Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sexism in the World of Warcraft

Okay, okay. Yes, I play the damn game. ("Oooh oooh what do you play, what do you play?") I play a night elf ("awwwwwww :(") holy priest named Casperne on the Kul Tiras sever, with a bunch of nerds that line up under the banner of Lexington.

There is quite a bit of sexism floating around the world. Of Warcraft. (Sorry, had to do it.) Not only are the users themselves rather sexist, but the designers, at least, are too.

The foremost thing to discuss is, of course, the playerbase. Due to WoW's infamy, its playerbase could not be contained to a single demographic: rich and poor, young and old (12-70, I'd guess, averaging around 20), male and female, gay and straight, mature and immature, introverted and extroverted, educated and uneducated, right and left (-winged and -handed). Thus, you often have the pleasure of playing with really idiotic, immature people. Conclusion: no wonder there's misogyny abound. The best example is probably the oft-declared, "Girls don't play WoW!" or "There aren't any girls on the Internet!" Obviously, this is incorrect, and, in fact, most people say it knowing that it is, and I guess that's supposed to make it funny. Similar to "Oooh, don't hurt me, feminist-man-hating lady!" It's just not funny anymore.

There is, however, one good thing regarding gender that WoW embraces: you can play whatever gender you want. There are a lot of men that play female characters, and they aren't ashamed of it. (Compare to Ragnarok Online, where, when you create an account to start playing, you choose your gender, and then you can only play characters of the matching gender.) There are only two major reasons for this that I know of so far. Some of these players admit that they just like to see their female character's boobs jiggle when they run (and similar reasons), while others simply don't like the male character models. There is one other reason, and I've only heard my boyfriend give this reason so far: some identify better with females in real life, thus find it natural to play a female character. I have no idea how common this reason is. Only a handful of times have I ever heard someone use the choice to play the opposite gender as ammunition in an argument. It's generally a pretty accepted thing to do.

But when the developers themselves program misogyny right into the game, I tend to get a little annoyed. For example, this is my human female paladin:

Pretty skimpy, huh? Here's what this outfit looks like on a human male:

Surprised? I'm not either. The guy doesn't even have to have an uncomfortable wedgie all the time. It would have been pretty simple to just have the armor cover up the same amount of skin. This lends more to the sexist idea that the female body is community property and that women exist as eye candy.

Character models' body types deserve to be pointed out. The female human body is fairly proportioned, in my opinion. Her waist isn't itty-bitty, her thighs are healthy, and her boobs are, though ample, not enormous. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the male body is the truly unfair one: he really is packing, to an unrealistic degree. (And I just noticed that his legs appear to be shaved! Nutty.) When the blood elf race was announced as the new horde race for the expansion, I was ecstatic to find out that the male blood elf was not packing huge muscles. He was skinny, almost frail, and certainly feminine. Personally, I find such a body type to be extremely attractive. But Blizzard's average player doesn't, and after a lot of homophobic clamoring, Blizzard beefed up the model to the same levels as the male human, and it hasn't changed since.

As far as being a woman playing the game among males goes, I've been pretty pleased. I have never been talked down to because I'm a female and I don't know anything. No one has ever apparently disagreed with me because I'm female. My knowledge of how to play my class has never been questioned because of the fact that I'm female. In fact, I get a lot more respect for playing my class well in this game than I do for getting good grades in my tech classes at school. Men appreciate my work in the game more than they do in class. I can't begin to theorize why this might be true. In fact, this is merely anecdotal; it might not be true. It might simply be easier for my teammates to communicate respect to me over the Internet than it is in real life.

You might be surprised that those are the only examples I came up with. I chose to leave out the more "mundane" examples of misogyny (instances are divided into "5-man" and "25-man" dungeons, for example, instead of "5-person" and "25-person"), because they mostly come from the playerbase, not the developers themselves. And again, there really shouldn't be much surprise about the playerbase being misogynist. On top of that, the truth is that I play this game for much the same reason others do: to escape. I tend to try very hard to ignore misogyny in WoW because I'm trying to have fun here. And, as Shakes has wisely said, if I were dedicated to purposefully finding and calling out misogyny everywhere, I would be a very unhappy woman indeed.

Doubt not that I will continue to post examples of misogyny in WoW as I come accross them, even the mundane ones.

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