females dance like strippers
Look out for The World of Warcraft Reader, an anthology of scholarly essays on World of Warcraft, edited by Jill Walker Rettberg and Hilde Corneliussen and coming from MIT Press, Spring 2007!
I’ve considered doing a World of Warcraft course (I don’t know whether this’ll actually happen…) so was interested to see Aaron Delwiche’s undergraduate course on ethnographical approaches to Massively Multiplayer Online Games (specifically, World of Warcraft). Some of the student papers are quite good. Well, actually I started by reading Beth C’s paper on sexism in the game, and thought oh my god, this is the standard level of all Texan undergrads? We only have some students this good. What did we do wrong? Luckily (in a rather ungenerous sense of the word, sorry) a look at the other papers confirms that Texan students probably aren’t that different from Norwegian students, though perhaps the fact that they have to write a lot more than our students probably does improve their writing. Anyway, Hilde and I have been thinking about doing something on gender and World of Warcraft, so I was interested in Beth C.’s paper on sexism in the game. Yes, unsurprisingly, players have experienced plenty.
The paper makes an interersting point about the differences between races in the game. My dwarf rarely gets sexual comments, except sometimes slurs about how someone can’t see how anyone could fall for a short, bearded, dwarven woman. (So I guess the races encourage various stereotypical sexual responses.) Me, I think my dwarven warrior is gorgeous: strong, swarthy and with a determined look on her face. She even has wonderful black plaited hair. But look at this comment from an informant who plays a female night elf:
The female Night Elf dance is a stripper dance. When I first made my character dance, I laughed at her stripper dance and then tried typing /dance again thinking she would do another dance. I was angry when I realized the only way my character could dance was in a sexually enticing manner. How is my character supposed to dance when she is happy and trying not to be sexy? There is no way. Every time my female Night Elf dances, she is being a sex object…My boyfriend plays a [male] Night Elf druid, and his character dances like Michael Jackson. Thatís fun! Why are the females of the race relegated to being sex objects while the males are fun?
Yeah! My nine-year-old’s first character was a female night elf, and I was appalled when I saw her dancing. That’s worse than Barbie dolls. I was so glad when she made characters in other races so she could play with a wider range of expressions.
One interesting aspect of the paper is that it shows that male players playing female characters also experience sexism. I wonder whether that will make them more aware of it and less likely to condone it in everyday life?
Oh, anyone doing this kind of research on World of Warcraft should have a look at Nick Yee’s statistics and demographics for this and other MMOGs.