Opinion: Are DND Mini Figurines Sexist?

“See, this is what I mean,” my DM friend grumbles, turning an unpainted figurine in his hands. “It's 2018. Why does she still have her tits out?”

DND mini figs have a problem, it's true. There simply isn't enough of a variety of figurines out there for women. Even the clothed figurines sport those strange, weightless breasts, that seem to hover as if by magic.

But “sexist" implies an act of discrimination and aggression that I don't believe is actually there. Instead, as in video games, mini figurines are targeted towards their audience. Sexual and sexualized doesn't necessarily imply sexist -- unless, of course, the market refuses to shift with its demographics.

Living Up to an Ideal

It is interesting: people always point out the giant bosoms of video games characters and comic book heroines, but they rarely reflect upon the 7 foot tall, muscular male heroes. In fiction, we are constantly creating ideals. Men are tall, strapping, and bulky, and women are thin, buxom vixens. Both are stereotypes that can be harmful, if, of course, they are the only paradigm allowed.  But in a game which is a fantasy people want to play desirable characters.

So perhaps it isn't sexist that there are half naked, attractive women in D&D, but more that it's is a problem that there aren't more options for those that want them -- especially as more women begin to play. And that's the important note. Before women began to play D&D in equal numbers, it's hard to say that men could be aware of this inequality at all; in other words, it isn't intentional, but an oversight.

A Situation of Demand

The problem is really a social one. When players first get into D&D, they usually create their idealized character. For men, it's often a strong, brusque fighter. For women, a gorgeous elven ranger. Those are decisions informed by the society in which we live.

Women are continually imprinted with the idea that they must be sexual and sexy. And because of that, a significant subset of women hesitate to create anything but an extremely attractive character. Women themselves are creating a demand for a lot of these mini figurines; it's not something that we can solely put upon men.

We have, in our heads, the idea of the pockmarked teenaged boy giggling to himself as he selects a busty pirate lass, but let's not imagine that it is not also the pockmarked teenage girl doing the same. The driving force behind all of this is a social idea that a woman's worth is primarily based in her appearance, and that by improving appearance one can also improve worth. We all want to be seen as attractive.

So this is a social problem and it's a problem that we must all work to correct. Luckily the solution is simple: creating more options. Female characters need to be able to be old and wizened, or young and childlike. They need to be able to be plain and normal, or tall and formidable. Most importantly, they need platemail that covers, but does not conform to, their boobs.

It is 2018, and in 2018 we should be beyond the idea that a problem is necessarily a malicious or cruel act. D&D is opening up at an astounding rate, for those of all races and genders, in part part due to the inherent empathy of the group as a whole. There will always be gatekeepers, and of course, sexist or racist players and DMs, but as a whole it's hard to say that the industry itself is hostile, even if some aspects could now be seen as problematic. Most importantly the problems in D&D are being corrected, if slowly, and we are all working together to make it a more welcoming hobby.