This article, as with many of this subject, introduces controversial concepts. This is a warning that there are mentions of rape, phallic imagery and violence. If these things trigger you in some way, you are advised to avoid the article. After writing the article, it occurs to me that some of what I wrote may be misunderstood, specifically my description of men. I want to clarify that the very anti-woman mentality is a description of the stereotypical man, and not in line with my own beliefs at all. I don’t support violence towards women (or anyone for that matter) and I certainly don’t like the stereotype that I illustrated in the first few paragraphs.
Just going to hop right in today without a picture. A while ago Pewter put a call out for men to speak up about how similar issues that feminism observes affects us. I suppose that would be called masculinism or some such, but the labeling is not important. What is important is that voices are heard.
Chastity articulated in a very well written article what I tried to do in my first attempt of this article, the day that Pewter put the call out. I will try my best to articulate exactly what I want to say in this vein.
What is the Traditional Man?
My knowledge of this is limited as I haven’t done much research, but from passive observation I have learned a lot about the average (anything but average, by portrayal) token man in America. I lack the knowledge and context of the other cultures that enjoy World of Warcraft, and so will not offer any attempts to classify or generalize except within my own scope.
The traditional man, as we’ve seen in the earlier to more recent parts of the last century, is simply the powerful, masculine, dominating figure of the family. At various times during American history, they were the beaters, the drunks, the rapists, the bread-winners, the moneymakers and the respected. They were (and still are, by and large) empowered by the phallus – which has been a symbol of strength for many centuries, from lances, pikes, swords and daggers to arrows and bullets. It doesn’t matter what size it is, as long as it penetrates something, men like it.
Thankfully, culture has improved thanks to the initial efforts put in by the women’s rights activists during and after the Civil War, and the continued feminism and women’s rights movement that has continued up to this day. All the focus has been improving the situation for women though, and while this is much needed and a very noble goal, what about the men? It seems ironic to ask this question in light of the stereotype just presented, however there are many of us guys who are NOT stereotypical, and even more so don’t WANT to be stereotypical.
How has the traditional man stereotype affected me?
My aim is to keep this portion as short as possible because it doesn’t speak to the exact purpose of the article, which is the stereotypical man in the context of World of Warcraft, however I think it is valuable to allow readers to see where my perspective comes from.
The traditional man stereotype has never been a positive force in my life. When I was in middle school, I was incessantly teased for being overweight and relatively weak. It hadn’t occurred to me until I started this post that all of the teasing I dealt with came my way because I wasn’t able to defend myself. This pulls out of Chastity’s post a little, pointing out that men who aren’t seen as the “bread-winner” or someone who is able to take something by force is not considered a man. The teasing I received became the subconscious indication that I was no longer eligible to be a man in my society. Of course, the truth of that goes only so far as the stereotype is perpetuated.
The power and privilege that white men are given in American society is used against women, but it’s also used against men who the upper class don’t consider men. Overweight, feminine, gay, metro etc. men are shunned from the group for being objectionable.
World of Warcraft
So what, in the World of Warcraft, could be pushing this stereotype even further, and damaging men who are not the “traditional” type of man? As Chastity pointed out, none of the male figures in lore except one were casters, and that one, Kaelthas Sunstrider, was portrayed as weak and underprivileged, given the lowest of encounters and death scenes. Chastity nails this concept better than I can.
All of the male lore NPCs are violent warriors or casters that decide to use melee, and this violence is all propagated with phallic images and items. Not to mention that all of the NPCs that are represented in the game that are big figures are quite large. Thrall is not a small orc and Varian certainly isn’t a small man. These macro representations of male characters serve to make men’s power more evident in the game.
There is also the other side of the spectrum – how the weak males are portrayed. Look for instance at the peons in the Valley of Trials, or the peasants and peons in the Warcraft RTS. These men are considered the lowest rung of the social strata and are portrayed accordingly. They speak with poor grammar and create the stereotypical sounds that our society has labeled as belonging to someone who is “stupid” (look at children who call each other retarded – slapping their hands against their chests and making dur hurr sounds as if imitating someone who was born with down syndrome). Not only are the peons in the Valley of Trials portrayed as stupid, low-lives, they are abused for sleeping on the job, a label that describes them as lazy. Let’s not forget what seems to be everyone’s favorite quote from the peon “Me not that kind of orc!” Said after being clicked with the hand (read: touched) by the player multiple times. The way the peon proclaims it is almost as in self-defense, as if worried that they will be labeled as homosexual if someone sees the player “touching” them. The peons are also of a smaller statue then the orc quest-givers in the area, representing that they are insignificant and useless, not strong enough to do the physical labor that they are required to do (lazy) and not smart enough to do any better job (portrayal of stupidity).
So how does this affect the male players of WoW? Subconsciously I feel more and more repressed from my personality and qualities, almost none of which fit the traditional man stereotype. I feel damaged for being forced to play someone who is over muscled, violent and arrogant. The subtle grasp of this stereotype that is propagated from within WoW has tightened around myself, and I’m sure other players who feel the same way, forcing us into subjugation because we aren’t the “perfect men” and so aren’t considered worthy of the privilege that those men get. Since playing WoW, I’ve grown more self-conscious of my weight (there were other influences and similar pressures from outside of WoW that added to this, but WoW certainly had a part in it) and more focused on getting into to shape, to conform to the look that all men are supposed to have. We’re also supposed to be dashingly handsome, suave and carefree – violent when necessary, because our women aren’t in line, and over sexual when we want our way (taking advantage of the lesser privileged). When I draw myself into perspective, I know and see that this is not the man I want to be, however the mentality is that if I don’t conform to this supposed paragon, that I don’t fit into the “brotherhood of men” (which I think should include all sexes, races, and people including the genderless etc.). I don’t fit into that belief, nor do I adhere to it or think it’s healthy. The same thing that feminism fights against is something that some men experience on a daily basis, and WoW certainly isn’t helping to fix that problem.
“Well that’s the tribal culture of the orcs…”
This is.. such a load of bullshit. I’ve brought this issue up with friends and they’ve tried to cover it up by shoving it into the scope and premise of the game. Even if that IS the tribal culture, someone created that culture from our world and our perspective. Think about where the influences came from (in a tech field that is sadly dominated by men). I don’t, however, think that the game designer specifically put these issues into the game to exert control of women. Sub-consciously, yes, purposeful? Maybe, but most likely not.
I play female characters in most cases because I feel more comfortable in that position than I do with the suit of a man on. My personality and my attributes are more closely defined with the women of WoW, and I don’t want to be classified with the violent, phallic, penetrative nature that most of the male NPCs seem to have.