Azeroth – Males Still Aren’t Pretty.

While making alts (alternative characters) on World of Warcraft (WoW) with my male roommate, an interesting thing was said that made me pause for a second.

We were going to make Night Elves. When we entered the game and tried to look for each other, I found that he had decided to make a female elf! Not that big of a deal, but he did mention originally making a male.

“Why the switch?” I asked.

“The guys are so ugly, I couldn’t do it.”

And it’s true. The human males look just as bad. My roommate and I have on numerous occasions made fun of his level 60 priest having a face only a mother could love. (Of course, the pink tabard with the hideous kitty face on it might have swayed my opinion as well.)

Now, some of the races have females that look just as ugly (ever seen a Tauren female? *Shudder*). In fact, the dwarven males aren’t all that bad to look at. (Though I’ve never met a dwarf I’d say was appealing to the eye.)

But even just considering the human race on WoW (which are created to look like, well, us), it’s interesting to find that the women are by far much easier on the eyes.

Is it just harder to replicate male faces in computer games? Did they spend more time on the appearance of the women so that they would have a better chance of bringing in females to their demographic? Or maybe it’s just that Blizzard didn’t expect women to want to play men and so they didn’t think they had to pretty them up?

Still, the fact that the female humans being pretty and the male humans”¦ failing at being “pretty” kind of says something to me about what the media thinks we want – Women need to be attractive, but men don’t have to be.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    That’s strange. I can’t imagine it’s any harder to make a good-looking man in animation than woman. So I’m going to have to guess they’ve deliberately made them not so pretty…?

    I’ve been wondering for a while if a truly good-looking guy could possibly become a US President. There seems to be some rule that they have to be ugly, or at least frumpy. Does our culture just not take good-looking people seriously?

    I dunno. Good observation, though. It’s very odd.

  2. Ifritah says

    I wouldn’t think it would be any harder, but I’ve noticed it in other games as well. An odd one is in Soul Calibur III where the main characters (both male and female) look great, but you can create your own characters too. The men’s faces on there are… scary. I don’t get it.

    I mostly agree with you on the president front, though J.F. Kennedy comes to mind. He was a good-looking guy. Not slathering at the mouth hot, but attractive enough.

    Whether we take good-looking people seriously is a good question though. Actors/actresses and other people in that type of world (where the pretty mostly prevail) are hardly ever taken seriously. They’re followed around constantly, but only so that they can be mocked or gossiped about in the next issue of a newspaper or magazine.

  3. hegar says

    As a male, I have both male and female WoW characters. The main reason for this is that since I have a whole heap of characters, i’d prefer to see a different combination of race/gender than one i’ve already seen before.

    The thing that really struck me about gender and WoW though, was in the dances. Every race’s female (with the exception of the half-cow tauren) had a dance that was clearly intended to be ‘sexy’ – gyrating hips, thrusting bosoms and the like. The male’s dances though, are all pretty funny – and certainly show a greater ‘range’ than the female dances. Nowhere is this no more evident than in the Night-elves, which I understand to be the most popular race in the game. The amount of times i’ve heard people chatting about how sexy the female NE’s dance is.. well, it’s alot. The male’s though it does have some hip thrusting, is clearly more comical. It’s really quite silly, as opposed to sexy, hip thrusting.

    The thing that really struck me about the message this was sending out is that to be attractive women have to drawn attention to the parts of the body most often seen as appealing: breasts, belly, crotch, thighs, legs. Where as the men in their dances are usually drawing attention to one of the parts of the mind most often seen as attractive: sense of humour.

    It’s pretty well known that women’s sexuality is often reduced to attractiveness of the body, whereas men can even be fairly ugly and still retain a strong sexuality that exists in their personality and mind. I just found it really strikingly how obvious this was portrayed in WoW.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    Now, THAT is an interesting observation. And your conclusion makes sense: that it’s okay for the guys to be funny, but it’s essential that the women be sexy.

    This may come under what I call “flattering us into submission”. We’re supposed to be flattered that our gender is being depicted as sexy, rather than offended that we’re being depicted without diversity, as if all women are about one thing.

  5. Mecha says

    I like that term. ‘Flattering into submission’. The phenominon even has an implied confusion in it for guys who don’t realize what it is. ‘She just bit my head off for me saying she was hot. What a bitch,’ one of these guys who does not realize it might say, thereby reinforcing stereotypes and bad behavior. Especially if the proper ‘response’ to being told you’re hot is supposed to be affection/sex.

    It also partially underlies the concept of the Mary Sue, and much like Ifritah’s original point turned slightly, ties into the way popular culture overemphasizes attractive women/womens’ desirability. ‘We aren’t treating women badly. Look at how sexy and desirable they all are!’ Completely missing the point.

    -Mecha

  6. Ifritah says

    I’m not sure if I find the Macarena (human female dance) sexy, but I definitely agree with you on the whole. Specifically, when talking about the Night Elf dance. Which is widely known as the ‘stripper dance’.

    The humor in the male dances is a very good observation as well. It makes me think of how the male Blood Elf dance is going to be from the movie Napoleon Dynamite (at the end where he dances to help his friend win the vote). Yes, you’re exactly right. All the male dances seem to be more on the humorous side.

    I haven’t heard any gossip about the female BE dance as of yet, but considering who their Alliance counter-part is…

    Thank you for adding another pertinent element to my WoW reflections.

  7. hegar says

    I hadn’t heard that about the BE dance, but I haven’t seen Napolean Dynamite so it doesn’t mean that much to me. (I have heard about how BE/Draeni will get to be the other faction’s faction specific class, terrible idea IMHO! :P)
    Out of curiosity, what server do you play on? I’m mainly on Warsong, but also a little on Mal’Ganis and an australasian server (being an aussie).

  8. Ifritah says

    Let’s just say the dance definitely holds true to your point. ^_~ (And I’m right there with you about the pali/shammy swap.)

    I’m on a few different servers, but my main is on Malfurion.

  9. hegar says

    The thing that really gets to me is the way that female sexuality is portrayed as a function solely of the body.
    Hmmm, I think I actually mean female heterosexual desirability, rather than female sexuality. Yeah.
    I mean, I can think of female bodies that I’ve found cute, but I can’t think of anyone I’ve really found desirable until i’ve talked to them. And I think everyone can think of the way their image of another’s body changes with familiarity – the way that people you love get more and more beautiful.

    I think it’s pretty scary the way this bullshit perception of what sexiness is sold back to guys, and the pressure that exist for us to parrot it. I refuse to believe that there’s a person on the planet who doesn’t feel their lover’s happy face is the sexiest thing in the world, but there are definately men who’ll speak as though a ‘hot body’ is all that’s important to them.

    And I think that advertising and the cosmetics industry are doing enough to make sure this debasement of sexuality into something that is solely a function of the body – rather than of the emotions and mind as well – is perpetuated without a video game helping them! :P

    That’s what personally gets to me most, but as I guy I don’t have to worry about being flattered into being sexy and nothing more, to paraphrase your fantastic comment.

    :)

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    The phenominon even has an implied confusion in it for guys who don’t realize what it is. ‘She just bit my head off for me saying she was hot. What a bitch,’ one of these guys who does not realize it might say, thereby reinforcing stereotypes and bad behavior.

    Exactly! And the women who take their heads off can’t always sort out just what, precisely, feels wrong about his wording. It sounds lovely, so why is it bothering her? Probably context. Sometimes you’d rather know someone appreciates your skills, or your heart or mind or spirit, and then later they can let you know you look nice, too. ;)

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    I mean, I can think of female bodies that I’ve found cute, but I can’t think of anyone I’ve really found desirable until i’ve talked to them.

    Whoa, spooky – I was just trying to explain that somewhere recently. Wanting to look and wanting to touch are separate things for me. I’ve had people tell me this is abnormal.

    And I think everyone can think of the way their image of another’s body changes with familiarity – the way that people you love get more and more beautiful.

    Unfortunately, I’ve talked to people who don’t get this at all.

    I think it’s pretty scary the way this bullshit perception of what sexiness is sold back to guys, and the pressure that exist for us to parrot it. I refuse to believe that there’s a person on the planet who doesn’t feel their lover’s happy face is the sexiest thing in the world, but there are definately men who’ll speak as though a ‘hot body’ is all that’s important to them.

    Hmm. It’s really great to hear you say that, because I’ve never heard anything from guys but, “It doesn’t matter what your face looks like – all we look at is the bod.” Which was always a put-down to me, because I have a pretty face, but have always been a little overweight. Of course, to me it always put down men. Who wants someone that shallow?

  12. Mecha says

    Unfortunately, I’ve talked to people who don’t get this at all.

    So have I, sadly. These perceptions that certain bodyshapes/types of people can’t be beautiful are just as alive and well in the gay community as the straight community, and helped muck up my last relationship. So it goes, I suppose. ^^;

    -Mecha

  13. sbg says

    I still can’t pull text out to comment on directly. Argh.

    Anyway, regarding the difference between wanting to look vs. wanting to touch:

    I had a disturbing encounter with one of my bosses once. He’d just got done showing an apartment to a girl who was…amply endowed. He was so twitterpated he could barely breathe normally and wondered why I was exasperated by his very physical reaction. He confirmed he did envision what it would be like to sleep with said amply endowed girl and didn’t believe me when I said if I see a nice ass on a guy, I can admire without wanting to jump said guy with the fine tuckus.

    To him, me admiring discreetly was the same thing as him slobbering and jumping into instant sex fantasy. And it’s not.

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    I still can’t pull text out to comment on directly. Argh.

    If you mean what I think you mean, you just copy/paste the text into the comment box, highlight it in the comment box, and press the “b-quote” button above. That blockquotes it. If that’s not what you mean, email me.

    He confirmed he did envision what it would be like to sleep with said amply endowed girl and didn’t believe me when I said if I see a nice ass on a guy, I can admire without wanting to jump said guy with the fine tuckus.

    Well, men keep claiming to me, “Oh, we’re different! We’re hardwired to do that! It’s perfectly natural.” Yeah. So is hitting someone just because they get on your nerves. Not all “natural” behavior is the best behavior we can come up with. And last I checked, brains were part of nature, too. ;)

  15. hegar says

    My parents had a dinner party once with some friends of the family, and the father of said friends was complaining about the lack of meat (because over half of those present were vegetarian, and despite the fact that his wife had cooked a whole chicken for him). His argument against being a vegetarian was that human beings have teeth. This man is an anthropologist, btw. So my response was something along the lines of ‘yeah, but human beings also have brains, which enable them to make concious decisions about their life.’

    The age old ‘it’s natural for me to be a stupid jerk’ argument irritates the heck out of me :)
    It’s not natural for humans to spend 8 hours a day cramped in a florescent lit office block doing mindless crap, but lots of people do. :P

    At least ‘It’s natural for me to do ‘Stupid thing X’, so i should do it’ is easily argued against with ‘It’s crappy for you to do ‘Stupid thing X’, so put in a little effort and stop doing it!’

  16. Jennifer Kesler says

    My favorite nature v. brain argument was about overpopulation and birth control. One person claimed that if the world was overpopulated, God would take care of it, so we shouldn’t take any action ourselves (including abstinence!).

    The other person said, “He did take care of it: he gave us brains to figure out birth control.”

    The problem with the nature arguments, IMO, is that they tend to disclude intelligence as a part of nature. Hello? That ain’t a big ol’ microchip in my head, there. :D

  17. sbg says

    If I try to copy, it highlights everything and not just what I want to reply to.

    I don’t buy the hardwired excuse. Well, that’s not true. I can see how that might be true…but don’t we all have control over that stuff? I suppose that’s easier said than done.

  18. Jennifer Kesler says

    What browser do you use? That’s typically a browser issue, but if I can replicate it, I’ll see if there’s a fix.

    To me, it just doesn’t matter what our “natural, animal” behavior might be. Like I said, smacking someone for looking at you funny is a natural behavior we’ve chosen as a society to marginalize, in favor of cooperation. But the idea to cooperate could be naturally motivated – it’s certainly what’s given us our prized and physically unwarranted spot at the top of the food chain.

    I always ask people who fixate on “natural” behaviors as an explanation for all evil if they take medicine, or use computers. Neither of those activities are natural behaviors. Maybe they should stop – you get sick, you die. Law of the jungle. ;)

  19. hegar says

    Actually, when it comes to taking medicine, I think it may be natural. Heaps of animals use outside reagents to help to workings of their bodies. Many animals swallow stones to aid in digestion. I saw a doco about SE Asian rainforests, and the elephants dip their trunks into these mudpits and blow (like children blowing bubbles in milk with a straw:P). This stirs up the very mineral rich mud at the bottom, and brings it closer to the top, where they eat it. It functions basically like multi-vitamin tablets that some humans take.

    Even when it comes to computers, I think an argument can be made that a computer is just an elborate tool, and that using tools comes naturally to some apes. Certianly to chimpanzees (which we are), and to gorillas as well (though they use tools far less), I’m not sure about gibbons and orang-utans though.

    The way I see it, we have competing ‘natural’ behaviours. We’re ‘hardwired’ with a capacity for both co-operation and competition, and if you like at both our cultural and evolutionary history, you’ll see plenty examples of both.
    I think it’s best to think of ‘natural’ behaviour as capacity. Where it is within the wide range of our capacities that our behaviour falls is, of course, determined culturally, and can be changed culturally.

  20. Pocket Nerd says

    (I’m a level 32 Thread Necromancer!)

    Gah. Any argument from “x is natural” is a non-starter. Always, always, always. If you really want to dazzle your opponent, bring up Kant, Hume and the is-ought problem, or talk about the naturalistic fallacy… but generally, you can just point out that the rules by which the universe runs are completely amoral, and it’s a mistake to think what does happen has any bearing on what should happen. The fallacies implicit in the “argument from nature” are far too numerous to detail here, so I’ll just say “x is the natural way” is contemptible hypocrisy coming from anybody who doesn’t live in a cave and hunt caribou with a sharpened stick.

    And oh, am I the only person who thinks the male orcs and trolls are much more attractive than the females? Orc and troll females are basically just blue-skinned human women, but the males are burly, blue-skinned, and fanged. Just the way I like my men!

    (<_<)

    (>_>)

    (o_0)

    … why are you all looking at me like that?

  21. says

    That’s why I banned gender essentialist comments on the site – unless you have controlled experiments that involve somehow removing a large sample of children of both genders from all adult human and cultural influence, then observing that, my goodness, the girls really DO like pink or whatever, you cannot state any evo-bio speculation as fact. Because anything short of that level of empirical investigation is just theory. There’s nothing wrong with theory – some things just can’t be tested in a lab, so the best we can do is produce convincing theories that fit the evidence. But at the end of the day, it could still be wrong due to misinterpretation or lack of better evidence.

    It’s one thing to theorize that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Even if people get confused and take that one as fact, no one’s going to demand that birds stop flying because they used to be reptiles. But when you apply these theories to humans, someone is sure to jump up and say “Then that group, defined by its gender/race/other unchosen trait, should learn its place in society and stop trying to behave like white men and demanding a chance to earn what white men have!” That’s why I get so hostile with the whole evo-bio thing. I know it could be put to neutral use in a society that’s not looking so hard for excuses for prejudices, but we’re not in that sort of society.

  22. Pocket Nerd says

    First: You missed my point. Even if you raised a bunch of children in test tubes, totally isolated from any outside influences, and proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that yes, men are genetically programmed to hoot and leer at every woman who walks by, that wouldn’t make sexual harassment okay. Is does not imply ought. Gender essentialist comments are stupid and shallow, as is every other “argument from nature.”

    Second: Your continued disparagement of biology is unsettling. I humbly opine that it harms your credibility; saying “it’s just a theory” reveals a profound lack of knowledge about how science works. Gravity is just a theory, but I don’t think most people are willing to dispute the “just a theory” of gravity.

    There are both a theory of evolution and a fact of evolution. Populations can change over successive generations. That’s the “fact” part of evolution, like watching a stone fall is the “fact” part of gravity. The theory of evolution explains how those changes work, just as the theory of gravity describes how the stone falls.

    Your argument that evolution will automatically be co-opted by white males to maintain their privilege is both trivially true and utterly meaningless. People in power co-opt everything to maintain their power! Gunpowder, the written word, even the wheel have been turned to oppression of minorities, but that doesn’t mean wheels are evil, or writing is implicitly a tool of the patriarchy. These things are no less valuable just because jerk-asses can do jerk-ass things with them. They’re just tools, and tools are neither good nor evil.

    Seriously, Jennifer, I understand you’ve dealt with a lot of dimwits insisting “It’s not my fault I’m a misogynist cretin! My genes command it!” I also understand you’ve faced difficulties from educated professionals who want to hide their prejudices with a veneer of science. But those prejudices aren’t the fault of biology, or science itself. In a sense, science is the process of systematically stripping away all our preconceptions, to see only what’s really there, and then putting them to the test to make double-sure we’re correct. Obviously, not everybody practices that all the time, but human failure to live up to that ideal doesn’t mean the ideal is flawed.

    I’m sure your posts already encounter unreasonable scrutiny because of your feminist views. Don’t give smug pseudointellectual dipshits an excuse to write you off by saying “Ha! I always knew girls couldn’t understand science!”

  23. says

    Pocket Nerd, I think you really need to read this:

    http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-10-02_403

    You’ve been telling me I cannot infer sexism in the practice and application of science. On a site that I own. On a site that has been developed as a safe space for people to re-examine everything on the planet from a gender-equal perspective. You also keep making a strawman argument. Is any part of this striking you as a bit over the line yet? It did me.

    Additionally, you misread me because you were too busy assuming I’m stupid. In fact, your whole comment boils down to, “Don’t talk about this topic, because privilege people might infer that you are stupid, which you are.”

    At no point did I dismiss “biology.” What does that even mean? I dismiss the idea that you can observe behavior and determine FACTUALLY that it’s hardwired rather than cultural, which is what a lot of very wordy, academic sounding commentors on this site did, until I changed the rules. Gravity is an extremely persuasive theory because no one’s ever observed it simply not working. But there’s not one generalization you can make about “women” or “men” that won’t encounter exceptions. Therefore, not so persuasive, and therefore not acceptable when commentors come on here and say “but this is natural and it’s a fact, so shut up.” Hence the rule I made, which was what I was talking about.

    I did not miss your point. I had made it earlier in this thread myself, so I saw no reason to point out that I agreed. What I went on to add re: comments on this site – maybe you’re not aware that the ONLY people to come to this site and offer gender essentialist comments have been anti-feminists using these theories as a silencing tactic: “shut up and accept your natural inclination to fetch a beer.” The more scientific minded commentors were the ones disputing their claims.

    Since you continue to talk as if I think all evo-bio science is a bad idea, let me reiterate: I have two objections to the condomless sex research (assuming it’s remotely as described by the press).

    (1) Self-reporting doesn’t work when it comes to evaluating one’s own level of happiness, which has who-knows how many factors overlapping one another. If you’re measuring brain chemicals in a lab right after sex with or without condoms, that might convince me of something. I don’t dismiss self-reporting entirely – it’s the foundation of psychology, after all – but I think in this instance, no amount of it would convince me of anything in particular.
    (2) I think the very choice of this as a research topic reflects the sexist tendencies of our society because (and this is what I never managed to get across in the other thread) so little scientific research has been done into the relationship between women, sex and happiness. That harms the credibility of any study into whether certain versions of sex makes “people” happy. It makes me suspect that, once again, what is really meant by “people” is “men.” Which still happens in science and everywhere else. You can disagree, but you REALLY need to stop telling me I’m not allowed this opinion because it doesn’t jive with your infinitely more informed and intelligent one.

    Now to address some of your other points:

    Your argument that evolution will automatically be co-opted by white males to maintain their privilege is both trivially true and utterly meaningless.

    Not on this site, it’s not. The co-opting by those who have privilege is a big part of how gender bias works, and that is what this site is all about. Not all our of readers know this. Why not mention it? Or are you, too, telling me to shut up, because I gotta say, it really sounds like that here:

    I’m sure your posts already encounter unreasonable scrutiny because of your feminist views. Don’t give smug pseudointellectual dipshits an excuse to write you off by saying “Ha! I always knew girls couldn’t understand science!”

    When I first got into feminism, I used to cringe when I heard feminists say stuff that Important People might use against them. Like you, I’d caution them not to embarrass themselves. Then, someone ripped me a new one, and I wondered what on earth I’d done to deserve that, and I got some education:

    (1) Haters don’t need an excuse to think we’re stupid. They’ll twist whatever we say to suit that purpose, anyway.
    (2) The undecided may seem worth targeting, but your time is better spent strengthening the bonds of the already-converted feminists than courting the undecided. Real converts-to-be find their own way to the movement.
    (3) Finally, by censoring ourselves to suit the privileged, we’re reinforcing their privilege and playing their game. Letting them win, in other words.

    Lastly, you’re assuming I am biased by my emotions (we all know how gals get, amirite?) and can therefore be dismissed. That’s another silencing tactic.

  24. Raeka says

    Ohhhhh, WoW. I never really got into WoW myself, but a bunch of my friends were obsessed, and my brother once let me create a character on his account where I promptly accidentally walked off a cliff. Twice.

    Anyways…I chose a Tauren woman for my character. I liked the way she was curvy, but the size of her curves actually made sense with her overall body mass. I liked the fact that she looked strong, down-to-earth, more sensible than any of the other female races. I don’t know that I could explain exactly why she appears more ‘sensible’, but that’s always been my impression. I can’t see a Tauren woman squeeing over shoes and boys and Twilight.

    I just went out and refreshed my memory of the different races, and noticed that pretty much all of the females (except the Tauren, which everyone seems to complain about the unsexiness* of) are pretty much humanoid with different skin colors and hairstyles. God forbid the sex objects in the game not actually look human, I guess. But the males tend to look more like they might actually be a different species…

    *I actually think the Tauren females are pretty attractive, in their own way. I think a lot of it has to do with the personality traits I seem to associate with them, as I talked about earlier. Also, I don’t think the Night Elves are that pretty…their ears look like you could stab people with them, and those glowing eyes are creepy –like there’s no humanity/personality behind them, or something. But, y’know, I guess personality isn’t really required…

    On a final note, if you know anyone who could possibly create an animation of a Tauren woman doing a dance similar to the Night Elf slut dance, OMG TELL ME. Ever since my brother showed me WoW, I have wanted desperately to see this somewhere. They say you can find anything on the Internet, but I haven’t managed yet… :(

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