As a beginning Warhammer 40K hobbyist, I wondered about some of the battles I had sat on the sidelines for, which were ones that encompassed mostly male players. I had never met another female Warhammer 40K player in all of my time of being an active shopper of local games. I had never encountered one painting or battling at the games that the shops hold events for. My closest experience was that of an acquaintance who was a paint-to-hire artist who painted models in exchange for pay. She never plays.
Being a geek of all sorts, I have moved my way into a respected profile in the gaming world, as well as a few other hobbies I’m involved in – including tabletop gaming like Pathfinder. But Warhammer 40K was way different. I have not engaged in a battle yet, but my experience being around some players had been negative.
When I sat on the sidelines of a game, several guys playing hit on me and said that I wouldn’t understand how the game was played. Several people I tried to ask questions told me it wasn’t a game for girls to play. What? What do you mean I don’t understand? Do my body parts dictate my intelligence, or whether or not I’d understand a dice roll?
Part of my mission joining this hobby was to get more people involved. But the other part was to gain respect, regardless of my gender. While some guys, including many of my close friends, have been enthusiastic about battling their ravenous Tyranids or pious Grey Knights against my fabulous Eldar, others have been reluctant to believe that I could play my figures well, or understand the rules of the game.
Let me start with this: Warhammer 40K takes a lot of studying and research to play. If you paint your own figures, you’ll need to learn to do that, and improve over time to make your figures reputable in the battle field. On top of the studying, you’ll need to practice playing your specific figures against others and using strategy to effectively do so. Finally, there is a whole lore behind Warhammer 40K to be discovered. If you want to play, you have to immerse yourself into the world of Warhammer 40K and battling.
I am all about embracing this new endeavor, knowing that I love hobbies and spending time on things I care about. But I have been hesitant about the community. I will be the first person to say that one person does not represent a whole group, but a simple Google search can come up with thousands of threads on sexism in the Warhammer 40K world. Not counting my personal experience, I have heard about several women wanting to play but not being treated with respect when they try to battle or sign up at their local stores.There are several women out there fighting for equality in the Warhammer 40K fandom that it’s gotten to a point where I have to question where the players are in their other hobbies. Are they the ones yelling “tits or get out” over headset on videogames? Are they scrutinizing female players in Dungeons and Dragons campaigns?
While there are some players I am concerned about, there are also plenty out there that are fantastic. My local gaming store staff and managers have engaged in conversation with me about their goal to drive equality during their matches. Meanwhile, other players have asked me about when I will be battling my army. I have also had many people say that my colors of purple and yellow will look awesome on my Eldar and that my beginning paint jobs are pretty cool. In other words, many players don’t treat me any different than any other player.
In the world of the game itself, I also question if there’s a gender gap. There is only one female army, which is made up of entirely female militants: Adepta Sororitas, or The Sisters of Battle. While these are totally badass, why can’t there be one female figure for each army? You can’t make them female if you want or buy them as equally as you can buy male figures?
I am tempted to leave out the male figures of my army. Most have helmets, but some will just have a chiseled man’s head to attach to the armored body. You wouldn’t know if the ones under the helmet might actually be female! This could be a cool opportunity to make up something about female Eldar without defined gender or sexuality.
I want equality in this hobby. I want to be treated for my level of skill, not for my body parts. I want respect from fellow hobbyists. I want more women to feel comfortable embracing this hobby that they’ve been pushed away from. I can only hope that many shop keepers and staff feel the same way and encourage their players to be more welcoming. I also hope that some players figure it out.
I challenge you, players of the fantastical hobby of Warhammer 40K, to battle for the equality of both male and female players. I challenge you to think about the possibility of bigger female armies. I challenge you to invite your friends into your hobby, so they can learn about the Warhammer 40K lore. I challenge you to teach, to accept, and to embrace people of all genders in this hobby. I challenge you to talk with your friends who don’t respond well to others playing this game.
It all comes down to this: don’t be a jerk. Don’t be a jerk to other players, regardless of their gender. This is a hobby, you should be glad that other people play – who else are you going to battle with?