I guess Blizzard never read Simone de Beauvoir
This afternoon, while polishing off my bagged sandwich lunch at my desk, I came across this fascinating discussion on Harpy’s Nest via MMO Melting Pot. Even though I wasn’t really intending on posting anything else today (I have 3 large reports glaring at me from my inbox), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get in on what’s probably one of the more controversial aspects of Blizzard’s treatment of WoW lore, specifically women in lore.
We all know the complaint that there are no “strong” female characters in the world of Azeroth – or at least, no “strong” female characters who can remain as such. We can point to multiple female characters who were confident, assertive characters in their own right (Tyrande, Jaina, perhaps even Aggra), but who then somehow end up being defined by their interaction with the man/men in their life, positively or negatively (Sylvanas, for example). So, while there are multiple interesting female characters in the form of “bit” parts or quest givers (Thisalee Crow), Blizzard’s female characters seem to end up…well…in the kitchen, so to speak.
Harpysnest takes this back into Victorian literature, where female characters were either Madonnas (wives/mothers) or “fallen women” (vindictive/broken women).
To illustrate her point, along with lines of poetry she showed paintings of domestic bliss followed by image after image of dead girls floating down rivers trailing flowers in their wake or tearfully hurling themselves into angry rivers. Idly at first I found myself applying the same concept to the women of WoW, but then something dawned on me. Just like their Victorian counterparts, all our fleshed out female leaders are defined not by their own abilities but by their relationships with the men that surround them. – Harpysnest
Did Harpysnest ever read Simon de Beauvoir?
[The woman] is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her. – Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (paraphrased/translated)
Now I’m not saying that “OMIGOSH lore means that women are inferior people and blizzard is misogynistic, get out the pitchforks and knives!” – I’m more pointing out that countless feminists and philosophers have seen similar trends, both in real life and in literature. It goes beyond Victorian literature, classical literature, Romantic literature, and into how women traditionally feature in a largely male-dominated society. If you think of it in a more real-world, bare bones guise – typically, a girl will legally be recognized as her father’s child (have his last name) until she marries and gets her husband’s last name. That is a identity (a name) continually defined by relationships to men.
So, you can say that we’re all Tyrande, Aggra and Jaina, I suppose. Blizzard is not so much at fault for their representation of women than they are a result of our literary heritage and society (and I can’t believe I just called lore literary!). Rather than throwing our annoyance at Blizzard – which I see many people do – I’d like to see more people take part and help redefine our literary tradition, and by extension, our society. This can be as little as participating in and presenting roleplay that features female characters that we WANT to see in the forefront. We can’t change lore, but we can participate in fleshing out the world around lore with female characters we’re proud of.
My favorite line from Harpysnest’s post:
Then we come to Aggra, the receptacle for Thrall’s sperm and his reward for being a totally awesome Orc.
I don’t think I even need to elaborate on that!