Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Gender of Art

There’s been a lot of pixel-ink spilled lately on the subject of women in gaming art. I’d like to take a slightly different tack on that subject. Instead of discussing how not to market to women, I’d like to take a look at how some industries successfully market to women.

As a recap from Anna Kreider’s article on sexism in gaming art, here are two examples of how not to market to women. And here are two examples of cover art from industries who have made women not just the cornerstone of their business, but pretty much the entirety of it.

Now, some are going to jerk their knees and demand that there’s no significant difference. This isn’t true. There are differences, and though subtle, they are vital. It goes beyond just context. Remove the words and branding, and you can still see these differences, if you’re looking for them.

Heck, you probably see them even if you don’t. If you’ve been a member of Western Civilization long enough, you can see pretty clearly that the second set of pictures are coded as “targeted at women” while the first pair are clearly coded as “targeted at men (who probably haven’t been getting’ any recently).” In both cases, the artist is assuming a heterosexual audience with an interest in the erotic, but not going so far as to cross the line into the pornographic.

What intrigues me is how the coding is achieved. The most obvious technique is the deformation of female bodies in an almost cubist attempt to show “all the good parts” in a single image. This sort of thing is blatantly coded as “targeted at men.” Likewise, poses of groups that send “couple signals” (two characters touching or focused on each other in a non-antagonistic way) are nearly always coded as “targeted at women.”

There are tons of other techniques for coding art either way. Artists know this stuff, either overtly or subconsciously, and can turn it off and on in their work as needed. It’s much, much more than the figures chosen, but includes colors, composition, focus, and mood.

Obviously, if you want to attract a female audience, you put art coded towards women on the cover. Only if you do that, most men won’t touch it with their old-school ten-foot-poles. While a woman openly reading something coded as male by its cover art might garner a second look, but little more, a man reading something coded as female causes discomfort and confusion. Gender-bending in that direction is often the focus of comedy while going the other way hasn’t been part of the comedic repertoire much since Shakespeare gave us Twelfth Night.

So here’s where things get interesting: can we mix-and-match our coding? Can you compose a piece that signals as “targeted at men” to the guys and “targeted at women” to the gals? Is it possible to invite the women without sending the men running for the hills in the cultural climate we have today. I’d like to think the answer is yes, especially considering how subtle some of this coding is. But I have to admit I really don’t understand the techniques at even a surface level yet. Mastering this sort of thing is going to require a deft hand by someone who really understands this stuff. I think this was a first good stab, but we need more if we’re going to make women actually feel invited to the RPG clubhouse.


Jayson said...

Although I don't know that this is what you're looking for, I was immediately reminded of this image I saw on "Sword and Shield" yesterday:

What struck me about it is how equivalent the two characters are, as well as the impressively stern look on the woman's face.

In such an overtly consumerist culture as we have, we are as you point out trained to lock on to product art that's coded to our gender, age, what-have-you. The real trick I think is to realize that assumptions are the things we don't know we're making.

Clovis Cithog said...

I believe the reason the pen and paper RPG industry is failing
is because it is TRYING to market to women!

Reminds me of what happened to NASCAR recently, when they attempted to go main stream-
they alienated their core audience.

RPGs and guns are for me and the guys on sunday. I do other things with my girlfriend (horses, movies, yoga, cars, etc..), she does NOT have to share in ALL my hobbies.

The demise of the RPG industry was predicted by Jeff Freeman in 1992

follow the link before you post a pedantic response ; - )

trollsmyth said...

Jayson: The real trick I think is to realize that assumptions are the things we don't know we're making.

Yep. But getting that word out is the work of generations. If you're working on an RPG right now, best to leverage those assumptions to work for you, rather than limit your marketing, whether you mean to or not.

Clovis: Um... Nah, not gonna touch that one. ;p

Zak Sabbath said...

I feel like targeting imagery toward the sensibilities of ANYONE other than the person who actually made the image is a recipe for crappy art.

Making anything good is like scaling a mountain of basketballs during an earthquake, any rules or limitations "don't step left after two rights" only make the task less likely to succeed.

When imagery is art-directed and focus-grouped, as it is with the covers of magazines and corporate products--it ALWAYS sucks and ALWAYS appeals not just "to men" or :to women" but "to idiots" (like nearly every image you posted would screams not just "for men" or "for women" but "for stupid men" or "for stupid women".)

Products that aren't designed by marketing committees--like, say, THX1138 or Barbarella--you advertise what you're going to give the people and if they don;t like your marketing it's because they won;t like the product.

Make a good picture that tells the truth about what your product really is and make a product you yourself would actually use. Anything else is putting the marketing cart before the content horse.

Zak Sabbath said...

Or, to put it another way:

The only honest, noncounterproductive way to market "to women" is to make a product that appeals "to women" and then market it honestly.

Anonymous said...

I'd love it if RPG makers would just create games they actually want to make, then market them honestly. The gamers who buy the thing will decide whether it's for one gender or another, or even both. And however it turns out, that's ok. The problem really is when they try so hard to appeal to almost everyone, and end up appealing to almost no one.

Clovis Cithog said...

@ Trollsmyth

I respect your restraint,
The artwork you sited should be puerile to men as well as women . . .

Hopefully, you enjoyed the wit / irony of Jeff Freeman's post.
White wolf did such a good job marketing traditional RPGs to women
They no longer have a PRINT presence

@ Zak

preach on brother ; - )

E.G.Palmer said...

I'm with Zak. Be forthright in your art. Let it reflect the product associated with it, and let the product represent your own view.
The smell of marketing arouses in me the lust to kill.

Talysman said...

Video games are also sometimes viewed as marketed to men (or maybe boys,) and I think there's still proportionally more male dedicated gamers than female dedicated gamers.

But look at the Sims: hugely popular, and possibly equal gender appeal, if not actually tipped towards female. There are more female custom content designers for the Sims than male designers. The Sim forums certainly seem to have a large number of women, compared to RPG forums.

But I don't think there's anything specifically targeted towards women in their advertising. It might be worth checking, though.

velaran said...

@clovis: Nice thesis on women tanking the RPG scene by their indirect (potential) presence; i.e. deluded owners/marketers with 'guilt' over not having ta hot chixx play. I respectfully disagree. Full disclosure: I am a gamer, but I'm not a female.(I've been known to play one in video games and RPGs, though.)

RPGs are not now, nor have they ever been, 'targeted' at women(Blue Rose was a travesty by pretty much anyone's lights). Or at non-rich non-middle class, non-whites, non-hetero, etc... The game was aimed, if at all, at people who lived the same 'lifestyle' as David Wesely, E. Gary Gygax, David Arneson, etc.... It slowly seeped out from such circles, and had a brief fling with the ephemeral mainstream. Ya know, like pogs...

The article at is amusing; but Mr. Freeman's LAST post is the most illuminating: The One True Way to Roleplay, Online! This is why all those people are playing WOW, Eve Online, Rappelz, Adventure Quest, and other freemium/pay to play 'RPGS', right? This is the real issue: people like their graphics, button mashing, and anonymity to be griefers.(though many WILL play a simple, fast, easy to learn RPG, I've found...[they just need to enable the Graphic Engine in their head]) Same goes for the console devotees. In other words, hardly any roleplaying is involved, with honorable exceptions of course(mostly fic). And BTW, MMO players are mostly FEMALE!(Console RPGs also have a large female contingent) follow the link before you post a pedantic response ; - )(I liked this, so sue me. :-))

As to White Wolf: they rebooted their settings, watered down the popular metaplots, changed the rules, and generally pissed off their fan base, which granted, had a lot of females, but this was sheer insanity. Sales understandably suffered. They're not concerned about print becuz they're gonna have an MMO based on Vampire: the Masquerade.(they're owned by Iceland CCP, which is the developer of EVE Online.) The version of their flagship game that everyone liked, ya know the old World of Darkness, which they disavowed even on their forums until early this year! Too bad, Sreet Fighter and Hunter: The Reckoning(Its console adaptation was all killing, all the time, and awsome for that, I might add!) were awesome in my opinion.

Dude, big titty skinny elf chick with big sword/staff and small bikini/loincloth is fine for whoever wants it, but there are people who would like to see a larger representation in game art, and more female heroes, and no one is saying your favorite art is gonna/needs to go away. Not even all female players object to this style, they, like certain others, consider this the 'idealized human form'(like in modern comics[another issue entirely, IMO])And I'll just mention that other bugaboo while I'm on the subject: women wanting to 'talk to monsters' instead of righteously cubing them: combat isn't going to fall out of favor. Look at MMOs, they're grinding 24/7.(I should know. I just got outta them.) The issue is about lokking pwerful, being able to be powerful in game, and not be considerd a prize or be ignored, or be treated any lesser than anyone else. It also helps if they're are poweful female NPCs who are respected/feared, and if the game world isn't inherently oppressive towards females.(i.e only princesses to be saved, hookers, and general background scenery.) Unless of course, you're running a historically correct game(In which case don't forget your non-fantasy racism, religious intolerance, etc...) : D&D and its lot most certainly aren't, at least according to the people who created it.

velaran said...

Sorry for double post, my response was too long, so I split it...This ones for everyone else:
@ZAK S: Absolutely. Love your blog, BTW!

Personally, I want more images with people NOT looking at the viewer, trying to look all 'badass', instead of actually fighting, or showing the aftermath of a battle, or exploring, etc...(Modern comics influence it seems.) Nearly naked female(and male) barbarians make sense to me, but fighters(especially Conan, he like never wore a fur diaper, despite his barbarian-ness[major REH fan, me]) should really be wearing 'decent' protection, methinks. And if magettes have spells to protect the naughty bits, why aren't dude wizards walking about, hanging out? Just sayin'.

@Jayson: I wouldn't pay much attention to 'coding the Art'; you ought to see the guidelines for novel covers sometimes.(they're overdue for some updating.) The presence of a fog equals mystery, a dagger/sword means you're dangerous, leather means you're sexually free, etc... Most people I've acquainted with this stuff say 'Huh'? Just draw cool stuff with various subjects of different typos being cool, and it'll be cool... Designing by committee, for the Masses doesn't really come up with much, that's why they're demographic techniques came into vogue: to get active feedback now, with segmentation and data clusters providing hopefully better results. The problem IS underlying built-in assumptions, but these can (slowly) change over time. Whoever would've thought Samus Aran was a dude in 1986? Not me, for one. That changed my beliefs to a degree when I was younger. Exposure to different idea(l)s can have impact.

@E. G. Palmer: How about a game where you do just that? Nah, never sell. Marketing objections.(I was one, for a time.)

@Talysman, the Sims had anywhere from 52-55% split either way. They kinda weren't sure. Marketing was simply people partying all the time, from what I saw.(Mostly white people with trendy clothes, but seemingly males/females in equal numbers.)Minecraft is really where it's at for most people, if you judge by non-South Koreans(who appear to be an anomaly, Gods love 'em). Dorf Fortess is the One True Game, though.

Sorry for long response. It's the Old School in me. Once again, thanx for the interesting post Trollsmyth.

trollsmyth said...

I am not saying that cover art alone can make women want to play a game. This isn't dark, voodoo magic, here. (Yes, Oddysey, I went there. Appologies. ;p ) If the game sucks, the game sucks. If the game tries to be something it isn't, it will suck. But as Zak S has pointed out, the characters you meet and play in an RPG are the creations of those around the table; they can be any sort you like. So why don't more women play RPGs? It's not from a lack of imagination, or from a lack of interest in make-believe (you've only to look at how little girls and little boys play to see they both share a love of that). And, as ought to be clear from this post, it's not because there is cleavage on the cover of the books.

It's because they've never been invited to play.

Cover art can be that invitation. Marketing can be that invitation. And if women are invited to play a game that is fun and does what it says on the tin, holy cow, you'll have more female RPers. Perhaps not as many as men, though the numbers of women involved in free-form play and fan-fic would seem to say they could become the new majority.

The problem is, most of the marketing has just been bad. This cover, to men, says, "This game is PC. See? We stuck a female warrior on the cover. We want to attract women to play this game," and men are less than impressed. Women look at the same cover and some, at least, see a hot babe in a stupid pose and stupider armour that exposes her heart to deadly blows just so guys can get a flash of cleavage. They do not see an attempt to make them feel included. They see cheesecake included soley to appeal to guys who allow their libidos to make purchasing decisions for them.

Talysman: Actually, the Sims is an excellent example of what I'm talking about. At its core, the game is nothing more than an interactive, digital version of this. As such, it didn't need to make much effort to appeal to women. Instead, the marketing had to convince men that they could safely enjoy this game without being accused of playing house with dollies. And the marketing succeeded brilliantly, because most people don't even realize what the game is, and most of its male fans probably think it's an amazingly imaginative game without precedent, even though it's just a twist on what's probably the oldest childrens' game in history.

Zak Sabbath said...


That crappy cleavage cover is eXACTLY an attempt to "code" the art to include people.

That's what you get when you give an artist rules.

Tell them to do whatever they want and pray that one day one of them likes whatever it is that women want--it's the only way to get something with ambisexual appeal AND quality

trollsmyth said...

Oh, come on, Zak, you know art history better than that. Sure, as I writer, I can totally get behind the "leave me alone and let me do what I want" bandwagon, but you can't seriously mean that the ceiling of Sistine Chapel, the Parthenon, nearly everything that Rembrandt did, and nearly all of the surviving art of ancient Egypt is all crap, can you?

Not to mention sonnets and other poetic forms, or, heck, the plays of Shakespeare, each and every one a commercial venture. He even wrote MacBeth to appeal to the new king, fresh from Scotland and with an apparent thing for witches.

Or am I completely misunderstanding your point? Because, right now, it sounds like you're saying any direction ruins art.

velaran said...

@Trollsmyth Becuz ONE of the ONLY TWO figures on the cover is a female warrior, some people will think that is pandering to females? I would say it's probably to pander to GUYS, dude. I mean the legs and Boob Window. I mean, what I see is an attempt at a Hot, maybe human, Chick(I'm not a woman though, see earlier post, I'll ask some dudes and some chicks about it, though.... I'm curious now!) in funky armor pieces waving a large sword standing next to a devil guy(also standing, but looking away towards something) with a tail who's casting a lightning bolt(?) in a cave, for some reason. Doesn't really look exciting, imo. In other words, presence !=Inclusion. It'd be nice to see something different for a change, ya know.

Being this is art from Wayne Reynolds, who illos a lot of Paizo and WOTC stuff, you see this replicated across a lot of books. I personally don't care for his art style, I think it lacks impact, Boob Window or no. I mean, his subjects are staring at the viewer, trying to look all badass in a detached way, with the pic lacking the kinetic feel you used to see in older comic book and RPG art.

Oh, and yes, asking everyone to play, regardless of who they are, and what 'group' could only help. At least it worked for me.(Multiple full tables over the years...) Also, don't act like this is something you have to hide at work, home, and in the 'world', and it will help.

Once again, thanx.

Zak Sabbath said...

Either a work of art is within the range of what an artist would naturally do or it isn't. If it isn't, it's gonna suck.

Egyptian art is a great example:
when artists addressed state-sponsored subjects (kings, queens, gods and other people) they made the same goddamn shit for 3000 years. Maybe you like it maybe you don't but you have to admit it's unbelievably conservative to draw and sculpt basically the same way for 3000 years.

When egyptians they made things that the culture was less worried about and therfore had elss rules about (animals and toy mostly) they show a wondrous variety and personality.

Rules don't automatically hurt art but different artists are going to be able to work with different rules.

If every single RPG artist has to follow some "let's make sure girls know they can play this game" rule, you're going to get a lot of people who could be drawing badass monsters and severed heads and bolt throwers and liches and weaselmen and weeping moons and villages on fire and gnolls and cyborgs drawing whatever this years marketing genius thinks girls want to see.

And to what end? If somebody isn't interested in a dragon biting someone's head off, s/he won't like D&D, so why not put a dragon biting a someone's head off on the cover?

trollsmyth said...

Zak S:Well, sure. I can't write a sonnet to save my life, and anyone who hires Elmore to do art like Otis should have their hands slapped by a fire giant.

And I'm not arguing that all RPG art must appeal to the widest possible audience. Sometimes, your game is specifically targeted at a certain demographic and you'll want art that appeals to that demographic.

But if you want to market to women, banishing cleavage or assuming that hetero women have the same tastes and interests as gay men are two great ways to go about shooting yourself in the foot.

Zak Sabbath said...

Here's my most basic assumption:

Quality is rare.

Quality is vanishingly, painfully, ball-achingly, mind-numbingly, earth-shakingly rare.

Quality is SO rare--especially in the RPG industry where anybody with talent gets shipped out to work in video games, novels, movies or comic books as soon as they show any promise--that any speedbumps to pursuing Quality And Nothing Else At All Costs seems like a pointless distraction.

Even if the goal of that speedbump is an admirable one--like bringing more people into the hobby--it's like asking a crippled dancer to be sure every dance he does includes a kangaroo jump.

The instructions should be: "You wanna dance? THANK GOD! Whatever you can manage will be fine, do your best, you need tits? Sure, take 'em, whatever, just PLEASE MAKE SOMETHING GOOD THIS TIME."

Chris Lowrance said...

Been saying this on Zak's blog, but I didn't know the source of the controversy at the time.

Frankly, I agree with Trollsmyth and think most of you are taking the position presented and carrying it to absolute extremes - and that knee-jerk reaction says something. No one here is saying "All art should be designed by a special commission of Gender Studies grads and marketing experts so as to appeal to women." But, people do need to think about the messages they send with an illustration. Unlike Zak, I don't think this is adding insurmountable difficulty - maybe it's because I'm speaking from an illustration background and can take art direction without feeling like it's ruined my piece.

I do agree with Zak that the best possible thing for women who might want to game are games they want to play, marketed honestly. No arguments there. I fail to see the conflict, though. Just hire an artist for whom what you want to see is what they'd "naturally do."

(Also, I can't let this one go: The idea that marketing games to women is killing the industry is "Men are from Mar, Women are from Venus"-level stupid.)

velaran said...

@ZAK S: artist = crippled dancer. HA! In that case, tits must be the crutch, huh? Let's get some cyborgs up in this bitch, then. Quality IS rare, I agree. But, people can at least competently draw a wide variety of things, some subjects better than others. Maybe some of these 'crippled guys' 'crutches' are awe-inspiring demon lords, bad-ass battles, or breath-taking, alien landscapes, or even my running gag on the subject: gnolls. And they should be on the covers, dude! Cool art and more gamers, of whatever stripe.... The 'big tits babeage' sorta standing around laies don't have to go, but it'd be nice if they made some room for other depictions(and seriously, its fantsy, where are the [especially the cool ones]monsters?.

Anonymous said...

Can I just point out that I've not noticed a lack of female RPG players? Half my group is female, and a lot of girls used to play and hang out with the other gamers when I was at college. Nobody ever complained art was driving them away, and they still don't. I've seen girls get just as bawdy in games as guys do, too. I actually don't see a huge difference in the way they play or what they like. The biggest "kill and loot" gamer in my D&D game is a woman...

Pontifex said...

Zak, you are really undercutting the job of art directors. They don't take cheesecake artists and force them to abandon cheesecake. They just don't hire those artists.

Seems like you have a chip on your shoulder about people telling you whist to draw.

Zak Sabbath said...

@ Greg

Art directors do suck (at least to the degree that they direct), but the real question is whether the art is part of the product or just part of the marketing.

If the art is as much a part of the product as the writing, then I wonder how many people here would be defending the right of the marketing department to tell the game designer what game to write.

If it's not, then, hey, keep expecting mostly shitty artists working for peanuts to illustrate RPGs.

trollsmyth said...

Zak: If the art is as much a part of the product as the writing, then I wonder how many people here would be defending the right of the marketing department to tell the game designer what game to write.

Um... When Monte Cooke was working for WotC, he had to write 3rd edition D&D. If he wanted to write a new iteration of Traveller, he'd have had to quit his job and go work for Mongoose.

So yeah, I'm really not sure what you're trying to say here.

Zak Sabbath said...


If we're considering the corporate-era products of the big publishers as a model for what we should be suggesting people produce then we're obviously not on the same page.

Zak Sabbath said...


Also: Monte played D&D 3 at home ( a lot). (Ptolus proves that). I am 100% sure that any differences between whatever WOTC's marketing people asked for and Monte's House rules were NOT changes for the better.

Are you saying "it;s a commercial reality that sometimes big companies have to produce second-rate product for financial reasons". Sure, totally agree.

Are you saying this results in a product that's just as good as it would've been otherwise? Totally disagree.

velaran said...


Monte Cook: when he worked for WOTC, he was overseen by Johnathon Tweet and Peter Adkinson. The former and him didn't have the same ideas a whole lot. Guess who gave? Was that necessarily good? Depends. When you see the similarities between 3.o and Rolemaster SS(Monte Cook over saw that at ICE), it makes you wonder.

@ZAK S:"If the art is as much a part of the product as the writing, then I wonder how many people here would be defending the right of the marketing department to tell the game designer what game to write." Yeah, problem is, is that the art is considered as a throwaway. I mean, it's just filling up pages. Look at TSR stuff, most of Mayfair(with exception of Underground; the art was integral to its feel.), FASA, Palladium, WEG, etc.... Not how I'd do it, I'd get people who draw like the stuff I got floating around in my head, and/or that I was impressed with after viewing their work.(Love your style, btw) I think that could only help.

Ptolus changes: No doubt they cocked something up, but Cook is too nice to say anything about his formeremployer.(See his blog.)

@greg: the marketers help oversaturate the market by recycling similarities ad nauseaum, and they piss ZAK off. Easy to see why. Tho they're just doing their job.

Clovis Cithog said...

@ Zak

As longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer observed,
“every great movement begins as a cause,
eventually becomes a business,
then degenerates into a racket.”

trollsmyth said...

Zak: I fear we are running up against the ragged edge of politics here. I do not consider setting my hands to the aims of another to be in any way a bad thing. Especially if I can do the job better than they can, and I want to see the totality of our collaboration made real.

Unlike you, I think, I see marketing as part of the project. After all, if nobody knows what we've done, it will never go beyond our small circle. Maybe that's enough, but usually it isn't.

Are you saying that no corporation, whose aim is profit, can produce a first-rate piece of art? If so, why?

Zak Sabbath said...


I'm saying that the corporation and its urge to market the thing can make it the same or make it worse but rarely better.

And since we're talking about tendencies we'd like to see more of, I prefer the direction which will -tend- to produce better work.

There's nothing "wrong" with (your words) "putting your hand to the ends of another", but it is a formula which, in the long run produces less good work then letting the artist be an equal partner in deciding what those "ends" are.

RPG art does not pay well. If the artist gets no freedom either, it's no wonder all the talent migrates to comics, video games, concept art and gallery stuff so quickly. The only nice thing about it is you get a chance to shape the vision of the game. Without that, it's just getting paid peanuts to work in a straitjacket.

Anonymous said...

Zak, your opinion on this would be more believable if it weren't blatantly infected with the view that stuff chicks dig can't include boltthrowers, fighting, skaven or any of the things that make RPGs work. If you really are going to work from that starting point, i.e. the position of not understanding what women want then of course you're going to be a little confused about what effect coding in artwork will have.

Also, your opinion that cosmopolitan covers are only targeted at "puerile" women is really really vacuous. It completely misses Trollsmyth's point, which is that these images are intended to show women that these magazines are for women. The images don't say anything about the puerility or otherwise of the content. If they did, then I could look at the games you play and conclude, "oh wow, Zak S is a really ignorant stupid little shit isn't he?" Because the sorts of images in the OSR and OD&D make Cosmopolitan look positively intellectual.

I've seen your commentary on this issue a few times now and it's always the same - kneejerk defense of artistic freedom and fear that any kind of guidelines for art are the worst form of censorship. You seem like a smart guy and I'm sure you can do better than that.

trollsmyth said...

Zak: Ah, ok, that makes sense. I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree, but I think it's a different-strokes-for-different-folks thing. Occasionally working far outside my comfort zone doesn't always produce great art for that particular project (and has, in fact, resulted in a few notable disasters), but does tend to improve my skills and add techniques or just plain raw knowledge that can be used to do something great later.

Zak Sabbath said...


I am -so- not getting into this with you again. I only do this with people who play fair.


Thanks for playing fair.

trollsmyth said...

Zak: Thank you for playing. Always a pleasure.

opossum101 said...

what about this image?

opossum101 said...

and also I have to ask something: if something is marketed at women does it mean that it is not misogynistic? faustusnotes obviously thinks that cosmo is at the forefront of women liberation movement. bra burning and all. so on the one end we have a guy that DMs for porn actresses (almost steven soderbergh of OSR) and on the other we have a guy that thinks that cosmo (place that is closed to the women of low moral fiber) is the way to go in struggle for liberated womanhood. i have to say that faustusnotes doesn't look like a smart guy.

velaran said...

"if something is marketed at women does it mean that it is not misogynistic?"-Depends on context(especially/luxury/necessity items, I'd say.), of course.

the image-
Larry Elmore's Dragonslayers-and Proud Of It, found on page 7 of AD&D 2nd Edition Player's Handbook. The Elf Archer has bare legs for some reason; freedom of movement for her during rapid maneuvering. The two Fighters are moderately armored, and their legs, especially the woman's on the right(who looks wiped out; maybe she did most of the fighting?) are scratched(hers bleed a little). The Priest? looks a little less than exuberant over killing such a runty Dragon. Treasure Type D or so? Very little, in any event! The bemused mage is a nice touch. Not a big fan of this artist, but a good portrait of the aftermath of a battle. I don't see anything 'exploitative'(except some may object to more Dragonmurder in a genre rife with it[no, seriously]) about the cover; the two women's faces are even noticeably different! It looks like everyone in the group are equals, and good comrades. One of the better Elmore pics of this era.
Good discussion point.