Women, Wow and my take

There’s been a bit of discussion on blogs about women, wow and their representation. I saw this post by Alternative and then Eriny’s feelings. Those posts and the ideas that they raised have been mulling over in my head but then I read Navimie’s ideas and I’ve been mentally writing my thoughts so I wanted to get them out of my head and onto virtual paper so to speak.  Needless to say this post is going to entwine elements from the physical world as well as the virtual world.

The fact that sexism exists in our physical world is undebatable;  I’ve written essays for my Anthropology degree on the universality of thought and as an example I drew on the idea that the majority of cultures worldwide have actions and beliefs that point to the female gender as worth less than the male gender; economically, physically, spiritually. It exists. I’m trying to raise my two sons with the idea that both genders are equal and there is nothing that either gender cannot do. Despite this, I’ve heard the youngest mention ‘girls can’t do that’ or ‘it’s a boy thing’, these are ideas that are coming from our society.  I’m lucky in one way, I’m writing from a western middle-class white perspective. Couple sexism with racism and it becomes a whole different level of oppression. This speech written by Sojourner Truth, 1851 (read  by Alice Walker)  is possibly one of the most powerful speechs I’ve heard.

However, linking this with Wow; World of Warcraft is written in one way to mimic our physical life. There are references to the physical world all over the game, read this blog to see what I mean. The fact that we get so much delight from finding these references show that the majority of us like our physical and virtual worlds being linked in some way. So it’s not surprising that attitudes from our physical world spill into our virtual. I mean the people who write and develop our game are humans who spend some of their time in the physical world, it’s going to rub off.

I’ve raised my eyebrows at models and dress of women in wow, characters and NPC’s but I’ve been guilty of showing virtual flesh on my toons  and if I could dress my character like Tyrande I probably would. With games that give more control over character design I usually chose a toon that is petite in size. What gets murky is trying to unravel whether I find this representation and shape of toon body shape aesthetically pleasing because I’ve been conditioned by society to see that form as attractive. But it’s not all one-sided;  I doubt that all the male players who chose a burly muscled, 6-pack toteing toon are that shape in the physical world; so if we are going to point at stereotypes being recreated in our virtual games; both sides of the argument have to be looked at, not just the female perspective.

In my opinion there is a massive representation of females in wows; there are many female quest givers, our most visible interaction with wow npc’s. I don’t think I’ve ever gone through a zone and wondered where the women are.  Off the top of my head – women in high places; Sylvanas, Jaina, Tyrande, Vareesa, Shandris Feathermoon, Liadrin, Elune (a female deity);  women being portrayed as both good and evil, Magatha, Moira; women bosses; Whitemane, Jandice Barov, Freya, Onxiya, Shek’zeer, Vashj, Azshara. There are countless others. As to whether the representations are sexist, I think depends on your view-point and how hard you want to analyse it. I think the fact that the world of Azeroth does draw so many of its elements from our physical one that it would be hard not to use the same thinking we turn to our physical world on our virtual one.  However, I think if you are going to do so, both sides need to be looked at  – both male and female perspectives. There are plenty of quests and examples of male npc’s being portrayed as inadequate, incompetent and downright crazy and these are not usually highlighted as a bad representation or seen as a sexist portrayal of maleness.

Navimie made this comment “There is no right way to put women in the game, without upsetting SOMEBODY” and I think this is at the crux at it. If women were only portrayed in one light; i.e as strong ruthless leaders without families then people who want to see a more human face to the characters would be upset. The way I see it is, Wow is trying to strike a balance, there are women npcs in strong roles, there are ones in family roles. They are there in sexy attractive roles (twin consorts)  as well as not meeting the traditional stereotype of a woman (Therazane) But ultimately they are there in all their virtual humanness.


5 thoughts on “Women, Wow and my take

  1. Yes. So much this.
    I have so many thoughts but I’m not going to clog up your blog with my rambling. The key thing I wanted to point out though was this:
    Sure there may not be as many women in the game as men. But there ARE women in the game, and I am yet to come across any situation – quests being give or raid or anything – where a male character in the game has said “I will not do what you say because you are a woman and your opinion is invalid.” I actually believe that WoW shows an excellent example of equality in that men and women interact together on a daily basis and are judged by their merits, not by their gender.

    I thought this post you linked (http://frostwolves.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/women-in-wow-is-there-right-way-to-do-it.html) was awesome and made some really great points.

    The last thing I want to say – people that have issues with the skimpy clothing that is available in game – if you don’t like it, transmog it. The functionality is there – you don’t have to wear that gear if you don’t want to. But some people like it (including myself).

    Anyway, that’s just a couple of my rants. Great post, Z 🙂

  2. 🙂 you can clog up the blog, its good discussion lol. I’m glad you liked the post. It’s really such a personal opinion what one defines as sexist/offensive so I wasn’t sure if it would resonate with anyone but me. 🙂

  3. I’m late to the party!

    1. One thing that makes me uncomfortable is that in multiple expansions, nonplayable races will often exclude female models (or not give them updates like they do for male models). There are exceptions, but most of the races that have been added into the world (like Tol’vir, ogres, grummies, Yuangol, the walrus guys, etc.) supposedly have females, but you never see ’em. Mogu didn’t have female models until the Twin Consorts came along. Taunka males got new, fancy models, but the females just use the old Tauren model. It just weirds me out. I’d like them to make the females first someday, just because they haven’t yet. I’m not saying they need to make Amazons or anything – just, for Gawd’s sake, make some female models for nonplayable races first, please? (The races that do have females that pop into my head: Vry’kul, Naga, whatever Therazane and her daughter are, nymphs …)

    2.) I want equal opportunity sexy. Women can wear platekini? Great, fine, good. I’m working on platekini transmog outfits myself. But men just don’t have the same assortment of options, and that smells of Western sexual standards to me. If women can wear metal panties, then men should be able to as well. If I want to dress up a guy a la 300 and send him in to fight Lei Shen, why is it I can’t do that? Every time I mention this to a guy, the answer is regularly “EWWWWWWWW.” Seems to me they’re catering to average straight male sexuality and not necessarily anything else. Do they have to? No, but it’d be awesome if they added more skimpy crap for guys anyway.

    3. I sometimes feel concerned that Therazane and her daughter are, in a way, also illustrative of Western straight male sexual norms. That is, if you aren’t sexy or cute, you’re terrifying (Therazane) or a fat joke (her daughter in Maraudon, who regularly inspires comments about how she shouldn’t be wearing that, makes players feel like they’re going to puke, etc.).

    • Hi 🙂 better late than never 🙂
      I do hear what you are saying, it’s great that women are definately included in wow but there probably is still room for improvement. I think there is a variety of styles in the way women are represnted, you do have uber sexy like sylvanas but also characters like Amber Kearnen the SI:7 spy; she’s dressed head to toe and sports an eyepatch.

      On the male transmog, I’ll have to see if I can get a screenshot of a spriest I know. He’s got his male human dressed in a little vest and basically wooly undies. It looks very barbarian style.

      • Yep, the closest males can get to skimpy is exactly what you describe in cloth (and leather, I believe the Warbear woolies + various strappy tops are also skimpy on males), but there’s no plate equivalent. D: They just have much, much much less choice when it comes to showing off the six pack, shall we say.

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