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

Women in WoW is a topic that seems to go around every time there is a new female model.  Godmother raised it again, and Erinys wrote a response, both of which inspire and fire my mind into action yet again.

Certain comments stand out from each of my friends with their thought provoking posts.
Ultimately, the way women are portrayed in games has less to do with what women actually look like (and by that I mean all the beautiful body shapes that exist and not the narrow band certain sectors of the media decide are desirable) and more to do with the notion of what some men THINK women look like.

But in a fantasy game what do YOU want to look like?  If the whole online world was populated by less than attractive females would people want to play?  Why do female players, make their toons look beautiful when we want to accept people to look less than beautiful?  Shoudn't we then, be setting our own examples?

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.  I am by no means a beauty and I take no pride in my physical appearance, but I do like to make  my character look pretty - I put nice clothes on her and make her weapons match her outfits or mounts.  In a fantasy game, you want everything to look good because that is the core of what this is - a fantasy game.  A fantasy game where you are a hero, you are strong, you save lives, you are attractive and athletic,

Should we make bosses ugly? Does this mean that it's ok to beat up on people because they look ugly, or that all ugly things are monster? Should we make more bosses female?  Are we then teaching kids it's ok to beat up on women?  Should we make all of our toons look less than beautiful and all the bosses beautiful and the make it a crime to be attractive and beautiful - ie "OMG she's so attractive let's kick the crap out of her right now, how dare she be beautiful!"

Perhaps it is churlish of me, but I admire females who play the non "beautiful" races.  And before anyone starts to slag me off about "how dare you say this class is not beautiful" - what I'm trying to say is that races such as Pandaren, Tauren, Dwarf, Troll, Orc are less classically beautiful (they don't look like sex-sticks when they're wearing things like Robes of the Guardian Saint) but that's not to say they are not beautiful races.  Seeing female players with blood elves, humans, draenei, or night elves running around in plate bikinis and skimpy outfits and then telling me that "we shouldn't project this image of women as sex objects", feels like a double standard to me.  Godmother and Erinys are not one of those people, fortunately, nor is Applecidermage.  Godmother said:
...It's up to us, folks, we have the power, especially in this Community...
and the change can't just start with the developers and designers.  We have to be part of that change too.

Erinys was looking at WoW saying that there are very few women to look up to - everyone seems to be dead (eg Mankrik's wife), off having babies (eg Aggra), or twisted by the machinations of males (eg. Keristrazsa)
I look at WoW and the closest images there are to my female role models are Magatha Grimtotem, a minor but compelling villain, one who might not reappear in the narrative at all and Therazane who does very little in terms of plot. As for the rest, it’s dead, dying or having babies. I’m not stamping my tiny feet and demanding that women take over the World of Warcraft, far from it but having one or two female characters written in such a way that the women playing this game could take inspiration from them isn’t much to ask.
Erinys is obviously alliance - Magatha orchestrated the murder of MY faction leader!  A compelling, sly villain - it was hard enough helping her in Thousand needles.  However, unlike Erinys there are many women that I think are great role models for my daughter, with lots of parts to play and a lot to interact with!  In fact, I admire more females than I do males! 

Sylvanas Windrunner - yes she's sexy, but her story is so tragic and she's doing what she's doing for the sake of her race - raiding more Forsaken to preserve her race.  Ok, fundamentally that's kinda FLAWED, but I really admire Sylvanas.  Leader, twisted, tortured, noble.  But that's just my opinion.

Garona Halforcen - Roshii's hero (and Roshii's a guy)!  Garona the half-orc, half draenei was a master assassin, and was responsible for the assassination of her friend, King Llane (she was under the influence of Gul'dan's magic) .  She had a son with Medivh, against whom she eventually turned.  We see her in Twilight Highlands giving out quests enlisting our help to fight the Twilight Hammer and Cho'gall.

Tyrande Whisperwind - I'm not alliance, but you see so much of her and her involvement in the Mount Hyjal and the Well of Eternity.  Strong, powerful, compassionate and partnered to the great druid Malfurion Stormrage (GAWD THAT BEARD FFS SHAVE IT OFF), I would have thought she would be a great role model.  I don't like her voice, personally, but it might be just her dialogue in the Well of Eternity where she is yelling that she is out of arrows... I do like her dress though.

Aysa Cloudsinger - she's so ANTI Horde, but I admire her anyway.  She is the leader of the Tushui pandaren.  The way of the Tushui is one of a principled life and followers of this discipline believe there is a moral certainty to the world: one correct path of right and wrong, and she will defend what is right above all else.  Aysa is rigid, determined and refined, and believes that success in any endeavour never justifies dishonourable deeds.

And on a side note, why can't men be role models for women?  And women be role models for men?

I know that people don't like the oppression, abuse of women, and don't like seeing it in game.  It is all too common that defining bad guys in WoW means they either enslave women, mistreat them, twist them into something evil - but maybe this game is trying to tell us that if you do that stuff, it's BAD.  And people will come get you and deal with you and you will get your just dekgsserts.  Some might say, why even have these scenarios of mistreated women at all?  Maybe, because if we didn't include them, then people might say that we don't include enough women in the game, or that we are denying that abuse of women exist.  Why can't we have more women heroes and leaders?  It comes down to women themselves - women feel responsible for having to look after the family.  They are constantly guilt tripped saying they shouldn't leave their families to go pursue power, promotion and success because children "always need their mother".  So maybe WoW is just reflecting real life too - the women are at home looking after the children, and not out and about where the action is.  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.

So it doesn't surprise me that you don't see as many female leaders in game as males - but there are still many female leaders!  In real life, people still talk about the lack of female CEOs and their paypackets lagging behind the men, but sometimes the ones who get the jobs are the ones who put in the long hours, hard yards, and let's face it, many women don't want to do that.  They want to stay at home with their families - and there is NOTHING wrong with that.  In my world, the medical world, you see just as many successful women as you do men.  Perhaps it's because the medical world is something that is much less sexist than the corporate world.

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

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


  1. "In real life, people still talk about the lack of female CEOs and their paypackets lagging behind the men, but sometimes the ones who get the jobs are the ones who put in the long hours, hard yards, and let's face it, many women don't want to do that. They want to stay at home with their families - and there is NOTHING wrong with that. In my world, the medical world, you see just as many successful women as you do men. Perhaps it's because the medical world is something that is much less sexist than the corporate world."

    I feel this is a little contradictory. There's the idea that women don't want to put in the necessary hours so they don't get promoted to CEO or what have you... But isn't it safe to say that you have to put a great number of hours into advancing through the medical profession, so those women who are department heads and general managers in hospitals have presumably put in the time and effort to earn those places? That would suggest the women do put in time and effort proportionate to men and that, yes, the difference in representation might be down to the fact that the medical world is less sexist and therefore less hindering to careerwomen than the business world.

    Regarding your paragraph starting "should we make bosses ugly", I feel it's aaaall about variety. Correlations between particular traits and their moral alignments are what lead a game (or any narrative, really!) to suggest that certain people "deserve" beatings for those traits. If you have a wide range of looks and personalities making up the boss roster, you remove that problem altogether. Well, up to the more general "violence in video games: yay or nay?" debate.

    1. Hi Nyx :) and thanks for the insightful comment.
      I did say "sometimes" and "many" because clearly not all women don't want to put in the necessary hours, but some do. If you went out and told every stay at home mum that they must now go and work long hours and the men would stay at home I am sure a number of them would baulk at the idea (though staying at home is way more tiring imo - I would much rather go to work). Women have more pressure from family which is a society wide thing concerning family and instilling feelings of guilt in females for not staying at home with the family. The medical profession is quite forward thinking in my opinion as hard work pays off (as well as a bit of personality and charisma).
      You're right about the variety of bosses to beat up. That would avoid the stereotypes.

    2. In my experience, women tend to seek more "meaning" in their work than men, and that's a great thing. Many women I know don't value their (ordinary) job that much but are more into social interaction and helping society in a charitable way. Something you can't really do when you're aiming for a topshot position in economy since you just don't have the time and/or mental resources for it.

      Maybe having more women in medical top-positions is because they can identify with medicine much more than say oildrilling?

  2. Well said, Navi. I agreed with what the Godmother and Erinys said, too -- but I particularly appreciate your perspective. :)

    1. It's just a different perspective though I do appreciate what my friends said as well. That Erinys.. I will have to tease her that she not only SPITS on horde, but now murderers of horde leaders are her heroes as well? Bloodthirsty!

  3. I can't help thinking of our first female prime minister (even though she wasn't technically selected by the people) she was still the first female to sit in that role. For a lot of women (even though she wasn't terribly liked) could still be a role model for women and has helped pave the way for more females to strive for those top jobs.

    1. Hey cym :) that's a good way to remember it on that historic day of rudd taking back leadership of the failing labor party.

  4. I think Nyx has it encapsulated perfectly. The point that the Godmother and Erinys (and all the feminist blog posters really) are making is that we need variety. Variety in body shapes, variety in gender models (for npc races) variety in gender representation at all levels of society, variety in villain motivations, variety in boss looks/gender, etc. Blizz does some of this well, like the guards around faction outposts are equally split between male and female. But there is still a ways to go.

    With more variety in all these areas it becomes easier for people, especially children, to learn to accept that variety is normal, is good, and is healthy. Without it, they learn (or are conditioned) that certain body types are better than others, that certain positions of power or types of work are restricted to one gender, that certain physical attributes help define goodness or evilness.

    As for your last image....well, I would say that was something created by anti-feminist people who have no idea what they are talking about. I doubt any feminist would agree that there isn't a problem with the representation of women in those industries, but the fact is that those industries are less appealing to women than they are to men. The main problem with those industries would be the "boy's club" atmosphere that makes it difficult for women to be taken seriously. And to be honest, while the problem exists, it is not nearly important enough to divert finite resources to fight right now, when those resources could be used to fight for better equality in the business/law/science/political world, where a LOT more women work. To paraphrase someone famous, "To defend everywhere is to lose everything." Taking shots at feminists for picking their battles is pretty low, imo.

    1. Your second paragraph is very true Dah. It is very quotable!

      The last image serves to remind me that there are true feminists and there are bandwagon feminists. There are women who drive me crazy with their demands of equal opportunity yet, will use their sex as an excuse for being weak, for extra concessions, and then tell me they are equal to a man. For goodness sake if you really truly believe that men and women are equal then you would ask your male partner to give up his work and stay at home so you can work, and you should not be afraid to ask.

      I want my daughter to grow up knowing that there is no difference in the ability of a man or a woman in terms of intellect or dexterity, and if she really truly wants something, she has to work for it. And I am sure that because her mum grew up that way, she will too.

    2. Very true, situational or bandwagon feminists really do suck, and serve to undermine and confuse many young people.

      Being a great role model for the ones you raise is the greatest fight you can win!

  5. I agree with everything you've said. Personally, I think I could physically look worse, and I'm relatively proud of myself, but that doesn't mean that I want to look like ME in a game. I'm not playing me. I'm playing a character.
    But either way, I do think it is a LITTLE unfair that all the women are sexy, slender and so forth. BUT! And it's a big one: when was the last time you saw a fat male character in a game? Sticking exclusively to WoW, there isn't one. Every single character and NPC are supposedly physically attractive. It's not just the women. A lot of women playing skinny Night Elves are obese, just the same as a lot of men playing buff Blood Elves are.

    But one thing I think that is overlooked when looking at game models is this: they're fit. They're in shape. This isn't to say that soldiers and warriors in real life can't be fat, but it's far more likely that the ones moving about and actually getting right in the face of the enemy will be in better shape than a baker. No offence bakers. They're phyiscally attractive because they're phyiscally fit.

    I actually think WoW has done an amazing job with female leaders. A serious pet peeve of mine are female protagonists that are too male or too female - meaning too butch or too ditsy, ie damsel in distress. It's very difficult to make a female character - protagonist or leader - and have her be strong but still feminine. Sylvanas and Tyrande are quite different from one another, but neither of them let their boobs or their power get in their way. They are each strong individuals, physically, and as far as personalities go, without being too butch or too feminine.

    I also think that the Pandaren females, physically, are great. Okay, so they don't have bellies quite as big as the males - but you can't look at them and say they're skinny. They are actually panda-like. They have a good layer of fat on them, which they should well have, being pandas, and all. This does go slightly against the whole "fit" idea I was preaching about earlier, but at the same time, y'know, they're more animal-like than human (at least as far as our world sees it), and for some creatures, a layer of fat IS healthy.

    It WOULD be really nice to see some true female villains, but female villains just don't happen as much. In just about any film, book or game, the villain is male. Look at our world. Look at the villains we've seen in our history. Most of those were men, too. And while I agree that most female bad guys have been twisted by men, a lot of men have been twisted by other men, too. Illidan was a product of Sargeras, as was Gul'dan, as was the Lich King. Men are just suggested as being stronger than women.

    Bottom line (and cutting off this major essay of a 'comment'), I'm not personally bothered by the way females are represented in World of Warcraft. I think Blizzard have done a great job with them. I would LOVE to see a female villain, a TRUE female villain, but at the same time, it would probably upset this game, given that there aren't any in the lore aside perhaps from Azshara, who, like Illidan, had been twisted by Sargeras, and was a little more content to look in a mirror all day long.

    1. Thank you for visiting and for that really insightful comment Daeaye! I think of all games, Blizzard has done a good job with females in general, and I don't TRULY need to see a villianous female for me to wish the game was more diverse. How do you write a true female villain - and to keep the feminists happy, write it in a way where she is not the product of machinations by a man?

      But you never know - maybe there will be a whole new lore section in the future on some female dominated race and maybe then people will be happier.

    2. "when was the last time you saw a fat male character in a game?"

      Let's hear it for MARIO! I know when I'm feeling at my most couch potatoest, I can identify with a fat plumber finding the energy to go out and accomplish something.

      I know I don't fit profiles. My WoW alts are always female. My prefered races have been dwarf and gnome while if I were to select a race to my IRL build, it might be Male Draenei?

  6. Always an engaging conversation, Navi, and once again, I take it completely left-field: http://wowsugar.blogspot.com/2013/06/editorial-shamans-body-image-blood-and.html

    Seriously - every person on this planet needs to watch Cat Park.

    1. Thanks for the read Matty! How did I miss that one... you and your multi posts in a day!

  7. I have to admit I have discounted Sylvanas and Tyrande at least in their recent storyline lines because they've become almost Victorian in their portrayal. Sylvanas tries to kill herself because her raison d'etre (the man who brutalized and abused her) is dead and is only saved by the sacrifice of another woman. Tyrande hasn't smited Malfurion all the way back to the Emerald Dream despite him telling her to "hush" and appears to be taking a backseat until she has to be told by Varian of all people that she's trying to be too hasty...(in a certain scenario).

    Whereas Magetha is my Grandmother in a Tauren suit which is clearly awesome :p

    Ultimately it comes down to storytelling and I do feel that there are definite gaps in the narrative.

    1. I know it's hard to find a woman who has not had their history shaped by a man, but we cannot find our strengths without some adversity. No woman is an island, and having a woman who's path has been untouched by a man means she is either Diana/Wonder Woman or some other amazon. Half our parentage comes from a male, whether they are present or not (and if they are not present then the abandonment by a man is still going to shape their future).

      Sylvanas is not killing herself because of a man per se, more because the object of her revenge has gone, leaving her life without purpose. I admire her because she came back for her race, the Forsaken, a dying race, reviled by all as an abomination yet their lives are deemed worthless because it is stolen life and everyone thinks it's OK to sacrifice the ones who had a second chance at life without embracing it for the miracle it really is, and the opportunity for a second chance that you thought you would not have.

      That you find that old cow Magetha (who is definitely a character) is really admirable, and I have to applaud you for that Erinys :) Especially for an alliance - though as I said before, she killed a horde leader so you might think that's OK but in my eyes she's a traitor, murderer, schemer! /cries over Cairne's memory

      Tyrande annoys me. I enjoy killing her in Darnassus. But I was thinking she might be someone Alliance might admire.

    2. Though I am not well versed in lore past Pandaria, I think the issue with Sylvanas is that her entire character, until then, revolved around one man. He killed her, he raised her, she wanted revenge, and now he's gone (and she had only a supporting role in his death), so it represented a time when Sylvanas' character could have shown development and growth, but instead she (so far as I can tell) just went into a spiral because she'd lost her purpose, rather than creating a new one for herself. Self-starting characters create their own purpose (as you pointed out, what she has is miraculous)...we could say the same of Arthas, who was turned to the Lich King, and decided for himself "Well, if I am dead, I might as well take over the world."

  8. "So maybe WoW is just reflecting real life too - the women are at home looking after the children, and not out and about where the action is."

    But if you look at pretty much any group of NPCs in the game other than bosses, you see a 50/50 mix of males and females (assuming Blizzard has bothered to create a female model for that race). Stormwind guards, airship captains, cultist cannon fodder, fleeing peasants, class trainers - again and again we see no bias. It's only at the top, where sex is determined by Metzen's folks instead of a software tool or what have you, that we see a sudden swing to a heavily male world. Several possible reasons for this, but I don't think any of them reflect well on Blizzard's top people.

    As for any of them being role models, at this point Blizzard's writing has gotten so sloppy and so inconsistent from expansion to expansion that I can't even see them as characters anymore. Tyrande's and Garrosh's personalities whip from one side of the spectrum to the other, and back again. Have you seen that, as of 5.4, Magatha is no longer responsible for Cairne's death? If they can't be bothered, then I can't either anymore. Which is sad.

    1. Hopefully things change in the future - OMG it's more than a year before I noticed this reply, sorry Ratters!

  9. /applause

    There have been occasional female instance bosses --Svala Sorrowgrave in Utgarde Pinnacle, Commander Sarannis in Botanica and Lillian Voss in (revised) Scholomance come to mind-- but yes, they've been outnumbered by men.

    And I don't think that's an accident, either.

    It might not be intentional, but the devs' biases are showing. And Jaina's activity in Mists --as well as the Aspects in Cata-- don't really balance this out. Well, there's the writing too, which Ratters covered in his comment, and there's also the issues with "Heroes!" this and "Champions!" that.

    Still, my opinion on what makes an attractive woman is different than other people, but WoW really locks in the form factor completely based on the race. A pudgy or voluptuous Blood Elf? Not happening. Which is a shame.

    1. Hey I play tauren. I think she's gorgeous and amazing. And they are outnumbered but I don't think things should be balanced on just numbers, but just figures we can identify with. Again sorry for the OMG late reply here Redbeard!

  10. I am really impressed with the post here.Magatha Grimtotem is my family roll model.
    Female models


Post a Comment

I hope these comments work! Not sure why people can't comment lately, it makes me sad :(