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Author Topic: Procedural Gender Systems  (Read 19690 times)

Vainglorious

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Procedural Gender Systems
« on: December 04, 2014, 05:55:30 pm »

Currently Dwarf Fortress lacks any sort of gender roles that don't appear to be a gamey shorthand (babies only being raised by mothers).  This system is fine, even sufficient, in that it subverts attempts to project any negative contemporary gender hangups onto dwarves.  However, the inclusion of procedural gender systems could bring a new level of variation and detail to the game, helping to differentiate different civilizations and give dwarves' a more embedded identity within the cultural context of their society.  In addition to this, it would make the game far more distinguishable as a setting; no Tolkien knock off that I can think of includes any appreciable amount of gender diversity.

Before I start to explain most of the idea and benefits of gender diversity in the game, I'm going to specify what I mean when I use certain terms, since gender studies aren't a required subject in most educational institutions and I'm not necessarily using strict academic definitions:
  • Sex: the Male/Female spectrum.  Sex is assigned at birth based on genitals in most cultures
  • Gender: Gender is a system of classification based upon sex, occupation, appearance, and potentially other factors.  Different genders within a society are expected to fulfill different cultural and familial roles.
  • Gender (verb): When something is gendered, it is associated with a certain gender.  Think of the colors pink and blue, or different articles of clothing like dresses vs. pants.
  • Third Gender: I am using third gender to refer to any gender group not conforming to the Western man/woman binary, even when they are part of a system with more than three genders.
Here are some (very basic and not at all nuanced) examples of real world gender systems which I'm going to refer to throughout this post as well as examples of what alternative gender systems look like:
  • The West (Europe, North America, etc): Western gender is rigidly binary: men/males and women/females.  Children are assigned their sex/gender at birth and are socialized heavily to act in traditionally masculine (assertive, aggressive) or feminine (passive, demure) ways.  Men and women are expected to form life-long monogamous relationships.  While feminist and queer movements over the last century and a half have slowly but surely chipped away at traditional gender roles, they are still present and strong.  In the last half century trans and genderqueer individuals have been carving out a new social space which openlyundermines traditional conceptions of sex and gender.
  • Navajo: The Navajo have four genders: man, woman, hwame (masculine woman), and alhya (feminine man).  Children are sexed but not gendered at birth, and based on their interests in gendered activities (eg. masculine hunting vs feminine crafts) when children are gendered at the beginning of adolescence.  Same sex marriages are common, but same gender romantic/sexual relationships are forbidden.  Hwame and alhya were considered be more industrious and skilled than their same sex counterparts and the hwame are often powerful healers.  The four gender system is not practiced by most Navajo today as the result of persecution by the American government and the institution of reservations.
  • India/Hindu:  Like Western societies, Indian is a binary society.  Children are sexed and gendered (Indian society does not generally differentiate between sex and gender) at birth and socialized in separate ways.  Some male children who are viewed as impotent or non-gender conforming join a religious group called the Hijras who are ascetic priestesses of the goddess Bahuchara Mara.  The Hijras dress as women and adopt feminine pronouns and mannerisms and live together in families of sisters, aunties, and grandmothers.  They perform an emasculation ritual surgery (now illegal) to give them mythological powers - through their impotence they are given power of fertility and perform and dance at births and marriages.  Though Indian society has a gender binary there are liminal, meaningful roles for non-conforming people (Hindu gender is significantly more diverse and complicated than this paragraph can even begin to explain).

What a Procedural Gender System Would Incorporate

During world generation gender would be systematized at a civilization level.  The framework of this would probably be similar to what Toady mentioned in the latest DFTalk about laws, divine commandments, etc.  A number of genders would be generated and then hairstyles, clothing, colors, materials, weapons, body parts, occupations, family relations, supernatural abilities, etc. would be associated with the gender(s).  Obviously not all objects would be gendered, and certain ones would have to have relative degrees (eg. irl pants are masculine but are still worn by women).  Having dwarves of a specific gender tend to prefer certain objects could be a good way to manage happiness in your fort.  If dwarven men are believed to have been carved out of diorite by the God of Fortresses then they would probably be more partial to objects made of diorite.  Gender systems could range from universal genderlessness (what we have now) to a complex system based on the dozens of ingame occupations though there would need to be limits to stop systems which are too convoluted.  Furthermore, integration with pre-existing and future systems (I'm thinking that deities would be crucial to the development of gender) would be key to making the whole thing not come across as a randomized mess.

While this would be a interesting way to differentiate between civilizations of the same race, it really shouldn't be used as a way for ethics and civilizations to clash.  Imperialist suppression and outright destruction of gender diversity is still a very real issue and doesn't really add anything to the setting; besides it would be more satisfying for wars to become more involved with the ambitions and desires of the ruling class (though that is another topic entirely and probably already planned).

Alternative Family Units
Current family lack structure.  Basic kinship terms are applied and relatives like seeing each other, but beyond that babies just cling to their mother and then loaf around after becoming children and that's about it.  Same-sex couples could adopt orphaned dwarves, or adopt some from families who are becoming too large to look after all their children (this was common in some Native American societies). Multiple genders allows for more complex relations, and even 'adoptive familes' a la the Hijras.  Individuals who are non-traditionalist or nonconforming can join a gendered group, and through doing so gain new kinship and relationships (and possibly losing their old ones).  Groups like this could have access to hidden knowledge or perform certain occupations (whether spiritual or mundane).  Ascetic genders could allow for groups of dwarves with fewer relations (and are thus better for more dangerous or time consuming occupations). 

In most cultures gender roles are given supernatural or inexplicable origins (eg Adam & Eve/'human nature' are the two major sources in Western society) so it would make sense that gender could be linked to magic and the divine.  The Hijras function as priestess of the Hindu goddess Buchara, the Navajo considered alhya and hwame to have special ritualistic powers, and in the West women who were not feminine enough were sometimes accused of witchcraft.  Third gender groups having arcane knowledge or powers would make be a sensible place to put positive non-destructive magical traditions in contrast with reclusive necromancers.  Groups like this could easily be integrated into future expansions to the dwarven economy and political system.

Gendered Appearance
Dwarves can express themselves and their place in society through what they wear. For instance, in a society where men only wear trousers and are expected to have large families, an unmarried dwarven man you encounter in a blouse can be inferred to have the 'does not respect traditions' trait (and tradition loving dwarves in you fort would probably hold a grudge against him).  In adventure mode your appearance could be remarked on ("you look like a fool in that obviously misgendering cape" "such a pretty dress for a pretty man"), and you could disguise yourself as the opposite gender to infiltrate various gender exclusive groups.  Make-up, binders, corsets, fake beards, or just large flowing robes with a hood could obscure sexual characteristics and make dwarves harder to classify.  Different clothing types would go from being indistinguishable as they are now to being a key part in keeping the various groups in your fortress happy.  Traditionalists want their 'proper' clothes, non-traditionalists want alternatives, and religious devotees could desire certain clothes to obscure or display their bodies.

Tradition hating civilization members could finally give bandits and sewer dwelling people a reason for being- those who found their society's rigid rules (including gender roles) confining could become criminals.  While I'm sure these archetypes are already going to be fleshed out in the Thief Arc, gender deviation could be one of several motivators.  This suggestion only really stands if bandits are made more fleshed out, because a bunch of queercoded  cold hearted villains would just turn the game into a Disney movie.

Reservations
One of the main issues with sproceduralizing gender is making systems which makes sense.  While the association of pink/blue with feminine/masculine is completely arbitrary, the Hijras connection between emasculation, asceticism, fertility, and their third gender status is meaningful and purposeful and the result of thousands of years of cultural evolution and tweaking.  Their would need to be a connect between core game mechanics which you can observe and gender roles.  The issue with attempting to create interesting and meaningful social groups procedurally is that real life society is the result of millenniums of historical feedback loops and world gen takes only a few minutes.  Rather than gender existing as a separate system within the game it needs to be integrated into the various mechanics we have/will have - fashion, disguise, organizations, politics, social classes, magic spheres, gods etc.  But at the end of the day, procedural gender would provide a meaningful and realistic backdrop for countless game interactions, ideologies, and stories.
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Putnam

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2014, 06:47:54 pm »

Somewhat related: I've tested and put into practice same-sex childbearing (male and female). The game seems to handle it very well, with the relationship screen saying "father" for both parents (for example, mother also works) and one parent taking care of the baby pretty elegantly.

And yeah, the separation of sex and gender would be good. It should probably wait until the family unit is more... considered. Right now it's "person who gives birth (regardless of sex) carries the baby around" (Yeah, I tested male childbirth. It works, as long as they're a female for the birth).

Niddhoger

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2014, 07:22:34 pm »

Gender roles are purely egalitarian as it stands now.  The only drawback to having a female solider is her carrying a baby around, but you could always sequester those in training-only squads until the crotch goblins learn to walk on their own. 

While there are same sex marriages, same sex children is a different story.  Men shouldn't just be giving birth.  Perhaps they could adopt if hte parents of another child get killed.
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Dyret

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2014, 07:50:33 pm »

While there are same sex marriages, same sex children is a different story.  Men shouldn't just be giving birth.  Perhaps they could adopt if hte parents of another child get killed.

Or kill the parents themselves, with the right traits. The justice system needs more stuff to deal with.
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Adrian

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2014, 08:10:49 pm »

Gender roles and -identity are contemporary social and cultural issues. I do not think those should be brought into a medieval fantasy game.
Also in medieval times gender roles and -identity were pretty rigid.
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Vainglorious

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2014, 08:49:12 pm »

Gender is a universal feature of human society throughout time and space.  If you read the post you would have seen me cite the Hijras of India who are an ancient Hindu tradition, or the Navajo's four gender system which has prehistoric origins.  Seeing as gender isn't a technology (not in the common usage of the word at least) the period of the game is an irrelevant point.  Colonization and imperialism have devastated global diversity so if anything a game in this time period should have even more diverse cultures.

If the game takes place in a solely European setting like I think you're implying where have the pyramids come from?  How does a medieval society look and feel in a tropical jungle?
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MDFification

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2014, 09:02:51 pm »

Gender is a universal feature of human society throughout time and space.

Luckily we play with dwarves. Their only noticeable sexual dimorphic trait is beards, and their society seems purely egalitarian; other than different words for some positions based on sex, there doesn't even seem to be gender roles in dwarven society as-implemented.
Note however that there is no gender-role system implemented in the game at this point though, so don't take the above post in the wrong way. A system not being in place ATM doesn't mean one shouldn't be put in place.

If gender is to be a thing, then perhaps a good system is to define available genders on an entity-level basis. The gender can then be specified to apply to a percentage of a certain caste (i.e. in dwarves the Feminine gender could be made to apply to whatever fraction of the female sex identify as feminine, plus whatever fraction of the male sex identify as feminine).
I don't know how non-binary could in any way fit into this though, because it implies making a spectrum of traits that are considered gendered and randomizing it for a unit. Seems like it would significantly increase the amount of data kept per in-game unit.

The main thing about adding procedural gender identifies is that it requires both a) procedural cultures (not implemented) and b) gender identities (similarly unimplemented). So it's something that seems possible, but implementation likely is years away.
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Niddhoger

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2014, 10:17:00 pm »

Their only noticeable sexual dimorphic trait is beards, and their society seems purely egalitarian; other than different words for some positions based on sex, there doesn't even seem to be gender roles in dwarven society as-implemented.


The main thing about adding procedural gender identifies is that it requires both a) procedural cultures (not implemented) and b) gender identities (similarly unimplemented). So it's something that seems possible, but implementation likely is years away.

Aye, DF is a very egalitarian society.  There is one and only one meaningful gender role- the mother always carries the baby (well, two if you count hte mother gaining more happiness but both are ludicrously high).  How would assigning jobs and professions differ if we added in gender roles? Could we only assign a female solider if she was a star-recruit? Could weavers only be self-identifying females? Would there be an additional +/- to the skill level/quality of the work from one gender over another because of perceived value/high cultural affinity for that profession by the gender?

Honestly- lets just leave the dwarves egalitarian.  The only thing I'd like to see changed is mother's no longer holding babies... I don't know how many female soldiers i've had to bench (or carpenters I had to reassign when damning rivers since all they did was chase their baby down the stream).  Even then I wouldn't pass them to the father/least dangerous profession, but have a "child care" activity zone.  You'd assign a dwarf to look after the snotty brats and supply them with food.  Or maybe you could lock them in the parent's room... w/e.  Carrying children into the battle field or rive is just stupid. 
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Decidophobia

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2014, 05:34:26 am »

While I appreciate all the thought put into this post, I am absolutely opposed to adding gender roles. Don't give me an egalitarian society and then take it away. I'd rather do away with the one role we have, that mothers always carry the babies, and have more varied childcare not tied to gender. So if this suggestion is ever implemented, there had better be an option to turn it off in worldgen.
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Sirbug

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2014, 05:50:19 am »

Gender roles come from several physical differences between men and women as well as historically high child mortality that required lots of incapacitating pregnancies. Women had to spend lots of time pregnant or nursing while men had to work and fight to provide for them and get motivated with some ego-stroking

With diseases are lacking, dimorphism non-existent, children being useless parasites, pregnancies not having an effect on anything gender roles would not form.
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Cool, but wouldn't this likely lead to tongues having a '[SPEACH]' tag, and thus via necromancy we would have nearly unkillable reanimated tongues following necromancers spamming 'it is sad but not unexpected'?

smeeprocket

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2014, 09:03:19 am »

yea I don't really want to see gender roles in the game. That isn't anything different or new, if anything DF stands out because of its depiction of equality.

Just because medieval europe had this doesn't mean it should be in the game.
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LMeire

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2014, 10:39:39 am »

I wouldn't mind as long as it was mostly automatic and unnoticeable until you went looking through Legends or something. It'd be pretty neat to large-scale background things like this driving social interactions between job-taking and military training, but dwarves are basically "always Lawful/Good" so it's unlikely that any of their communities would let a fellow dwarf's identity complexes get in the way of what they were allowed to do for work.

That being said, a lot of the posts so far keep mentioning that babies are never carried by the father "fertilizing parent", I've just been interpreting this as dwarves being mammals that constantly require a milk-only diet for the entirety of their infancy. It's not like biological males can lactate without extreme measures being taken. (for the medieval tech-level) If anything, the most I would change about that is maybe the inclusion of a "wetnurse" profession, so that a mother dying or going nuts didn't automatically kill the kid too.

Wetnurses were an established part of civilized living from the adoption of barter-based propriety to the invention of baby-formula. They were especially important to the noble families who couldn't afford to look "mortal" or "fallible" to the peasants for fear of losing some of the perceived legitimacy that kept the masses content. I think dwarf civs, being so fond of their nobility that they will let them get away with mass-murder, (Unfortunate accidents in player-forts don't count, as player actions in general are completely beyond the control of ingame norms.) would be all over the idea of a specialized caste of child rearers.
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Urist Tilaturist

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2014, 11:21:02 am »

yea I don't really want to see gender roles in the game. That isn't anything different or new, if anything DF stands out because of its depiction of equality.

Just because medieval europe had this doesn't mean it should be in the game.

For once, I agree. Dwarves are not mediaeval Europeans and there is no reason why they should follow their culture at all. Dwarves are cruel and violent creatures, but 2 things they are not are sexist and homophobic.

Humans are a rather different story, and I would quite like to see them more bigoted and unequal as is fitting of a race with many slaves. I would also like to see the nonsense about "opposing the torture of animals" removed.
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Sirbug

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2014, 11:27:16 am »

Humans do frown on torture of animals. Or torture for pleasure in general. Nobody likes a psychopath except for goblins.
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Cool, but wouldn't this likely lead to tongues having a '[SPEACH]' tag, and thus via necromancy we would have nearly unkillable reanimated tongues following necromancers spamming 'it is sad but not unexpected'?

Dirst

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Re: Procedural Gender Systems
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2014, 12:19:04 pm »

As mentioned a couple times, DF Dwarves have little sexual dimorphism (and if you mod beards onto females, just the nursing one) and no gendered professions whatsoever.  It would be appropriate for a lot of other species, but features that don't apply to vanilla Dwarves are basically absent.  Vanilla Dwarves don't tolerate slavery, so there are no tools to manage slaves in a fortress (even if you mod the Dwarves to find it acceptable).

In other words, the lack of sex- and gender-based roles reflects their absence from vanilla Dwarves.  Seems like a good future feature to have, but it'll be low priority until DF officially supports non-Dwarf player forts.

As for how to do this, I think it should be in the entity file.  Positions can already be divved up by caste, but a more general system can take that decorations weighting system to apply different values/jobs/spheres/clothing/etc. to castes.  So we could design a civ that says that hunting is "men's work" and farming is "woman's work," where everyone wears skirts/kilts but only the hwame wear hats.  Putting non-hwame in your militia would cause some stress whenever their uniforms include helms.

Later, when civs get some randomization, it will automatically shuffle these gender roles as well.
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