Let's talk about the reasons that prompted Veronica Fantoni to start the #playernottoy campaign. Why is this initiative necessary?

The initiative #playernottoy it made itself widely talked about a month ago when it was inaugurated by this post di Women, dice & data (DD&D). The reaction of the Italian role-playing community was twofold: many promptly supported the campaign, but there are also those who shouted exaggeration and feminist victimization.

But why was #playernottoy born? What does this initiative consist of? What do you want to achieve? Because Veronica Fantoni did you want to expose yourself to bring this message?

These questions are answered briefly already this article by Claudia Pandolfi and Aurelio Castro, with the collaboration of Veronica Fantoni on Passionate. In our article, however, I would like to try deepen the issue, starting from an interview with Veronica herself.

The article will therefore be structured in two parts. The first is an interview with Veronica Fantoni, in which we will explain the reasons behind #playernottoy and the background of Veronica's personal play experiences. The second part, however, will be an in-depth analysis of mine on the matter.

Now, what I will say in this article I will say as Gloria Comandini of the Atlantean Seekers. You know very well that I am also part of Women, Dice & Data. Five people worked on the famous research on gender discrimination, one of whom is me. Today, however, I will not speak as a member of DD&D, but as an editor of the Seekers.

The article is long and elaborate because #playernottoy is the non-trivial answer to a more complex situation. As I said in this article, complex situations deserve serious, prepared and (hear ye!) complex responses, not the simplistic braggart at the bar. That's why the article is long.

Veronica Fantoni, creator of #playernottoy
Veronica Fantoni, creator of #playernottoy

Interview with Veronica Fantoni, creator of the #playernottoy initiative

What made you want to launch the #playernottoy initiative?

I decided to try to launch this initiative following several posts that appeared on social media.

I have often seen girls presented as guests at events where the thing that was emphasized was not so much their “role-playing” qualities as their stage presence. Sometimes the publicity posts of the event were followed by strong and explicit comments from users of the various pages. Often these comments, however, were not followed by sudden interventions by the administrators, in some cases even silent likes were put on the aforementioned posts.

#playernottoy was meant to draw attention to the problem. Apparently something I got.

Why did you turn to DD&D?

I chose them as a support for my initiative for several reasons: their interest in social issues, their scientific research knowledge that I share as a sociologist and why not, their diffusion on social media. I am a discreet person in life, so I needed help in this too. In them I found fertile ground for my idea, I had a lot help e support even in times of difficulty. I can't help but thank the people who pushed me to make something practical out of an idea

#playernottoy has prompted rejection in a very vocal part of the community. How did you deal with them?

Many are used to looking only at their garden and I realize that, for most of the RPG players, the things I would like to focus on never happened. With them I realized that there is not much to do except wish them the best and that their positive experience continues in any playful context in which they will take part. However, I hope that in the future they will be able to understand the problems and therefore change their mind on a simple hashtag.

A certain amount of hate speech has been seen around you. How did you deal with it and what would you like to say to who produced it?

I honestly know this type of behavior, both for studies and personal experience. I want to maintain a positive and welcoming attitude towards them.

As I also wrote in a post in response to these rumors, I am available to offer a coffee at one of the various trade fairs in the sector I will attend. I am available to listen to their point of view and to explain mine to them in person. The invitation is obviously also open to people who have chosen to insult me ​​on social networks, for no reason, with the sole purpose of offending, ironically giving reason to my initiative. I wish they too had room for expression.

However, a large chunk of the community supported you with a drawn sword. What does their support mean to you?

Obviously I can't help but thank them. Some of the main supporters of my initiative are also people whom I privately call friends. They are people with whom I share ideals and ways in which to approach the world of RPG. People with whom we can create an inclusive place to play in our own small way.

The support of those who don't know me also gives me a lot of hope, so that certain types of behaviors we struggle against won't find space in this beautiful world of role-playing games.

How has the playful reality you usually frequent reacted to #playernottoy?

I could not have hoped for better.

I am part of an association called APS Adventurers Milan, we organize shared campaigns of different games every Friday in which several dozen people participate in each event. The support they showed me was very strong, from the photos taken with #playernottoy, to the responses given on social media, to the personal support they expressed me during the aforementioned evenings. In particular, the organizers who supported and defended me with a drawn sword.

Would you like to tell us about an episode of sexism, which took place in our community, which has remained particularly impressed?

Obviously one of the last happened on social media, the one that made my personal patience overflow.

A girl guest at a playful event. The photo chosen to advertise it portrays the aforementioned girl in a provocative pose with a giant plush dice in her hand.

Nothing to say about the photo: the girl is free to be filmed as she pleases. The problems were the unfortunate choice of the context in which to show the photo and, of course, the sexually explicit comments that followed. These comments were not handled in any way by the moderators. Only after reports on other channels the post was deleted. No official explanations of what happened have been seen.

Would you rather tell us about a particularly positive episode, from the point of view of inclusiveness, and / or empowering in our community?

I don't think there are sensational episodes to report. You can see it from the little things.

From the “ALLY” masters that ensure pro-LGBT gaming tables, to the creation of tables for children and teenagers who can play in a safe place with a table management tailored for them, to cards designed for players with dyslexia problems. Discount the careful choices of locations with access for the disabled. Obviously the choice to keep the events free as possible and have them managed by masters who share the ideals of inclusion.

This is the world I play in and I wish everyone shared

Do you think that tackling discrimination with public positions such as #playernottoy can damage the image of our community?

Absolutely not.

As I said before, if you choose to play with trusted friends in home contexts, you will be unlikely to come into contact with discrimination issues. In my opinion, taking a stand publicly should help you become aware of the problems that some people face in wider contexts, and therefore less controllable.

The community should take note of the issues and become a support networkinstead of being opposed to what it doesn't know.

Has your role-playing experience and its community changed after #playernottoy?

I always thought there were different realities in the world of RPG, some more positive and inclusive than others. With this experience I have only had confirmation.

This made me even firmer in my beliefs. There is a need for greater awareness of the problems, in particular, in organized play.

What changes would you like in the Italian role-playing community, in terms of inclusiveness? In your opinion, which ones are in place or in any case more reachable?

I wish that recreational events of any nature could be gods safe spaces not only in words, but which were clearly expressed.

To get started it would be enough for the masters to take responsibility for ensuring that no one feels uncomfortable at the table for comments or actions from other players. Or that associations clearly say what types of behavior are not allowed at their tables. And that the administrators of the social pages establish a simple and explicit ethical regulation.

In my opinion make these things clear from the start and acting accordingly in a timely manner should create a secure environment for the players.

The promotional image that started #playernottoy
The promotional image that started #playernottoy

So why was #playernottoy done?

Quite simply, because in our community there is a problem of sexism.

As has been demonstrated and explained extensively in DD&D study on gender discrimination in the Italian GDR community, sexism in our world exists and afflicts part of our community. It's about a generally uncommon phenomenon (it concerns about 10% of the sample), in these years, but which still comes experienced by an important portion of women and non-binary people of our community.

These are not speculations, but facts. If you want to review them in any way, you need to do so through a study that replicates this survey and produces a comparable but different number of results. Not through personal experiences. Personal experiences, in fact, can vary and be different from those reported in the DD&D study. It's a normal thing. But the DD&D study was done by collecting over 4.000 personal experiences, thus allowing us to have a broader perspective than that of the single individual. Thus, if a single person's experience does not reflect that of the general sample, this does not affect the veracity of the general sample. Simply put, a single person has limited experience.

That said, let's see other issues related to #playernottoy, taking advantage of this article to answer the most common doubts. But first of all, let's talk about the casus belli, that is the experience of discrimination, also cited by Veronica, which started #playernottoy.

The casus belli: promoting RPG events with lingerie players

As also written by the members of DD&D in the article by Passionate linked above and as confirmed by Veronica's words, #playernottoy is an initiative that wants to oppose a complex and studied problem, that is gender discrimination in the RPG community. However, #playernottoy was born from the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

This drop is a post published by a certain Facebook page in February 2020. I will not name this Facebook page to avoid it being overwhelmed by a shitstorm. However, the affected post is clearly visible in the image above.

In this post, role players were invited to a playful / goliardic event, but presenting as a promotional image not something actually linked to the event, but from the photo of a godmother in underwear. The post received a series of comments which objected to the godmother and made her the subject of explicit comments. After the post was made to circulate in some Facebook groups, provoking indignant and hostile reactions to this advertising tactic, this certain Facebook page deleted it.

This post and this photo have de facto made Veronica say that the measure was full and that it was necessary to create an initiative to sensitize the community on the sexism suffered by women there. Thus, Veronica turned to DD&D for support and to devise an action plan. From this collaboration #playernottoy was born.

Now that we've summarized the facts, let's see exactly what #playernottoy means.

What does #playernottoy want to do?

#playernottoy wants sensitize the community about the problem of gender discrimination in the world of Italian GDR. To do this, in addition to research and in-depth presentations already carried out, you want to run a hashtag to create a network of support and solidarity towards people who have suffered gender discrimination in our community.

In this way, #playernottoy wants to invite our community to united front against gender discrimination. So that we can make our community a fertile ground for sexist people. Of course, a hashtag alone is not enough to obtain this result, but for this reason #playernottoy follows the academic research of DD&D, Not the other.

Change can only occur after a long path of education and self-criticism. It takes more than a hashtag to get it. But a hashtag, meanwhile, may show the community's willingness to fight gender discrimination. The many realities that have shared or joined the initiative show that our community is healthy.

Outside the dungeon, the collection of essays on issues of gender, ethnicity and class related to the RPG, to which DD&D also contributed
Outside the dungeon, the collection of essays on gender, ethnicity and class issues related to the RPG, to which DD&D also contributed

Do you want to tell women what they should or shouldn't do?

Some individuals reacted to #playernottoy and, above all, to the discovery of the post with the player in underwear, accusing DD&D of not respecting the will of the godmother of the event, who is free to pose for all the advertisements she wants, wearing what she wants. Some people even went so far as to say that DD&D would do slut-shaming towards the model.

Now, the situation is predictably quite different.

Of course, it is true that the model had given her consent to take this picture, which is obviously a good thing. And, in fact, DD&D, which is of intersectional feminist matrix, does not put any blame on her.

In fact, posing naked or half-naked, artistic nude in general, or in any case showing one's own body are not things that feminism condemns. The free use of one's body is a person's right, and there is no question about this.

However, an advertisement like this presents other problems, such as the fact of objectify the model. What does it mean to "objectify" at this juncture? Let's explore the topic with the help of Aurelio Castro, PhD in psychology and member of DD&D.

Posing a female player as a commodity or a lure: why is this advertising degrading for women?

“Objectifying” means that the model is not presented in a way that visually shows her as a person, with her own identity, her own character, her own goals and her own decision-making capacity. On the contrary, in this advertisement the model is presented in an unnatural position and which has no other purpose than to make the body of the godmother stand out. Therefore, it takes away naturalness from the female body to make it, in some way, more beautiful to look at. In this way, it also takes away the personality of the model, thus making it a mere piece of meat on the market.

There are some canons to understand whether a human image is objectified or not, as Aurelio explains: an objectified woman is portrayed in an unnatural, submissive position, in which her body seems as small and feminine as possible. If you want to know more, here is a scientific paper on the subject Thu.

Furthermore, this type of advertising is objectifying because it places the player as an entity that "picks up" the players. In this way, the players in general come transformed into a lure for players. This use of the players is not acceptable because it does not treat these women as part of the community of the RPG in all respects, but as an ornament that attracts other players.

Painting players like wolves: why is this advertising degrading for men?

Moreover, this type of advertising ends up being degrading even towards men, since it treats its audience as if it were composed only of proverbial "horny males". So, in general, he treats RPGs as people more interested in going to these events because "the hottie is there", rather because they are interested in role-playing. Thus, this kind of advertising ends up reinforcing the stereotype of the single nerd, loser and who hasn't seen a woman for years.

So ultimately, this kind of advertising is degrading, in a different way, for both genders. This, as you can see, has nothing to do with whether the model was consenting or not. Of course, if the godmother hadn't consented, the hashtags would not have been made, but the complaints would have flown. However, the fact that the godmother agreed to take the photo does not negate neither the objectifying pose in which she was portrayed, nor the use of her (and especially her body) as bait, nor the consideration of male players as of the hoes.

An additional question: the tokenism

No, I'm not talking about the tokenization of computational linguistics. Il tokenism it is the practice of accepting a minority person in a group, only for use this person to make the group look good.

As also shown by the research of DD&D, there have already been cases in which a woman was accepted into a party just to have a "pink quota" and say "we have a woman and you don't". In these cases, therefore, the players are not well-liked or tolerated at the table as people interested in role-playing, but only as an object of pride or interest on the part of the players.

This advertisement, at this juncture, carries on the message that the players are accepted because they bring other players.

One of the first images of joining #playernottoy from the community
One of the first images of joining #playernottoy from the community

#playernottoy says that men are all sexist pigs?

Some commentators of the post where DD&D officially launched the #playernottoy campaign have heard personally attacked by this initiative. In fact, according to some, the request to become aware of gender discrimination in the community would imply the accusation of all male role players of being sexist.

Obviously, this is not the case. #playernottoy is not an accusation against men, but a request for reflection and to take a stand about the discrimination that women in the community suffer. Do you agree that women should be treated as players and not as toys? Well then, there is no reason not to support this initiative.

Is discrimination against women in our community mainly done by men? Yes. Does this mean that all men in our community discriminate against women? No. It means that there is a problem and that this problem has a specific type of victim and an equally specific type of executioner. Men who do not discriminate should therefore not take it personally, because apparently they do not fall into the category of executioners.

DD&D does useless battles by throwing hashtags and does nothing concrete?

In fact, DD&D has made many useful and important initiatives for sensitize the community on gender discrimination and for I will educate those who play roles on important issues such as consent to the game table. An example is precisely the research on gender discrimination in the GDR, which laid the foundations for further study and the results of which were brought to a sociology conference at the University of Trento.

Another example is the panel where this search has been presented at Modena Play 2019, and the conferences to which DD&D people were invited to explore complex issues. Here I will mention just a few of these events, such as the Genderplay of 2018, on gender discrimination in the world of GDR, and the Genderplay of 2019, on the security mechanics in the gdr and in the larp (of which you can read the results Thu!). But similar panels and discussions also took place in Lucca Comics 2019 and they will also have to be at Modena Play 2020.

In general, DD&D members are attending numerous events throughout Italy for talk about these issues and educate to respect. One of the group's latest labors was a contribution to the collection of essays Outside the Dungeon, published by Editions asterisk.

Other inclusive initiatives of the Italian community

And in recent years the whole world of the Italian RPG has approached the issues dealt with by DD&D, joining initiatives against discrimination and with many important faces committed to making the community less toxic. Examples are the pro-safe space initiatives by Need Games and La Gilda and attention to safety mechanics in conventions And in the new RPGs. We Seekers ourselves have always been engaged in the deepening of delicate issues, in the disclosure of positive inclusiveness and respect for the table (neutral gender, representation, master women, consent to the table, harassment of cosplayers etc) and in the creation of progressive events.

In general, the Italian gdr community is changing very positively and actively strives to be more inclusive and open, without phenomena of gate keeping. Let's see how role-playing is increasingly being used with educational purposes, opening up to children and schools. Even in this way, the RPG shows its full potential, leaving the niche of fans to be finally understood and appreciated by the general public, without the demonizations of the past (and of the present, Unfortunately).

Inevitable and dutiful meme on the flame of #playernottoy
Inevitable and dutiful meme on the flame of #playernottoy made by Aurelio Castro

Hate speech, toxic comments, trolling and other bad things: the antagonistic reaction to #playernottoy

While #playernottoy has received a lot of support from our community, a vocal party has taken the opportunity to target the initiative. From legitimate doubts and educated and reasoned considerations, we soon passed on to toxic and aggressive comments.

Of course, the post with which DD&D launched #playernottoy did not mention the straw that broke the camel's back, namely the post mentioned above. This was a reasoned choice, made not to omit important information, but to prevent the Facebook page that published the post from suffering an excessive media pillory.

However, a certain number of people still found it appropriate to define #playernottoy as a "paranoia", "crap", "phobia", "useless sterile controversy", "bullshit", "useless wars", "random things". Obviously, without having had the concern to investigate the matter. Because, as we know, accusations and offenses are trifles to be sown in abundance even where there is no certainty that they are deserved.

I will not waste time answering these accusations, since they are automatically falsified by DD&D research. But I want to know how much hatred and aggression those who proposed #playernottoy have suffered. Fortunately, it was counterbalanced by many adhesions.

Memberships in #playernottoy and new developments

A considerable part of the Italian role-playing community has joined #playernottoy, explicitly supporting the initiative. In fact, there have been many and many a send your photos with the hashtag #playernottoy, both from private games and from public events. We quote here, by way of example, Morgengabe and La Gilda al GdR in the dark of Bologna, for example.

Al Modena Play you will have the opportunity to deepen the discussion with the numerous panels organized by DD&D and by people close to them. Furthermore, all / and those who had complaints about #playernottoy were kindly invited by DD&D to meet the members of the working group in person, directly in Modena.

In the meantime, some have been made available #playernottoy themed graphics to decorate Facebook profiles. THU you can see the one for female players, while Thu there is one for all the other people who want to support the initiative.

One of the #playernottoy Facebook graphics, created by Filippo Munegato
One of the #playernottoy Facebook graphics created by Philip Munegato

Two conclusive words

#playernottoy is an initiative that relied heavily on people's previous knowledge. It was based on the fact that people already knew about the DD&D study and the incidents of discrimination that occurred in our community. This communication style has probably made the initiative unclear to many people. It is therefore legitimate to have doubts and ask for clarification.

However, there are some people who have thought that a flaw in the communication strategy gave the right to leave education aside. For some people, not having all the pieces of the puzzle doesn't mean "I have to go into it." On the contrary, it meant "now I can blast everyone".

So I want to remember that respect is not a matter of communication strategy. Respect and education are qualities that a conversation must have by default. Veronica Fantoni here is an example of a respectful and polite communicator, still willing to have a coffee and talk to those who have insulted her.

Aside from these unpleasant episodes, I'm very happy to see how well #playernottoy has been well received by the community. I am proud to be part of a world that is not afraid to grow and change, to learn and to question itself. Self-improvement is only possible after a long journey of understanding oneself and others, and our community is well on track. The positive examples to follow are not lacking, as we have already seen, and they are not afraid of facing together against these discriminations. The future of our community is full of possibilities, and I am sure that we will be able to make the most of it.