Let’s get rid of “slut plate” forever

The following is a guest post from Apple Cider Mage:

Apple Cider Mage is a radi-cool gamer feminist who blogs within the World of Warcraft community. Her loves in-game are collecting non-combat pets, achievements and turning into a dragon. Outside of video games, she loves smashing the kyriarchy, graphic design and penning witty tweets. 

Two draenei females stand in revealing but fashionably matching armor against a gray stone wall.

 

Ah-ha, I’ve skewered you with my provocative title.

It’s true that it was a just a ruse; I’m not here to talk about abolishing the many, many sets of  evocative armor in World of Warcraft. I’m here to talk about getting rid of the disgusting language and thoughts that surround them! As I’ve discussed before, I’m a big proponent of the idea that the words we choose to express ideas with inform many of our feelings. A word that encompasses an entire disgusting ideology: slut. Sluttiness is both a term used to denigrate female sexuality as well as denote when it occurs in a way that extends beyond what the judgemental person feels is “respectable” “healthy” or “acceptable.” You can be a slut if you do X, Y, or Z. You can be a slut if you do something X number of times or have X number of partners. In that vein, I feel the landslide useage of “slut plate” in the WoW community puts that same unhealthy/sexist perception around even something as fun and aesthetic as transmogrification/roleplaying gear. The very term itself makes my mouth pucker up in my characteristic sour sneer. It makes me legitimately angry.

Unfortunately, this kind of gear has existed for a very long time in Azeroth, if not other game universes. There’s been no end to blog articles and topics that revolve how women in World of Warcraft, particularly while leveling, are subject to a very different appearance to their male counterparts. Simply put: anyone playing a female toon, particularly if you wanted to play a mail or plate class, has put up with gear that left almost nothing to the imagination. It feels very objectifying and caters to a very specific audience. This is not new territory. The crux of it is the lack of choice and the lack of consideration. It says that the designers do not always think about anyone other than themselves or a segment of the consumers for their game. Given that this segment has historically been straight, young males, it is no surprise that this stuff has been dubbed the aforementioned “slut plate” (or sometimes “stripper gear”, etc.) It is gear that is designed to make female characters look sexually appealing rather than clad infunctional items that would provide some measure of protection. Making this the onlyoption while making your way through pieces of armor disallows the player’s feelings to enter into the matter.

What happens though when you are suddenly allowed to dress up how you want? Enter transmogrification. What was once the sole realm of roleplayers that eschewed PVE practicality for storytelling aesthetics while chilling out in Silvermoon City is now everyone’s game. Choice is back on the table in a big way and with that, it stirs up a lot of feelings. Not only can you buy your way OUT of a terrible outfit that makes you feel weird or gross, but you can buy your way into being scantily clad full-time. Not only that, but it is a hunt and a big business. These sets fetch quite a high price on the Auction House and I see many flesh-baring outfits around Stormwind when I’m standing around. I feel that this is one of the reasons why I’ve seen a big resurgence of posts that include the term “slut plate” and a lot of nose-sniffing at “toons that look like they belong around a stipper pole.”  There is both the glee of booty-watching and the derision of game-supported dress that echoes “disrespectful” expression in real life.

I feel that the term “slut plate” represents the problematic elements of both of these opinions. Calling it “slut plate” even mean in jest or in a seemingly positive way, or even just as a “neutral” descriptor implies that being scantily clad indicates a certain character point, one which is tangled up a very harmful word from our society. A harmful word that reduces a woman’s expressed sexuality into an ever-shifting, very narrow definition: one that has little to do with her feelings or choices in the matter. Using it in a negative way or expressing that people that choose to dress like this need to cover up is one facet of that narrow definition of feminine sexuality. Both opinions basically reduce the choice to wear such armor to a simple message: “This isbad, except when I feel it is good.”  All of this over vanity armor in a video game, no less. However, we are naive if we think that the problems with how women dress in real life don’t have unintentional parallels to gaming spaces, especially when one can choose to be female and scantily clad (most of the time.) Much how people should be allowed to express themselves via their clothing in real life, I feel that should cross over into gaming.

Choosing to wear something skimpy in real life or World of Warcraft should be because someone wants to, because it makes them happy, and should not indicate anything other about a person’s personality or sexuality other than what they wish it to indicate. It should not give you carte blanche to use sexist terms, reduce women to sexualized figures for your pleasure, or to shame women or make jokes about having jobs in the sex work industry (Sex workers are human beings too.) All of you who use this term frequently should really step back and think about what lead you to using this and how it shapes your views on characters running around in Azeroth looking like this. Break down the relationships between revealing armor and what it “says” about someone. Stop thinking of other’s expression of sexiness or fashion as solely for your consumption or derision. The world does not spin on what you feel is appropriate for dress or mannerisms when it comes to non-harmful behaviour, especially in a video game!

How do we combat this term though? If I was better learned in linguistics and sociology, I could probably pull out several sources on a reasonable solution. Alas, I am but a lowly communication grad. In my experience, the best way to unhook deeply entrenched relationships between thought and language has been to abolish or replace, preferably with corresponding concepts that are better suited for everyone and less derogatory. Therefore, I think we should get rid of “slut plate” as a term and replace it with words that more precisely define what we are talking about in a positive or objective way.

Want to wear something pink and skimpy?

Sassy plate!

Platekini!

These are both fun ways of addressing the same kinds of armor without the added baggage of shame and sexism. You could also just use descriptive words like “revealing” “bare-it-all” “scantily clad” with a minimum of fuss. Personally, most of my characters are fairly battle-ready in dress but in the interest of being honest to this piece, I felt like that maybe I should dabble in a little bit of sassy mail. I have tucked away pieces in my bank over the years, maybe it is time to be fierce!

A draenei female shaman flexes in Blackrock Mountain amidst rocks, lava and chains in revealing mail armor.

 

I look pretty badass if I do say so myself. Even if I un-transmog my gear tomorrow, I feel like I’ve made an important statement though. Our choice in in-game armor shouldn’t be a way of defining us, especially in a shameful way. We have to deal with this problem in real life, why does it also have to extend into our fantasy lives too? Half the point of a fictional world is that we get do the things that we might not be able to do outside. When we still live in a world where people believe wearing a short skirt is “asking for it” – why can’t we wear skimpy armor while running around on toons that can kill people with several fireballs or a well-swung axe? Expression in a fictional world should be a lot more fun and a lot less guilt-inducing than what we have to suffer through in our day to day lives.

Let’s embrace the sassy plate, people. It might just create a better World (of Warcraft.)

Note: If you want to discuss this post on Twitter, or just get the “sassy plate” train going, use the hash-tag #sassyplate.  

[Originally posted at Apple Cider Mage]

25 thoughts on “Let’s get rid of “slut plate” forever”

  1. Reminds me of Aion and the re-skinning they allowed from level 20, personally I think its a good thing to allow the freedom to design your own look, rather than restrict it. Allows gamers to go with options that make sense to them.

  2. I’ll go with “platekini”, it’s more descriptive, unless it’s a mailkini or a leatherkini or a bandedmailkini, or even a scalemailkini.

    But yeah, so sick of all this boob armor (even on the ME model on that link) and armorkinis. >_<

    1. I agree about the boob armour thing on the ME model. Like medieval armour, I thought the N7 armour would have internal padding because metal on skin doesn’t feel good at all, and there’s a lot of electronics in that suit you don’t want anywhere near your epidermis. And if you have that much internal padding, I doubt the boob armour has anything to fit its form against.

      This is why I used the capacitor and kestrel torsos.

      1. I changed armors in ME for that exact same reason! I was really frustrated with Dragon Age: Origins because the rogue armor for the women always had to have that scoop/ginormous boob thing (except for a few specialized sets). I guess my always wearing clothes hangup crosses over to gaming: I always end up cringing whenever my female character always gets shunted into something skimpy.

        I wish you were given the option instead of skimpy being required. Besides, it’s hard to deny the hotness of a fully armored (or mage outfitted) strong, intelligent and ass kicking woman (from my perspective, anyway).

  3. It’s extremely irritating when players slut-shame those who choose to wear skimpy armour. Among other things, interpretations of what counts as “skimpy” vary. I had a friend whose blood elf hunter was wearing a pair of ragged leather shorts, about as revealing as a pair of cut-offs, not even daisy-dukes. I could see myself wearing something similar on a hot day (which it always is in Durotar). And some random stranger came up to her in the tavern and told her to “put something on,” she “looked like a w###e.”

    It pissed all of us off, in and out of character, and she was also annoyed because of some double standards in place. “If I were playing one of my troll toons, or a tauren, or an orc, and wore the EXACT SAME OUTFIT, no one would have said ANYTHING. But because I’m a belf? SLUT.”

    So it isn’t only the crime of wearing something “skimpy,” because it is equally skimpy on all those race models, but also the crime of having a particular kind of in-game body to be exposed.

    There’s also probably some weird underlying racism involved: the other non-belf races mentioned are all loosely based on various non-white cultures (Tauren=American Indian hodgepodge, Orcs=Kinda sorta African blend, Trolls=African/Afro-Carribean/Aztec/Inca/Maya/WTF), which is often problematic as is, but anyway, these supposed ‘savage’ and ‘primitive’ races are sort of expected to wear less clothing as a marker of that ‘savagery’. Just look at the difference between the Stormwind and Orgrimmar city guards.

    In any case, my toon’s IC reaction was to throw a pair of Black Mageweave Leggings on her undead ass in solidarity and find out what THAT got reactionwise.

    JerkyDK: I do not associate with dead hookers.

    MyRogue: Ooooh! More data! *scribbles notes*

    JerkyDK: …Eh?

    GoblinPal: Social experiment! You just participated.

    MyRogue: Two friendsa mine, elf an’ troll, walked into a bar wearin’ th’same pair of shorts. One was called a w###e, th’other was ignored completely. Figured I’d see what reaction I got! Fer SCIENCE!

    GoblinPal: How’s that pad lookin’ so far?

    MyRogue: So far? Four compliments, three insults, two indecent proposals, one “Oh sweet light WHY,” FIVE guys called me a dead hooker, and one guy just started screaming!

    RandomDrunkClubber: Dead girl! Ya got room fer two in ya coffin?

    MyRogue: Oooh! THREE indecent proposals!

    JerkyDK: …Hrmph.

    MyRogue: SCIENCE!

    1. Relating to the race thing, I didn’t get harassment when playing my Dwarf characters. I really liked the female Dwarf hair options (did you know their pigtails fly up over their heads when they cast heals?) so I made most of my characters Dwarves. Most of the comments I got were neutral, like how female Dwarves were so rare they must be endangered. I did get a few insults, though.

      One time someone playing a human male, who had no interaction with me other than walking past me in a town, sent me a tell saying I was short, fat and ugly. I sent back a tell insulting him about his lack of facial hair. I was trying to make a point about how different races might have different standards of beauty, but he didn’t get it.

      I definitely had a different experience when I made my female Draenei shaman.

      In terms of people judging what Blood Elves wear differently than what the other Horde races wear, on a tangent from the race issue, I’ve seen something similar in real life based on body shape. I’ve noticed that people with large breasts get judged more stringently for what kind of shirts are appropriate for work than people with smaller breasts. I know a woman who was subject to a double standard at her workplace, where most of her coworkers were allowed to wear normal scoop or v-neck tops and fitted sweaters with no comment, but her boss took her aside and told her she shouldn’t wear anything fitted or with a neckline more than an inch below her collarbones (she ended up wearing sweater vests over blouses even during the summer because she was scared that protesting would lose her her job).

      1. I ran into the same thing whilst playing Star Wars Galaxies. Here are my two characters. a Twi’lek, who ALWAYS got hit on. When I played her, dudes would follow her around, asking, “Are you a real girl? “will you be my in-game girlfriend” “lets cyber” “how much do you charge for a private dance” = AND MY CHARACTER WAS A RANGER.

        Conversely, the other character is my beloved Rodian. Both characters have the same dress and the same body style. However, I didn’t receive the same attention as I did on my Twi’lek. My character was called “Ugly” “stupid” “fag” “loser”. Except for the people who would always follow her around asking for blow jobs. “come on baby, your mouth is made for it”.

        At least she didn’t get hit on eleventy times a day. *sigh*

      2. I ran into the same thing whilst playing Star Wars Galaxies. Here are my two characters.

        http://twitpic.com/8e7ovh/full

        A Twi’lek, who ALWAYS got hit on. When I played her, dudes would follow her around, asking, “Are you a real girl? “will you be my in-game girlfriend” “lets cyber” “how much do you charge for a private dance” = AND MY CHARACTER WAS A RANGER.

        Conversely, the other character is my beloved Rodian. Both characters have the same dress and the same body style. However, I didn’t receive the same attention as I did on my Twi’lek. My character was called “Ugly” “stupid” “fag” “loser”. Except for the people who would always follow her around asking for blow jobs. “come on baby, your mouth is made for it”.

        At least she didn’t get hit on eleventy times a day. *sigh*

      3. most of her coworkers were allowed to wear normal scoop or v-neck tops and fitted sweaters with no comment, but her boss took her aside and told her she shouldn’t wear anything fitted or with a neckline more than an inch below her collarbones

        Yep. I’ve been there. (Well, never in quite so many words, but the implication has definitely been present.) And just try looking “professional” in clothes that meet those restrictions! They’ll almost always look like poorly-fitting hand-me-downs, or like you have no eye for fashion — which can be a serious demerit, especially in a design-type job.

    2. Eh, I don’t really see varying standards for fantasy races to necessarily be a problem. It’s fairly typical for human clothing norms to only apply to humans. This is why Big Bird does not wear clothes on Sesame Street, while the human guests invariably will. Which is not to say that I don’t like your argument, but perhaps you could find a better comparison than that. Contrast different humanoid races, for example.

      1. Yeah I think a lot of these races are intentionally quite humanoid in order to be relatable for players… so if they are proportionally humanoid, I think there should still be a similar degree of *options* ranging from skimpy to conservative robes, etc… but at the same time, you have a valid point in that there is nothing wrong with a sylistic choice that is meant to fit with the lore. In other words, I see nothing wrong with a fantasy race that makes all their armor out of hide and never plate/chain-mail, but at the same time, they could probably incorporate varying levels of skin exposure and provocativeness into the options even for a group that only uses hide, right?

  4. This is a great article! I simply loved it, and agree with too many things to list. Needed to be said, and you approached it extremely well. I don’t even play WoW anymore, but seriously, thank you for writing it. I know a few girls who are going to agree emphatically when they read it, too.

    To be honest, I’m too tired to say anything that hasn’t already been said; but I am definitely spreading it around a bit before I head to bed. :)

    …Now that I check my links, it seems that my tweet already got picked up by a paper.li in fact!
    http://paper.li/OpPinkPower/1308160334

  5. Awesome article!!! I like what you say about taking the judgement out of the language surrounding platekini. Language definately impacts and affects how we experinece things. I also believe that choice of sexy vs. conservative armor is important in MMOs like WOW. Well I think players should at least have a vanity armor slot (Lord of the Rings online does this) , and I think armor varieties should include everything in the range between WOW’s platekinis and LOTRO’s fully armored femmes. I think there’s room for both. OH and males should be just as sexualized. nothing wrong with wanting to show off your dude’s physique while being protected, lol. X3

  6. Aw I missed the #sassyplate hashtag on my original tweet for this.. Poo. Oh well, I retweeted some other mentions of it that did include it this morning. Hope to see it spread to some major gaming & MMO sites! :)

    I totally agree with equal opportunity skimwear & sassyplate; I want to see some more serious tankini equivalents for male avatars!!! Would make me feel a whole lot better about expressing myself with skimpy outfits online my female avatars if there were some dudes running around in tiny hypersexualized “plate mail” – if one gender of avatar is gonna have that style as an option, there absolutely needs to be (at least the option of) something equivalent skimpy for everyone else’s! Even just some Conan style “not much but a loin cloth” would be nice, but Id like even more to see that same actual degree of sexy-over-function that we seem to get with most female character armor options… ;)

  7. Fantastic article (and I totally took the title bait *shakes fist.*) I’d certainly like to see more revealing, Conan-like outfits for males for when I want to get my barbarian on.

  8. Thank you for this.

    I’m tired of being made to feel bad because I sometimes want to wear a sexy outfit in a game.

    I’m even tired of articles that seem to want to make me feel bad because of wearing sexy outfits in games. It’s not realistic. I understand that. But I’m also slinging fireballs, and it’s part of the fantasy.

    The important thing is that it’s a choice.

    1. In writing about plate bikinis and high heels in battle it is definitely important to make the critique be about that being the only or default choice for female characters in specific games rather than it being a critique is of that clothing in general. I know I have criticized those kinds of things in the past and I hope I haven’t made that mistake. But if I have, I am sorry for doing so.

      I absolutely agree that if these things were just choices then a lot of my problems with that design go away. When male characters get the “realistic” armor and female characters don’t get that option at all then the plate bikini bothers me. But when it is just a fashion/avatar customization option then it just becomes a fun part of a game. Having a choice really does make a lot of difference.

  9. To be honest, “slut plate” *is* sexist. There’s no point in an armoured bra (etc), and that makes it 100% pure fanservice – or to put it in other words, given the overwhelmingly male designers, manservice. But I agree we should do away with the discourse surrounding it cos it attacks the people who use it at least as much as the designers (I’m not even sure it implies criticism of the designers at all), and indeed they have a right to wear what they want both in-game and in the material world.

  10. I absolutely HATE cheesecake armor, and it makes me like a character/class 100000 times less if that is part of their wardrobe.

    In Dragon Age, I avoided playing as a rogue simply because of the fact that they had the breast opening, and the female Dalish elves REALLY infuriated me for their completely bare midriffs in comparison to the male archers.

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