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Opening a dialog about sexism in World of Warcraft

Amanda Dean

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of being a gamer girl is learning to deal with rampant sexism, without becoming defensive. Just like racism, sexism should not be tolerated, but how do you address it without making the problem worse? Smurphy from Burning Blade brought this up in the forums. Nethaera's response was to shut the thread down before a dialog could really begin on the subject.

Although the majority of WoW players are men, there are a number or women who do enjoy the game. Women are often important contributing members of guilds and raids. Perhaps a little known fact about gamer girls is many of us don't like to be hit on or given special favors like spots in raids. Nor do we like to be called honey, baby, or sweetie by complete strangers. We would very much like the same treatment given to our male counterparts. Women do truly enjoy the game, and should be able to feel safe and comfortable in the online environment.

Personally I live and die as a lady in game and in life. I believe that if I act as lady, I should be treated as one. One of my favorite books, The Art and Power of Being a Lady, has some excellent social advice that translates well into the WoW environment. The authors insist that modern ladies do exist. Ladies display grace and dignity. We win gracefully and lose gracefully. No whining, crying, screaming, or carrying on. Another important characteristic of a lady is true friendship. In game, we can come to the aid of our friends and should feel comfortable asking for help when we need it.

The Art and Power of Being a Lady has a chapter dedicated to relationships. Discretion and respect should carry over into the online realm. Ladies should refrain from excessive flirting and behavior that makes those around them uncomfortable. A lady knows that someone who is currently in a relationship is off limits, even online. Gentlemen, please heed this as well. We do not all appreciate your overtures and please respect our existing commitments.

As long as we do our part as ladies, we should be able to expect other stakeholders to do theirs as well. Guys, have a little respect. I'm not here to be a feminist, and no bras were burned in the making of this post. We may be girls, but we are gamers foremost. That's why we're gamer girls, not girl gamers. We can be powerful associates. We can heal, tank, and dps as well as men can. There's no difference in our character stats or ability to mash buttons. Although our armor appears to only cover about half as much as our male counterparts' it still blocks the same amount of damage.

Females do not have to tolerate sexual harassment. Blizzard's terms of use indicate that in-game chat may not be used to "Harass, threaten, stalk, embarrass or cause distress, unwanted attention or discomfort to any user of the Program." Ladies, you have the right and responsibility to report behavior that makes you uncomfortable. Since we all agree to this code with every patch, everyone has the responsibility to avoid making any violations against this code.

I don't know where to start immodest armor choices and model. Personally I'm not bothered by it, but some ladies are. Is it degrading to women players? Maybe, but it seems to fit the standard for previous video games and the overall fantasy genre. Perhaps an option to display non-hoochie-mama versions of the armor (the same as displayed on male toons) might be an acceptable solution. I don't see that happening, just throwing it out there.

The first step in resolving issues of sexism is to stop ignoring the problem. I understand that it is difficult to be proactive and Blizzard's main recourse is to take action after-the-fact. Cutting off any mention of sexism only serves to encourage it.

Readers, I do very much appreciate your comments, but please make them productive. Things like "don't play the game" or "there, there sweetie" would not be helpful. What I'd like to know more about is your experience with sexism in the game and any suggestions you may have for resolving the issue. Do men also experience sexism in WoW? Thanks!

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