|When properly armored, you should not be able to tell whether a model is male or female.|
Our post about sexism in Kingdom Death prompted a reasonable amount of discussion, and made us realize that there was more that could be said about how women are represented in miniature gaming. When seeing a game which objectifies women as much as Kingdom Death does, it is easy to look at other games which don’t portray women as egregiously, and give them a pass. In reality, all of the popular miniature companies today have issues with female representation.
Because it is assumed that the default, “neutral” gender of any model is male, which is itself a problem, miniature companies bend over backwards to let you know that a model is female, using certain coded visual elements. These indicators are numerous, including 1) armor that accentuates their breasts (often called boob-plate), 2) wearing less than their male counterparts, 3) being in provocative poses, and 4) having bare/unhelmeted heads.
|A representative selection of female models from Warmachine, Infinity, and Warhammer 40k, respectively.|
Some of these are pretty obvious why they are a problem. Boob-plate does not make any practical sense. Having a breastplate with individual cups for each breast would likely be extremely uncomfortable, and could potentially end up deflecting a blow directly into the wearer’s sternum. A breastplate for a female should not look any different from what a male would wear, at least not on the exterior. Why then is boob-plate so prevalent? It was designed to appeal to a certain crowd, and that crowd is predominantly straight and male. It is a design that makes it immediately clear that, unlike the “normal” male models, this character exists primarily for the sexual enjoyment of that select crowd.
Much in the same vein, having scantily clad models does not make any practical sense either. Would a man want to go off to war in his boxer briefs and a pair of boots? The answer to this is obviously no, yet many female miniatures are scantily clad while their male counterparts are fully clothed. And the same is true for the model posing. Does angling your behind out suggestively make up an effective defensive stance, or is it sending a message that the character exists more as a masturbatory fantasy than as a warrior? Are your male miniatures posed similarly?
|Why isn't the male Guild Guard in such an awkward shooting pose?|
While something like having an unhelmeted head might seem innocuous, it continually calls attention to the fact that the model is female, as if trying to remind you that they are not like the “normal” male soldiers. Male and female warriors should not look appreciably different when donned in their battle gear. Model makers going great lengths to make sure everyone can tell the model is female is an “othering” technique to differentiate them from “regular” models. In fact, most wargame models are armored enough that you could not even tell their sex by looking at them; it is not as though they regularly come fitted with bulging codpieces to announce that they are male. The only thing needed to make them female is to say that they are.
Companies like Games Workshop might not make many models that were designed to be female, but that should not stop you from making female miniatures out of a lot of them (for example, there is no reason why a Space Marine could not be female under all of that armor). We have been making an effort to include more female characters in our projects, and have almost entirely used models designed to be male. For the Pilgrym project, Joanna Reese and Ursula Contreras were constructed using parts from Death Korps of Krieg Engineers (all of which are sufficiently armored as to be androgynous) and the Empire Flagellants kit. For faces, we used the bottom portions of Dark Eldar heads.
|Joanna Reese (left) and Ursula Contreras (right) were comprised almost entirely model parts intended to represent males.|
|Aseneth Levedescu, Cardinal of the Church of the Red Athenæum, is another example of a model derived almost entirely from parts likely intended to be male. But with armor that thick, no one could really tell.|
Similarly, for the Curse of Alabaster event, we constructed a group of Adeptus Arbites that was almost entirely female. For these, we used some Death Korps miniatures as the basis for the conversion, this time Grenadiers, due to their armored androgyny. The heads were taken from Elysian drop Troops. The only thing that we did to make them read more clearly as female was to make their chins a little less broad, but even this was not essential.
|The female members of our squad of Adeptus Arbites. With the exception of the unhelmeted member (with a head from Statuesque Miniatures), the only change to make the faces appear female was to narrow the chins.|
While we should continue to give Games Workshop flack for not making many female miniatures, we should not let that prevent us from converting female models out of their current male range. A lot of models do not need to be greatly converted to function as female. Presently, the representation of women in miniature gaming stands in the way of making many feel welcome, something that I feel we can all agree is a bad thing. If we want the hobby we all love to grow and expand, we need to be conscious of any messages we are sending, intended or otherwise. And a good place to start is by including more women alongside the male-dominated range of miniatures, without resorting to embarrassing and objectifying pin-ups. So this is a call to everyone to consider how you are representing females. Are they practically attired? Is your model objectifying (would you be embarrassed to show your mother)? Would you see a male model wearing/doing that? Depending on how you answer those questions, you should work to change it. It might seem like an uphill battle to fix the problem of how women are represented in gaming, but it is something that can change if we all do our part!
- Greg Wier