Now that the dust has settled - My thoughts (and a collection of everyone else's) on females in WoD

It is dangerous ground to tread when you talk about women in World of Warcraft.  You never know which side of the line the person you are talking to is standing on. I think that no matter which side of the fence you sit, as long as you are respectful and consider the other person's argument, you won't end up losing friends over a difference in opinion.

At Blizzcon, I saw LOTS of females.  I thought that it was about 30-40%, but if you looked at the queues for the toilets, I was obviously wrong.  For the first time in my life I saw queues outside the little boys' room, and there were no queues at the litle girls' room!  So obviously, I was wrong in my estimation of boys and girls.  But I did see lots of girls around, or so I thought.  So, Blizz has a large female following - not surprising really since I'm female and I expect there are lots of people like me.

After the announcement of Warlords of Draenor, I heard a lot of dissatisfaction about the lack of strong female characters in the upcoming expansion.  My feminist friends and gamers would like to see female characters who are memorable, who don't want to have their destinies or paths forged by males (ie not abused, abandoned, tortured, spurned by men making them the females they are today) - I think they are looking for characters who can be role models for women, who can be strong, decisive and powerful.

Being female, I understand where they are coming from.  I think everyone wants someone they can relate to, or look up to, and females identify with females.  And they want people to realise and recognise women are just as strong as men, just as memorable, just as iconic.  Because, sometimes when you try to think of strong, memorable females in this game, you struggle to remember names, faces, or events.  Is that sexist or is it wrong?  Perhaps.  Nobody likes people that you identify with to be made small, redundant or unimportant, or unrememberable.
Saw this pic on Orcish Army Knife.  RAWR!
I remember my feelings at the time when I watched the trailer for Warlords of Draenor.  Metzen told us that it would be back to Outland, back in the past, and reliving some of the lore that newer players missed out on.  I remembered some of the characters - all male, mind you - Gul'dan, Durotan, Grommash, Kilrogg, Blackhand, Velen... but as I watched the video, I saw lots of female characters - there were orc priestesses or shamans, dancing, there was an female draenei on a snow capped peak.  I wondered who they were, and was excited about finding out about new characters - a chance to rewrite history to include some girls, since this is a timeline reboot.  Time line reboots are great - you can use the existing history and add new things to it, rebuilding on the foundations of lore that are already on there.  And you can add whatever the hell you want as extra, because new things happen, right?  Look at Star Trek, they do timeline reboots all the time, and characters change, new ones appear, and I like it.

A screen cap from the WoD release video
Then I started seeing the comments on twitter.  And I realised that there was another point of view I hadn't considered - that females were being overlooked and forgotten.

Then the blog posts came.  Heated ones, on each side of the argument.  I read them, and considered the merits and downfalls of each.  There were a lot of good points made, and it made me question myself, and I felt bad for not being more "female".  But is this how I am supposed to feel?

Everyone is entitled to an opinion.  Everyone's opinions should be respected.  I can see the disappointment from my fellow gamers about the lack of female characters and wanting to balance it more.  It would be nice if they did that.  But I don't want it to be written into a story because people felt like it SHOULD be there to be more politically correct.  Perhaps it would be nice if Joss Whedon wrote some story coz we KNOW we would get some badass females in there, coz he's pretty cool like that.  Look at all the ribbing Peter Jackson got for writing all Tolkein's mouselike female characters into major features who are strong and memorable and heroic!  I loved LotR and now with the new female elf added into the Hobbit that turned all the book fans into screaming hordes of discontent.  Am I bad because I LIKE the revamped Peter Jackson version of LOTR?  My two favourite scenes are Arwen riding with Frodo trying to get him away from the Nazgul, and Eowyn ripping off her helm and saying "I am no man!"

I used to think that it was not females or even strong females I aspired to be or admired..  It was the characters themselves.  Even now, I admire characters for what they are, and who they are, regardless of their sex.  It doesn't even bother me if they are male or female, and I don't identify more with female characters, just characters!  But that doesn't mean I don't understand how others feel - how would I like it if characters who are gentle and only fight when they have to, kill when they have to were eradicated to make way for only bloodthirsty, critter killing characters!  (Read that as WE NEED MORE LUNK!).  However, when I look more closely at myself, I do like female characters.  I play one.

Around the community I went, using the eloquence of others to try to convey all the opinions I think are worth having a listen to.

Lissana said:
We shouldn’t ever leave a Blizzcon event asking ourselves “where are the female characters at?” Once they’ve missed their opportunity with releasing biased marketing materials, they have already lost the chance to connect with the part of their audience that didn’t think the marketing materials appealed to them.
(btw, Liss linked an article which is a great read - How to be a fan of problematic things.  I have to link it here so I won't forget it!)

Vixsin said:
...I am incredibly disappointed to see ... the tried-and-true “How many females?” checklist that is utilized every time the topic of sexism in WoW comes up (see: victory statue discussions, quest lines that involve courtship, portrayal of female leaders, etc.) After seven years of seeing this same tired commentary trotted out...  is that still how we’re choosing to rate the quality of characters and stories? Why aren’t we talking about identifiable characters in general? Or maybe about how women seem more drawn to characters that are like them presently whereas men tend to be drawn to characters that they aspire to be?
(I found this comment particularly compelling for two reasons - one, because Vixsin said very eloquently what I had been thinking, and two, I never realised Vixsin was female.  I should have realised from the name but for some reason, it never clicked)

Erinys said:
I’d also like to comment on the now infamous “boys trip” line. I happen to love Victorian Literature, a fact I’m sure long time readers are already aware of. Conan Doyle in particular was a childhood favourite, especially given that my Father felt that television destroyed young and impressionable minds and that I should either be curled up reading or outside taking part in such healthy pursuits as shooting things or “playing” war. Did it bother me that the Lost World was a “boys trip”? Not in the slightest, it reflects the period in which it was written and no doubt the attitude of it’s author but that should not be the case with Warcraft given that it’s over a 100 years later. This expansion shouldn’t just be about exploring the story which has already been told, there should be many threads interwoven amongst it and these hopefully will include those of women like Yrel, Garona, Draka, Greatmother Geyah and Ishanah.
(It was interesting to me that Erinys was not more bothered by this subject, as she has grown up in a very matriarchal family.  But it seems to me she is waiting to see the stories being woven, as I am)

Zuulzilla said:
... if you’re going to call yourself a feminist and say you stand for equality, you should maybe refer to yourself as an equalist instead of defining your beliefs by a gender-specific connotation. This will probably make me unpopular with a lot of folks, as I have a handful of followers and friends who call themselves feminist. By no means am I trying to start a riot or offend anyone. It’s an alien subject to me and believe me when I say I’ve tip-toed around the idea of even mentioning it. For all I know, my perspective on the “we need more female leaders” thing could be because I’m gender-blind and just don’t see what everyone else is seeing.
(Zuulzilla echoes my equalist attitude.  It's not often I see people with the same opinion as me.  Guess I've found a new blog to read!)

Xsinthis said:
One of the arguments defending the “boys club” mentality is that it’s more realistic. Says who?.. Just because in our real-world history things have been done a certain way is absolutely not a reason for it to be done in a game.. nothing else in the game is held up to that standard of realism, why should this one aspect of the game be? ... In an expansion where you’re using magic to go through time and space and across dimensions, you’re claiming realism? People clinging to this argument need a reality check.
(Since reading this, I've changed my mind over "That's how things were back then" because Xsinthis is right - this is a fantasy game so we should be doing fantas-tic things, right, not the realistic thing)

Anne Stickney said:
As Chris Metzen put it at the Adventures Continue panel at Blizzcon, "That honeymoon is over, it's more of a boy's trip." My heart sank a little at that, because what I really wanted to see, what I haven't seen out of Warcraft before is a character of a very different kind -- the warrior mother, fierce and protective, warm, nurturing, and capable of opening a can of whoop-ass in a heartbeat if you cross her. The type of mother who is gently kissing her children good night one moment, and toting a gun with a baby on her hip the next. The mother who flat-out refuses to let motherhood slow her down, instead using motherhood as a very good reason to fight even harder.
(A well written article by Anne, whom I wish now I had plucked up the courage to say hello to at Blizzcon. Motherhood didn't slow me down, so why should it slow Aggra down, right?)

Rades said:
But most importantly, I cringe and hope that Blizzard doesn't ignore the issues being so heatedly discussed. Obviously, we don't know what all they have planned for WoD, and maybe these early concerns have all been neatly and adequately planned for already. Fingers crossed! But until we know, I think it's certainly fair for people to be both worried and skeptical from the content we have seen so far. It's early, yes, but that just means it's even more crucial to start talking NOW, to make sure Blizzard hears these complaints and - hopefully - has the time to address them.
As for the awful and dismissive "boy's trip" line...I hope it was just a case of unfortunate phrasing... (To be fair, Metzen does tend to just shoot wildly from the hip and let his excitement get ahead of him, as we saw when he tried to talk about the time travel elements of WoD. It very well could have been intended differently and just came out terribly wrong.)
(Rades' article is really well written with a clear objective look at the problems brought up with Warlords of Draenor.  It's probably my favourite read of the lot.)

Akabeko said:
It's important to note that this isn't really about Aggra the individual character, but rather how, under what circumstances, and with what purpose, are non-player female characters allowed to participate in the narrative... the best option from here on out would be to endeavor to create a robust selection of female characters to prove that in the World of Warcraft, beings are judged on their merit and not the contents of their pants. Continue to develop the storylines of the female NPCs we already have, and continue to add more. Ensure that several female characters make their way into the core characters that are consistently caught up in the center of the current expansion's plot. Force it. I'm serious! Use your writing skills and make it work. That's what we did! Join us!
(Akabeko's twitter challenge of #RiseofAggra was well responded to and had a great number of tweets, go check it out on her blog.  I didn't see it or I would have joined in as well!)

Apple Cider mage said:
Feedback is crucial. Blizzard has let us know that it listens to the community and is willing to make changes should they feel that criticism is both substantive and will improve the game. Representation is also crucial. Our media affects and informs our lives and leaving a lot of different groups out of the story (not just women, but queer people, people of different genders, races, etc.) has a subtle but penetrating effect on the people who consume this media, namely us.
(A surprisingly calm and level headed post from ACM, who normally is really passionate about things like this.  Perhaps because she already let it all out on Twitter - her tweets were very vehement about the whole thing, which makes this post seem so out of character.  Her points are well validated here and there are lots of links to other similar posts on the subject)

ILikePancakes said:
World of Warcraft is a game where by design gender does not matter. A human female warrior has the same stats as a human male warrior. A female night elf druid has the same stats as a male night elf druid. And so on. There is no reason to say that “orcs were a primitive, male dominated society” when there is no special characteristic of gender that would allow males to dominate. It is, in a word, idiotic.
(It is interesting that it's true there is no difference between male and female toons, and yet in the game and the lore it is still male dominated.  A really really good point there.)

Liore said:
...my drinking companion noted that Azeroth and other WoW worlds are very good at making mothers disappear after they produce an heir or two...
For example, who is Anduin Wrynn’s mother?...WoWWiki describes him as “the son of King Varian Wrynn” alone, as though he leaped fully formed from Varian’s brain like Athena. In fact Anduin’s mother is someone named Tiffin... and she died a long time ago.
...Who is Arthas’ mother? We know that his father is King Terenas — he was in both the Wrath of the Lich King cinematic and made a special appearance in the final Lich King battle... apparently his mother was someone named Lianne and “her fate remains unknown”...
...Who is Moira Bronzebeard’s mother? As far as I can tell she didn’t even die, she just never existed.
...Finally, who is Thrall’s mother? Surprise, while Draka is the one mother I had even heard of before, she too died suddenly and tragically at a young age.
So what’s the deal with mothers, you guys? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because the Blizzard people are running with the trope of mothers being killjoys. (That is also the reason that often the mom is dead in movies where kids go on epic journeys.) “Thrall, you can’t go master lightning powers until you finish your vegetables.” “Arthas, if you’re going to try and conquer the world from an icy tower at least wear a scarf.”
(How funny that things like this, where are the mothers and wives - think MANKRIK - are dead or not even worth mentioning.  I don't know why I had never noticed that before.  So Liore gets a big thumbs up for mentioning something that I didn't even realise that was right in front of my face all the time.)

Mataoka said:
The thing is perhaps we should consider redefining manhood. It's getting tiresome for women to do all the heavy-lifting. We (women) can't keep hitting our selves against the glass and be met with derision without finally saying it hurts. Nor should men be expected to do the same.
(The video she linked is a great watch, and it really opens your eyes to what the media is projecting to the world about the roles of girls and boys.  Now I know what the Bechdel test is that people were talking about!)

BBB said:
First and only lesson that everyone who is an actual writer knows, male or female, is that the story does not belong to the reader, nor is the reader entitled to make demands upon the writer.  The story belongs to the writer or writers. They are the ones who are creating it, it comes from their imaginations, they are the ones with the voice.  If you don’t like the story that they are presenting, if you don’t like the characters they are inspired by and who drive their story, you are free to go make your OWN story, with your OWN characters, and build it into something so popular it’s inspiring millions of people around the world.  Nobody, and I do mean NOBODY has the right to tell ANY author or creator what they should do to change their own creative efforts because clearly you know better.
(Though there is the undertone of "I'm bloody pisssed off" I think that BBB put into words what many people did think and though it may not be the same opinion as others,, but the point above is true, and BBB's point of view should be respected.  The story does not belong to us, the fans, it belongs to the writers.  If they want to keep us as fans though, they will have to tailor it more to our liking, or we will no longer be fans. But we shouldn't really be telling people what they can and can't write.)

I'll tell you which female I'm hoping to see more of - Draka.  I think that's her in the picture up above - but I could be wrong!  Draka is the mate of Durotan, warchief of the Frostwolf clan - the clan for which my guild is named - and the mother of Thrall.


Rades put in a great line from Lord of the Clans, which made me admire Draka even more:

"I am Draka, daughter of Kelkar, son of Rhakish. No one forbids me to follow my mate, not even Durotan himself! I come with you, I stand by you, I shall die if need be. Pagh!" She spat at him.

Draka is willing to take her baby and fight beside her mate.  No waiting around at home for her.  And for someone like me, a successful professional, working a nice 40 hour week, a mother, a guild leader, a raider and PvPer, a writer - never have I been more proud to be a female and to be a Frostwolf, when there are characters such as Draka to inspire me.  Fingers crossed that she will be as epic in the game as she is in my imagination.

Comments

  1. I have similar feelings on this subject. I'm not really upset at all about it, but I REALLY hope we'll be see a lot of Draka because I'm very intrigued by her. A lot of those blog posts were amazingly well-put, logical, calm, eloquent. Even the things I don't feel about it myself were expressed so well that I could easily see the viewpoints. I like that. And I think that that is one of the great things about WoW's community of bloggers. There's been a discussion about this and as far as I can tell for the most part it has been very civil and constructive.

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    1. I am glad that the blog posts were not all crazy screaming rants but actually good reads with suggested solutions. That always makes a more compelling argument and as you said PlaidElf, constructive.

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  2. I'm pretty much the same way, too. I was super excited for days when I heard about this xpac. It was surprising seeing the rants and raves about the lack of strong female characters in this xpac and, to be honest, it's still hard to decide whether character gender truly matters to me. I liked seeing both sides of the argument though, and I can definitely see why or why not female characters matter to different people. Blizzard does tend to be good at paying attention to their players, especially in cases like this, so I guess we just have to wait and see.

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    1. I think Blizz will listen, because they do say they get feedback from the community and love to engage with the community. At least they are given the opportunity now to fix it - it's not like they defined early that there ARE NO females or something like that. Thank you for visiting Fyrelore!

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  3. I have never picked up a book and looked to see if the main protagonist was female. I pick up a book and read the summary, try to read the prologue, and I might even look to see if it is part of a series. I'm thrilled to be able to "live" in someone else's story, and I look forward to the next "chapter".

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    1. I'm with you Shawndra, a good story is not about whether it's female or not but about the characters. But I do respect that some people feel like they would like some more representation of the sexes - just like people want more represenation of races and religions. If the whole story was about females I wouldn't even notice anyway! As long as the stories were good, right?

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  4. Navi, not sure you saw this, but Tome and I like it: http://wowsugar.blogspot.com/2013/11/bravery.html
    The thing is, the conversation isn't really about boy v girl, or a score card of biology, but a mindfulness of how we, all humans, get to be represented and considered. That's all. I remember a few years ago when I think it was Metzen said "this isn't world of dresscraft," and yet look how many people love mogging of all genders. I am not sure he always knows his audience; I believe both men and women want a fun game to play and pretend they are heroes and villains. Cool thing is, for the most part, that's what we get.

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    1. I didn't see that post on your blog - I actually went to your blog looking for your views on the whole thing but you have 5 posts a day sometimes - I think I missed it. I will reblog it now!

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  5. Great post Navie, I loved all the quotes you put together and I'm sure it took a lot of work and thoughtful planning in presenting everyone's viewpoint in a fair manner. I'm upset because what about Murlocs? I don't think they get enough storyline devoted to them. We slaughter them by the hundreds through all of the different quests that involved them, but they really don't have a strong story. And I have some issues with warlocks being represented as always being evil too. Not all warlocks are completely evil and I think it's unfair we're pigeon holed into that role. Heck, with WoD we're going back in time before the LK takes command so what will happen to the storyline of my beloved Undead faction? Am I suppose to put off my suspension of disbelief to think that my female Undead character is alive again?And if that's the case should I switch my faction to Alliance since everyone knows that the Undead faction is aligned towards the Horde? It's all madness I tell you!

    Like you I view a good story as a good story. I don't think in terms of seeing any story, game, or movie as compartmentalized gender representation. I see people for what they are....people.

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    1. Thanks Amijade! I hadn't even thought what would be the implication of all the Forsaken! Now my mind is boggled! OH MY GOSH it means you will all be humans and alliance!

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  6. I always get so excited when someone mentions one of my posts, glad you liked it :3 <3

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  7. I know you don't like conflict on your blog, Navi, and everything I want to say would take up several blog posts of my own anyway, so I am not going to go into details here about everything I find problematic with what has been said here. I will limit myself to a couple of points.

    I agree that everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, there are three categories of opinions when it comes to this topic, and they are:

    a) Yes, this is a problem and I am upset/disgusted/disappointed about it.

    b) Yes, this is a problem but I am unaffected by it/am not upset about it.

    c) There is not a problem/You are overreacting/Get over it/any other form of silencing.

    I can respect A and B, but there is no way your opinion is worthy of respect if it is C. Not every opinion should be respected. And a lot of the time, some C's attempt to disguise themselves as B's, as demonstrated by your quote of Vixsin - which is either a blatant silencing tactic (Vixsin's, I mean), or she misses the point by so wide a margin that it is pretty hard to take her argument seriously. Amijade's comment above has a similar feel - claiming to belong to the B camp but downright mocking the A's through facetiousness.

    Fyrelore mentioned "seeing both sides of the argument". I am not sure what they meant by sides, but I am hoping that they meant the difference between the A's and the B's. I really can't see how the C's have a side, unless you mean you are framing the sides as "you see the problem with this" (the A's and B's) and "you are part of the problem" (the C's).

    I am likely going to write a few posts about all the issues I am seeing come up in your post and comments, plus others that have appeared on some of the other blogs I've read. The first one will be about Zuulzilla's quoted text, the reasons why it is dangerous to think that 'feminist' and 'equalist' are interchangable, or that 'equalist' is somehow better. I'm not sure how I will publish these posts, I might need to start my own blog! If you are interested, I will let you know when they are ready.

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    1. I know you feel strongly on the subject and, like Matty, I think we are good enough friends to be able to discuss and share our differences and still be friends. With others, I am not so sure, but the one thing that I do feel strongly about is that nobody should be bullied or harrassed because of their opinion. I think education and making the views known are good ways to promote an ideal that has not caught on, but sometimes you cannot change someone's mind no matter how much you browbeat them. And it doesn't matter if your opinion is the right one, but hurling abuse only breeds more abuse.

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    2. Yeah the only way you are going to convince someone to change their mind is to give them the best argument you have, supported by the best evidence you have, and hope that they accept what you say. But as you say, sometimes people's beliefs and opinions will never change no matter how much reason is given to them.

      I definitely think one of the greatest dangers to the cause of feminism is the tactic of shaming, bullying, harassment and intimidation of those you want to convert or get support from - especially other women. I mean, if you are trying to claim that women should be feminists in order to alleviate the oppression of the patriarchal society we live in, yet you engage in that very same oppression from a different source, how are you going to convince anyone to agree with you?

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  8. I really want to comment on your description of Apple Cider's post. It's clear that you read her tweets and her blog, but here you're painting her in a strangely negative light, even though you may not have intended it that way. All of the other bloggers you mentioned get simple descriptions of their post and their writing, which makes ACM's description sound like she's often belligerent or unpleasant but has managed to produce something rational this once. Also, your praising her post as being "level-headed and calm," calling attention to the tone rather than the content, makes it seem like someone who writes something that includes their emotional response isn't worth listening to, or doesn't have valid ideas. Which is weird, since you both link to and laud BBB's reaction post, which was extremely emotional! If you promote his angry writing while simultaneously criticizing ACM's, it makes it seem like you just don't want to come out and say "I disagree with ACM's point of view" so you're resorting to negating her ideas based on how they are presented. You usually seem pretty receptive to feminist takes on WoW, even if you don't always agree, but I really don't know why only ACM got such a strange intro here.

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    1. Also I hope you know that I really don't want this to come across as attacking you personally >< Just, as someone who is frequently told to "calm down" or "not get so worked up" when I talk about stuff that annoys me, even when I'm really not angry, I get defensive when I see others called out on the tone of their comments ^^;;;

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    2. Hi Aka! No I'm not trying to paint her negatively, I admire her because she is forthright and out there, which is brave and very different to me, and I when I read her post, it just had a different tone to the ACM that I am used to. I often read her writing because of the passion and feeling behind her arguments - as I said, this post was really interesting because it was different to her norm. BBB's post was very emotional - I tried to take out all the emotional parts of everyone's post and focus on the good things that they said so as not to aggravate. However, the links are clickable if there is more that anyone wanted to read.

      I know your feelings on feminism Aka - they align with Dahakha's - so I am totally nonplussed by you expressing your feelings here, and it doesn't change my opinion of you or anyone as long as they're not flinging abuse at me or calling me names. I respect all opinions, you should know that! It is only because my opinion does not fully align with yours+Dah+ACM+Liss+Anne+Hestiah and I don't want people who also do not feel as you do to feel like they are alone and frightened to talk because we will get bullied and harrassed by others whose opinions differ to our own. It doesn't mean I align with BBB, but like ACM (though poles apart), he often has very strong feelings and he writes eloquently when angry, which is what often gets him in trouble but once he calms down he is often apologetic. I have great admiration for the man for he has defended me in the past with Bear passion, something for which I will always remember with humility.

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