Of Noblegarden Bunnies and Female Officers

This is my first stab at an opinion post so I’ve decided to go for something nice and controversial!

Shake Your Bunny-Maker
Both Larisa at The Pink Pig Tail Inn and Green Armadillo at Player versus Developer posted last week about the Noblegarden Achievement Shake Your Bunny-Maker. The achievement requires you to use an item called Spring Flowers to put bunny ears on a female player of each race (10 in total) over level 18.

Use item X to do something to a set number of class/race/gender/level combinations is a pretty common achievement in most WoW holidays. So the basic mechanic is hardly original. What is different in this case is the pop culture reference. Basically a player chases women about and turns them into Playboy bunnies. This is reinforced by the need for avatars to be at least level 18 i.e. legal.

What is interesting is that neither blogger can manage to get mad about this. Both feel that this kind of sexism is so expected and ingrained that its not worth getting upset over any more.

The Playboy Brand
I totally understand the point of view of Larisa and Green Armadillo. Playboy has its own stationary range these days that you can buy in any high street in the UK. I remember being shocked and disturbed the first time I saw it, but now its just a part of the background. Playboy has become a brand and the fact that its built on the exploitation of women is hidden behind pink bunny ear logos and novelty cocktail glasses. The ‘Shake Your Bunny Maker’ achievement is degrading to women, but in a way that is so ‘mainstream’ as to be invisible.

The controversy of talking about women in WoW
Ariedan at The Wordy Warrior posted on Leading as a Female last week, and I was all set to post about how parts of that very informative post resonated with me. I found it useful and it helped clarify some of the issues I’ve faced over the last year or so of being an officer.

However when I went to look it up the post was gone! In its place was a post about why it had been removed. The author had expected a certain amount of controversy about the post, but felt that the comments were such that she had to remove it.

These two cases highlight a few things and raised some interesting questions:

  • Ariedan made a point of denying being a feminist which interested me – what does it mean to players to be labelled a feminist? Why would a woman posting about sexism or being a female officer in a guild feel that they had to make a point of denying their posts were feminist?
  • Its okay to post about acceptance of sexism but controversial to post about how to act in the face of it?

Feminism in WoW
Personally, I am a feminist and I’m happy to admit it. I’ve spoken up for myself and my gender many times in WoW even though its made me unpopular. I would feel deeply uncomfortable with accepting some of the more sexist things that happen in the game. The leadership post (which my Google Reader still has) was a great post. It was about letting other female officers know they aren’t alone and that they just have to be firm, assertive and professional.

That’s all the post was about and it was a good post. But apparently it sparked off a torrent of abuse. That’s not a surprise to me. I’ve seen it before. Defending yourself as a female will often result in this kind of response. Assertiveness in women in WoW is generally not acceptable.

Theres one paladin knocking about my server whos tried to apply to every guild I’ve been an officer in. The first time, we trialled him. He turned out to be not particularly skilled (in the first raid he warned us he was used to topping the dps meters – he came last), lazy (after that first raid he specced PvP and never showed to a raid again) and obnoxious (his comments about women were such that not only did they offend the women, but most of the men too – comments of that went well beyond flirty or jokey and probably would have gotten him a beating had he aired them in a club or the like). He was removed from the guild to general cheering (literally). Now because I always refuse an application from him, I am apparently sexist!

Another trialist walked out on the guild because I asked him, politely, not to call me ‘girly’ – to quote the Ting Tings ‘that’s not my name’. You can call me by my character name (any of them will do) or by my real name which most people in my guild know. But ‘girly’ and ‘chick’ are demeaning and unacceptable, especially to a married woman approaching 30.

I’m not naïve. I know that people have these opinions and that I can’t change them in the game. But I don’t want to have to listen to it! I don’t want to sit there and be called a whore or an idiot or talked about like I’m a blow up doll to my (virtual) face. I know guys talk about this stuff when they get together, but I’m right here! I see your guild chat, I hear your vent chatter. And its not even because you don’t like me or have had an argument with me or disagree with a decision. Its just because I have XX chromosomes.

Although I fully understand why she did, I wish Ariedan had not taken the post down. I know people were going to get offended – but sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it takes drama and controversy to make people pay attention to a problem. And it is a problem, or there wouldn’t be any controversy. That being said it’s a lot of hassle to deal with abusive responses to having an opinion as this thread from Big Bear Butt exemplifies and the supportive comments in response to this decision were a very nice thing to see.

Female Officers
Not everyone can be an officer. I used to be an officer in my University Fencing Club. Each year lots of new people would turn up to the first session. We liked to get them fencing in that first session so by the end of it everyone was facing an opponent, foil in hand, and attempting an attack. The attack was simple – extend your arm and step forward. But a lot of new people can’t seem to get the hang of hitting other people. They sort of shuffled forward and poked the sword forward a bit, jumping if it met any resistance. It’s the same with Officers in a WoW guild.

You need to be confident, assertive and in control to be a female officer. That’s not to say you might not lose your temper, or that people won’t leave over your decisions. You will make mistakes and regret them. But you need to earn the respect of your guild and you do that by being professional, consistent and fair in the actions you take and the decisions you make.

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