Times have changed (I'd dare to say: finally!), and even hobbies like ours, once almost completely carried on by males, have started to collect more and more enthusiast girls and women in their ranks.
This new trend is not only a great news for me and a symptom that we are getting closer and closer to a world where boys and girls develop interests based genuinely on their own tastes and inclinations, but it's also an interesting, often hard, challenge for us manufacturers, who are called to evolve ourselves to take care of a new type of demand.
So I asked myself (and I ask to you, obviously!): what is the best way to support this cultural/social change?
Before going on, I want to premise that these lines that you're about to read (hopefully!) are my personal thoughts: for this reason, please don't take them as a peremptory statement or a judgement. Far from it! I would like, instead, to start a constructive discussion about it and if you think I'm wrong, I encourage you to let me know it.
PART I: THE PAST
For years, manufacturers had to design female subjects for a male audience, and that, in my opinion, influenced a lot the women's role in our hobby, both metaphorically (talking about the role of female characters in rpg/wargames/etc) both concretely (referring to the fact that girls weren't attracted by our hobby).
I don't blame manufacturers: they had to sell a product, so they designed it in a way they thought it was more easily to sale.
Rather, and this is my first point of debate, I blame a common thought that, I think, it's not only the cause of the problems of the past, but can lead to a dangerous drift in the future: I call it "the uniform identification".
Especially in the past, children were taught (often not directly, generally unconsciously) to identify themselves looking at their similars: boys looked at other boys or men, girls looked at other girls or women.
Have you ever seen a boy play, pretending to be Joan d'Arc?
Have you ever seen a girl play, pretending to be Conan the barbarian?
I didn't, and of course I wasn't that kind of boy.
We looked at what we felt that the society (for society I intend our family, our friends, our parents) expected to see from us: it's normal, after all we are pack animals, we can't avoid the influence of our "herd".
So, when a manufacturer had to design a female subject for an audience composed by 99,9% of males, of course he had to make something that, in its opinion, could be salable for its customers: a classic "pin-up" was that kind of subject that an average boy/man would buy. It was normal to think about a boy attracted by a sexy girl, it was less normal (let's say "usual", instead) to think about a boy that imagined to live a perilous quest in the guise of a brave adventuress: why should he prefer to identify himself in a woman, instead of a brave warrior?
For this reason, in my opinion, the vast majority of female subjects of the miniature landscape were pin-ups or "ladies to be saved": after all, it was expected that a normal boy thought about those kind of roles, for female characters.
Obviously, designing almost only female characters in that way, it helped keep the girls away from our hobby: after all, if all the main characters were males, and girls were only accessory characters, why should a girl be interested in that narration?
PART II: THE PRESENT
Nowadays, things are changed, or at least are slowly changing. That kind of hobbies that were always been associated as "males things", are finally opening to the other side of the sky.
As written above, that means opportunities and interesting challenges for us, but also this social change made obvious that, at least 'till now, there was very few space for females in our narrations. With a growing demand by female customers, we all had to re-think the role of women in our ranges: girls should not be only pin-ups or a sort of fascinating background objects, but the market needed more female protagonists.
Despite I think it's more than good as a change, compared to the past, I think that we are all paradoxically close to create a new form of "sexism": the fe-male character.
About this, I know that my opinions may be controversial, so I apologize in advance if I somehow bother you: please, don't take my words (especially considering the difficulty I have to express myself in your language!) in a hard way.
I fear that we are replacing the "Conan the barbarian-archetype" with a mere "female version of Conan the barbarian-archetype", and I think it's a bit reductive for all the potential that designing female protagonists could have.
I don't like to think that, unconsciously or not, the market could tell to a young girl: "ehy, you see? Now you are finally able to enjoy your fantasy quest, because we made a female version of all the boy's favorite characters!".
I think that the path for gender equality doesn't consist in a mere female version of the classic (often stale) male archetypes, at all.
I feel that vibe as a sort of consolation prize for girls and, paradoxically, I think there is a kind of subtle sexism in all that.
I don't think that girls, to be fond of our hobby, only need to have a male-stereotype but shaped with a female look.
I think that boys neither need to have male-stereotypes, to identify with a fantasy characters.
This is the uniform identification that I would like to erase: I would like to see a girl that may empathize with Conan the barbarian, because there is more than mere masculinity in Conan's novels, but still, there is nothing wrong if a girl would be fascinated by the idea of simply being "strong".
I would like to see a boy identifies himself with a female character, for any kind of reason: maybe that character is particularly smart, or strong, brave, or just funny, or just share with the boy a related nature or a common life-story.
I have no children, but I would encourage them to identifies themselves not because of their gender, but because of those things that really made a character interesting.
I don't think, for example that is good to make a Spiderman reboot, "Spiderwoman", because it encourages (even when made with the best intentions) that common thought that tells: "you are a boy, so find a male reference to identify with. You are a girl: find a female reference to identify with. If you don't find it, then skip, it's not for you".
I think that the best way to encourage girls to enter our hobby, is to stop to think about the design of our characters with only their gender in mind.
ACT III: THE FUTURE
Although being a beginner, as a manufacturer, I've already made my mistakes. For example, in hindsight I'm not happy about the boob-armor of Galatea: at that time I only thought as an "ancient" manufacturer, that design is hilarious, at my present eyes.
Moreover, I found myself worrying too much, while thinking about the design of a female subject: am I sexist, if I design her pretty? Should I give her a more badass look? More boobs is sexism? Less boobs is reverse-sexism? Should I design my female subjects only as positive characters?
As you see, it's difficult to be coherent with ourselves!
I think it's impossible not to trigger someone, in some way.
However, I made a decision that will influence all my future works: I only want to design interesting characters (obviously, hoping that my idea of "interesting" match with yours!).
If they appear in my mind as females, I'll made them. If they appear in my mind as males, so be it. I would like that you appreciate my Dwarf Adventurer not because of her gender, but because she has an interesting design.
I would like to see a girl that collect my Iron Crows Sentinels because they are funny to paint and have cheese on their backpack! I would like, with my miniatures, to carry on the concept that our imagination isn't relegated at a mere gender matter.
If I'll manage to do so, then I'll be the happiest designer ever.
I hope my words didn't annoy you or just bother you, and I would like to hear your thoughts about this question here or on my facebook page (sorry, I'm not able to deactivate the registration requirement here on this blog!).