Women and Warlords

Friday evening, 11/15

I haven’t posted anything about Warlords of Draenor yet. The reasons for that are fodder for another post; suffice to know that I’ve been both very busy with work and otherwise distracted regarding the game.

I have, however, had a chance to check out the updates on MMO-C, as well as several blog posts and discussions on the changes, the new content, and so on. I haven’t been as active as usual around here lately, but I’ve also not been living under a rock, in that respect.

One of the recurring subjects of some of these posts has been women – or rather, a lack of women – in the presentation of the new expansion. The reveal video featured a female Frostwolf encountering a male Dreanei hunter, a tribal-dancing Orc female, and a female Draenei protagonist… and a bunch of brutish Orc males from Draenor-past. In giving us a whiff of what we will encounter – obviously, an orcstosterone-driven, warring society, where Orc-men waged war and everything else, including Orc-women, were of lesser importance (and worse: read Unbroken for a picture of the devastating shit that went on) – Blizzard introduced us to the warped and primitive Orcish society in WoD.

The “Story, Heroes, Villains” page at Battle.net shows us seven male Orc leaders from old Draenor, as well as Vindicator Maraad and Prophet Velen – both powerful male Draenei – and Khadgar, the Human male wizard. We also find out that Thrall will be going to Draenor, but Aggra, his wife will not. And so on.

There’s a lot about this expansion’s story – which will be told throughout the expansion – that we don’t know. But what was presented to us was that we’ll be fighting quite a bit against a literal horde of male Orc entities.

The lack of strong women portrayed in the general introduction to WoD has sparked the aforementioned discussion about women in the new expansion. I’ve read a small handful of posts over the past week that discuss it to some degree or another, and I’ll point out a few of those posts now:

  1. First Impressions – Alternative Chat, November 9th
  2. First Thoughts on Warlords of Draenor – Harpy’s Nest, November 10th
  3. Lords of Draenor: Where are the girls at? – Restokin, November 14th

And I know I’ve read others that I am failing to remember at this point – please forgive me if I didn’t include yours! I haven’t really been on Twitter or listened to any podcasts in a while, but I’m sure that there have been many interesting discussions in those formats as well.

At any rate, I read the above posts over the past week. I found them to be interesting, and their points logical. Reading them again tonight, I didn’t find any of them to be ranty or ravey. Lissanna’s article – the only one I’ve linked above that is a complete post on the subject – does a great job describing several points of concern about the lack of women in the presentation. Lissanna has never, in my memory, written a post that is less than extremely well-written, or failed to make her points in a compelling manner, and this post is no different…

…which is why I was struck by a succession of reactions – surprise, disbelief, revulsion, and so on – this morning, when I read this over breakfast: Massive Offensive Rant: The Story Belongs to Blizzard by Big Bear Butt. I was so strongly moved that I desperately wanted to stay home to write a response. I had to go to work, so that didn’t happen. But the topic stuck with me all day, and the more I thought about it, I was glad that I had been forced to think about it for a shift before writing this.

In his post, BBB comes flaming out of the gate with the following:

I’m seeing a lot of bitching, pissing and moaning among the community of active players about the story and characters revealed at BlizzCon.

Hmm.. Let’s see what happens. Well, he repeats the “bitching, pissing and moaning” part again – his quotes, by the way. OK, so that’s been hammered home. We now know that something has struck him as pretty offensive. If I hadn’t already had a bad feeling about where this could be going because of the feminist nature of some of the discussion I’d seen lately, I might have been thinking that this could be good. But instead, I was thinking “uh oh…” – and “uh oh…” is what I got.

“Oh no, I don’t see any strong female leads to base my existence off of and to inspire my daughter to be a whole person!”

“Oh my, all the characters in the story are male, it’s a big boys club, I feel so excluded!”

“Oh, there’s a token female Draenei they mentioned, but she’s described as being like Joan of Arc, and nobody knows what that really means so I’ll make tons of assumptions about Blizzard, the other players, the story, the characters who will be in it and everything ever based on my worldview and prejudices.”

“And then I’ll go rant about it and tell Blizzard how they’re doing it wrong, and need to change things to be more like what I want.”

So at this point, we know exactly what this is about.

His major issue, as he tells it, is that Blizzard are the creators, and we are the consumers, and if we don’t like what Blizzard is feeding us, we can fuck off.

However, there are telltale statements in his post that indicate other motives. The fact that he chooses to “bitch, piss and moan” specifically about the feedback from community members regarding the apparent lack of strong females in the story, and to characterize them so – as opposed to, say, people who complain about no flying until 6.1, the timey-wimey concerns, ‘do I have to do Garrisons?’, how PvP has been broken, no new class or race, etc. – tells me that his real concern is that he is tired of hearing people complain about the issue. And by people, I mean women.

And you know what? I’m tired of hearing about the issue, too… but that’s because I’m tired of it being as much of an issue as it is. Look around, read up, listen to some podcasts on the subject, and you can find all kinds of problems with the presentation of women in the game: past, present and future. It’s a troubling subject. It’s a subject so very worth all of the discussion that it has gotten lately – and more – that I’m surprised that Blizzard doesn’t seem to have processed the message very well, yet.

So I do get tired of reading or hearing something Apple Cider Mage or Erinys or Anne Stickney or Tzufit or someone else brings up from time to time… but when that happens, it’s not because they brought up the subject, or because they brought the subject up, but because they bring to light /SMH examples of what-the-fuck in the game. Because it’s 2013, and a very important part of the community (and that includes males and females, of course) is continually disappointed with how the game depicts women in various situations.

And hey, I’m as male as a male can be, but that doesn’t mean that I have to vomit out some angry, offensive piece in order to get my point across.

What I find somewhat hilarious about this post is that while he spends it “bitching, pissing and moaning” about people who are “bitching, pissing and moaning” about feminist topics relative to the expansion – somewhat ironic in itself, as the sensational nature of his outburst makes his post hard to read and weakens his point – I can’t say that anything I’ve read on the subject by any of these other bloggers even approaches B,P&M. They’re not even in the same time zone as B,P&M. But the posts I’ve seen, which I found to be thought provoking, he finds “sickening.” He says that “people I normally respect and admire . . .  (are) ranting and raving about it in public.”

It seems like there is a disconnect there. The most ranting/raving blog post I’ve read since Blizzcon was his post. Maybe I’m missing something in those other community members’ text, but I don’t think so.

Many of us are critics of the game. I’ve criticized aspects of the game in the past. And so has almost every every blogger that I’ve ever followed, to some degree – even BBB himself. So the idea that criticizing and presenting feedback to the devs is wrong falls flat. We’re all intelligent people, and we all have points to make and things to say, and constructive criticism is a part of that. And the vast majority of the discussion that I’ve seen on the feminism topic has been constructive indeed – far from ranty and ravey, in fact.

And – to top it all off – the devs want this type of feedback! They’re always interested in hearing constructive criticism, presented fairly and respectfully:

So, I don’t know. I was taken aback by BBB’s post. I didn’t expect it from him, first of all, and, as I thought about it throughout the day, I became more concerned about the mixed messages that the post conveys, that it’s ok to rant and rave about people who present critical feedback to the devs of World of Warcraft – and to dismiss an entire set of perspectives themselves as “rants” and “raves” – because that problem seems intended to be trumped in his post by the over-arching premise that you don’t demand This or That from the creators, which is a fallacy in multiple ways in this case.

It’s really unfortunate that his “respect the purity of the creator’s intent” argument was so particularly-targeted, belittling, and disrespectful. I hate seeing people I respect and admire thrown in the mud, and I also hate seeing it done, with so little maturity, by someone that I have long respected and admired.

Thanks for reading this post.

23 Comments on “Women and Warlords”

  1. mrandmrswow says:

    I don’t think I’m very popular with the female gaming community at the moment because – as a woman – I really don’t care about women and how they are, or indeed, are not represented in the new expansion.

    People can care as much as they want about female representation in gaming, but ultimately, I take the viewpoint that if you need fictional women to make you feel ‘strong’ and provide a ‘role model’, you should possibly find REAL women to help you do this.

    • Stitchersflock says:

      See it has nothing to do with find a role model in game, that’s what real life women we know and admire are for I agree. It has EVERYTHING to do with Blizzard believing, portraying, producing, and selling a game where men are the sole heroes because a woman’s place is at home. I’m not even remotely what anyone would call a feminist and Blizzard’s handling of women is embarrassing.

      • mrandmrswow says:

        They’ve never portrayed that a “woman’s place is at home”… this is the first time Aggra’s been left, we have female characters and strong female leads in game at the moment.. I really can’t see what’s wrong with that?? If there are no female heroes at this particular time, so be it, there have been before and will again.

      • In reply to mrandmrswow below:

        Aggra’s situation is one that makes me go o_O, for lack of word. I want a female lead who doesn’t go off the mental deep end (sorry Jaina and Sylvanas), and Aggra seemed like a character who could do this. To step back removes her from the story and from fulfilling this possibility.

        Perhaps worse, it seems an unusually passive move from her, given how her character has been portrayed in the stories and in Cataclysm. It doesn’t seem appropriate to the character, which makes me suspect that Blizzard either didn’t know what to do with her or figured she had no place (this latter suspicion was reinforced some by that boy’s trip quote I keep on reading). The former is concerning, but the latter seems senseless, because Draenor is where she’s FROM.

        I think one of the concerns (and perhaps the source of Sticher’s feeling that Blizzard thinks women belong at home) is that this aspect tracks uncomfortably closely with Western cultural history from the Victorians on to the 60s/70s. Women married, had children, and took care of those children in a private sphere that was considered separate from the world of action men inhabited. Yes, there are of course exceptions to this, but this was the most common path for a large number of reasons.

        In 2013, certainly, you can stay home if you want or go to work if you please. I think the lack of female path alternatives pictured in what we know of the expansion thus far makes it seem like going to work – going into the past to deal with Draenor – is not really quiiiiite an option. Supposedly there – but nobody’s taking it.

        And lastly, though this point may seem silly: Thrall and Aggra are like, the 1% of Azeroth – can’t they afford freaking child care?

      • AshVeridian says:

        I cant reply to mrandmrswow below, but a nitpick:

        “… this is the first time Aggra’s been left”

        Incorrect. Thrall left her behind in the Twilight of the Aspects novel to go explore an alternate timeline. He also left her behind during the scenario to liberate the Echo Isle from Kor’kron martial law. This is the third memorable time that she’s been naught more than a wet nurse to Thrall’s son, doing nothing and saying nothing while Thrall goes off on important adventures.

    • For me, at least, it’s not how women are or are not presented in the new expansion. It’s more of a cumulative problem, where little things from expac to expac make me uncomfortable that there is no shift, things are essentially the same (from a gender perspective, not gameplay, design, etc.). The expansion is merely another drop in a bucket that I find continues to fill when I would prefer it empty.

  2. Excellent post, and thank you. @Orvilius on twitter has some amazing tweets on this topic, and you might appreciate @SaxsyMage’s tumblr pieces World of Dudecraft and her direct critique http://i-like-pancakes.tumblr.com/post/66886957451/oh-so-that-makes-it-all-better once the critique of the BlizzCon promotional materials really gained strength.

  3. Kraj says:

    Given the hardcore conservative right-wing leanings BBB has expressed on his blog from time to time, it probably shouldn’t be that much of a surprise he has that much venom towards people daring to speak out on lack of active women representation in WoD.

  4. Beshara says:

    When I read BBB’s post, I felt that he was frustrated with how big this issue has become. I know that, even though I am a female gamer, that this topic has been a huge defensive reaction. And the reason why I feel that way, and maybe why BBB feels that way, is because this is a huge reaction to a tiny bit of information revealed. We don’t know the whole story. Blizzard’s intro is drawing from its past, and all the promo figures are known important people in the lore of that past. The new draenei Yrel wasn’t shown because we don’t know her. Draka wasn’t shown because she is not a warlord. I think the issue is important, but this reaction to the little we have been given is spiraling out of control. We have been told Garona, Zaela, and others will be there, and we should be introduced to more as the story unfolds.
    The Mists promo did not reveal anything about the women we encountered during the expansion, and look at the new characters and the continuing stories we got in Mists. Aysa, Jaina’s transformation, Taoshi, Kiryn, Amber, the list goes on. Let more information come to light, let the beta come out, before we attack Blizzard about low female representation.

    • But what we do know is all male except for one token female. The website marketing materials are all male. Very little of this is about the story, it’s about who the hell was in charge of marketing and who signed off on the presentation at Blizzcon and why having so little female representation seemed like a good idea.

      I’m not content to wait and see. That isn’t good enough in the 9th year and after the incredible success that female gamers have helped this franchise achieve.

    • When the video showing Garrosh getting the heart of Y’sharrgleargle came out, I knew “logically” that even though it looked like Taran-zhu got an axe to the gut, he probably wasn’t dead because they didn’t show his body.

      Still, I hoped that Taoshi would take over the Shado-pan. Alas, as it turned out, Taran-zhu is indeed the master of horrific injuries causing you to bleed lots but not actually die.

  5. Puffin topping says:

    I’m going to be completely honest here. There is a lot people don’t know about Big Bigotry Butt. As someone previously guild with his self centered being he has continued to down play all the women around him. He outright hates the fact that a woman does anything but heal. He dislikes women tanks and finds excuses as to why a woman beat him on dps. The only real excuse is that he’s bad at the game. If he doesn’t get his way or something isn’t right in his eyes then he’s all upset.

    I’ve been waiting a long time to say this all and now seems like a good point. I have idea why he has the following he does but he is a downright nasty person. He lies in game and is carried through raids just because the guild he is in is too lazy to replace him. He left a raid team in the same guild due to the fact he couldn’t bring in an alt. On a progression fight no less. I have proof of his bigotry and his lies and I would like the blogging community to see him for what he really is.

    He isn’t someone one to be cheered but jeered. I post this today in hopes you will all see him for what he is. And for the record I am a male, happily married and am no longer in guild with him. My statements can all be proven if not already made light.

  6. PlaidElf says:

    I’m not particularly upset about the lack of female portrayals shown in WoD so far. I honestly hadn’t even noticed the lack of them until I saw many posts pointing it out. Even after reading them I’m still not feeling particularly bothered by the lack of women we’ve been shown. That doesn’t mean I think other people are wrong for being upset by it. Just that I am not. I tend to be more bothered by -how- women are portrayed when they are portrayed (if it’s done poorly) than whether or not they’re there.
    Still none of the posts I’ve read by people who are bothered by it seemed particularly rant-y to me. They were personal opinions, often well expressed. Isn’t that the point of a blog and a community? So we can have a dialogue, express our thoughts and possibly have a civilized discussion with a balance of views? I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Thank you for writing it. :D

    • mrandmrswow says:

      Put very well, I agree!

    • I actually think they’re doing a bit better with these promo materials than they did with the Mists stuff. Anybody remember the Mists video? Number of females depicted in it = 0. (Number of goblins also 0, buuuuut I’m the only one counting that.)

      I’m not 100% comfortable with the situation as stands, but at this moment I’m more perturbed about the whole Aggra business than the lack of female presence – as others have said, we don’t have a whole lot of information, and I’m not yet ready to throw all my cards in when I feel like there’s still more stuff to come.

      The deal with Aggra does concern me because it seems incorrect to the character, and more a function of convenience.

      • PlaidElf says:

        And I 100% agree with you about the Aggra thing seeming out of character and wrong for her! I really feel like after what the player goes through along with her during Cataclysm to get Thrall back that it feels completely out of character for her to suddenly just stand aside while he leaves. To me it feels like she really should be going with us, if for no other reason than to stay true to her character. Even putting all question of her gender and the baby aside I don’t feel like she’s acting like the Aggra I saw in Cataclysm, and that makes me unhappy.

  7. Jaeger says:

    Let me preface this by saying that I don’t follow the lore that closely. However regarding Aggra, how old is her son? Isn’t he an infant? If so, I don’t think it’d be wise for both of his parents to go off to war. At least one of them should try to be a responsible parent.

    Also, Azeroth is not the 21st century western world of Earth and the Draenor that we’re going to is even set three decades earlier than the current Azeroth. It makes sense that our normal social standards don’t necessarily apply there; not even the current social standards of Azeroth would apply. A lot can change in a few decades, as we all know.

    Furthermore, Azeroth and especially Draenor are very violent worlds and based on our own history, women do not usually play prominent roles in violent societies.

    I could comment even further, but I need to go to work. Ciao.

    • Laeleiweyn says:

      What I’m thinking, is that neither Azeroth or Draenor are earth, and our characters can be female or male as we wish, and inhibit same strength and survivability. So why can’t the NPC’s be more free of Earth’s gender stereotypes, as our characters?

      • Jaeger says:

        Part of it is that the NPCs need to have families. We are lone wolves, mercenaries, or whatever word you want to use, but NPCs are part of the world; they need to have back story that fits together with the rest of the world.

        For example, Night elves in the game don’t have to worry much about gender roles because they live so long. Child-bearing and rearing is a very small part of their lives. As a result, they have a society where most of their army and leaders are female instead of male.

        Humans and Orcs however still spend a large portion of their lives raising the next generation. I really have no idea about child mortality rates on Azeroth or Draenor but I would suspect that they’re much higher than what we see in modern societies on Earth. That means that women in warcraft spend much more time in pregnancy than we are used to. It’s hard to go out and fight a war if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.

        Blizzard could have switched it around and made it so that males were the caregivers, but it would have alienated most of their potential playerbase back at the beginning. They didn’t know they would create WoW back then; nor did they know it would become popular with women.

        Furthemore with WoD, the seeds of the story were planted back in the original RTS games. Hardly any females played games like that back then, so there was no push to have strong female characters. They can now add some in, but they can’t be the main characters since those were already defined years ago. They mentioned this at Blizzcon; the team was essentially just a bunch of guys then and they didn’t know how to craft convincing female characters (if they even know how to do it now), so they stuck with what they knew.

        A new franchise could have more balanced male/female roles, but an existing franchise needs to stick with the original lore that was established.

  8. Laeleiweyn says:

    Excellent post! This bit is EXACTLY how I feel too:

    “And you know what? I’m tired of hearing about the issue, too… but that’s because I’m tired of it being as much of an issue as it is. Look around, read up, listen to some podcasts on the subject, and you can find all kinds of problems with the presentation of women in the game: past, present and future. It’s a troubling subject. It’s a subject so very worth all of the discussion that it has gotten lately – and more – that I’m surprised that Blizzard doesn’t seem to have processed the message very well, yet.

    So I do get tired of reading or hearing something Apple Cider Mage or Erinys or Anne Stickney or Tzufit or someone else brings up from time to time… but when that happens, it’s not because they brought up the subject, or because they brought the subject up, but because they bring to light /SMH examples of what-the-fuck in the game. Because it’s 2013, and a very important part of the community (and that includes males and females, of course) is continually disappointed with how the game depicts women in various situations.”

    This whole subject tires me. And it frightens me. I want to continue to love WoW, but the more I get aware of this subject in particular… It’s like you can’t unsee it once you see it.

    I wrote a comment about this in Anne’s Post on WoW Insider too, I’ll be lazy and paste it. ;)

    “I can understand how the lore of Warcraft became what it is; you have this club of young men wanting to create games. And the universe they create these games in are a product of their imagination, in the 90’s. Characters in video games were either strong men or hot females. It doesn’t explain how the lore keeps evolving in the same way though. When you have the people working on your movie insisting on having a couple of more female characters in the movie, don’t you realize something at that point?

    To be honest, I as a girl never thought about the missing females the first years I played WoW. First; I saw plenty of totally badass female characters in the game (my own characters of course), and second; my awareness was not tuned in yet.

    It’s only the later years I’ve been thinking “If I made a game in an entirely new universe, I wouldn’t keep it with same society and mindsets as we have in the real world. I would create good characters and then apply their gender after, about 50 % of each.”

    Why wasn’t either Velen, Kil’Jaeden or Archimonde female? Why wasn’t Nobundo a female character? Why has none of the lich kings (queens) been female? Why did King Llane have a son instead of a daughter, which had a son instead of a daughter? Their gender doesn’t really matter in the making of the story, but it becomes “a matter” because they’re all men!”

    They’ve done it right many times as well, so I want to give credit for that. I think for the most part things were ok in Mists with both pandaren, SI:7 and the alliance military lead having a “healthy mix”. But now it’s like they’re off course again.

    I saw someone else commenting that they tend to give us one female, like; “here’s your one female character, be happy now!”, and the rest of the characters are still guys. Why why why!

  9. […] frustrated or tired recently, you’re probably right.  Many of us are frustrated and tired, as Mushan so aptly pointed out, simply because we still have to have this conversation.  But also we are […]

  10. Mushan says:

    Thank you all for your comments, both here and on Twitter, over the past several days. And thanks for being patient while waiting for me to respond!

    This was a difficult post to publish. I’m not naturally a confrontational person – I tend to be deferential to a fault – and that includes disagreeing with someone’s behavior, and writing a 1700 word post about it. It’s just not how I usually go about things. But this post needed to be written, and published. (Special thanks to @twenty20sight for reading it for me before I published it!)

    BBB has since posted a follow-up, which explains an unrelated, behind-the-scenes source for his anger and frustration, entitled “Don’t Post Angry!” By his account, his IRL frustration manifested itself in an angry tone in the post from a week ago. He regretted posting in anger, but stood by what he said – which, in my view, is part of the issue: his tone and language defined his post, and in fact *was* his content.

    Unfortunately – while his advice against posting while angry has value – his initial post on the topic changed how I think about him. It’s also a good reminder that words, and the tone of those words, do matter. It’s one thing to disagree respectfully, but that post failed to do so.

    Anyway, for those interested in reading more about the subject of feminism (and the discussion as it relates to WoW), click the link by Tzufit of Tree Heals Go Woosh in the pingback above – she writes with authority and mastery about how what we write or speak about, and how we respond to, feminist topics and situations can affect the conversation. Also, check out the Justice Points podcast, which is on my blogroll in the right-hand column of the page, for illuminating insights and perspectives on many social justice issues (and the latest is Blizzcon-themed!). It’s definitely well worth the weekly listen.

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