Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My survival tactics in a stereotyped world

During my vacation the blogosphere has seen another epidemic of gender-related blog posts. It’s not the first time, and definitely not the last. The topic tends to pop up about twice a year, each time causing a quite intense debate.

Of course I can't refrain to jump into it this time either. And of course I can't but agree with Pewter, who started the debate with an awesome post. WoW is made by a heavily male-dominated crew primarily aiming for a male-dominated audience (even though the proportions among the player base are far more even.) And this shows. All the time.

It’s not just the bunny year achievement (which I honestly couldn’t really get mad about because I found it rather amusing.) It’s the gender of the faction leaders, the lack of female ogres, the look of the armor. A recent example: did you see the incoming loading screens in Cataclysm? As far as I’ve been able to count there are three female characters pictured out of a total of 15, and all of them seem to be some sort of elves with big and well exposed boobs. Eye candy I guess. I'll miss the female gnome and the dwarf lady. But then I'll turn my back to it, pretending it isn't there. That's my normal way to deal with the fact that not only WoW, but the entire geeky universe I inhabit basically still is men's territory.

Looking in another direction
Am I upset? Not very much. Over the years I've developed some sort of immunity to it.

I simply don’t expect my fairy tales to offer inspiring and interesting role models for women (not to speak of having some sort of balance between the genders.) That’s not what I’m primarily looking for as I pick my next book or movie. I look for great stories and enchanting worlds, I look for escapism. As long as the fantasy as such is immersive, I’m prepared to let the authors get away with almost any kind of stereotype. I just put on my genre glasses and filter it out as irrelevant.

For instance it never bothered me that much Tolkien portrayed a universe where only men made a difference, mattered and had an impact on the world events. There were a couple of exceptions - Galadriel comes to mind. But the only woman who ever holds a sword in her hand - Eowyn - was pictured as damaged goods, strangely depressed and frustrated, misguided in her mission for honor and war, when all she needed in fact was a proper man that could take care of her. Once she found him she put her soldier ideas on the shelf. I suppose she was preparing to hatch yet another male hero. My reaction was simple. I put her on ignore, pretending she basically wasn't there, at least not as a representative for my gender. I identified with the fellowship and not with this weeping, love craving pathetic lady.

Another example is the Narnia series by CS Lewis, where the boys got swords and shields from Santa, while the girls had to settle with healing potions, a horn to call for help and a useless dagger and bow, which only was to be used in a case of emergency in self defense, since “women weren’t supposed to participate in the fight.” Doh. Those lines always disgusted me, but on the whole I loved the books and read them over and over again, sinking deeply into a parallel world of adventure and magic. I turned my back to the gender perspective as I always do, identifying with one of the male characters (I always liked Eustace), forgiving Lewis for his rather old-fashioned outlook. After all he was nothing but a product of his time. You couldn’t expect more.

Those examples are from the past. But what about now? Has the genre progressed since those days?

Possibly. A little bit I'd say. But to be fair there’s quite a long way to go before the female roles in the majority of the fantasy eposes are as frequent and as important as the guys.

Harry Potter was made into a boy and Rowling chose to appear with her initials and not her first name on the books, not to pull too much attention to the fact that the author was a woman. For a good reason of course. It comes from a simple analysis of the demands from the market. I don’t understand why, but it appears as if guys have way bigger problems to identify themselves with a female hero than I have to engage myself into the destiny of a male character. And in the end, most books aren’t published for a good course or as a political statement – they’re made for profit. Easy decision.

A future Thrallica?
To be fair, there are exceptions. For instance I remember some of the novels by Ursula K LeGuin as quite inspiring as I grew up. Reading her stories I didn’t have to deliberately dismiss the female characters for being pale and stupid. Another good example is the development of Star Trek, which step by step removed itself from the heavily stereotyped Kirk in the original series to the updated female captain Janeway of Voyager. It was definitely a move in the right direction.

So what will happen? Can we expect the “geek genres", such as SF, fantasy and horror, all with the origins in the extremely traditional fairy tale, to develop even further, holding less stereotypes, offering interesting and varied portrays of women as well as men? Will there be a day when a popular game , equivalent to WoW, could have females such as Bolvara, Thrallica, Garrosha and Artha in the leading roles? I'm a bit of an optimist in those areas, so I'll say yes. Mankind is slowly but surely heading towards some sort of enlightening. But it won’t happen overnight, that’s for sure.

And I doubt that it will be the result of a cannonade of angry blog posts from the female part of the WoW community.

If WoW is to change you'll have to change the overall view on women, sex and gender in our society. It's all in the bigger picture - how women are portrayed, what expectations society have on them, what choices both women and men have to express themselves. The chains of stereotypes and fixed patterns have ruled us for a very long time. Solve it in real life and I'm pretty sure the gaming business will follow. We're talking about a change of mentality here. Big stuff.

How to conquer Azeroth
If you’ve come this far in this mega-rant you might think this was a rather sad and disillusioned post. First I chime into the choir that WoW is governed by and made for men. In fact the entire fantasy genre is teaming with models that lock women into passive, traditional roles that I find uninspiring and impossible to identify with. And then I tell you how I deal with it - simply looking in another direction, trying to not notice it, moving my focus to the male characters and the fantasy stories I love. And finally I claim that this is how the world looks and that there isn't much we can do about it. Our blog posts on the topic won't change anything. It' s all in the hands of the market.

Gloomy, yeah. A bit maybe. But isn’t there anything we can do to move the positions, trying to make women into full worthy citizens of Azeroth, just as capable as the men of taking the role of the hero?

I think there is. Just like Ophelie I refuse to regard myself as a victim. I think you can - and should - take charge of your own destiny. But more about that tomorrow. This post is long enough as it is.

To be continued...

30 comments:

Azryu said...

You have to take in account that Blizzard modeled the game after the real world in some aspects. Seeing as how this game is set in a midevil time period it is not at all surprising that they should include very few female leaders in the "mortal races".

If you take a look elsewhere, beyond the humans and savage orcs you see a much more balanced structure-- night elfs with their Elune, Alexstrasza leading the dragons aspects.

Klepsacovic said...

Take hope from WoW. All those males who play female characters, no matter the reason they give, they are all showing something consistent: they can handle the idea of a female hero who is not in the background.

While I don't attach a lot of sex or gender roles to my characters, the fact remains that my main is a female who wades into the middle of the fight and kills things.

Azryu said...

I meant to elaborate on how the game mirrors the real world. They went with the King and House of Nobles structure... both positions which are classically not occupied by women.

Prelimar said...

tolkien was a product of his time, too, and even still, the lore of middle earth has many female characters who are just as amazing -- if not moreso -- than the males. galadriel alone (as you mention) is so powerful that she alone was denied peace in the west for thousands of years, until she freely turned down the One Ring.

and in the first and second ages, there were lots of women who kicked all sorts of ass.

anyway, i understand your point. the endless big boobs drive me crazy, too. but it's a business after all's said and done, and they have to appeal to the largest consumers of the product. sigh.

Talarian said...

Let's see. Alextrasza, as mentioned. The entire Night Elf race being matriarchal, essentially. Jaina Proudmoore, though sometimes she feels ripped straight out of a Harlequin Romance novel...Garona was a strong character, half orc assasin. Lady Sylvanas of the Forsaken, who is actually a particularily strongly written character. Heck, if you consider Lady Prestor/Onyxia, she was a strong character as well.

I think WoW does have a ways to come yet, but there are quite a few strong female characters in the lore and in the current game as well. Not prefect, but far and away from the worlds crafted by Tolkien or CS Lewis.

Dammerung said...

First, some positive examples from recent scifi-fantasy:

The highly acclaimed(at least from the fans) firefly also featured a powerful woman cast.

More and more of the novels produced have strong women roles and leads who do not play to the fainting heroine but instead to the I stabbed it till it was dead.

In video games, Samus and the ladies of resident evil are not weak kneed.


Second my thoughts on WoW:
There really is little reason for wow to play to those stereotypes or to dress everyone in bikini's. At least let the functional women your plot presents act like the serious warriors they are.

I've known plenty of female soldiers who have done as much as any of the guys they were with and when working they dress seriously... not like they were just back from the club.

Wow does not(in my mind) treat their characters as if any of the women were serious about what they do. Other then perhaps the jailor who chased after Illidan or Onyxia.

Angelya said...

Thankyou for posting this - I have to say I share the view that I'm honestly not bothered by this sort of thing in games. I play for the world, for the escapism, for the achievement of progression - occasionally I notice say, Alextraza's model and roll my eyes, but it's not unexpected and doesn't really bother me.

I AM bothered by behaviour of other players though, and I will call out people who are using words or making jokes that offend me. But in stories, I can't say I've ever felt victimised by a lack of female heroes or anything. Perhaps I'm naive (or lucky).. but I'm in a guild with several other women and we kick arse just as much as the guys do, and I don't even think about things like that until "feminist" posts come along.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

Rose of the Prophet books has strong women in it, so does the Dragonlance novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and most things by Joss Whedon) tend to have strong female roles.

Kitty Pride from X-men.

The enchanted forest chronicles have strong women, and stupid, incompetent men.

Perhaps you need to look at more modern fantasy?

As for WoW... The loading screens are more a product of the artist hired, and in this case, it the images show the faction leaders. With the way Blizzard has been, I see the fact that they are male more to do with the fact that the next step of the story requires "testosterone" to progress it than anything else.

With that said, they are distinctly adding the "bitch" to the game. It can be a bit of a shocker, quite honestly.

Knastik said...

It is a product of the environment. For thousands of years men have been the primary soldiers and the only ones permitted to join the military. They have dominated politics and women have taken a back seat role. In the Marines one of the officers who had study the history of war and military gave me an explanation as to why it was so, and it is probably just one of many theories. He posited that it was more of a strategic value to have women not fight or play that style role because in a woman dying you kill her and her offspring while a male you just lose him as there are always more
males not fighting.

The fact that this has been ingrained over centuries is shown in our modern interpretation and portrayal of war and certain time periods. I am not saying it is write and proper that women are not given their due. In fact I do feel that both genders are equal. I enjoy the fact that in the game male and female characters can fight side by side with positive results though I would not be so enthused in real life.

It seems that in Wow even preconceived notions still shine through. From a psychological perspective we can see that such stereotypes are still ingrained and a primary construct in which people interpret the world.

Leah said...

Read some Anne Bishop. Black Jewels books, Tir Alain Trilogy, Ephemera books, every single story she writes has extremely strong female characters - key characters to the story. but what I also love about her books is that she doesn't go into the extreme of Marion Zimmer Bradley (well some of her books anyways) and completely gender flips. her male characters are just as important and strong in their own way, but she has some of the best heroines out there IMO.

also - Patricia Wrede. I absolutely adore her, whether she's writing solo or collaborating, she amazing.

SpiritusRex said...

I think that there should be more women who kick ass........as long as they have nice boobies. I like boobies.

I typically don't have any difficulty "putting myself in the other person's shoes," regarding race, religious affiliation, etc., with the sole exception of gender. When it comes to gender I find it difficult to escape from my own perspective - a guy's perspective. It's not that I'm not aware of the issue, it's just that it kind of goes by me without any notice. I know that makes me sound only slightly more evolved than the cro-magnon, but it's almost as if it's a blind spot I have. I think perhaps it's my own true belief that we are all equal and therefore I naively think that other's also believe the same. Your post highlights that, unfortuantely, gender bias exists even in video games and that much work needs to be done to make sure that we all are treated equally. I will tell you though, that even in a truly equal world, I'll still like boobies.

Leah said...

P.S. enchanted forest chronicles have strong male characters too. That would be Patricia Wrede, didn't realize she was recommended until after posting my comment :P she is not as good when it comes to quality of sexes as Anne Bishop is, ut she's nowhere near as bad as Marion Zimmer Bradly

Pangoria Fallstar said...

@Leah: I was mostly talking about how bad the wizards are, how the king was completely unprepared for the outside world, and how the magician gets lost in over thinking.

When you look at Cimorene, Morwen, and Kazul, you have incredibly strong, smart female characters.

Xaxziminrax II said...

>I simply don’t expect my fairy tales to offer inspiring and interesting role models for women

Implying that there are inspiring and interesting role models for men in fantasy tales? Thrall and Cairne, the two thoughtful men of the horde, are getting the boot. Bolvar loses control of Stormwind to Varian... because Varian is so levelheaded, amirite? Arthas killed his father and proceeded to wreck havoc amongst the world. So the only - Hm. Well, I guess those are interesting roles. Though, I can still take argument with the 'inspiring' part!

>I put her on ignore, pretending she basically wasn't there, at least not as a representative for my gender.

I'm curious: why do you look at a female as a representative of your gender, and not just as another character in a book? If gender should be irrelevant, why do people get sad when their preferred gender doesn't get the big roles? Second, since the 'hero who's playing with half a deck' is such a male-dominated role, shouldn't you be happy there's a scenario with the role flipped? I don't think you want a 'fair' or 'equal' scenario; I think you just want to be on top this time... the winner, the flawless victor, the Mary Sue.

And what's the harm in identifying with a character of a gender that isn't yours? After all, you're not actually associating with their physical parts, but their thoughts and actions, which aren't dictated by their bodies in the slightest.

>After all he was nothing but a product of his time. You couldn’t expect more.

As are you, my dear, and as are myself and those around me.

Thank you for the post, as it quite relates to some digging I've been doing on my own: "compared to women from other countries around, Estonian women have enjoyed far more independence, are stronger (though many believe that to be one of those ’modern myths’ that have managed to stay around" Butjazz says. I think he's right, though for this example you can call me biased!

Larísa said...

@Azryu: But why, these days, do you really need to use those long-time-ago worn out stereotypes? Can’t you use the setting, the style of architecture, the clothing etc, but giving more powers to a king or a female leader? Is it because of the market? Or is it because their FEARS of how the market will react? The boys still can’t accept a female captain?

@Klepsacovic: the foot soldiers are females, that’s true. But it’s about time that more commanders become it as well.

@Prelimar: yeah, Galadriel is great. And being the Tolkien fan I am, I don’t hold anything against him. I like sissy fairy tales too, even though they keep telling the story where the prince is saving the princess and never the opposite. However… at some point I guess it will have to turn over. But not quite for a while I’m afraid.

@Talarian: Well, I don’t say they don’t exist at all. But the new loading screens speak load and clearly to me.

@Dammerung: yep, I agree wholeheartedly. The bikini hang-up in fantasy games is getting very old now. Let the female soldiers be as realistic as the mails. And if they want to dress up beautifully they could as well do that in the evening.

@Angelya: I don’t walk around thinking about it all the time either. And I think the game would become rather boring if I did. It doesn’t hurt to reflect on it every now and then, but if I started to scrutinize the game from a political standpoint, be it about feminism, gay/lesbians/disabled/different skincolor/religion etc etc, it would quickly stop being the escape and entertainment it is for me. I beware of that.

@Pangoria Fallstar: I definitely need to have a closer look at more modern fantasy! I’m afraid I don’t read as much these days as I used to do back in time. And yeah, Buffy is pretty cool actually. I’ve watched it a lot with one of my daughters.

I don’t quite get the thing about that the story requires testosterone to progress though.

@Knastik: Yep, I agree on this. A lot of stuff has happened the last century; women have conquered so many territories. It’s just a matter of time before we’ll see the first female US president, I hope. But regardless of this, those stereotypes that form our storytelling are so deep going. You don’t wipe it overnight, you don’t’ create a new narrative within a few years, a new mythology. It will take centuries before we’ll get there.

@Leah: Thanks for the suggestions! I remember reading Avalaron by Bradley back in time and that I loved it, being a sucker for Arthur/Merlin mythology. I’m not sure how it was from a gender perspective anymore though, it’s been so long.

@SpiritusRex : there’s nothing wrong about liking boobies. What’s wrong is to reduce the value of women to be solely about boobs. And to expect them to think and act in a certain way, to volunteer for certain roles and duties just because they happen to have boobs.

@Xaxxziminrax II: The heroes of books that I’ve identified myself with have with almost no exception been men and I’m very much used to it. Maybe there isn’t any big harm in it. But raising daughters I can get second thoughts… I wonder if it doesn’t mess around a bit with our deeper layers. Isn’t there a risk that we eventually, without noticing it, start to regard women as inferior since they never play any important roles, since the heroes always are men? Isn’t there a risk that we reinforce patterns that we’d like to rid ourselves from?

This doesn’t mean that I demand a flood of fantasy books, movies and games with politically correct reversed roles on the spot. I really don’t! But I think it wouldn’t hurt if the genre evolved a little bit. Although I’m quite pessimistic about the pace of it, as described in my post.

Leah said...

@ Pangoria, ok you may have apoint there >_> but king is still a positive character and the last book in a series was written entirely from a male perspective, so it could be worse. God that sounds so wrong >_> But I'm thinking of Marion Zimmer Bradly and as much as i love her books, her male characters are mostly horrible and/or ineffectual while women can practically do no wrong.

and that reminded me of one of the earlier strong female characters in fantasy - Jirel of Joiree.

Pewter said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head Larisa - I don't walk around being outraged by this 24/7. I just want more from my fantasy than a boy's fantasy 24/7 ;) It's getting better, it really is.

There are many female creators of fantasy content out there - but you look at a 'top 100 sci fi books' list and it will be 97% white males. Fiction by women is often devalued (by men and women) in the sci-fi fantasy world. Again, this is something that is getting better (and it's not a conspiracy or anything).

Pangoria Fallstar said...

@Leah: if you mean Daystar, that 4th book in the series was written before all the other ones were!

sylverbox said...

Just because you don't 'regard yourself as a victim' doesn't change anything though. to me this sounds way too much like 'if I close my eyes and pretend the problem isnt there, it will go away'.
not acting victimized is certainly one step in the right direction, but it's not enough. simply ignoring issues won't make them change or go away by themselves, I'm afraid. but maybe that's not really your intention.

I've been the (proud) 'female exception' in boys' gamer clubs ever since I was a young kid. while new boys always got easy entries, I had to constantly earn my respect among them and put in twice the effort to 'earn' my spot. I didn't gain it by acting like a guy, nor by ignoring the often sexist remarks or prejudices around me. you can't get defensive and whiny about it, but there's other ways to prove them wrong and actively oppose these stereotypes, also vocally. I was never shy to return the favor.

it's a tricky situation overall, but I think what I want to say is that ignoring things is never the way to go.

Azryu said...

@Larisa:
I understand how you can question why they would use the same formula that everyone else does, the king and his house of noblemen and such. It's hard for me to say that their decision to use that model makes them overtly sexist in any way, or they avoided adding female characters of power in any way, shape, or form.

To me, while they did use the classic model of the king and his men, there is a lot of evidence that outside of those specific examples there is an equal amount of fascinating, brilliant, and important female roles.

In response to the question about the market, I bet that is a part of it, but not in just how you think. The guys may like to see mighty warriors they can identify with bashing heads, but I have to wonder if the female audience also is attracted to the heroic and noble men of warcraft.

As far as costumes go... I dont think I can speak for them really. Its obvious that there is a feminine flair to some of those costumes and at times it just seems like a lot of skin is showing, but a part of me wants to simply think that this is a case of reading far to deep into things. In that same breathe though I will say that I do see where you are coming from though.

Overall though, I see the female heroes of Warcraft to be as important as anyone else. Jaina is working towards peace which is incredibly admirable considering it seems she is alone in her desires to unite them. Alexstrasza defiantely is a respectable character in that she was sorrowful that Malygos had to be put down. She is held in such high respects by even the game characters themselves, as given evidence by Bolvar first asking her permission to kill/defile the frost wyrms since they are in fact dragons that were once her kinsmen.

Perhaps it's because I havent devoted much thought to this subject outside of reading your post and a little bit of Wowwiki time that I am so optimistic. Who knows.

Azryu said...

Also, I highly doubt there is a problem following a "female captain". Any reasonable person should not have a problem with it. It is very hard for me to imagine someone ever uttering such nonesense like "shes not cool because shes a girl".

Jaina Proudmoore is one of the best figures in the lore to me. She is a mage who seems to be quite powerful according to what I have read of the lore, and impressed those around here with her quick learning. She also seems to be the voice of reason that is going to be so important in the coming expansions.

I personally felt awesome fighting along side Jaina in the ICC dungeons, and absolutely was thrilled to travel to Orgrimmar on a diplomatic mission with her. I am kind of a lore nerd ;)

Ratshag said...

The new loading screens really jumped out at me too. 4:1 speaks pretty damn loud and clearlies. Still waitings fer some good female Tuskarr lovings too, along with the ogres. And the gnolls.

In additions ta all them other good suggestions, I strongly recommends Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga books fer a good balance of strong, intelligent, capable mens and wimmenz characters. Is damn good readings, too.

Gronthe said...

As a Tolkein fan, the story of Beren and Luthien is the most epic I've ever read. Luthien, to me, is the greatest hero the author ever wrote into a story. Just my opinion.

Re WoW: I don't think I ever thought about the stereotypes of men or women in the game until recently. Why? I don't know, maybe because I'm a guy or maybe because whether the values portrayed in-game reflect real life or not doesn't matter as much as flinging fire or slicing and dicing at boars.

The discussion is good, but once I log in tonight I'll forget about it and just relax in the fantasy world that's there for the taking.

Anonymous said...

Can't figure out the login thing here, but I just wanted to say I think you're underestimating Eowyn. And I say this as both a woman and as someone who started reading Tolkien with the assumption that he was terribly sexist. I've since revised my opinion.

IMVHO Eowyn is something better than a feminist role model: she's a female character who's allowed to have real problems (frustration, hopelessness) which are taken seriously in the story. And romance isn't presented as the solution to her problems; it's more like a reward for climbing out of the pit she was in. Not to mention that Tolkien didn't think war was a desirable pursuit for men either, but rather something to be done regretfully and only in self-defense.

*cough* Sorry to go off-topic there. I do second the recommendation for Patricia Wrede. Not only do her female characters kick butt, but her books are just loads of fun as well!

Pellex on Hyjal

Tesh said...

Seconding Wrede as a good author. I'd also suggest Garth Nix; his Sabriel books are excellent, and the titular female lead (no innuendo intended, but see how easy it is for the shallow minded?) is one of the best female leads I've had the fortune of reading about.

For the record, I'm a happily married heterosexual male, and I find the oversexualization of the game industry deeply annoying. I'm doing my part by working *in* the industry and exerting my influence as much as I can for the better.

Oh, and I never even really liked the "old" loading screens. There's still too much emphasis on cleavage and curves on the female characters. The ratio was better, sure, but what good is it when they are still mere pinups?

Larísa said...

@Pewter: Yeah. I'm afraid I've lost a bit of the connection to the SF literature genre, but I suspect that you're right - there IS a good development going on there - even if it's annoyingly slow. There's no reason to give up though. And no reason to let it destroy our enjoyment of the genre. I think it doesn't hurt though to speak up a couple of times a year - as we do now.

@Sylverbox: I'm with you, which I think you'll see in the post of tomorrow.

@Azryu: Nah, I don't think anyone at Blizzard is deliberately sexist. Absolutely not. They're just products of their time and the genre, like Tolkien was.

I don't say that there aren't any important female heroes in Warcraft. However it's like in Tolkien - they're very few compared to the amount of men.

@Ratshag: More reading suggestions, thank you!

@Gronthe: Thankfully enough I forget about it too most of the time. I'm glad that I can, because I want to immerse myself into the fantasy as much as anyone else, not constantly thinking about political issues. This is supposed to be an escape from those things.

@Pellex on Hyal: well... I can only say that we disagree about Eowyn. I was so bugged by her hopeless crush on Aragorn, but it also annoyed me that she had to wear a disguise to be included in the fight. I suppose it would have been alright if you sensed that the author thought that SHE was in the right, that it was wrong to forbid her to participate. But you really don't sense that, do you?

Hm... But maybe I'm doing her an injustice. I tend to re-read the entire series every three years, and I promise I'll try to be more positive to her next time and see if I can find what you see.

@Tesh: Yeah, I'm not that excited about the old loading screens either. They're as obsessed by the boobs as the new ones. But at least there are females around. And that gnome looks a bit dangerous!

Michael said...

I'd have to say that the male characters are also stereotyped. As a self-conscioulsy geeky man, I find little to identify with in the traditional hyper-masculine fantasy warrior world. They lack resonance for me when it comes to male identity and that's part of the reason I've rolled female toons.

It's not just the female characters that are caricatures; WoW stereotypes go from top to bottom.

Redbeard said...

I do complain about the gear for female toons --some of the mage gear especially-- but at least Horde-side the female NPCs tend to be strong willed and on the same level as the male NPCs.

I'm only just working my way through on the Alliance side, so I can't comment about the entire environment there, but the female Human NPCs --in the starting zones especially-- drive me bananas. Okay, the Human zones in general do, but a good portion of that is because of the stereotypes found in the zones. The Night Elf and Draenei zones, by comparison, are far more gender equal.

A lot of the game experience is taken up by how people interact with each other, and unless you have heard the person on the other end of the toon in Vent, you won't know if that person is male or female. You have only the toon itself as your guide.

Yes, Alexstrasza's human-esque model is definitely on the eye-candy side, but I'll be honest in that was probably the fourth or fifth thing I noticed about her. I mean, it's not everyday you come before the single most powerful being on Azeroth, and in her human-esque model she towers over a Vrykul as well as every other dragon model around. Maybe she's dressed for Dancing With the Stars, but this isn't her "I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass" form, either. (You get that in the Wrathgate, and you never forget it. When she says "Come here", you move your behind over. Quickly.)

Things will change in MMOs as society changes. There are still undercurrents out there for "old fashioned" ways of thinking, and not just from men alone. However, as newer generations grow up, we move closer and closer toward equality. An Edwardian or Victorian sensibility, like that found in Lord of the Rings or Narnia, won't be seen again. LeGuin and MZB are old hat now. The newest generation of authors have built upon those earlier years and point us toward the future. A lot of the best SF/F I've read the past couple of years have female protagonists, and all of them have strong female characters. And who knows what the next 5-10 years will bring?

Larísa said...

@Michael: I can so understand you and I imagine it must be equally frustrating not to be able to identify at all with the representations of your own gender in the game. I too think that the male chars are pretty terrible - especially humans. Why can't a human mage be thin, pale and wear glasses?

@Redbeard: yeah, I too think that some patience is neeed. Things WILL change eventually. I think it will be different in 5-10 years, yes, but I think it might take quite a few generations before we have a truly equal society worldwide.

Anonymous said...

where are they gay men and women eh!!!

but that's the point its a Fantasy game its not supposed to represent real life, where does this line of we want

and if i'm honest i think Sylannas is one hell of a strong female lead.