Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Genders in a five-man party – are we stuck in the stereotypes?

When you’re doing a five-man instance, who in the family are you? Are you the mother, the father or the naughty child?

Speaking for myself, I’ve always been the child. We have a great time, trying out our toys (“Zap! You’re a sheep! Mama, mama, look, I’m invisible!”) while we’re fighting our brothers just for fun. (“Haha, I beat you on the damage list, sucker!”) Sometimes we lose our minds, foolishly pulling aggro. But our patient parents, the tank/healer couple, will normally save our asses, and after giving us some well deserved bashing they’ll forgive us.

Recently however I’ve tried a new role. As the regular guests of the inn know, I’m levelling a druid alt, with the ambition to se the game from a different side, as a tank or healer. But for all my intentions to tank, I have gotten more and more into healing. Not only because there’s obviously much more demand for healers than for tanks in the old world, but also because I’ve fallen in love with the task in a way that I hadn’t expected.

Suddenly I find myself, a modern women, playing the traditional female healing role in an MMO. I’m standing in the back, a pretty night elf chick in a beautiful robe, dutifully renewing the HoTs, trying to keep everyone alive instead of boldly killing evil stuff. And it bugs me that I enjoy it so much. It bugs me a lot.

Revolting against stereotypes
The thing is that I hate gender stereotypes with all of my heart. I always have, since they make me feel trapped, reduced into a couple of milk producing body parts on legs, supposed to take decisions out of hormones rather than out of my free will. I want to enjoy the freedom to form my life and display my personality anyway I want. Above anything I want to be treated by myself and by other people as a fellow human being, not as a Sex.

Even though I’m not a Role Player in its true sense, one of the things I love most about MMOs is that you can play around in an anonymous, protected sandbox. You can check out different roles and discover new sides of yourself.

Surely, sometimes we encounter gender stereotypes which seem to be leftovers from the middle ages, but we can always act like Spinksville and turn our back to it. . Back in the early days, female gamers had to struggle quite a bit to get accepted and respected. But now there’s nothing unusual about us, we’re like other players. No more, no less, exactly how I want it to be.

Lack of female tanks
However, when I think about the act of healing, I can’t help thinking “typical girlish thing to do”, no matter how I try to rid myself from this notion.

Maybe it’s related to what I actually see in the game. Until this day I haven’t seen any female tanks or melee dps as I can recall or knew about. Yeah, there are a couple of blogging exceptions, but I’ve never seen any for myself. Girls play healers or possibly ranged dps. They seem to avoid the blood splatter.

I wonder why. I refuse to believe there’s some genetic reason for it. After all, tanking doesn’t require any special physical abilities, such as real life strength. Basically WoW playing is the same for everyone. You push your buttons; you move your mouse and you click. The only difference is what kind of targets you have and what effects your spell have.

Maybe we just need some new stereotypes, alternative images which we associate to the different roles? Why do I insist on thinking about the tank as a father? A tank could as well be pictured as a mother – a raging lioness, a killing machine, who will do anything to protect her children. And the healer could perhaps be the old, wise, white bearded grandfather, whose inner spirits are familiar with the old arcane power? After all, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're gay because you're a male healer... :)

But for the dps I can’t see any other image than the one of the child: innocent, convinced about their own immortality, full of energy and void of responsibilities. Oh, happy days!


Muron said...

I think one of the reasons women tend to end up as healers (or even ranged dps) is because a friend started them playing (this is the case fairly often) and that person needed a healer for their group. Women seem to more often ask for advice when start, like "What class should I play" then men do and I think their friends direct them to play something that they/their guild needs (it may even be sub-conscious).

However this probably couldn't account for the OVERWHELMING percentage of women I have encountered in progression raiding as healers. I have only ever encountered 1 female tank, 1 female melee dps*, probably a 1/2 dozen ranged *dps but over a dozen female healers.

*Only counting main-specs not off-specs.

Klepsacovic said...

Ah, the momma bear. So amazingly sweet, and protective.

"However, when I think about the act of healing, I can’t help thinking “typical girlish thing to do”, no matter how I try to rid myself from this notion."
If other people tell you who/what to be, tell them to shove it. But you, you are perfectly free to tell yourself what to do. That also means that you don't have to not do what is stereotypical; you are free to be feminine or masculine; tank or healer or DPS; soloer or grouper.

I tend to go towards the tanks or melee DPS, though my moonkin is breaking that. I'd say it's a control thing, tanks have control over both groups and enemies; they are the true crowd control. You might make a mob into a sheep, but I tell it what to do.

You could go through all sorts of social reasons for this. Men are often in charge so they're used to having the control and will take the role that gives that. I'd be the opposite, I'm not so good at getting others to follow my directions, so tanking is my imaginary fix.

Anonymous said...

"But for the dps I can’t see any other image than the one of the child: innocent, convinced about their own immortality, full of energy and void of responsibilities. Oh, happy days!"

= Gnome

Nuff said...

Stabs said...

Tanking is very alpha. It suits people who are somewhat dominant, somewhat egotist and somewhat thick-skinned.

Possibly those qualities are more common in males than females.

Of course some of us cheerfully play any and all roles.

Anonymous said...

one of the best tanks on the server and I believe the best bear tank is a girl. she also tends to play a melee dps a lot, through she does have a resto set for her druid, she tends not to use it. about 2/3rds of my guild's healers are male and and all but one female healers are healing as offspec only. one of our rogues used to heal on a shammy, but only because it was more needed at the time - she's gleefully ripping off faces on her rogue now.

herein lays what I believe is the reason for generally more female then male healers on average. I believe that most women, even when playing for fun cannot help it but lean to doing what's needed vs what they want.

there's always a shortage of healers, because healing IS a bit of a responsibility. there's a shortage of tanks too, but its also a more "glorious job" standing at the front, taking most of the praise when things go well, even though it would not have been possible without the quiet healer in the back.

personally I like healing once in a while. with the exception of certain encounters - dps don't get to feel like they individually made an impact. I could never do it full time though...

Stereotypes while sometimes true to life, in reality have no bearing on an individual. I've learned that as long as I'm doing what feels right to me - fitting into stereotype or breaking it is inconsequential.

Bell said...

Thinking healing is "girlish" is just reinforcing the stereotype, isn't it? Even in your mind you are thinking "healing is girly," so in the end it's just as bad as someone else doing it.

I play a healer because I find it to be more fun, more challenging, than standing behind the boss whacking them with my sword/axe, which I've done as a ret paladin her whole levelling life, as well as half her 80 life. The other half is healing. I'm levelling a DK to be a tank because I want a tank. I don't pick classes because I'm female, I pick it because it's what I want to play.

I guess this article struck a chord with me because, well, I have two healers, am levelling two others, but I also have a tank, my other healers are shadow or enhancement (in your face smash 'em up) or ret (smash face again). One of my good friends has a prot/holy paladin, a holy/disc priest, and a feral/resto druid. My other has a hunter and a warrior. My other has a rogue, and only a rogue, and she's one of the best PvE rogues on the server.

Sorry, it struck a chord when you even yourself thought of healing as girlish. Just imagine, if WoW was real and you had to run around a giant chamber of ice keeping people from freezing to death while suturing together the bone-mashed frame of your tanks, the last words on anyone's lips would be "girly."

I'm not a nursemaid. I'm a field medic. And without me, you will die.

Elnia said...

If you want a reason to keep on as a healer there is this.


I am gaga about this robe and even when I play tank or cat I switch to it when I come into town.

@Leah. "I've learned that as long as I'm doing what feels right to me - fitting into stereotype or breaking it is inconsequential."


Kimberly said...

"I believe that most women, even when playing for fun cannot help it but lean to doing what's needed vs what they want."


Years ago I was living the life of an Alliance Rogue when my then-guild intimated that they could REALLY use another healer. Oh, and Dwarven, please, as Fear Ward was a racial spell at the time. So I acquiesced and my rogue gathered dust as I nurtured and healed others as they got the glory.

Fast forward a few years and here I am on a holy paladin, healing and nurturing others as they get the glory, and breaking my back so they can get their stupid stunty achievements.

I am learning to say no, for I have a DPS character now whom I love to play. But when push comes to shove, and I feel like I'm NEEDED as a healer, I'll put her aside and log in the paladin. It's a nurturing thing, and it bugs me.

Perrins said...

I have to agree with Muron, when my fiancée started playing WoW, ( I didn’t know her at the time) she was told to roll a lock bc its easy mode for her. Well after 4 years playing ranged dps classes she finally rolled a bear tank and is loving it. She lvl’d the sucker in about 5 days to 80. personally I have a dwarf male warrior and a human female warrior both tanks. Don’t ask why…..

Klepsacovic said...

Just to throw in a pet peeve: Gender and sex are different. Sex is physical and determined by chromosomes while gender is a social/mental construct and generally on a continuum of masculine to feminine. Generally sex and gender will line up, however this should not be mixed up with how things should be; ie women are generally feminine and from that better for child-raising, but that does not mean that women should be forced into the mommy track.

"I believe that most women, even when playing for fun cannot help it but lean to doing what's needed vs what they want."
I hate this in myself. I want to be more pushy and rude and saying "screw what you want, I'm trying to have fun here."

krizzlybear said...

Frost fetishism aside, I'm actually quite the healer afficiando. I am in love with my resto druid despite my even greater love for my DK and mage. I am having so much fun with my shaman, having healed through ramparts just yesterday. I have a 54 priest in the making, and I expect her to dual-spec holy once wimzig's glyph business starts kicking in.

And I hardly think that I'm gay. Although my immense entertainment watching Brüno may hint otherwise XD

Christina said...

I know many many female tanks and melee dps. In fact, I'm listening to a couple such women on vent even as I type this. From my perspective, I adore walking up to things and ripping their face off until they are dead. But I suck suck suck at the kind of situational awareness necessary for melee in raid. So I heal and range dps, which I can do quite well in raid.

I think... that the WoW tendency to expect the tank to be the leader causes more guys to want to be the tank. Hmmm.. That's an age issue too. Most people reject gender stereotypes more as they get older. In fact, most of our guild's healers are male.

Darraxus said...

I have never known a female tank. My fiancee is boomkin/resto, and my sister is a mostly Holy Paladin. Most of the females I have played with have been either healers or Hunters. I have known very few who played melee dps of any sort.

I play at least one of each role and love them all. Healing can be a lot of fun. Dont worry about stereotypes and do what you think is fun. You can always dual spec heals and tank.

Akkila said...

For some reason I cannot stand healing, just standing there and watching health bars go right just doesn't suit me. I'd rather tank/dps or even cc than heal. But I guess it comes down to what your personality type is.

Anonymous said...

I think you all have a lot of good points.

Healing is a nurturing, sitting at the back, passive, multi-tasking, putting the group ahead of yourself kind of role (and I like healing btw).

Tanking is a protect the weak, stand at the front, organise the group, lead the instance, stop nasty mobs from hurting your 'family' type of role.

This is a post I wrote about this on my old blog about a year ago. I was looking at some stats to prove that more women play healers and pondering why.

I'm also on a RP server and our female tanks do tend to play up the mother bear thing. One of our MTs is a feral, played by a female friend of mine, and she really does the whole mother bear routine very well. I play Mrs Spinks as a sort of east end gangland mum type -- so she's hard as nails and no one gets through her to get to her boys. Then she nags the group a lot about keeping out of fires and wearing warm jumpers. It's fun :)

Draxi said...

I don't know any female tanks, or dps warriors, I knew a rogue but that was it. Anyhow nobody said that women always roll healers and men always roll tanks but the trend is real no matter how many good female players you know.

There are some reasons behind this trend the first may be that quite a few women playing WoW had a brother, b/f, male friend teach them. So when given the chance most guys will suggest a girl to roll a healer.

The second reason I see is the stereotype and that is also (partially) why guys suggest healers to female players too. Society expects us to act according to our gender, so we mostly do.

Finally 200.000 years of evolution is not an easy obstacle to overcome. In the most basic level you, me, every living thing is an input-output machine. Chemicals affect your thoughts and different sex means different chemical mix meaning different behavior.

Sure we can overcome and go against social constructs, stereotypes and chemistry but most people don't.

Gevlon said...

My GF was a prot tank in BC (casual now, only fishing) and she did it pretty good.

I've played healer because it's not just roll a rotation, it needs decisions, and never thought of that it would be some kind of girly job. I guess the commenter is right that most females started to play with their already playing boyfriend who made them do the thing they needed: extra healers.

Kel said...

I had the same thoughts when I started healing. I don't want to be stuck in a role just because of my gender. I then thought "screw that" and went healing anyway. If I let it dictate what I'm NOT to do, then it's still restricting me. I enjoy it, but not in a nurturing mommy kind of way. It's challenging, and as a healer I do way more then just look at health bars. People will think you're a guy, because most playing WoW are. The only strangers who've called me "her" are the ones that have decided to act as if the character sex is the real one.

Larísa said...

@Muron: Oh, that could explain why I ended up as a mage. I didn’t discuss with anyone what to pick. It was pretty random I think. But you may very well be right. Male tanks guide their gf:s to play healers, making a good base team for a 5 man instance…

@Klepsacovic: Since I’ve often been leading people in real life I guess I don’t need that control kick in the game. I’m pretty happy being led by others. On the other hand – I think you underestimate the healers. They may sneak in the background, but I think they’ve got pretty much of control, just that they don’t make a big fuzz about it.

@Gnomeaggedon: Yep! Once a gnome, always a gnome. I may be pretty in my healing dress, but in my heart I’ll always have pink pigtails and a gnomish giggle in my heart.

@Stabs: Barkskinn? Got that as a healer as well! But why can’t the dps be the alpha, directing the tank and the healer, assigning them to tasks? It keeps bugging me.

@Leah: Great to hear about the female bear tank! We need more players like her for inspiration. If there was enough of them around I think the stereotypes would change, we would think differently about the tanking role, not necessarily associating it with male role models.

@Bell: Yes, Bell, you’re perfectly right, I reinforce the stereotype even if I don’t want to! And it annoys me a lot.
And I LOVED the picture of the healer as a field medic rather than a nurse. This really clicked for me. That’s exactly the kind of associations I was asking for. Thanks!

@Elnia: Pretty, pretty! But will it match my bluish skin?

@Kimberly: I don’t get it. Why don’t you feel that you get the glory, but rather are assisting others to get it? Don’t you want the achievements for yourself? It sounds terrible, as if you’re being used. I can absolutely understand if this bugs you.

@Perrins: Nice to hear that she took the step and enjoyed it! Maybe a few years of experience with the game gave her the confidence she needed to take the step to a more exposed role.

@Klepsacovic: Oh, I never learn to sort those things out, gender vs sex. I’m definitely no expert in the field, totally incapable of writing an academic analysis with any scientific connection whatsoever. I just observe and rant about what I see. But thanks for pointing it out.

Larísa said...

@Krizzlybear: I think healing and magery makes a wonderful combination. Ultra damage or ultra healing. It’s really very much opposite and gives you the variation you need in game.

@Christina: Oh, I think it’s the same about me. The lack of situational awareness and ability to move quickly makes me suck at melee stuff. I’ve got a lvl 80 rogue which I enjoy very much, but I feel that I’m pretty bad at playing her. And multitargeting, keeping several mobs occupied at the same time as a tank, is a bit like the same thing. It requires a kind of button smashing and mouse moving that I don’t master so well. On the other hand maybe that’s why I should keep working at it, to overcome my weaknesses…

@Darraxus. Oh, I’m dual specced already. Feral for questing, resto for instance healing. My idea is that I’ll have a combination of tank spec and resto spec at level 80. Anything but dps!

@Akkila: it’s interesting how your focus move completely. Being a newbie healer I can’t watch anything but the health bars. As time goes by I hope that I’ll be able to see more of the encounter, keep an eye on aggro, the boss abilities, move out of fire etc. I know it’s necessary. But the low level instances are rather forgiving in this aspect. They don’t require me to watch anything but the health bars.

@Spinksville: Thank you so much for the link to your blogpost! I didn’t know about your old blog. It was highly interesting reading. I loved to hear about the “mother bear routine”! That’s the kind of stories I need to hear to make up alternative images of what the tanking role is about. Oh, and I must say that you make me regret that I’ve never tried role playing. It sounds like much fun!

@Draxi: yes, I think you’re right. It takes some effort, conscious decisions and willpower to see beyond chemicals and established social patterns. To not follow the “ape subroutines” as Gevlon puts it. I try to think for myself and chose a different path than the expected, following my intuition. But it isn’t entirely easy.

@Gevlon: I agree totally. Healing is about decision making and control, just as much as the tanking role is. While dps:ers normally don’t need to take that much responsibility. I respect healers highly. And being a healer I suddenly notice the healer-tank bond that is the solid fundament of a group very clearly.

Probably you’re right that many female players have rolled healers since they got the suggestion to do it from male friends. Which makes me a little bit sad. Are female gamers who start to play out of their own interest, not because of someone else, that rare?

@Kel: well, I guess that if I felt that I HAD to focus on tanking in an instance, just because I didn’t want to be seen as a nurturing female, I would be just as trapped, manipulated by the needs and ideas of others rather than listening to my own will.
Don’t let anyone else dictate your own gaming experience. You’re absolutely right.

Dw-redux said...

"After all, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're gay because you're a male healer... :)"
..But it helps? Talk about falling into the stereotyping traps there!

Playing a healer or playing a tank is basically the same thing with different twists. Both are people who want to be the hero, the ones who saves the party/raid/day.

Healers are those who are the unsung heroes of any guild. Those who typically are the first to take blame and the last to gain praise. And they love it that way.
Tanks are the "look at me im great" type of heroes. - Theres a reason why the most known player in WoW is a tauren (big guys - also sort of a "hey look at me" thing) tank. And he is even named Kungen (the king).

So its not about gender, its about personality style. There are, however, comaratively way fewer women who has that stereotypical personality where they want to scream out to the (gaming)world "look at me, im great".

Ulv said...

Interesting - I'd never really thought about it before but in my guild we have quite a few female players. Most of them actually DPS and one of them, my wife, casts imba heals. None of them tank or even show any interest in tanking.

Tanking really does take a very different mindset to dps or healing - my game experioence is very different when I'm tanking versus dpsing.

Not better or worse but different.

I quite liek the idea of switching the usual assumed roles though - time to get my wife to finish levelling her Pally!

Joe said...

maybe its just you, but in my guild, all the ladies/moms/girlfriends, have rolled tanks.

some of their alts however are healers.

I think its all based on what suits the person rather than the sex.

Theres loads of blokes in our guild that play healers, as well as tanks/dps.

the freedom provided by having lots of alts breaks this family cycle anyway.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I'm probably grumpy old Granddad at the back, wishing the damn kids would slow down and do it properly =P

I'm always about standing at the back - healing, DPSing, I don't really mind.

But I do think there's an extent to which healing is unhelpfully dominated by gendered stereotypes. I see it most clearly in PUGs - where you're in an awkward position of having to spontaneously generate a successful tank-healer relationship in a couple of minutes.

On female alts, this is much, much easier than with Tam. Tanks - usually invariably male characters - (unless they're just plain terrible) will go out of their way to be protective, thank me for the healz and generally act towards me like over-possessive boyfriends. There'll be a lot more dialogue of the "stay close, stay back, stay out of trouble, I'll look after you," variety.

Even though most of them must know that the likelihood of me being a genuine girl under the pretty dress is pretty damn low.

Poor Tam, though - although the tank will do his job, the assumption is Tam will pretty much take care of himself.

In fact, the whole business tends can occasionally be suffused by a kind of awkwardness, as if the tank fears his masculinity may be in danger by, firstly, having to protect some guy at the back and, secondly, by being nurtured back to health by said guy at the back.

Of course, I'm generalising. Sometimes it makes absolutely no difference at all.

nugget said...


Hmm... well I'm a girly! =)

And I had 3 tanks (one of each tanking class) before I quit (no wotlk for me). (Ok, and 2 healers but, AND I prefer healing but... lol.)

Or, more accurately. I liked tanking in wow. I LOVED healing in wow.

But! This bit of your post bothers me:
"On female alts, this is much, much easier than with Tam. Tanks - usually invariably male characters - (unless they're just plain terrible) will go out of their way to be protective, thank me for the healz and generally act towards me like over-possessive boyfriends. There'll be a lot more dialogue of the "stay close, stay back, stay out of trouble, I'll look after you," variety."

I did all those things for all of my healers, when I was tanking. It didn't matter if they were male or female toons. It was more of a 'I've been burned by bad tanks so often as a healer, I'm NOT going to be one of those tanks. When I'm tanking, I want to be the tank, for my healer, that as a healer, I'd want to play with.'

It was never, anywhere, about gender. For me, it was about courtesy and consideration for my healers.

...and I never actually thought it would be seen in any other way. :(

I feel kinda retrospectively sad now. :(

Carra said...

Now that I think about it, all the female WoW players I have known either played a healer or a ranged DPS. Sure, some did have a tanking alt.

I wonder if there has been any research on this. A quick search through the Daedalus project gives this graph:
-Woman are a lot more likely to be playing hunters, druids and priests.
-Men are a lot more likely to play warriors, shamans or rogues.

Statistics don't lie :)

Sassafras said...

I am a girl bear. (And know of several female tanks on my server.) I really enjoy tanking. To me it's totally a numbers game. Make sure you have enough hp and dodge and crit... and you'll be fine.

Healing otoh..it skeers the bejebus out of me! I've been trying to become a better tree lately because I feel I should know how to do it if needed, but it just doesn't come as naturally as tanking for me.

Anonymous said...


In the paragraph that bothered you, I was actually making some generalised comments on *some* of the differences I have observed *some* of the time when playing female or male characters, and drawing a gender-related conclusions simply because it was vaguely connected to the topic under discussion.

I certainly didn't mean to say that this was the case across the board or even anything like partially across the board. It was meant to be an observation that struck me as vaguely interesting, rather than a comprehensive way of looking at the way different people play the game.

In short: pay no attention to my pondering, it has no basis in anything except curiosity and tendency to over-think things.

For what it's worth, I've also had some very lovely, very skilled tanks who treated me (hurrah) like a human being regardless of anything else (like my six eyes and my tentacles) :)

Please don't feel sad.

Kadomi said...

I play in an all-girl guild. I am a tank. It's what I prefer above any other role, though I also have two other raiding characters, a resto shaman, and a DPS DK.

I wish I could say that the stereotype is not true, but my guild is always suffering from lack of tanks. We have over 400 characters in the guild, but we have 3 tanks in Ulduar. However, we are similarly low on healers.

We used to have an abundance of ranged DPS, but it's moved over to an abundance of melee DPS these days.

I think the main reason we have a lack of tanks is that most girls in my guild are intimidated by tanking. Tanks tend to fall into a leadership role naturally, as they mark targets and have to understand all pulls, and most are just scared to screw up. There seems to be less worry to screw up as healer or DPS, even though you can screw that up just as much as tanking. It's just usually less obvious for DPS if you have capable healers and tanks in the group.

Ydraisa said...

One of my closest friends, mentor and guild leader back in BC was playing a bear tank. And yes, we used to joke around calling her "momma bear" and even changed the guild leader rank to it. And momma she was, to all of us.

We lost touch recently when both moved from our home server, to separate locations unfortunately, but last I heard she traded her bear for a kitty DPS.

Second, and even more distant of a memory, comes from another female guild leader. She was playing a rogue, and quite a strong personality coming from a military background.

Last example comes from my home server, where I often run 5 man heroics with a pally tank, also a female in real life.

All 3 of them were outstanding in their respective roles, and did awesome DPS or tanking.

I'm sure I've met many other female tanks or DPS around Azeroth without realizing it.

I am not paying much attention to the gender of the player but more to the kind of person he/she is, the behavior in groups and the bond that may or may not form.

Larísa said...

@Dw-redux: Oh, I shouldn’t even bother trying to be funny… I think I’m very relaxed when it comes to homo/trans/whatever-kind-of-sexuality. Not being one myself, but having relatives and friends who are. But the best thing if you don’t want to be seen as prejudiced or stereotype minded is probably not to mention it at all.

I think you’re quite right about personality type. Isn’t it a bit odd though that I at the age of 40+ suddenly find myself enjoying healing? You would think I’d know myself a bit better at this stage of life.

@Ulv: That’s a very good idea! I think you can make your life richer trying out roles that aren’t the ones that come first into your mind.

@Joe: Good for you! It looks as if the community is split in this issue. Half of you seem to have lots of female tanks around, half are like me: never ever see them….

@In my sissy robe: oh, I giggled at your comment! It’s like a little blogpost in itself. It IS interesting that a “female” healer may be treated differently than a “male” one. I’m not that surprised to hear it to be honest. I’m pretty convinced myself that cute gnomes get more heals than they would because they make the healers feel protective.


@Nugget & Sassafras: two more great exceptions to the I-see-no-female-tanks-statement of me! It’s nice to hear so many stepping forward now, raising your hands.

@Carra: thanks for the link! Yeah, that graph shows that it’s not just my gut feeling. There IS a shortage of female tanks.

@Kadomi: an all-female guild, cool! I would have thought that tanking in such an environment would be less intimidating (no risk of I-know-it-all-guys giving smart comments or looking down on you). But apparently not. It’s saddening. It really is.

@Ydrasia: “momma bear”. I love it! I blame BigBearButt for making me think of all bears like male fathers. He’s so masculine/fatherly in his blogging. But there must be several ways to be a bear, right?
And yeah, you’re absolutely right that we don’t always KNOW if the person behind a toon really is male or female. It’s very much possible that I’ve met more female tanks in my days than I’m aware of.

Joanna said...

I am a female IRL and my main is a female human rogue.

My alt is a DK frost tank.


I guess I'm the exception rather than the rule.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of female tanks around. However they usually get less press due to not advertising it, not being the main tank of a large raiding guild.

Saying that I know a few female players whose main tank for raiding guilds.

But there is nothing wrong with loving healing either, plenty of male healers too

Fulguralis said...

Fuu's a MT and that's her bread and butter. I can't stand tanking... it's unwarlocky.

Hatch said...

I'm really excited to see an active discussion like this going on about gender and stereotypes, especially in the male-overloaded world of video games.

I'm in the camp who blames these stereotypes squarely on social pressures/expectations/conditioning. Unless you have extraordinarily (and I mean EXTRAORDINARILY) progressive parents, you're inundated with social gender normalization pressures immediately and relentlessly for your entire life. And as soon as you leave the home for school or turn on a TV, you are going to start getting gender roles beaten over you head no matter who your parents are.

Women are told constantly that their role is to be nurturing of others and sacrifice themselves. That they aren't meant to be leaders or protectors, but to be protected and led. That their virtues aren't strength and pride, but beauty and kindness. They feel like they are finally free of persecution when they sit in back looking pretty and healing others, doing the role the group needs rather than the one they want.

Meanwhile, men are pressured to be "manly". They must be both providers and protectors, but also warriors and destroyers of Others. They feel like they are fulfilling their role when tanking or doing melee dps (or getting MONSTER CRITS ON NOOBS with their mage or hunter).

Of course, I'm wildly stereotyping here myself. Many people feel free from these constraints for whatever reason. But when we see stereotypes fulfilled, It's usually because our society is forcing that stereotype down our throats from birth as the only appropriate behavior. I think women and men both are just people, and absent of that conditioning are each no more likely to be one way than another. It's the conditioning that does it, not the sex organs or even the mental gender identity.

And IMO, anyone who thinks men and women are "naturally" this way, they are full of crap. People tend to fulfill stereotypes this way because they are relentlessly trained to do so, from birth, and many don't even encounter the idea that maybe there are alternatives. Thankfully, the internet is causing a quiet revolution in gender perception for the new generation. With all of this info at your fingertips, you'll eventually come across progressive gender ideas and be forced to deal with them.

Arkaneena said...

I have tried to be ambiguous about my spec, and I do occasionally roleplay, but I play a female paladin. I have all female toons right now, I really love healing, but I am a man, happily married with my high level fury warrior wife, (who roleplays as a man so we can get married someday ;). I think more people expect that I will be a healer if I play a female. I am building an offspec tank set, but I am not looking forward to it.
As a lawyer in real life I get "hit in the face" all day. I don't want to continue doing that for "fun". But I rolled what the guild needed, because I was brought in by our GL, (a female friend), I started with a hunter. Then leveled a pally, and started healing, and just really loved it.

So I think if you are brought into the game by someone else you want to play with, you can end up doing more healing. But you could just as well slide to Tanking if that is what your group needs.

Anonymous said...

I think 3 million years we'll be all female anyway thanks to the psyhtoestrogens in soy products so I think all are arguments on gender is moot, including mine.

By the I play the pissed off drunk in my 5 mans, that blows crap up...cause I am usually.

Copernicus said...

I have a druid tank, shaman healer and a multitude of DPS.

I like healing, and it's a very important role, but it just doesn't feel very fulfilling. By the end of an instance I'm worn out and ready to take a break. Tanking, on the other hand, I find exciting, and at the end of a run I'm worn out, but in a good way.

I hadn't really thought about it before, but this article made scale back and look at the big picture. Healing for me is a mostly reactive job. Someone gets hurt, I cast a spell and make them better. Someone gets poisoned, I cast another spell and remove it.

Tanking is more proactive; faerie fire this guy, maul that guy, swipe, swipe, move away from the pat. I'm in control of the situation, rather than just reacting to it. I find it much more fulfilling to prevent bad things ever happening to the party, than repairing what does happen.

Tesh said...

OK, it's only tangentially relevant, but I thought I'd throw this out there:


There are interesting parallels in a five man group in WoW. It's interesting to see how people tend to self-sort when the system promotes the Trinity roles.

Dw-redux said...

@larisa: Oh im just teasing you a bit. When it comes to stuff like this, there is no way you can ever word things in a way that can't be misinterpreted if anyone would want to :D

And I totally agree on the part about knowing yourself. Whenever I try for a caster type, i almost burn out on the game. Its just not for me, and as a healer I got so frustrated never gettting probs for saving the whole raid by doing fantastic stuff. So ive settled for getting yelled at whenever I screw up as a tank instead :D

Anonymous said...

For most of BC I played a holy paladin (though tanking was my love) healing tanks played by females.

Now I'm back to tanking and my co-tank is played by a female. When she can't make a raid we have another female player (usually melee dps) tank in her stead.

I have a hard time imagining playing the game without working with females in leadership roles or tanking roles.

Fitz said...

As you know, I play healer toons only and will dual-spec them if I need a fix of something else, but healing is what I enjoy most in WoW. Not trying to come across sexist in any way (since there are already 40 comments on this hot button entry!), but there are provable scientific differences about how the male and female brain work.

Healing requires quick thinking and managing a lot of things at once (dispells as well as heals on everyone if you are a raid healer), and in real life I can confidently state that most women I know are way better at handling lots of things at once, or multi-tasking. I would posit that the female brain is just better suited to healing in WoW, which is why so many of them find that they excel and enjoy that role. Perhaps the things you bring up are a part of it too, but I just believe that playing WoW is not the same for all the roles.

Helver said...

Addressing the comment that implied that guys ask their girlfriends to play WoW as a healer because that's what they need is probably true, but not in the way that it was stated.

I got a friend of mine (guy) to play. He asked what class he should go with and I suggested Druid so that he could get a feel for all three roles in the game: tank, heals, dps. He and I, along with another guy (a mage) formed a group and leveled together from about 25 to 80: Me a prot pally, the frost mage, and the resto druid.

Part of the reason he gravitated to the resto role is the he had about six months less in-game experience than the pally and the mage, and playing the healer limited the amount of information he had to deal with at any particular time. Instead of worrying about the fights, he just worried about the health bars. So it wasn't that he couldn't tank or dps, it's just that after starting at a deficit we (as group) found a niche for him that allowed him to run with us at our speed.

This strategy is backed up by game mechanics, where it's often the case that an underleveled healer can heal an instance perfectly well, while an underleveled DPS or tank will be completely ineffective.

Carl Lewis said...

Very amusing post, But I think it it just has to do with the disproportionate amount of males that play the game. Personally I have chosen not to play a female toon because I don't find a female anything to be a pleasing aesthetic representation of my in game persona. I also never roll a gnome or Dwarf or human ('cept for my lock) because I like tall characters. Interestingly enough my Bank is a Female Warrior, maybe it's a reflection of my belief in the superior financial management skills of women.
I do agree that more women tend to be healers inGame, but my GM is a woman and an extremely capable tank and dps as well so.... go fig right? But as a general rule Men break things one at a time really well, Women fix everything all at once.

Fish said...

I prefer to think of my happy broccoli (tree-form) as gender neutral. Given blizz's other leanings, I'm surprised they didn't put horns on our tree form. That aside, you're right, I have seen a ton of female gamers, none of them tank. I know a bunch of hunters, some mages, one Holy paladin, no tanks.

Bell said...

I was thinking about this after I posted, but, what makes being "girly" bad? Is being "like a girl" so terrible?

Answer: societal pressures and expectations. Girly = ew there's a frog let's go put on makeup and dresses and play house.

My ret paladin has a valentine's day outfit. It's all pink and cute and has a little heart on the belt. It's very girly. But there's nothing about ret dps that is "girly." You could probably call it quite "manly" if you wanted to bolster another stereotype (masculine > feminine).

Kimberly said...

"Why don’t you feel that you get the glory, but rather are assisting others to get it? Don’t you want the achievements for yourself?"

Heehee...I could go on about this for days. By nature I'm a careful, methodical player and these tasks make the fights longer & forces the party to do stupid things. I feel that many of the stunty 5-person achievements puts a larger burden on the healer than any other member of the party.

And if four members of my party want to go for it, I'm not about to express my displeasure to stop it. And in the end, I'm the one panting and running low on mana while the rest high-five.

So that's my beef, in a nutshell. :)

Bristal said...

I started an alt priest to see if I liked healing and to potentially have an easier time finding PUGs.

Of course I chose a female Dranei. Partly because they look great and I don't want to stare at bow-legged dwarf for umpteen hours, but also because it just seemed to FIT.

However, I've reached lvl 48 without grouping once because I'm vaguely embarrassed about playing a female character (I'm male). So I'm considering a sex change.

Maybe this should have started "Dear Abby"...

Khrys said...


"I believe that most women, even when playing for fun cannot help it but lean to doing what's needed vs what they want."

"there's a shortage of tanks too, but its also a more "glorious job" standing at the front, taking most of the praise when things go well"

I like your thoughts - they feel comfortable with my own.

I'm an alpha female. The tanking role fits me well. By assumptive default it puts me in charge of deciding what hall to go down, what icons to mark the mobs with, and handling loot rules.

But once in a while I want to be needed while letting someone else drive. There's power in being a healer due to scarcity. It fits that rare time I want to be a helper-monkey.

Healers might be percevied as being feminine due to the match of their power and a Western female's (I'm stereotyping of course). A Western female in the role of mother/spouse can be the glue that hold a group activity together. It's a passive power that I used ingame when someone in my PUG started making pedo jokes. I told the party I was leaving if I heard one more word from that gamer - and I knew that the odds were on my side that my request would be attended to. The party was then forced to choose: lose the healer who is difficult to replace, or demand a certain behaviour from an easily-replaceable DPS?

It's not an overt power as such. But like the ability for long legs to turn heads, it's got impact and shoudl be recognized.

Middea said...

In part it has to do with what you grow up with and are socialized and tuned into. What is expected of you from birth carries over to gaming. Gender socialization is huge. It's subtle and not so subtle. And it does factor into our choices I believe.

In games, I always go for my favorite role of supporting my team. In Natural Selection I was the gorge for my CAL team, in WoW, I went the dwarf priest root. Had nothing to do with what friends were playing and what they needed, but because I wanted to be a supportive role.

That doesn't stop me from occasionally going feral kitty and owning lowbies on a pvp server or pulling out my death knight and tanking something, but I like most standing in the back and owning face without things touching me or healing my friends.

I also really hate the site of blood irl. *shrugs*

nugget said...


Aw... ok. No more retrospective saddies about misinterpretation about treating healers nicely as I could!

In general though, I'd just like to point out, if these things cross your mind - perhaps it should also be considered that the tanks aren't gender stereotyping anyone. That they don't care... that they are just being... LIKE NUGGETS!

Larísa said...

@Joanna, Fulguralis & Twonationsarmy: more female tanks, cheers! /waving enthusiastically

@Hatch: hear, hear! Thank you. I agree. A lot. I’m not quite as optimistic as you are though about the gender revolution. I think it will take incredibly long time before we get anywhere. Internet or not….

@Arkaneena: hm… that’s kind of interesting. So even if you’re a male player wanting to heal, you’ll role a female character for that role. I think you’re right. How often do you see female characters tanking? It isn’t unusual that male players role female toons, but not that often for tanking, not that I can think of at least. I guess it just reflects our stereotypical way of looking at the classes and roles.

@Highlantencylife: haha… In 3 million years we’re sea creatures! Ever read Galapagos by Vonnegut? If not, do so!

@Copernicus: interesting. I don’t know how I’ll feel about it in a while, if I’m just excited about the novelty in it, and eventually will grew bored with the reacting aspect of it. It remains to see. However, isn’t healing also much about proactivity? Not the least of you’re a druid… You have to anticipate big incoming damage and act strategically when you’re applying your HoTs…

@Tesh: It’s absolutely relevant, really cool link. I recognized it a lot. Could be well worth pondering upon that one from a WoW perspective. Who will be first to make a post from that point of view?

@Fitz & Carl Lewis: I’ve often been told that females are better at multi-tasking, however I’ve never ever seen it myself, neither for my own part or in others… My tendency to get tunnelvision is really one of the things I have to be aware of and fight, as I’m trying to become a batter WoW player. But maybe I’m not representative. I must admit that I’m not much updated about the latest works in brain research.

Larísa said...

@Helver: actually I think playing a druid is rather complicated compared to playing a pure class such as a mage. The different roles, the shapeshifting, the abundance of spells you train everytime you ding and the mind-boggling gear puzzle… I think it’s easier for a somewhat experienced player to handle than for a newbie. But I guess if you stick to a pure resto role it works. On the other hand it will require you to always have company. When you’ll go questing on your own, you’ll hardly want to do that as resto.

@Fish: Oh, I’m so looking forward to gender neutral broccoli! One more level to go and I’m there, yay me! No matter how much I like my pretty dress, I don’t necessarily have to see it while fighting.

@Bell: well, I guess there are many ways to approach equality between the genders. You can empower girls so they feel free to turn their back to the pinkish doll playing cute style and challenge the boys at their own territory. Or you can say that they should stick to their pink dolls but that this should be valued as highly as the boy thing. When it comes to me, as I stated in the post, I hate that women are expected to like pink stuff. It doesn’t matter if you start valuing the pink stuff higher, it bugs me if you try to force women into a corner out of “genetic” arguments, social pressure, whatever. We want and we deserve freedom! Since this blog is about WoW and not general political stuff I won’t discuss it much further though.

@Bristal: that’s interesting! I’ve heard about many male players taking the opportunity to switch to female chars since they’re more pretty to watch. But I’ve never heard of anyone thinking about the opposite, feeling embarrassed about playing the opposite sex…. Hm… I’m afraid I’m not any Abby though, so no advice from me.

Khrys: Oh, we hear to rarely abut alpha female. Kudos to you! It’s strange though that you for some reason find it easier to be in that role as a healer than as a tank. What is it that stops you from standing in the back healing, while still deciding what hall to go down, marking, handling loot rules etc? Why can’t the tank obey to the marking done by a healer, just like the dps will follow the signs that a tank puts up?
I can’t see the logic in it.

(About the secret power: oh yes… Can’t help associating to another stereotype (forgive me for spreading those!): if you don’t help me clean up the house/whatever you won’t get laid… If you don’t behave in the party chat you won’t get any heals…)

@Middea: I wonder if the choices of role for female/male players are different if you look at where they’re coming from? Thinking about how society forms what we’re tuned into, as you point out. In Sweden I’m pretty much convinced that we’re a lot further developed when it comes to equality between the genders if you compare to for instance Greece. Are their more Swedish girl tanks than Greek ones, proportionally? I don’t know, but it would be interesting if someone looked into it.

Anonymous said...

Awesome discussion here. I think it's pretty cool that we can use the virtual worlds to play around a bit with real life constructs like gender roles.

I know male friends who have played female characters have commented that it's interesting to see how girls get treated (I bite my tongue and don't say that that real life isn't /quite/ like WoW in that respect) .. but clearly it's giving them a chance to play around with different roles in a way they'd never do in the real world.

Fritzgar said...

First off I play fairly regularly with 3 women. AN old guildmate and in-game friend who is a fairly competent ret-pally, though her alt that she loves is in fact a holy priest. My sister who's main is a moonkin with resto as her off-spec and her 2 alts of a unholy DK and a frost mage. Those two seem to somewhat fit the stereotype I guess, though my sister HATES healing she basically picked it up so she could heal my tank alt and get into pug's a bit easier. Finally my wife just started playing, she wanted to play a mage but ended up going with a warrior and loving it. In fact she gets quite annoyed when she can't pull aggro from my tankadin I am levleing with her.

Sassafras said...

"Why can’t the tank obey to the marking done by a healer, just like the dps will follow the signs that a tank puts up?
I can’t see the logic in it."

As a tank, I can. Even if you are the same class as someone else who tanks, you don't necessarily tank the same. And then when you consider there are 4 classes that can tank now, it's a big assumption to think you can understand how not just that class best tanks, but know the mind of the person tanking. That's why a raid doesn't go as smoothly with tanks who haven't worked together before and don't have a feel for how the other works. When you have two tanks who have worked together and know how the other is going to react, it's a huge difference.

I personally hate marking. It's slow and I always miss with my mouse once or twice from trying to do it too quickly. But I am rigid enough in my thought process I want certain mobs marked a certain way if I am the one tanking. Though I am flexible enough to just go with the flow if I don't get lead, I most likely won't tank for the person leading that group again.

Also, I agree about healers loving pink-pigtailed gnomes a little extra for some reason. Maybe it's the giggle?

Temitope said...

"Just to throw in a pet peeve: Gender and sex are different. Sex is physical and determined by chromosomes while gender is a social/mental construct and generally on a continuum of masculine to feminine."

Just to throw a pet peeve back at your pet peeve: surely this is, in fact, a gender issue rather than a sex issue. Women aren't biologically predisposed to play healers in WoW, but healing is a gendered-feminine activity.

Fitz said...

@ Larisa: I've written a counter-argument of sorts. I believe the stereotype is true, and I see that I've sort of echoed some commentary here. Nevertheless, I give you at least one link to some brain research.


(and I think it's only fair when you link to someone that you let them know!)

Khaelie said...

i fear you may not like my answer... i am a female and even though my original toon eas a hunter (ranged DPS)... my current main is indeed a healer... and i am currently leveling a second healer... and then i will likely move onto a third healer (shaman, priest and druid... in that order). i have also contemplated starting a pally for, yep, healing. i guess that is just what i found that i like to do. it makes me happy to have control over who lives and who dies *insert evil grin here*

Tesh said...

Larisa, while I can think of a mildly fun title for such an article ("Five Man Band of Brothers"), I'm pretty much a confirmed soloer, and, well... we're not all brothers. Hopefully someone takes it and runs with it, though. These TV tropes have a grain of truth in them often enough, and it would be interesting to see how often observations "in the wild" match with the roles suggested there.

Bartle had fun classifying people, why not bloggers? :)

Mareena said...

I started out playing a mage. I made it to 70 after BC came out. I raided for a while with my mage, then leveled a paladin. I had so much fun tanking on her.
My husband started on a rogue, but when I switched to my tankadin, he switched to a healing priest and loves it. I guess we're backwards on the sterotype. :)

Zaphind said...

lol ha ha ha! Sorry I had to pick myself up off the floor, and I apologize in advance if this has already been pointed out in the other 62,856 comments of which I only briefly skimmed because I'm too lazy to read through them all... but this line made me laugh:

"I hate gender stereotypes with all of my heart..."

This from the person who's blog is titled "The Pink Pigtail Inn". Sorry, I just had to point that out! ;)

Arkaneena said...

Okay with all the talk about this lately it has caused me to do some serious self analysis. I posted a blog on this issue today. Thanks for helping me see what I need to become better.