December 15th, 2017
|02:29 am - RPG Setting - Dealing With Gender and Race in an (alternate) late 1950s|
I’m writing an RPG project that’s set in a somewhat (but not vastly) alternate history setting where the present day is in the late 1950s, where history started diverging around 1900. I can’t go into details about the setting due to NDA reasons, so I’m being somewhat vague in places, but I can say that this game is entirely unrelated to any other projects I’m working on.
In any case, for me this automatically foregrounds questions of gender and racial equality. I think I’ve largely solved the gender equality issue with having events during the WWII analog that made women’s contributions more obvious, combined with reasons that the get displace from work and be expected to become a housewife thing didn’t happen. I’m using some of the visions of gender equality in various 1950s SF (mostly by H. Beam Piper) as a model, and the result, I think, looks mostly like early 1980s gender equality – far from perfect, but the really basic battles about job discrimination (not that it doesn’t happen, but that it’s at least illegal), access to education, family planning services, and the ability to control their own finances and property are mostly settled, at least on a legal front, and while female engineers and scientists aren’t exceedingly common, they also aren’t vanishingly rare, and are clearly becoming more common.
That all seems a reasonable compromise to me, but if someone has a different PoV, I’d love to hear it.
Then, I get to the issue of race. I was thinking of advancing civil rights by a decade or so, and while that could be an interested side-light of the game, the game isn’t about the struggle for racial civil rights, and sidelining that seems problematic. In addition, using that sort of timeline also put all the white supremacist ugliness of the civil rights struggle front and center, and for what is a fundamentally optimistic game, that sounds more unpleasant that I want to deal with, and it makes playing a person of color seriously problematic. Especially since we now have actual Nazis marching in the streets and similar sorts of ugliness, I don’t really want to dump 1950s or even late 1960s racism on people playing a game that’s explicitly about mildly pulpy heroism. Also, I’m not willing to ignore issues of race or gender, since that sort of erasure ends up with an assumption that the setting and the game is all about white men, and I’m not about to write a game like that.
However, sadly, racial equality wasn’t something I generally see in SF of the day, so using that as a model isn’t viable. My thought is to go for a similar feel as with gender equality – late 70s, early 80s, where legal equality was mostly there, and while full practical equality hasn't been achieved, lynching, segregated lunch counters, and sundown towns largely weren’t a thing anymore.
Does this seem like a reasonable approach? I’ll include a few paragraphs about both race and gender issues, but as I stated before neither of these are the focus of the setting, and so I can’t go into large amounts of detail about either.
How does this approach sound to everyone?
Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comments there.
Current Mood: thoughtful