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[5e] The Monster Manual's lack of gender diversity

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Duck Call Lass

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So, the 5e Player's Handbook is better than some when it comes to gender diversity; 1/3 to 2/3 (or thereabouts) isn't exactly a 50-50 split, but it at least shows they're trying.

Unfortunately this doesn't seem to carry over into the Monster Manual. I went through and categorized the pictures by whether they were showing arbitrarily male monster, an arbitrarily female monster, or a monster which is always either male or female. I didn't categorize monsters which aren't humanoid unless they show a clear equivalency to a human gender (such as the sphinxes) and I didn't categorize reptile people, fish people, and other non-mammals -- without obvious clues, we don't know for sure that the kobold or dragonborn or kuo-toa are male or female. So I left them out.

Here's the list.

Spoiler: Show

Arbitrarily Male (53)
=====================
Angel (category)
Angel, Deva
Angel, Planetar
Angel, Solar
Bugbear
Centaur
Cyclops
Devil, Chain
Duergar
Empyrean
Fomorian
Genie, Djinni
Genie, Efreeti
Ghast
Giant, Cloud
Giant, Fire
Giant, Frost
Giant, Hill
Giant, Stone
Giant, Storm
Githyanki
Githzerai
Gnoll
Gnome, Deep
Goblin
Grimlock
Hobgoblin
Jackalwere
Lich
Lycanthrope, Wereboar
Lycanthrope, Wererat
Lycanthrope, Weretiger
Lycanthrope, Werewolf
Minotaur
Ogre
Ogre, Half-Ogre
Ogre, Oni
Orc
Orc, Orog
Rakshasa
Revenant
Sprite (uncertain gender identification)
Troll
Vampire
Wight
Yuan-Ti, Malison
Zombie
NPC, Archmage
NPC, Bandit Captain
NPC, Cult Fanatic
NPC, Druid (uncertain gender identification)
NPC, Noble
NPC, Thug

Always Male (3)
===============
Azer
Satyr
Sphinx, Androsphinx

Arbitrarily Female (12)
=======================
Cambion
Drider (uncertain gender identification)
Genie, Dao
Ghost
Harpy (classically always female)
Lamia (classically always female)
Medusa (classically always female)
Merfolk (classically often female)
Pixie
Vampire Spawn
Yuan-Ti, Pureblood
NPC, Scout

Always Female (9)
============
Banshee
Demon, Marilith
Demon, Yochlol (not depicted as female)
Devil, Erinyes
Dryad
Hag, Green
Hag, Night
Hag, Sea
Sphinx, Gynosphinx

Male and Female Represented (2)
===============================
Elf, Drow
Succubus/Incubus


So here's the problem. First up, 73% of the monsters with an identifiable gender are pictured as male, versus 29% depicted as female.

When the choice of gender was arbitrary -- in other words, when the art could have shown either a female monster or a male monster -- 82% of the time it showed a male monster, and only 18% of the time a female monster.

Some monster groups, such as giants, are 100% male -- of the six giant races shown, all of them are depicted as male. Of the arbitrarily female monsters, 25% of them -- harpies, lamias, and medusas -- have classically been identified only as female, although in this edition they can be male also. Just not in the artwork.

39% of the monsters shown as female have to be female, because they're female-only monsters. Traditionally these have usually represented "trap" monsters sent to ensnare male adventurers with their charms or feminine wiles, only to reveal that -- gasp! -- they're really evil demons, or trees, or hags, or whatever. With dryads, hags, and yochlols making up the majority of this category (although the latter is not depicted in an actual female form, just a blob form), 5e is continuing the misogynistic tradition of female monsters.

There are only three male-only monsters -- 5% of all male monsters shown -- and of those, the azer appears male but isn't really and the androsphinx is matched by its counterpart the gynosphinx, leaving the satyr as the only monster truly required to be male.

Seven NPCs are illustrated in the section at the back of the book, ranging from archmage to thug; only one, the scout, is shown as female. The druid looks male to me, but like a few other cases where the gender identification was ambiguous, I noted that in the list. This means 14% to, at best, 29% female representation in the NPCs.

So, yeah. I think that WotC really fell down on the gender representation for the Monster Manual. Which is a shame, because they were trying so hard get it right for the Player's Handbook. The art directors were the same for both books, so it's a curious kind of failure there.
 
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JDragonbait

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Validated User
Come on really this is a thing? Maybe females should feel good about not being portrayed as monsters that are there for the killing and looting of their things.

Do we need to worry about not representing the thin, obese, short, tall, and so on? Were hobgoblins with dwarfism not represented to some arbitrary number for some political correctness agenda?
 

CardinalXimenes

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Validated User
Monsters are, by and large, meant to be murdered. This is not the only thing they are for, nor the best thing they are for, but it is unquestionably the usual thing they are for. While the casual butchery of generic male humanoids carries little to no emotional freight with most people, I am not even slightly surprised that not a lot of artists are immediately thinking of portraying visibly, relatably female humanoids as the typical exemplar of something to be stabbed repeatedly by murderhobos. Players have been getting squicked at the thought of killing female and infant goblinoids since the days of single-digit Dragon magazine issues. It's predictable that it should not be a topic that many artists revel in.
 

Taarkoth

Registered User
Validated User
Come on really this is a thing? Maybe females should feel good about not being portrayed as monsters that are there for the killing and looting of their things.

Do we need to worry about not representing the thin, obese, short, tall, and so on? Were hobgoblins with dwarfism not represented to some arbitrary number for some political correctness agenda?
Hear, hear.
 

hippokrene

Active member
Validated User
So, yeah. I think that WotC really fell down on the gender representation for the Monster Manual. Which is a shame, because they were trying so hard get it right for the Player's Handbook. The art directors were the same for both books, so it's a curious kind of failure there.
It's a rather common kind of failure. In many movies, shows, and video games, even if the heroes have an equal number of men and women, the background characters and enemies won't.

Even gender neutral entities tend to be characterized as masculine as default. Take demons and spirits in Dragon Age: pride, hunger, sloth, rage, justice and valor are all given male voice actors. Desire is the only one that gets female voice actors, and they're the evil seductress demon.

Monsters are, by and large, meant to be murdered. This is not the only thing they are for, nor the best thing they are for, but it is unquestionably the usual thing they are for. While the casual butchery of generic male humanoids carries little to no emotional freight with most people, I am not even slightly surprised that not a lot of artists are immediately thinking of portraying visibly, relatably female humanoids as the typical exemplar of something to be stabbed repeatedly by murderhobos. Players have been getting squicked at the thought of killing female and infant goblinoids since the days of single-digit Dragon magazine issues. It's predictable that it should not be a topic that many artists revel in.
Of course artists don't immediately imagine monsters as women. They don't immediately imagine heroes as women, or immediately imagine peasants, nobles, merchants, knights, tax collectors, bootmakers, or priests as women either.

One of the jobs of the art director is to say, 'Stop going with what you immediately imagine, because that doesn't fit with our vision of setting.'

We've been led to believe that this vision included women as being as prominent as men are.

And yes, lots of people think of 'women and children' as existing in the same weak and helpless category. People believe a lot of bullshit that isn't true.
 
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Save-vs-DM

Knight of Stumptown
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I'm trying to figure out why this bothers me less than if it was the PHB. Is it because I find the idea of harming women abhorrent? I'm not sure it's that, because beating up a hag or Sphinx doesn't really bother me. Is it because I just consider them to be of one gender, that of monster? That might be closer to the mark. Why is that? Why don't I consider monsters to be gendered?
 

JDragonbait

Registered User
Validated User
I would think that women would be happy to let all the monsters be men. You know, like they are in real life.
As a man I don't agree that "we" are the monsters. But you know 92% of people in prison are male, so yeah I can see this as a valid point.

Instead of looking for a 50/50, in the monster manual the numbers should be closer to what are in the book if you want to represent a proper gender ratio in a book about antagonists that threaten life and like to solve problems with violence.
 
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