Monday 23 April 2012

Sexism in miniature - The worst of Infinity

Wargames and wargame miniatures have a problem.  It's a problem shared with roleplaying, video gaming, comics, and every other form of media aimed at the young male demographic.  It's an old problem, heavily entrenched, and one that is almost guaranteed to start scorched-earth level flame wars.

What the hell, Corvus Belli?
The problem being that wargame miniatures are, generally, sexist as all hell.

There's a lot to talk about when discussing sexism in miniatures, and to be honest I don't think I'm qualified to make any sort of in depth analysis about the deeper reasons behind this, or discuss some of the medium's more subtle sexist tropes.

But what I am qualified to talk about is the thing that irks me the most about Infinity figures - the tendency to deliberately sculpt female figures in the skimpiest of clothing and the most ridiculous of poses, especially when compared to their male counterparts.  This hobby is awkward enough without having idiots snickering over a "sexy" model, or having to explain to someone why that trooper isn't wearing any pants.

"No, see, she's an undercover vice operative and..."
For clarity's sake, I'm going to break it down to the most simple and important of ideas, equality.  I'm going to ignore the "sexy fighting nuns" and "warrior concubines" for now (that's a whole other kettle of fish), instead talking about - and giving examples of - standard, mixed-gender units that display this kind of baffling sexist crap.
Why are you standing like that? Who stands like that?
I'll also be giving "boob armour" a pass - I know it annoys some people (and rightly so), but unless it's incredibly blatant I think that kind of armour is one of the downsides of trying to render a recognisably feminine form in powered armour at this scale.  There's only so much you can do with body proportions.  Feel free to disagree with me on this one.

Even with those exemptions, there are plenty of examples to show that the men are sculpted in more sensible combat gear and in aggressive, combat-ready poses, while the women get heels, crop-tops, and a pose that suggests they're posing for a men's magazine, not in the middle of a fire-fight.

Caledonian Volunteers 

"Their daily mission is to fight in hundreds of wars and frontier skirmishes for their country, in the most distant and freezing regions of the planet."

That must be one damn warm miniskirt
Easily the most blatant and ludicrous example.  The male Volunteer is in a knee-length kilt, a heavy jacket that comes down to his thigh, and a plain white shirt.  He's posed as if he's stalking forward, rifle at the ready. The female Volunteer is wearing the smallest of miniskirts (that's riding up so high that they sculpted her panties), an open, waist-length jacket, and what appears to be a wet singlet.  Let me point out that there is snow on the ground.

These are battle hardened, rugged as hell soldiers from rough backgrounds, engaged in an active combat scenario.  There's not even the flimsiest of in-universe excuses for the female Volunteer to be sculpted and posed that way, and it wouldn't matter if there was.    Embarrassing.

Kum Motorized Troops

"Crossing the battlefield at top speed on their roaring motorbikes, through enemy fire, the Kum have forged a terrible reputation as intrepid and reckless bikers…or as absolute psychopaths, depending on who you ask."

Heh heh. Kum.

The female biker's vest is open far deeper at the front than the guy's (to expose a whole lot of cleavage), and it's much shorter for the ubiquitous belly-shirt look (a favourite of the Infinity sculptors).  That could be weakly defended by some hand waving about her being a crazy biker chick and blah blah, but the real problem here is the pose, something that's made even more obvious when you see the sculpts for the rest of the unit.

One of these things is not like the others...
All the male figures are posed in the act of wild shooting and daredevil riding, waving their weapons around, their asses planted firmly on the seat.  The lone female figure doesn't have a rifle, is braking hard in such a way to put her on all fours, face down to accentuate her cleavage, ass up in an obviously sexual position.  The men are posed to imply reckless power and freedom, the woman is posed to imply... sex.

Die Morlock Gruppen

"Any person who observes a Morlock will only see ferocity in his face, hardness in his eyes and danger in his muscles."

"..that and sexy low riding trousers"
If you're a guy, being dosed with dangerous MetaChemistry serums will turn you into a freaky lizard dude, or Beast from X-men.  If you're a girl, you become a sexy elf lady or an extra from Avatar.  Also I guess it gives your abdomen sub-dermal armour plating,? I can't think of any other reason why they don't have the same armour that the men do.

7th Foxtrot Rangers 

"Their main weapons are stealth, surprise and ambush."


Line Kazak

"They may not be as well equipped as their equivalent in other armies, but they perfectly trained, do their duty and know the region."

Shoot from the hip
I've lumped these two together because they've got the exact same problem, and almost the exact same pose.  Once more, the male figures are sensibly kitted out and posed, while the female figures are wearing crop-top uniforms and posed like they're modelling the latest in DPM fashion.  These aren't as bad as the other examples, but it's depressing how ubiquitous this kind of disparity is.

4éme de Chasseurs

" total silence, they penetrate to the very heart of enemy positions."

My, what a Strong Female Character!
 Yeah, I'm getting pretty sick of repeating myself.

I like Infinity, and I like their miniatures.  They're well sculpted, dynamically posed, and incredibly detailed.  That's why it annoys me so much that the line contains so many downright embarrassing female figures.  One of the reasons I decided to go with Haqqislam as a faction is that I found they had the lowest percentage of skeevy miniatures.  I've made a concious attempt to vote with my wallet and never buy one of the models that creeped me out, though it seems impossible to completely avoid crop-top hip-shooting syndrome.

I don't think it's too much that we, as fans, consumers and players, ask that sculptors to try and avoid this kind of obvious objectification.  No, I don't care that part of your audience is horny 13-year-old boys. They can get their kicks from the internet like everyone else.

And just so you don't think it's all bad, next week I'll give some examples where things were done right.


  1. Yeah, I have to agree with this. I don't need to have my female miniatures be all pinups all the time. The occasional model, sure.

    It's such a common thing I'm not really sure what to do. I guess when my 3yo is old enough to (hopefully) play her daddy's games I'll have to figure something out.

    Funnily enough I am picking the female versions of my Nomad models when I have the chance. At least the female Interventor is reasonably sculpted and posed.

  2. Hmm. I agree. Sorta. But...

    1) Women's body armour is differently shaped to men's, and doesn't always extend as low:

    2) Infinity's look is inspired by anime more than any other visual style. That's one of the main selling points of their minis. That doesn't necessarily give them a free pass -- but it is certainly the case that the company is making minis that its target market wants to buy (AFAIK some of their most popular minis are the "sexy" ones).

    1. 1. That'd be fine if they were wearing anything under their armor. Who wears body armor directly on skin? I've got a female Ghulam that suffers from the same croptop problem (just not as bad), and I've painted her belly strip as if she was wearing a shirt.

      2. I understand why they're doing it, it's just not an excuse.

    2. Yeah, again, I largely agree on both counts. Still -- I basically adore the game and the minis, and my emotional involvement therefore makes me more inclined justify the sexism, given that without the "sexy" minis, the game and company wouldn't be so popular and successful!

      On the Caledonian Volunteers front -- have you ever been to Aberdeen on a Saturday night in winter? You'll get women dressed in less, walking home from nightclubs... Not saying they'd all do that in the military. :) But the Volunteers are a militia -- they're ordinary people, rounded up to fight because fighting has to be done. So I'm slightly more willing to accept sex object women there than, say, the Foxtrot Rangers from the same faction. Yeah, it's all a bit silly. Yeah, too, it's objectification... but... we're not objectifying actual women, here. We're objectifying wargaming minis. They're already objects. :)

    3. Come on man, really? I don't see any dudes in that squad wearing thin clubbing gear. The fact that you're willing to accept blantant objectification just because "oh they're just miniatues" is basically the whole point of the article. It's so prevalent that we don't give it a moment's notice, and when we do we try to hand wave it away with terrible justification.

    4. Generally, when men wear kilts to look sexy, they're knee-length. When women wear kilts to look sexy, they're longer.

      I do see your point, but I'm still not sure I agree, particularly considering the anime/manga aesthetic. Proportionally, there are way more female anime & manga fans than female wargamers -- and many of them cosplay (in fact, I know several feminists who cosplay in quite skimpy outfits). I suspect Infinity is a lot more likely to appeal to women than (say) 40K, much as I enjoy the latter game too.

    5. I don't have a problem with women wanting to dress sexily. I do have a problem with female miniatures being sculpted as sex objects first, and everything else second (lots of anime has this problem too). And whether you agree or not, that's clearly what's happening here.

    6. "I don't have a problem with women wanting to dress sexily. I do have a problem with female miniatures being sculpted as sex objects first, and everything else second (lots of anime has this problem too). And whether you agree or not, that's clearly what's happening here."

      Yeah, pretty much agree with this. That doctor figure is a joke as is the girl on the scooter. Just the typical lame fan service crap that pops up in about 90% of geek hobbies.

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  4. I find it weird that whenever I see an article like this, its always written by a man trying to be mr. knight in shining armor. The sculpts are obviously sexist, no question about it. But honestly, its predominantly men who are playing these types of games, and the background this game is based on is heavily stylized like this. IMO, I think the idea of women in any militarized, special forces unit is a bit of a joke to begin with, and I avoid the female figs when I can. Females generally lack the physical strength, stamina, and overall aggression men have. Now of course there are exceptions, but they are just that, the exception. And before I get flamed for being sexist, I'm not saying women are worth less then men or something like that, just we are not the same, so why pretend we are. To the OP, your point is valid, but look at any commercial, billboard, any form of advertisement, women are objectified. Ugly, fat chicks don't sell beer or lingerie.

    1. I'm not trying to be anyone's knight in shining armour, I just don't want to buy skeevy miniatures, or be associated with bullshit like that. It is not too much to ask!

      The rest of your post is just.. confused (and also sexist!). So men and women have slightly different physiologies. So what? Why does that mean that all female miniatures have to always be dressed and posed to emphasise sex? Why can't female soldiers be dressed like soldiers, and not strippers? Objectifying women might sell, but to less than 50% of the population. Why are games companies alienating potential customers? If you agree that it's bad (and I'm not sure you do), why are you just shrugging your shoulders and saying "that's the way it is" instead of voting with your wallet?

      But then again you did pretty much say that women can't be soldiers, so I'm probably wasting my time responding.

    2. The best way to not be considered a sexist is to not say sexist things like women being in the military is a joke. Judging by your attitude, I am almost 100 percent positive you are the stereotypical nerd and I'm even more positive this attitude comes from you being rejected over and over again by 'vapid cunts'. Yes, there are differences between men and women but to say one is better than the other just shows that you have a very immature thought process, but then again, I think that was pretty obvious from the first sentence of your post.

    3. I find it funny that the two bottom poster immediately jump to personal attacks, talk about mature. I am a nerd (everyone here is), but also wrestled 4 yrs varsity in hs, and am starting medical school in the fall, so getting girls have never really been a problem. I think you two might be projecting a bit.
      To the OP, really the only one who merits a response; I want to clarify. Sexist figs like the ones posted are stupid, and I do vote with my wallet. They are of no interest to me. My reasoning is just different. We do not, and have never had women in the special forces. That combined with the physiological differences makes the me find the idea amusing. My other point was that the companies that do this aren't really alienating 50% of the market as you claim; significantly less, since mostly nerdy men play these games, and traditionally, nerdy men are more overtly perverted so probably enjoy this crap.

  5. Good point. As a counter-point, have you ever seen how women dress on holloween? They basically dress in outfits similar to these minis. In fact I've heard from a few different girls that they wish they could dress like that all the time, but they don't due to social norms. I think questioning our social norms is required before defining what is "sexism".

    For example, why is is long hair for men generally frowned upon in the work place? What about tattoos - specifically the "job stoppers" on the fore-arms? How about the disparate dress code restrictions in the workplace - women have FAR more leeway in what they can wear to work. Also, consider that many women may actually LIKE these so called "sexist" minis - and I don't mean gay or bisexual women in this case..

    My point of all this is, why is dressing sexy and showing off a beautiful, fit, female form a bad thing? Also, arguably, there IS a psychological warfare aspect to looking sexy on the battlefield - that half a second that a guy takes to check out an enemies body may cost him his life.. haha

    Humans are sexual beings, let's embrace it.

  6. I know this is an old post (one I quite agree with), but I wanted to note a few things.

    I tend to give Infinity a pass on most things because of the great and practical female miniatures like the ones in your followup post to this. As long as there's a decent mix (as I do sometimes pick up something like an Asura to go with my less obviously female models), I'm fine with the amusingly retro crop tops. It's the "look at my ass(ets)" poses completely at odds with the context that bother me the most. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping CB would indulge me with a little more along the lines of William Wallace and pretty boy Achilles, however. Some equal opportunity eye candy would be nice, even though it would never reach a level equivalent to that Caledonian Volunteer.

    To address a couple points the comments make (not even going to touch Mr. No Women in the Army's post):
    1) "But it's anime-inspired!" Yep. But just because most things get it wrong a lot, doesn't mean everything else needs to follow suit. Infinity will still have an anime influence.
    2) "But they're already objects!" Female characters in media aren't real people. Doesn't mean there shouldn't be some standards and fairness in how they're portrayed.
    3) "Women dress to look sexy sometimes." In appropriate contexts, sure. I actually like the Chasseur, myself (but still, ugh, that Caledonian Volunteer). Also, where's my fanservice?
    4) I know I said I'd ignore that one comment, but about white knighting - it's funny how the people objecting to these supposed "knights" are usually the ones who disagree with them.... I appreciate it when people who have a similar viewpoint to my own take the time to explain it. It's not rescuing a damsel, it's expressing agreement.
    5) It's always sad to hear people shrug off the possibility of attracting more women to the hobby. I know I'd like a little more solidarity. I have an interest in various geeky hobbies in spite of the sexism, but I can see why others would avoid it entirely.

    Again, nice post(s), however old they may be.