If you think Ji Firepaw didn’t need to be changed, you are the problem

This is a very angry post.  It is not a rant, because rant implies that you are angry about nothing.  I am angry about something very important.

For this history behind this take a look at the WoW Insider article.  I’m going to start assuming you’ve read it or the original complaint thread.

My own reaction
I played a panda through the section in question on the beta realms.  I’m just going to document my reaction here.  Very simply I thought: OMG what a creep, never rolling a Horde panda ever.

Now that was my reaction as a long term WoW player.   I immediately decided not to play any part of the game that would bring me into contact with Ji Firepaw.  Imagine if I was a new player? I would have stopped playing right there and then.  No, thats not an exaggeration.

Why games should not reflect real life
Back when I was at University I used to go to this club (this was while I was studying in the US and hence it was NOT a reflection on the University itself at all).  The club had what I called the ‘creepy guys’.  There was one guy who would sidle up behind women, grab them from behind, and start dancing with them.  For some reason I can never fathom, most of those women didn’t respond with an elbow to the stomach.  I sure as hell responded that way.  Despite that, he came back and tried again later!  I wasn’t targeted due to any stunning good looks – I was targeted because I was seemingly unattached.  I went to the club with friends, and not a partner.  Ji Firepaw went straight into the category with the creepy guys.

Now in real life I had two choices.  I could stop going to the club, stop having fun with friends.  It was the only club in town.  Or I could deal with the creepy guys as and when needed.  They eventually got the message.  But WoW is not real life.  I could never ‘deal with’ Ji Firepaw.  A sexist NPC is always a sexist NPC.  I can’t do the in game equivalent of chasing him off.  I am forced to be a passive recipient of his sexism if I want to play the game.

Other reasons the line needed to go
There are a dozen other reasons for this change quite aside from those I’ve already discussed:

  • That kind of comment is against Blizzard’s own Terms and Conditions.  If a player made that comment to another player and a complaint was raised, it would be dealt with as a harassment complaint.  And Ji is making this comment to EVERY SINGLE FEMALE TOON HE ENCOUNTERS.  It makes it very hard for Blizzard to police its playerbase if its doing something it tries to police in the game itself.
  • Discrimination against women is illegal in many countries.  No matter how small the chance, one lawsuit would do irreparable damage to Blizzard’s reputation and would be seized on by the kind of right wing anti-gaming facists who would ban Harry Potter and the Teletubbies.  Unfortunately, that faction is well represented in US politics (which is where it would hit Blizzard hardest).
  • The line was particularly ill thought out because it comes from a faction leader in the first few minutes of playing.  New players may well see this as part of their very first encounter with WoW.  It doesn’t really make a great impression.

What this ‘debate’ has taught me
Another argument against the change is that this is making ‘a mountain out of a mole-hill’.  However, if its so insignificant why do players feel the need to argue so strongly against the change?  The feminists who asked for the change do NOT feel its insignificant.  But the defenders will claim it is insignificant in one breath, before writing an epic about why it NEEDS to stay the same.  The only reason I can think of for this is that somehow having Blizzard’s NPCs espouse their own ideals gave them some feeling of validation.  Some game developers, instead of attempting to be inclusive, actively rejected female gamers for a very long time.  In a capitalist society you would think that attempts would have been made earlier to tap the market that female gamers represented – it wasn’t.  So gaming remained a place where sexism could thrive.  Now Blizzard has rejected sexism and that means it is rejecting these people.

Eight years ago I wrote my MA thesis about sexism and gaming.  The fact that this line even made it as far as the beta just goes to show very little has changed.  I was extremely disappointed in Blizzard when they wrote that.  They should be having a serious think about how that line was ever allowed to appear.

And the biggest reason of all why feminism is still relevant and why gaming is a battleground
Just as this ‘debate’ was calming down I read this post detailing the double standards for women who post controversial material on the internet.  And as I read it I got mad.  Because I don’t want my daughter to grow up in this world.  She is going to grow up in a time when the internet is a part of her everyday life.  Why should she have to be exposed to this kind of rubbish?

If you don’t think the Ji Firepaw line should have been changed, I don’t give a damn what you think.  Because you are the problem.  Because every little bit of sexist crap should be stamped out.  It doesn’t enhance the game by making it more immersive.  It only serves to validate your own vile attitudes and they is why you are defending it.  Think carefully about your daughters or your sisters.  Would you want some random stranger to say that to them? Someone who might be in a position of power over them?  Would you like guys to sleaze over them and have no recourse to defend themselves?  If you think thats fine, then you are the problem.  If you don’t then why do you think thats okay in a computer game?

The sad reality of sexism in WoW

I’ve seen it over the years.  Quite a bit of it.  But the last couple of days I’ve had a couple of incidents.  Its a reality I have to live with if I want to play WoW.  But I neither have to like it nor sit passively by and accept it.  I’ll state openly I am a feminist – in this case one with a good understanding of  constructs of gender identity and the alternatives viewpoints that encompasses.

Female opinions = PMS
We had a debate in /g.  I’m not going to go into the details of it but it was entirely raid policy related.  And who thought what is irrelevent because what I’m going to talk about is the reaction.

Apparently, because the two people who were making the point were female, we just had PMS.  This means we’re emo, our opinions can be completely ignored, and we’re incapable of reasoned thought just because we’re female.  Personally I find this a disgusting attitude, but hardly unexpected.  What bothered me is that in an arguement about the game, the response was very personal and directed not at us as individuals with opinions, but soley at the fact we were women.

The people who participated in that crap are on my ignore lists and I intend to keep them there.  Its a sad state when I feel the need to ignore guildies but I was deeply offended by this.

The Okkies problem
Then theres Okkies.  Hes a complete idiot.  He jumps on our vent channel and plays music/crap during raids.  Hes a general pain in the arse.  I think he was a trial once in our guild.  Needless to say he failed.

But yesterday, he decided that because I was female, he could take things a step further.  I am told he was saying things about me so nasty that a guildie came and told me about them, feeling they were pretty disgusting.  He then carried that on in a guild application.

I’m not quite sure why hes targetting me. Again, not the first time this has happened just because I am female.  I can think of at least two cases (in previous guilds) where another (male) officer chose, independently of anything I thought, to kick a player.  And yet I am the one who was then targetted for abuse which was oriented around the fact that I’m female.  It won’t be the last.  In this case I really am not bothered byt what he says.  This is what mute/ignore was created for.  This is just another reality of playing WoW as a female. Theres nothing female players can do to stop this outside of in game chat (where you can complain at least).  Against this you just have to have a thick skin.

Why am I posting about this?
Well, I have to say I just want to get this kind of crap out in the open.  This kind of behaviour is luckily in a minority in WoW.  But it is there and its quite nasty.

What I have found is that if you ask the people involved in this about their attitudes towards women, not one of them would say they are sexist.  But thats what I find so disturbing about it.  These attitudes are so deeply ingrained in some people, they don’t even realise they have them.  Some guys simply can’t concieve of women as equals and though they pay lip service to equality they really still think that women should be restricted to not having opinions, not voicing dissent and not being allowed the freedom to speak that men have.

Thats what I feel is the case with the first incident.  At least the guy in the second incident is open about his attitudes.  That makes it easier to deal with for the women involved.  If the behaviour is aggressive and insulting its easy to stand up to it and be strong against it.  The first kind is far more difficult to address.

I have a lot of friends in my guild.  I don’t feel I can be friends with people who won’t acknowledge my right to have an opinion, even if they disagree with it.

Sad isn’t it?

Introducing … Noela the Disc Priest

I enjoy writing this site and I must say I get excited every time I get a new high of daily readers.  Or a comment!  Thanks everyone whose been reading.  I always feel bad that I don’t have more to say, or more time to write it.

And now, I have a solution to that.

Enter fellow Forgotten Heroes officer Noela.  Noela is a disc priest who’s been thinking about writing a blog for a while.  So shes going to come along and help with this one.  I hope you’ll all give her a warm welcome 🙂  Shes going to post about priests, healing, making gold and general WoW stuff.  Shes also got some video’s to go with it!

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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