"Women on larp" is a common discussion in larping circles - and an appropriate article for March 8th, the international women's day, don't you think? (Happy March 8th to all the female readers of Crolarper!)
Most larp groups are usually concerned with low ratio of female to male players. On Croatian larps, this has historically been somewhere between 10 and 40 percent of the larping population - depending on the larp in question and when it was played.
There were plenty of discussions concerning this. Not only in Croatia, but in other groups as well. However, in the fantasy scene there's often plenty of stereotypes about the role of women. Some of these stereotypes are:
- Girl Casters - "fighting is a man's job, therefore girls should ideally be suited for caster role" is the usual reasoning.
- Woman Warriors - seen as "men with boobs". Usually seen as something between "I am no man" Eowyn from Lord of the Rings and Brienne of Tarth from A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones series if you're not the reading type).
- Healer Girlfriends - they only larp because their boyfriend drags them along, they don't know what to do, so their boyfriend puts them in a role which will help him adventure with lesser risk. Not every girlfriend that's a healer is a Healer Girlfriend, but if you've done fantasy larping you've certainly met a few.
A lot of women fit in the above stereotypes, by no fault of their own. They get those roles because that's the advice they're getting by others who genuinely want to help. And they end up with their options getting limited. In the longer-standing fantasy groups these actually become the expected social roles of women...
Being steered towards support roles is not really fun in larps where gaming and in some ways competitiveness and defeating the challenge given by organizers is seen as desirable. So, is it a social problem or a problem with the larp design? Probably a little bit of both. Many solutions have already been thought up for this problem by many larp groups. Some of them even made a statistical difference.
What personally surprized me was PoRtaL. On it (workshops and larps), the female-to-male ratio not only approached the balanced 50/50 point - it surpassed it by far. The numbers were turned around. Ars Amandi workshop had 3 male participants and 7 female. Create a larp had 1 male and 3 female. I don't think any larp had a male majority. What's the difference? Perhaps it was the friends who called them, perhaps it was the different focus of the program, its subjects and larp design that made it more interesting to the female population.
Perhaps it's the larger number of women now involved in larp creation. Koliba (The Cabin) was a total success - written and ran by two women. Maksimir larps - one two weeks ago, one tomorrow - also run by two women. (Re)union, written on Create a larp, also had a female majority. Things are changing, more and more women are larping now and enjoying it - and larps are changing too. Which was the cause, and which was the effect? That's a good question.
To all the women reading this - thank you for contributing to larps you're playing! And happy Woman's Day. Your thoughts are welcome below.