Sunday, June 30, 2013

Women in WoW - is there a right way to do it?

Navimie over at the Daily Frostwolf wrote on this topic (if you haven't read it check the post out here) and its a really good article.

But I had some disagreements of my own I wanted to comment about.  Usually I would leave a comment on the blog but these aren't really clear cut.  Not just objections but objections*.  So like Genie I need to ramble a bit and get it clarified so here we go..

Aladdin: You're gonna grant me any 3 wishes I want, right? 
Genie: [imitating William F. Buckley] Uh, ah, almost. There are a few, uh, provisos. Ah, a couple of quid pro quo.

She asks what I want to look like in a fantasy game and the answer is a believable character.  Now that doesn't mean it has to be sexy or not.

But the most aggrivating thing to me is is "If the whole online world was populated by less than attractive females would people want to play?"

Nerd Rage!
Who says its a female character's job to try and get you to play a game by how she looks?  The answer is the same internet that doesn't testmarket video games to female players because 46% of gamers being female doesn't mean they have a voice yet.  The same Internet that objectifies women and idealizes men and their place in stories.  This isnt the main thrust of her article but this aside is symbolic of the probematic place female character are out into.  They don't stand in a stance of power or authority but one that shows off their sexual attributes to the viewer.  I'm not even talk about those awful Team Ninja games but look at the art for the game remember me.

Which screams more to me 'Remember my ass in tight jeans' than 'I kick ass'.  Grrrrrr.

"Deep down, almost everyone wants to look good, even though we do accept ourselves and others the way they are, or are proud of the way we look."

That is a line filled with image issue problems that are at the core of why we need different body types.  It begins from the assumption that you aren't beautiful even if your proud of how you look and accept yourself. That is the kind of message that barbies give.  When a movie has nothing but size zero models as 'common people'.  letting a game inform you of how the human race should look is a really bad idea.  Its one reason I refuse to play games that only have white skinned 'good' guys and black skinned 'bad' guys (RIFT when I beta tested it was one such game).

So how would adding variety 'hurt' ones ability to have pretty characters?  It wouldn't at all.  Star Trek Online you can make your character look like a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  To a more limited degree in Neverwinter Online and Star Wars the Old Republic but those last two games made sure to include a 'thick' character model.  They don't have people (nontrolls) crying about this ugly universe they live in.

I make my characters look good too even if they have 'alternative' (to a human) body types.  why shouldn't I?   Why does their body type affect their fashion sense or lack of it?  It isn't just about it being a fantasy game where your the hero but the fact your in a chain mail bikini when the guy next to you is in full plate.  It leaves fantasy rules behind and just becomes silly.

Lady Deathwhisperer
Blood-Queen Lana'thel
Why should sexyness be determined by its gender?  Why should it be the burden of a female character to have to look good?  That's as foolish as saying video games cause people to go on murder sprees.  Its an aspect of culture not the entirety of it.

Ulgyness in this game is code for being evil generally.  In part because pretty is the standard model and anything that deviates needs to be hand made.  They want the boss to be different from the player so in comes the ugly.  Its a fault in the game engine and its age.  It likely cant be easily fixed so the best idea would be to minimize the way that filters through into what they do.
Gruul the Dragonkiller
Going to the other extreme of trying to say we want to beat up on pretty people is a Fox News / Trade Troll  kind of argument.  Variety and needing it in body types isn't the same as 'OMG you hate pretty people!'  any more than gay marriage causing republicans to have sex with animals like they keep sayign they will end up doing.

Gnome Monk
Dwarf Paladin
I do want my female characters to look good but they can look good without having to cling to barbie standards to beauty.  That said I do find it interesting I'm more comfortable with my nonhumans being in skimpier clothing.  Because I feel if my female humans (or near like elves) dress too skimpily they are 'dressing like whores'.  Which isn't true of course.  Showing off some skin and having fun doing it is perfectly fine.  I juts know too well the cancerous sexism that is out there and can contaminate any healthy fun.

I also have strong memories of being forced to dress trashy by Blizzard on my warrior and priest and HATING the feeling of the comments I got because of it.  but now we have a choice.  We can dress skimpily if we feel like it or more conservatively.  One of the first things I did on my priest was to dress in my Devout gear and never look back.

Blood Elf Warrior
Night Elf Priest
And that's where to some degree both sides of the argument break down.  It is no longer tied into game mechanics to look sexy (though you could argue the gold cost counts I think its small enough it has minimal impact).  if the player is choosing to look like a sexy girl on a night out on the town rather than someone with serious interest in saving the world that's their choice.  But they should be aware of the image they project and the negative impact it can have.

We do have the power.  But do we always the the responsability?  To be true to ourselves and to our hobby yes we do.  But that's a hard point for me because if someone were to tell me what I had to wear id get my back up just as fas as when Blizzard told me I had to look like I came from a lingerie catalog and mocked me for wanting to play "World of Dollcraft".

There are very few women to look up to that aren't revolving around men.  Even Jaina was made a leader because a man said so removing her leadership because of another man and was made into another stupid 'fated' romance girlfriend.

I like Magatha Grimtotem because she has always been a complex character.  Not very original in starting off her 'oh shes bad' path by saying she married her husband and then killed him off of course.  Personally I want to see a situation where she isnt redeemed but becomes more neutral like she was.  We need more jerks to hate that we dont draw a blade and kill (Poor Staghelm).

Sylvanas was obsessed with how a man defiled her and her people.  Shes grown in spurts but she normally doesn't pass the Bechel Test and they put her in the sex wear they came up with for the sexy dragon women.

Lady Sylvanas
Garona is a minor character that again has male written all over her.  Despite that I do like her shes just a flat stereotype right now but she could be so much more.  But her role on the Warcraft story has boiled down to giving a few quests and like Sylvanas not being there when her revenge happens.

Old Model
Ty...oh I used to like you.  Tyrande started out badass in WC3, wimpified in the books (but it was thousands of years ago so she grew strong ok I can dig it) and then wimpified again in Stormrage and the Warcraft game.  her leader store was less abotu her than about her and Malfurion.  She needs to kick him to the curb (what the hell is the Druid leader doing ignoring the druids to hang out in the temple where he has no place in the rituals anyway).  of special not she got made even super sexier and not combat capable looking while he gets to look like an ugly bird animal hybrid thing cause its ok for strong guys to look like that.  This is the same Mal who told her to Hush and has been galivanting around with the Cataclysm being the Night Elf's leader while she stayed at home and was hoping to have kids.  At least in MoP she got a scenario where they let her out of the tree.  Not really progress.

Aysa Cloudsinger after the Pandaren starting area has her job done.  She sits and meditates while the events unfold around her passively letting the human king handle everything like leading her people.  Id expeced more Rp with the 'factional' Pandaren and the neutral ones but nope not at all.  its a big failure because she could be so much more.  Another failure is that her main plot is the friend-wants-to-be-her-boyfriend-goes-horde guy.

One standout to me is Amber Kearnen from SL:7.  Shes one of the elite spys set to guard Prince Anduin at the start of Pandaria.  Through its story she works against the horde, is loyal to the King and her friends, and has a somewhat realistic personality.  Like Garona she needs more depth but her role isn't tied to her being a woman like the half-ord/draenei's is.  Amber could be a male and be just as believable - and I want more like her.  Even Sky Admiral Rogers (though more of a steriotypical man with boobs) is a welcome relief though knowing Bliz I'm just waiting to find out shes seeking revenge over her husband or children..

It is very difficult to cross gender lines the way they are drawn now for role models.  Strong women are a 'Bitch' to many guys with ingrained misogyny reinforced by games and their environments.  Young men taught to think of them as sex objects or family members.  (ref here)

Women aren't encouraged to be too much like a man because that's not sexy/femmine.  You dont want to be unpopular for being too much like a tom boy.  Since women with power (too masculine) get punished (Jaina, et all) why would you want to be?

This needs to change and is changing in the real world but games are time capsules of when their made more or less.  But so are their developers.  The attitude of the male dev team at Blizzard is very much a stale room and a bit of fresh attitude could not only add to the flow of ideas here but in general.  Theres a reason the romance in Star Wars 4-6 worked and 1-3 didnt.

People don't like oppression or abuse in general.  Games use the oh so helpless princess abused / killed to raise the stakes because obviously the woman cant help herself.  Its awful storytelling and very sexist.  The most awful experience in game I've had was in Westfall with the poor there - that had nothing to do with the victims sex.  Of course it was worse with how Blizzard tried to play famine for laughs.

Writers write what they know - so do writers in games.If they writers can only imagine women who've lost a necklace talking about it vs a Male Guard captain fighting murlocks then that's what we get.  I don't think women in Warcraft are 'staying home with the babies' because in this fantasy world there isn't the same level of pressure to do that.

I'm going to pick on what she wrote very closely here because I feel very passionate abut it.

"Female gamers may not look at being a home mum as being something to look up to, but there are plenty of women out there who enjoy being the homemaker and vigorously defend their chosen courses."

That's kind of a poison assumption because its just as likely they do and there is nothing wrong with a single Father.

"So it doesn't surprise me that you don't see as many female leaders in game as males -"

It does me.  None of the races in game have any bias towards male leaders expressed in the lore of the game.  Well maybie humans but just because the only rulers of the handful of kingdoms we have seen happened to be male doesnt mean that Wyrnn's grandmother wasn't more in charge.  You cant say its a fantasy you want to have things idea in and then say it has to be flawed to cause it has to be reality.

"In real life, people still talk about the lack of female CEOs and their paypackets lagging behind the men,"

Because it does, badly.  For no goddess damned reason as to why.

"but sometimes the ones who get the jobs are the ones who put in the long hours, hard yards,"

*Blows a whistle*  Im putting a flag on that play.  Your ASSUMING that women are more lazy than men that's why they get paid less?  Oh hell no!  Especially not after saying how hard women work to juggle things and feel guilty about not doing more.  IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT.

"and let's face it, many women don't want to do that."

About the same as men.  Funny how that works.  Or how it works when your free of guessing Women just don't want those icky man jobs so they should get paid less cause after all they might have kids.

"- and there is NOTHING wrong with that."

There is everything wrong with that statement.  The built in ideas about how the sexes 'really work' are awful and go against every anecdotal experience I've had and respectable study I've seen.  The reason is baked in sexism.

"The General Manager of one of the hospitals I work at is a woman."

This is the part where in order to hold up the merits of comments we get the "I know one so it is true'.  The "i met a gay woman who wanted to break up marrages so all gay women are like that" kind of argument.  or "My black friend says there's no racism in the south so its ok to repeal antiracism laws".

"There are many heads of department who are women. And look at the game - I know a number of women who are guild leaders, raid leaders. There is no right way to put women in the game, without upsetting SOMEBODY."

Sure there is.  Do it.  Someone might be upset, someone is always upset, but that is not justification for not doing the right thing.  Even though I dislike the Sky Admiral shes a step in the right direction.  but shes a baby step and we need them to do more.  The can do more.  they should.  I believe eventually they will.  When they break out of the testosterone.

"To end this post, I am going to put this which I will probably be chastised over..."

I will not repost that image on my blog.

Its funny in a haha and a very sad way.  Because of the baked in sexism and mocking of women.  It can be taken as a joke pointing out how they never cover problems with sexism in other jobs just the flashier ones cause were so obessed with the rich...and their far more likely to be able to afford to sue...but I'm sure many will take it in a literal way that women don't want the common jobs men have how superior men are to these lazy women who just want the best jobs.


And now kitties as I say my final bit.

When I read Navime's words On the one hand I really wanted to say ... things.  On the other hand I really like Navi and I was worried I would say something to make her mad.

It was hard to chose but I had to say something so I asked Navi if I could reply directly to her on my blog and she said I could.

Its so easy to pick at what other people say - even easier when you strongly disagree with them.  Its why poloticians and public figures often say nothing.  I'm hoping I managed to blunt my words so their less of an attack upon her and more upon how and what she was saying.

One thing is we all love the game and want it to improve...and we all want this to become a better world.

The way we do this is by talking, disagreeing, listening, and working forward into the future.

Because in the end we're all in this together.

Have a great day.


  1. Hey Nightweill :) My post was always going to create stirs. It is something that people feel passionate about and I never would take offence just because we disagree. Besides, you didn't call me any nasty names, so it's all good. I will try to make this reply short!

    Everyone who is a feminist has stood strongly against what I have said. As a strong female who works in an position of power I only speak from my perspective - medicine is forward thinking. Business and finance, are not. I get annoyed when I see females who EXPECT things because they are female but don't put in the same work as a male of equal standing - they are not the norm, but they do exist. Pretending they don't and assuming EVERYONE is a feminist in the correct sense of the word is naive.

    What I believe in is that every woman has a choice. Every PERSON has a choice. And whether they choose to be a weak or strong, a leader or a follower, a CEO or a waitress, is what I believe is the goal of feminism - for choice is the greatest freedom of all.