I want to give some credit to Keeva over at TreeBarkJacket for her recent forays into understanding gender representations in World of Warcraft. While her focus was primarily on raid/dungeon bosses (which is a monumental task given how ambiguous some creatures are). This was brought on by another blogger making a post trying to justify WoW’s gender balance by saying that Cataclysm improved the male to female ratio of bosses. Weird right? It got me thinking about some of the areas where WoW is a bit weak in this regard (please let me know what you think, these are only some examples):
–Strength of Female Leaders – You can’t expect them to have an equal number of male or female lead story-board characters because ultimately the writers have been working with the same plot line for a while now. What you can comment on is the attitude of the major female roles. Jaina is powerful but she seems to succumb much more to emotions than other major characters. I still can’t shake the sound of her crying in the RP after Deathbringer Saurfang is killed, saying “she’s so proud of her king, <sniffle>”. Sylvanas is strong willed but she is also conniving and deceitful. Even Maiev Shadowsong’s only purpose in the story is to chase after Illidan. [This is not to say the male characters are much better, Garrosh is pretty much an a-hole]
–Sword and Sorcery Tropes – For as long as I can remember the high fantasy genre produces a fair bit of fan-service for its male followers. Most (and I don’t mean all) fantasy stories involve a dominant male hero who often time saves a helpless woman. When women are involved as capable fighters, fairly often their armor is skimpy or makes little sense. A Chainmail bikini isn’t really a functioning piece of equipment is it? This category includes a huge amount of smaller tropes and common themes (if you’ve played The Witcher and have gone around bedding all of the ladies that might be one of them).
–Character Models – If you ask a lot of guys about playing female characters, the cliché response is sometimes “Well, if I have to spend a lot of time staring at the backside of the same character, it might as well be something aesthetically pleasing [sic]” (you can probably guess the terminology they’d really be using). For the alliance races (except Draenei) the female models make some sense. The bust size and hip proportions are probably suspect and their muscle mass is so vastly different from the males that it is hard to imagine that they would be able to produce the same amount of force when wielding a weapon. Horde models (and Draenei) are a little bit more suspect. You have races such as Tauren, Troll, Draenie, and Orc where the female model is basically an attempt at taking the supermodel style bodytype and incorporating just enough of the races features to make it believable without taking away the “human” perception of beauty. Unique features such as the Tauren’s horns, Trolls Ears, Draenei’s tendrils, and the Tauren/Draenei/Orc’s hulking body type were vastly changed in the female models. In the alpha builds of the game the Tauren and Troll females looked drastically different and fans complains because they were too unattractive. Take a look at the photo
Now these points only address some of the bullet points one might hone in on when addressing sexism in WoW. There certainly may be more, and some that I, as someone who idetifies as male mentally and physically, might not perceive. What I have not included is the player base in wow and how much sexism that adds to the equation. The quality of the average player and how they treat other female players is arguably a whole separate conversation we could have. From my discussion with female gamers who have quit wow due to concerns over sexism, it is almost entirely due to how other players treated them and not the treatment of women by the game itself. I have always found that rather interesting.
I’d love to hear from other WoW gamers out there who have perceived elements of racism, sexism, ableism, etc. in the game and how you feel it could be dealt with.