descent, it takes more research and effort and thought to do things in settings that borrow from the cultures of those reasons without falling back into stereotypes.

But I think the idea that we're just doing rote recitation of those stereotypes isn't particularly realistic given a survey of our products.

(As a side note, though, I am a little surprised at the implication that as a company we're automatically very sexist/heteronormative, especially given that, if anything, LGB folks are represented at a higher rate here than in the population at large, and we've taken a significant amount of flak from various corners of the messageboards for portraying same-sex relationships and gay/lesbian/bi characters in a fairly high proportion of our products. <wry> Damned if you do, damned if you don't.)

I'm also sort of amused by the idea that no one here has heard of cissexism, or read Said.


Cerberus Seven wrote:
The thing is, I'm not sure anyone on this thread had heard of cissexism before you mentioned it. I certainly hadn't and I have a friend who's both well-read and speaks often on the subject of sexism in general for, um, numerous reasons. It seems most people would just assume that you could file that under 'sexism' in general. It's wrong no matter who it affects, so why toss out terms that only further confuse and divide people into smaller groups? Let's just call it all bigotry and be done with it.

I agree with the sentiment you're expressing, but as Annabel says, it's good to have specific terms for these things. And further, because these things can manifest in different ways, along different channels of culture, and have non-identical causes, it's good to not only have separate terms for them, but also to be able to examine them both separately and in their intersections, in order to better combat them. (I think that's the perspective from which Annabel is approaching this discussion. Apologies to her if I'm incorrect.)

One could, for example, do a good job of combatting racism, but stumble over one's own sexism. Or one could do a good job of combatting sexism, but stumble over one's own cissexism. It's actually not entirely uncommon for that to happen, both historically within the civil rights movement, and within various social movements today. Read about some of the very emotional arguments that crop up these days over Stonewall and trans people, for example, or read about schisms in the civil rights movement in the 60s and 70s.

As a more immediate example, there was a panel at... I want to say GenCon a year or so ago, called "Queer as a Three Sided Die," which had gay and bi game designers talking LGBT issues and gaming. (There's a clip of it here, and it includes Paizo's Wes Schneider - it's worth a watch.) And partway through (at around 31:00 in the linked clip), someone asked about transgender characters and gender identification, and the panel was more or less stumped. They'd done a great job of dealing with heterosexism, but, with the best of intentions, cissexism had pretty much slipped by them. (That's my reading of it. Apologies to Wes Schneider if he feels differently. It was actually his discussion of that panel, and their response to that question, in a later interview that led me to picking up Paizo products. And I think it's also what led to the inclusion of a trans NPC in "Curse of the Lady's Light.")

So all of these terms are good to have. They allow you to focus on the specific issues, particularly when you're down in the trenches as one of the people immediately impacted by the various -isms, but also for allies.


magnuskn wrote:

I'm still not sure why a gorilla race is offensive, if there is an actual human race in the setting which is very much not that gorilla race.

I should start a protest group against the discrimination of snow elves or something...

The gorilla king and the intelligent apes are fine by themselves, but perhaps using it to represent the whole of the Mwangi on a poster map wasn't a very smart thing to do as it could easily be misinterpreted. An image of a dinosaur or some creature from African folklore would probably have been better.

Racial slurs which compare Africans to apes are still current. For example, look up the story currently in the news concerning the Italian senator Roberto Calderoli.
So some care has to be taken when you present these sorts of images that that was not the intention.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Annabel wrote:


That being said. I actually agree with the OP for the most part. Someone earlier in the thread pointed out how problematic the "far east" (Tian Xia) demonstrates another such problem to how Golarion replicates contemporary notions of culture. In fact, Tian Xia reeks of orientalism (a concept described by Edward Said), both in form and function.

I doubt it's possible for any RPG supplement designed to present a fantasy or mythic analog to any foreign culture to Western audiences to avoid a charge of orientalistm. But I would consider that charge misplaced under most circumstances, particularly in function. The presentations in Paizo materials, even if based on Egypt, cultures of the Middle East, or China or Japan aren't being put forward in the interests of imperialism or the justification of imperialism. And void that particular political context, I have a hard time seeing anything Paizo has done as matching the function of orientalism.


I'm fairly impressed by this thread.

It's hard to have conversations like this about a specific depiction or piece of media having problems with racial overtones/subtext/meaning.

So often the conversation turns to whether others are too easily offended, or too PC, or if they're 'looking for racism' which moves the topic off the actual piece of media under discussion into a discussion of other posters. Unproductive.

Other times it leads to a defense of the media producer as a whole. And while that may or may not be an interesting discussion in itself, a criticism of the media is not (necessarily, and I don't believe in this case) an attack on the media creator as a whole. So that may be more productive, but still off-track.

The signal-to-noise ratio where actual discussion of the topic hasn't been derailed by the above is probably above average for the internet.

Cheers.


KSF wrote:
May I ask what in Golarion you see as cissexist? Or heterosexist?

Hum... Well, there are a number things I've noticed (I actually have some resources at home I've put together for the purpose of a few course projects on role play, but I'll fly from memory here).

First, I found (find?) Erastil history of gender essentialism to be pretty cissexist and heterosexist. (Funny story, when I ran Kingmaker, I was playing a cleric of Urgathoa (named Annabel) who defiled so many Erastilian shrines (okay... just one). To be fair, I took some "artistic liberties" to worshiping Urgathoa as a deity, and a less generous DM probs would have put a stop to my shenanigans.)

Second, the Cursed Item, Girdle of Opposite Gender. Now, I recognize that some people might thing this a trivial example, but to me, it says something disturbing that such a thing is situated as a "curse." In fact, in our "homebrew," the girdle is not a cursed item, just a magical one.

Third, (and this might be a creative dispute), I can't figure out why all these Player races are organized around a human-centric gender binary. Except one, Changelings (which, I think is interesting, but might be tangential). Though there is variation between races and cultures in terms of how gender plays a role, there is the distracting irregularity with this consistency across unrelated intelligent species.

This last fact seems to carry across from just PC races to gods (and goddesses), human-like monsters, etc. For some reason, the world is treated as if the gender binary is "natural" and universal. I mean, if it is, that is Paizo's prerogative. But to me, that feels cissexist.

KSF wrote:
Respectfully, I think some of the posters on this board are sensitive to some or all those nuances, and I suspect that Paizo's handling of them is one reason why they purchase and use their products.

Sorry, that part was kind of poorly worded. I was trying to convey an understanding that Paizo, as a group of artists, gamers, business people, etc, has multiple different motivations. And, that in this, I don't want to (in my idealist interpretation of their goals) loose sight of the fact that as a company, they do need to turn out a profit to sustain their business. Though it is clear that many Paizo consumers value their progressive attitude, there have also been some voices in this thread that object to some kinds of concern or progress. So, even though some people in Paizo may want to change or progress in a particular direction, there are some reasons why a game company might not do it, even if it is the "right" thing to do. Both Sean K Reynolds and James Sutter pointed out that the purpose of the map in question was to provide a motivator for people to buy the product. If this is the case, though there may be serious things wrong with the map, they might not be "wrong enough" to warrant a change in the marketing strategy. There are a lot of unjust or unfair reasons for this, but I was just trying to be considerate, and recognize that the some motivations of Reynolds and Sutter could conflict with different motivations. In fact, I have little doubt that this does happen, seeing as I give them the benefit of the doubt that they don't want racism, sexism, etc. inside their products. I'm not trying to be cynical, just realistic about conflicting motivations.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Jeven wrote:
magnuskn wrote:

I'm still not sure why a gorilla race is offensive, if there is an actual human race in the setting which is very much not that gorilla race.

I should start a protest group against the discrimination of snow elves or something...

The gorilla king and the intelligent apes are fine by themselves, but perhaps using it to represent the whole of the Mwangi on a poster map wasn't a very smart thing to do as it could easily be misinterpreted. An image of a dinosaur or some creature from African folklore would probably have been better.

Racial slurs which compare Africans to apes are still current. For example, look up the story currently in the news concerning the Italian senator Roberto Calderoli.
So some care has to be taken when you present these sorts of images that that was not the intention.

Of course those slurs still exist. Nonetheless, being offended about a non-humanoid when there are actual black humans living in that area is silly and looking for something to be offended about. You might as well get offended about the Orc depicted in Avistan as being representative of Belkzen or Ahriman for Thuvia.


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magnuskn wrote:
Unless I am mistaken, there was a text blurb on that map. Unless it specifically said "These are the human-type equivalents in Garund", I'd say the reasoning that they "stand in" for black humans in that area is quite specious and a "looking how to best be offended" type of opinion.

So it's impossible to be justifiably draw implications of racism from art or from the presentation? It can only come from text.

I do agree that the text could either emphasize or deemphasize it and would love to see a higher resolution image of that poster, but without it I can only go by the pictures.

Though blowing it up and staring at the fuzzy text, it appears to say something like "Savage Realm of the Gorilla King". There's another line in the yellow block that might match the tagline for Mwangi from the Inner Sea Primer "Unexplored Jungle Wilderness".
All of which implies that Mwangi as a whole is the realm of the Gorilla King.


Pathfinder's already a step ahead of many other fantasy settings by actually including Africa and Asia equivalents and making interesting things happen there instead of just shoving them off the borders so not-Europe can have more attention. That said, sometimes I take a second look at some of the material and think, "If I had a friend who didn't want to play this because they were offended/uncomfortable, I wouldn't blame them."

I haven't seen the poster, but I think it could have been improved by replacing the gnoll with an actual citizen of Alkenstar. There's a lot of really cool "civilized" stuff going on down there alongside the pulp jungle monsters.


Bill Dunn wrote:
Annabel wrote:


That being said. I actually agree with the OP for the most part. Someone earlier in the thread pointed out how problematic the "far east" (Tian Xia) demonstrates another such problem to how Golarion replicates contemporary notions of culture. In fact, Tian Xia reeks of orientalism (a concept described by Edward Said), both in form and function.
I doubt it's possible for any RPG supplement designed to present a fantasy or mythic analog to any foreign culture to Western audiences to avoid a charge of orientalism. But I would consider that charge misplaced under most circumstances, particularly in function. The presentations in Paizo materials, even if based on Egypt, cultures of the Middle East, or China or Japan aren't being put forward in the interests of imperialism or the justification of imperialism. And void that particular political context, I have a hard time seeing anything Paizo has done as matching the function of orientalism.

Question: Is this where the descriptor 'Oriental', particularly when used in reference to a persons race, started becoming a bad thing? It finally sunk in that the idea you could classify the entire eastern half of the globe and all their cultures and faiths and governments and beliefs under a single school of patronizing thought was actually hugely stupid? I've always wondered just why 'Latino', 'White', 'Black', and 'Indian' (sub-continental, not North American) are generally seen as okay, yet 'Asian' is used instead of 'Oriental'. After all, the cultures that are typically associated with that area of the world did absolutely amazing things in their history and their low points don't seem to be any worse than those of other cultures worldwide.


magnuskn wrote:
Jeven wrote:
magnuskn wrote:

I'm still not sure why a gorilla race is offensive, if there is an actual human race in the setting which is very much not that gorilla race.

I should start a protest group against the discrimination of snow elves or something...

The gorilla king and the intelligent apes are fine by themselves, but perhaps using it to represent the whole of the Mwangi on a poster map wasn't a very smart thing to do as it could easily be misinterpreted. An image of a dinosaur or some creature from African folklore would probably have been better.

Racial slurs which compare Africans to apes are still current. For example, look up the story currently in the news concerning the Italian senator Roberto Calderoli.
So some care has to be taken when you present these sorts of images that that was not the intention.

Of course those slurs still exist. Nonetheless, being offended about a non-humanoid when there are actual black humans living in that area is silly and looking for something to be offended about. You might as well get offended about the Orc depicted in Avistan as being representative of Belkzen or Ahriman for Thuvia.

Well Belkzen is the Orc country. Far more so than Mwangi is the Gorilla realm. Most of the Mwangi is not ruled by the Gorilla King, nor are they the most common inhabitants. At least not the talking ones. I don't know a lot about Thuvia, but I think the depiction of Ahriman has been complained about, at least in the context of "Why aren't there more actual Garundi depicted instead of monsters?"

And while there may be actual black humans living in the Mwangi, you wouldn't know it from the poster. That's the whole point of the complaint.

Once you learn more about the setting, I think it becomes clear that racism isn't intended. But as a piece of advertising material, this poster can give the wrong impression.

As for


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
thejeff wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Unless I am mistaken, there was a text blurb on that map. Unless it specifically said "These are the human-type equivalents in Garund", I'd say the reasoning that they "stand in" for black humans in that area is quite specious and a "looking how to best be offended" type of opinion.
So it's impossible to be justifiably draw implications of racism from art or from the presentation? It can only come from text.

Rational conclusions should not be taken by first glances. If there is actual text besides the picture, it would appear rational to read it, wouldn't you say?

thejeff wrote:

I do agree that the text could either emphasize or deemphasize it and would love to see a higher resolution image of that poster, but without it I can only go by the pictures.

Though blowing it up and staring at the fuzzy text, it appears to say something like "Savage Realm of the Gorilla King". There's another line in the yellow block that might match the tagline for Mwangi from the Inner Sea Primer "Unexplored Jungle Wilderness".
All of which implies that Mwangi as a whole is the realm of the Gorilla King.

And if it is? Does that imply that there are no black humans living in the area or that all black humans there look like gorillas? That train of thought requires some mental contortions which again tell me that someone wants to be offended.

Again, actual humans of black skin color exist on Golarion. People who want to accuse Paizo of conflating gorillas with them should take that into account. Not even to mention that of the 4 of the 10 (living, not counting the undead ) humans on that map, at least four can safely be described as non-white. Don't they count?

Project Manager

Annabel wrote:
Second, the Cursed Item, Girdle of Opposite Gender. Now, I recognize that some people might thing this a trivial example, but to me, it says something disturbing that such a thing is situated as a "curse." In fact, in our "homebrew," the girdle is not a cursed item, just a magical one.

Weird, I could have sworn I had a conversation with the developers about this in which they told me that they'd explicitly made it *not* a cursed item. (I know that reversing its effects involves remove curse, but my understanding is that that's a mechanical constraint, so that it's a one-shot item.)


Annabel wrote:

Third, (and this might be a creative dispute), I can't figure out why all these Player races are organized around a human-centric gender binary. Except one, Changelings (which, I think is interesting, but might be tangential). Though there is variation between races and cultures in terms of how gender plays a role, there is the distracting irregularity with this consistency across unrelated intelligent species.

This last fact seems to carry across from just PC races to gods (and goddesses), human-like monsters, etc. For some reason, the world is treated as if the gender binary is "natural" and universal. I mean, if it is, that is Paizo's prerogative. But to me, that feels cissexist.

...Because the gender binary is universal across all mammalian, reptilian, and avian life forms that we know of, except maybe naked mole rats?

It's the sort of thing that it won't even occur to most people, over the course of their entire lives, might not be universal or natural. You have to put some thought into it.


Jessica Price wrote:
Annabel wrote:
Second, the Cursed Item, Girdle of Opposite Gender. Now, I recognize that some people might thing this a trivial example, but to me, it says something disturbing that such a thing is situated as a "curse." In fact, in our "homebrew," the girdle is not a cursed item, just a magical one.
Weird, I could have sworn I had a conversation with the developers about this in which they told me that they'd explicitly made it *not* a cursed item. (I know that reversing its effects involves remove curse, but my understanding is that that's a mechanical constraint, so that it's a one-shot item.)

Unless I'm missing a more subtle point, the Girdle is classified as a Cursed Item.

http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/advanced/magicItems/cursedItems.html

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Personally?

I'm kind of amused that Paizo should be aware of what people 'read in to' the map. It's not possible to make a product that offends no one.

And when I read sexism with all these qualifiers in front of it. (hetero/cis/whatever) I wonder if now is the time to bring up the lack of left handed characters again.

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