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Discussions from a Tuesday: A Mountaintop without Women
[09/11/2007] [Glen]

In the role-play intensive groups (often not even Amtgard) I've seen, women flourish. In the ditch-centric groups in Amtgard, women are exceedingly rare. This begins to shine a light on why there are no female warlords. (I'm totally ignoring Boots so I can make that sweeping statement, not to denigrate Boots. Really, "just one" is practically the same as "none".)

The problem is not dedication to a goofy game. There are women who have played Amtgard for decades. There are women who have been highly involved in goofy role-play games in other LARPs for just as long.

The problem is not physical ability. I've competed in other sports against both professional athletes and weekend warriors. Even most sword knights fall into the "Weekend warrior" category, when it comes to raw physical ability and potential.

While in many sports, "the top" in a men's sport in unachievable by a female due to simple body differences, this is not the case with Amtgard, simply because "the top" in fighting does not reach the same level of "maximum achievement possible by a male body" even at the warlord level. This may all be moot if Amtgard does not require skills where males are physically superior to female in maximum potential, but I'm not qualified to comment on that. It is enough to show that this is NOT the problem.

Where, then, are all the frekaking warlords? If it is not a failure of ability, it must be a failure of the will. Simply put, women are weak-willed creatures and can't compete with men. Okay, not really, I just wanted to keep you awake.

Why, then, is the will of women failing? It is not intention: A single day at SKBC, watching a horde of new female fighters come alive at Dame Squeak's class is enough to show intention is not the problem. The problem is not training. Women are not so terribly different from men that intelligent or persistent females could not adapt what they learn from men to their own bodies. More-over, a great deal of the male-originated knowledge is directly applicable and requires no modification. Even more damning to this identification of this as the problem: a great many male warlords learned simply by doing and doing. Training, while beneficial, is not required to be a warlord.

The problem is persistent application of will. Women do not "stick to it" with the same intensity and duration as men. A great many men drift off and fall short: family, school, changing interests, injury, and other real-world factors prevent a man from becoming a warlord. These same factors limit women. But there is something else: Culture.

The very culture of the stick-jock, of the warlord, is anathema to most women. A paramount sentiment of male fighters seeking greatness is "I will know I stand atop the mountain above all who challenged me" or words to that effect, and "The Mountaintop" is a common metaphor.

A warlord is a man apart, who has crushed all who oppose him. Other warlords fight him, revile him in the land of Smak, and resist him every inch of the way. A true warlord would have it no other way. He takes his blood-stained phoenix from their cold, dead hands. His lesser opponents treat him with awe and fear, and he knows they're always on the lookout to get him.

The typical female shies away from all these things. To her, being alone is a tragedy, being apart is a loss, and being reviled is hurtful. To have others resist her tells her she is disliked and doing wrong. Every separation from those who fight with her (not, as a man perceives it, against her) is a step apart from them. While a man sees a step apart as a step towards victory, a woman sees a step apart as a step in the wrong direction.

This causes the failure of will. The closer a woman gets to warlord, the less she enjoys the position. Illuminatingly, many of the women who have come closest and are best known as "top women fighters" were those for whom the race to warlord was not a cut-throat competition but a shared struggle by a group of friends. They, which in this example is House Morrigan et al, supported each other and reinforced each other; celebrating victories and commiserating on defeats. A loss was letting down "the girls" and a victory did not separate you but instead was a victory for the group against the evil hegemony of men.

The solution then, and the place to find your future female warlords, is in a close-knit network - a team - of top women fighters who are close enough, both emotionally and geographically, to support each other on a week-to-week basis, to make each victory a "team" victory and each separation from the plebian fighters a time when the team, and the social network it represents, becomes stronger.

House Lionesse is a good idea, but it is too diffuse and vague to be the incubator for a warlord. House Morrigan could have been this incubator, and it brought out many good female fighters, but real-world choices, moves, and lives split them apart. Plus, really, that is just one attempt. Not every attempt will succeed, though I think that one could have. In the end, though, it will only be when women start establishing these support and training groups that we will see more female warlords.

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