D&D Beyond Bikini-Mail: Having Women at the Table

Daniel Carlson
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States.


Dungeons and Dragons represents a space that is often treated as an echo chamber for young (usually white) men to act out fantasies of power and control, which makes up for their inability to perform such actions in the real world. Using the work of Sherry Turkle and Michelle Dickey, I posit that this game is a nuanced location acting as a safe space for people to act out different aspects of their identity or life experiences in a low-risk environment enhanced by the connections made between the players and their characters. In this work, I have utililzed feminist frames of criticism and analysis developed by Gesa Kirsch, Jacqueline Royster, Sonja Foss, and Cindy Griffin to show how the developers of the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons have made a feminist intervention on their own product. This feminist intervention, comprised of changes to rules and art policies, invites players to consider their preconceptions of race, gender, and sexual orientation. These challenges now materializing from within a space traditionally associated with the toxic masculinity of western popular culture are designed to make players think about the nature of the imagined worlds of gameplay while also considering the ways that their own world’s norms and expectations have been constructed. Hence, through this game, players are offered the opportunity to learn and understand complicated concepts that impact their daily lives. 

Keywords: Dungeons and Dragons, D&D, Invitational Rhetoric, Rhetoric, Strategic Contemplation, Critical Imagination, Role-play, Toxic Masculinity, Popular Culture, Critical Role 

Author Bio

Daniel Carlson is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, who moved to New Mexico to pursue a master’s degree in Rhetoric and Professional Communication at New Mexico State University. He has cowritten two books with author Michael Rosen, Just My Type: Understanding Personality Profiles and Place Hacking: Venturing Off Limits. This article is an expansion of his interests in role-playing, Feminist rhetorics, and the ways that popular culture interacts with oppressive systems of power. More information can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-carlson-0064067a/. 

Suggested Citation


Carlson, Daniel James. “Beyond Bikini-Mail: Having Women at the Table.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 3. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v7-issue-3/dd-beyond-bikini-mail-having-women-at-the-table/


Carlson, D. J. (2020). Beyond bikini-mail: Having women at the table.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v7-issue-3/dd-beyond-bikini-mail-having-women-at-the-table/

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