Of the Treatment of Women in WoW, Part 1

Anea from Oh look, an alt! mentioned on Twitter that she was thinking of doing a post on the treatment of women in WoW. I jumped in and said that I’ve been wanting to do a similar post myself. We then decided to do our own “mini shared topic”. I’ll admit I was worried about starting some controversy. Not that it’s a horribly offensive topic, but it’s so incredibly complex. I tried to address it briefly and still ended up with two posts worth of text. As long winded as I am, there’s no way I can do justice to it in a couple of simple blog posts, so please keep that in mind when reading.

Now I’m assuming here she meant treatment of women players in WoW. Because that’s what I’m going to talk about. Since I don’t exactly have what it takes to conduct a scientific study of wow life as a woman, I’ll stick to my own experiences, my opinion of them and how I deal.

Yes, I keep my girly flower out.

My Perspective

Somehow, I get the impression that my perspective of my gender is somewhat unique. I’m fairly young, in my mid twenties. I’m (happily) single more often than not and thus self reliance is a way of life. I grew up surrounded by women who were doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, police officers, accountants, yet who were also beautiful and elegant. I don’t understand why “the average woman” is often portrayed as someone meek, dependent, dumb and overly sensitive. It’s entirely possible to be a woman, be successful (however you define success), self reliant, intelligent yet feminine. None of these traits are mutually exclusive.

So back to WoW.

Why do I feel like a visible minority?

WoW Friend X: I bought this new gadget today.
WoW Friend Y: I bought this new video game today.
Me: I bought this super cute dress today.
WoW Friends: *change topic pronto*
Me: 😦

I know there’s sexism and harassment of women in WoW. But what I find hardest to adjust to is just the basics of being a minority. I have no problems with boy talk. While I haven’t been one of the boys since I turned 10 and sprouted boobs overnight, I still enjoy the company of guys. I love video game talk, I like hearing about the TV shows they watch, I love drinking contests and I find guys to be absolutely hilarious. However, there are topics I have to avoid around the guys. Well, unless I purposely want to make them squirm (as if I would ever do such a thing!). Me, I love pretty things. I’m all about beautiful dresses and flowers. Apparently most guys are not all about beautiful dresses and flowers. I also have no problems candidly talking about my feelings. Apparently the guys do have problems candidly talking about my feelings. Talk about culture shock!

I enjoy the rare times I get “hang out” and have girl talk with other women in WoW, especially other single women. It seems your life changes drastically when the “r” word comes into play and I find that I just can’t relate as well to married or seriously committed women.

The Problem with Other Women

As much as I look for the camaraderie of other women in game, whenever I meet new players, I’m more worried about my treatment at the hands of the women than of the men. We tend to be more judgmental about the other women our social circles than the men are. If a woman is too quiet, she must be a snob, if she’s exuberant, she’s an attention whore.

Among the younger women, there seems to be a disdain of all things “girly”, as if to be good at WoW, you have to be some sort of man wannabe. I really hate reading “I’m not like your average girl, I’m a good player”. I can never say it enough, being feminine and being a good player are not mutually exclusive.

(The sad thing is I’ve encountered many women in game who claim they are not a typical women in one breath and will brag about which guildie is their boyfriend in the next. I’m sorry, but basing your self-worth on who you’re sleeping with as stereotypically, degradingly girly as you can get. And yes, as much as I hate it, the rare times I’m in a relationship, I totally do it too.)

While I find it silly to flaunt being a woman, it’s nothing to be ashamed of either. Most of the time, it’s not a big deal and no one cares.

Hey Babe, You Come Here Often?

Oh yes, flirting. I get a lot of it, I think most female gamers do. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it usually doesn’t bother me. On most occasions, I enjoy it. I know it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just good laughs and it’s flattering. Nonetheless, there is a certain etiquette for flirting.

Familiarity: Flirting that is flattering when coming from a friend I hear on vent every night is downright creepy coming from a stranger in a PuG raid.

Respect for your spouse: Even though I’m not a relationship-type person, I take commitments very seriously. My own as well as other people’s. If someone talks to me in a way that I judge disrespectful to that person’s spouse, I will be offended.

Keep it to compliments: Any kind of flirting that implies sexual actions is creepy. And this is coming from a fairly “liberated” woman.

Flirting is not a substitute for regular communication: As shy as I am, I can carry on a normal conversation. I expect that those I interact with on WoW also possess this skill.

I like getting flowers in game: Just sayin’

Note here that I will rarely flirt back. It’s been my experience that guys tend to get the wrong idea too easily. Oh, I’ll make the odd remark about someone’s hot voice or I’ll playfully throw in some “<3"s when someone does me a favor or makes me laugh. But unless someone is a very close friend, that’s as far as I’ll go. Being a rather playful person, I hate to be limited, but I’ve been a girl on the internet long enough to know my boundaries. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.

So ends part one. Part two is mostly written, but I’ll let this half be digested first. Coming up: dealing with sexist jokes, being disregarded as “cute”, being labeled “fragile goods” and more!

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26 Comments on “Of the Treatment of Women in WoW, Part 1”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jan zuppinger, jan zuppinger. jan zuppinger said: i enjoyed reading her thoughts http://icio.us/r4fvmo […]

  2. Shubb-Niggurath Says:

    Funny fact with flirting & wow : playing a few female characters, I received kinky flirty tells several times. The funny part is that I’m not a woman IRL. People are usually disappointed and, surprisingly, don’t talk much when I tell them I’m not what they think I am.

    Anyway, very good post. There’s been a couple of posts about that subject on world of matticus, by Lodur and Sydera, which are interesting. I feel concerned by the way women are treated in WoW, because while the “drama-queen attention whore” is the usual (and unfortunately sometimes real) stereotype, most female gamers suffer from it. If my english was better, I could tell you ’bout a few things that happened in my former guild alliance with ONE female gamer who loved being the center of attention … and how much the 5 or 6 other female suffered from it.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Yeah, there definitely are some female gamers out there who really are attention seekers. Usually they’re teenagers discovering that men like boobs, but I did know one woman in her 30s that had even the flirtiest men complaining that she kept hitting on them.

      I’d like to know what you mean by “other females suffered from it”. Did the attention seeking from the one give all the women in the guild a bad rep? Or did it turn into an attention seeking contest?

      I think deep down, most people (women or men) enjoy some level of attention. Personally, though, I’d rather have attention drawn to something I do that’s actually useful as opposed to just my having boobs.

      I definitely remember Sydera’s article on the archetype of the female gamer, it was very well done. I remember a few response posts popping up around the blogosphere after that. I’ll have to go check out what Lodur wrote on the topic.

      As for getting flirty tells, that NEVER happens to me! I’m kind of disappointed! ;D I was actually on vent with some guildies the other day and two of them, who are men playing female characters, were talking about how this warrior kept ruffling up their hair and flirting with them. It was pretty funny.

      • Shubb-Niggurath Says:

        Yup, we all need (and want) attention. That’s why we kill dragons and/or try to be Gladiator I guess. About why other girls suffered from that person’s behavior, it’s because she managed to put them aside. Kind of “now you don’t exist anymore”.

        Anyway, back to the topic ! ^^ I can’t stand people (who, most of the time, are teenage boys) behave wrong towards women. It’s not a Knight in Shiny armor behavior, it’s just that most of the time, arguments like “girls can’t play” are petty and cheap. I can’t stand people who behave that way against mens too, but it seems to be a one-way behavior. A player with low stuff/DPS/e-peen will be mocked because of this. should this played be know as a girl she’ll often be mocked because of her gender, and while both are low, mocking someone one who he/she is sounds really loathsome to me.

        I’m fortunate enough to play on a low-population european server, and this kind of jerks are quickly spotted, and either black listed or “educated” :p. So, all in all, things seem to be better than they were, hopefully. But I’m curious to read comments of people from bigger server, or different region.

        • Ophelie Says:

          I’ve heard women report being told “girls can’t play”, but I haven’t experienced it firsthand. I don’t think it’s overly common, at least not on the American servers I play on. Or if it is, sexist men know enough to keep their thoughts to themselves. (I do have some words of advice in Part 2 for women who experience sexist behaviour.)

          Actually, most of the time, it’s women themselves who tend to say “I’m not like a typical woman, I’m a good player”. I hate that because the two have nothing to do with each other.

  3. Juzaba Says:

    I think I can get behind this. Certainly the main points. Obviously, gender relations in Wow are a spicy topic, and everyone comes to the discussion with a whole closet full of baggage, and I find that most people (including myself) have a hard time fully and articulately unpacking their views. Hence the tentative endorsement.

    For example, I didn’t jive as much with the flirting section as I did with the rest of the article. I have found that I’m naturally pretty flirty (which was a big surprise to me, to be honest), and a lot of what I consider “normal conversation” is apparently “flirting” to a non-insignificant segment of the population. So while I know it can’t be helped, I’m always unhappy that people are judgmental about what is and what is not “appropriate flirting.” To be fair, this is the case even outside of video games.

    That said, I totally rocked out to a lot of the other stuff, especially lines like “I grew up surrounded by women who [were totally successful], yet who were also beautiful and elegant,” and “While I find it silly to flaunt being a woman, it’s nothing to be ashamed of either.” I have never really understood the attraction to the Submissive Female thing. I don’t see it as fun, I don’t see it as sexy, and I don’t see it as net-beneficial. Obviously my view is not the only one in the world.

    There isn’t much of an answer to the problem, save lots of time and natural social change (or a program of mass extermination and artficially-chosen reproduction patterns, and I’m working on writing up that proposal, honest!). The best I can say is that I am totally respectful and supportive of the Powerful & Feminine Woman. As I try to be supportive of all women & men, and as I hope others are as supportive of me.

    Which is admittedly a really lame conclusion to have to end on. Needs more huge explosions & cute flowers, IMO.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Yes, gender roles/identities/etc. are definitely social issues beyond the scope of a blog post.

      In a perfect world, I believe people of either genders would just be themselves. We all have “typical” traits of either gender and there’s nothing wrong with that. Personalities are complex and multifaceted. It’s completely possible for a person to enjoy both boxing and making floral arrangements.

      I see what you mean about flirting and “normal conversation”. Both are relative terms and mean something different to everyone. I guess what it comes down to is: when speaking to another person, you have to respect their comfort zone. The “guidelines” I wrote apply to me, personally, but I’m sure every woman (and man!) has their own limits.

      As for “normal conversation”, when I wrote that I was thinking about how I love in-depth discussions. During those discussions, I don’t want to be reminded that we’re of opposing genders, I just want to be two humans beings comparing views on a topic. If that makes any sense.

  4. Antigen Says:

    When I get my Lightsworn Legguards, I’ll make a post about how pretty my new dress is, mark my words.

    I’m interested in seeing what your next post says; finish it soon, I’m leaving the country on Friday!

  5. […] Bossy Pally has an interesting post about being a female player in WoW, which is an interesting read, seeing as I -am- a female WoW player.  (Shock!  Gasp!)  Most of the post had me nodding in agreement, despite the fact that I hate talking about shoes or clothing.  I am incredibly exuberant, however, with many “<3″s and pet names flooding my text in-game.  Well, in between the all caps shouting and my “/brofist” usage.  However, I’m also spoiled.  I’ve been hanging out on WoW with the same basic group of people for years; when I’m flirty with them, they know it’s just me being me.  (Truthfully, I’m more likely to flirt with our many female raiders than the boys!)  And frankly, I don’t care what people I don’t know think of me.  If someone outside my circle of friends considers me a “raiding princess gamer girl” because I’m chatty, it’s their loss. […]

  6. Anea Says:

    Great post! (I can’t believe I haven’t posted mine yet…!)

    You took a different tack than I had originally had in mind, but it’s great you addressed these issues – they all play into the whole, and let’s face it: the gender issue in WoW is a big sticky mess.

    I’m not at all surprised that you needed to split everything into two posts – just reading yours made me think of so much more I wanted to say than I originally had in mind. After I saw you had posted this one, I was going to hurry and write mine, but I think I’m curious about your second post and might just wait for that one 😉

  7. KimboSlice Says:

    I have to admit I am a male chauvanist and I feel emasculated quite a bit being in guild with woman because I can’t really be who I want to be

    I come from the competitive sports world into competitive online gaming and then finally here to Wow. It is very difficult to be anything other than aggressive when you come from those types of situations. I have to admit I have to tone it down somewhat to be an effective leader but I find it hard to some nights.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I’m actually fine-tuning a blurb about that for part 2. Well, not about you specifically, but about men generally being more aggressive than us women.

      As I see it, there’s always that balance between being ourselves and watching others’ comfort zones. I know that you and some of the others hold back the same way I hold back about my “girly” topics.

      That said, I can definitely see the appeal of “woman-only” and “men-only” guilds. I like having the guys around too much to ever consider joining an an all-girls guild, but I can really understand those who prefer to raid in a single gender environment.

      • KimboSlice Says:

        Actually its not so much that women and what I have to watch myself from saying so much as it is saying more racist or homophobic things.

        I have found Women online to be far far less tolerant of Racist and Homophobic slurs whether they are said among friends or not.

        • Ophelie Says:

          Yeah, I can see that.

          Personally, slurs don’t bother me too much per say, but I rarely see the humour in them. Unless they’re a private joke (I love private jokes), they just look childish to me.

  8. Skip Cocoa Says:

    Oh boy, here I was going to comment all silly and playfully, and all your other readers go and give insightful and constructive discussion. But for such a good post, I can play that game!

    Backing what Shubb-Niggurath discussed, and reiterating some past knowledge for the adoring public, I was once an administrator for a roleplay server on another game. When I played, my primary character was female, and so for a few years, common belief was I was too. I was never dishonest or with-holding about the fact. My personal life just wasn’t a preferred topic of discussion, or any of their business, for that matter.

    Not only that, but I was a “female” in power! On a roleplay server, catching the eye of someone with world-controlling power had its benefits, and so the results were… hilarious. I’m sure you had similar stories in your guild offy days.

    Most people were subtle. The most brash memory I have is a new guy asking me where I lived, because he wanted to meet me. Others were timid with me, expecting I was overly sensitive or some such. Come to think of it, it was usually new guys. In many cases, gender seemed more of a base guideline of how to act around me. After getting a taste of my personality, people sensed my nature and boundaries and usually seemed to settle into a comfortable behavior, regardless of my gender.

    • Ophelie Says:

      To be honest, I’ve rarely had guys in WoW try to get my attention beyond simple goofing around. At least that I noticed. Maybe I’m really dense.

      I’ve had different experiences back in my message board days, but I was a teenage girl among teenage boys at the time. The WoW crowd is generally a bit older and it seems that pretty much everyone is married or in a serious relationship. Despite stereotypes, I haven’t met many single WoW players.

      If you’re looking for a topic to write about in your blog, I’d love hear more about the perspective of a guy whom everyone thought was a girl. I’ve only ever known being a girl, so I don’t have anything to compare it to.

  9. […] is writing a series about the treatment of women in WoW. In Part I of her series, she comments that women can be good gamers and be feminine all at once. I approve of this message. I think far too often, folks expect that us women gamers are just […]

  10. For The Pie Says:

    Wait…girls play WOW?

    Oh come on, it had to be said.

    My guild is full of girls. And almost all of them are married or in a serious relationship. We just don’t tolerate behaving badly toward women. That doesn’t mean we don’t joke around, but we just tend to be nice to one another. Oh we tease the heck out of people, all in good fun. In fact, all of the guilds I’ve been in since I started raiding at 70 have had women in them. You just set the ground rule early and it’s good. We are family guild so we don’t allow a ton of bad language. Doesn’t mean the F-bomb doesn’t drop once in a while, usually when one of us forgets we have the PtT button on.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Yeah, each guild seems to have its own culture that way. My old guild was just like what you’re describing.

      My current guildies are a lot younger and more aggressive so the language and jokes are a bit…different…but there have been no issues where I was treated badly because I’m female.

      Actually, some of them have gotten creative in their teasing of me. Now I get hit with the merciless mockery stick like everyone else without having my feelings hurt. It’s those little things that make them so awesome.

  11. […] is an interesting pair of posts over at The Bossy Pally and the Giant Spoon about women in WoW (part 1 & part 2).  I’m not a woman but I cringe when I hear some of the behaviour in our guild […]

  12. sientina Says:

    A good guy friend told me his thoughts on when he first started wowing with me over a year ago.

    Apparently, he joined my 2s team just to get a couple of points shortly after I transferred to that server to hang with friends and I joined their guild and I was just another fellow guildie to hang out with. We had chatted in vent, still didn’t really know each other that well, but he figured some games couldn’t hurt. He figured we’d get to 1200 rating (back when you started at 1500)

    I was shocked. His response was how I fit the typical female player, playing a female bloodelf healer. He didn’t know how good/bad I was in raids as I hadn’t done many with guild yet (at the time), so he couldn’t judge it on that either.

    Btw – I carried him to 2100 arena rating that season pretty easily. Now I’m working on arena-ing with his DK that has BoA gear :/

    • Ophelie Says:

      NICE! 2100 is very impressive! Especially when you’re carrying a reluctant partner!

      You don’t see many women pvp seriously and I find that a shame.

  13. Jaedia Says:

    I’m a bit late to the party but entirely agree. I actually feel uncomfortable being flirted with though because I’m in a stable relationship, and my bf isn’t exactly quiet on our server either..

    I like to describe myself as a girly person who enjoys action more than romance and RPG style games :p I wouldn’t say I’m one or the other.. in fact, how can anybody say they’re definitely girly or definitely a tomboy? /confused.

    It’s very difficult to be a woman playing WoW, though the boundaries you mentioned do make it a lot easier. I can’t help though running around with non-combat pets and mentioning pretty things..

    • Ophelie Says:

      I actually act girlier in game than I do irl. It’s like I’m desperately clinging to my identity when I’m around all those guys.

      For the flirting thing, being in relationship definitely changes your bounderies. If I were committed, I’d be offended by behavior that I judge disrespectful to my partner. Thankfully, it’s not something I have to worry about these days 🙂

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