Roll For Insight: Talking Tits – It’s Time To Banish Boob Armour

May 10, 2019 by cassn

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Lads, it’s time I got something off my chest. While I like to keep abreast of games news, recently something has been really getting on my tits. I don’t want to look like a boob, but I’m just busting to talk about this. Alright, enough puns (they’re udderly terrible anyway), let’s get down to business and have a serious chat about boob armour. Nipple.

Roll For Insight: Talking Tits - It's Time To Banish Boob Armor

If you are a woman working or playing in the gaming industry, it’s inevitable that you’re going to end up talking about what a female miniature is wearing at least once a week. And for every one you talk about, there have been five others you didn’t bother to mention because, well, that’s just the type of miniature that company makes. You’re used to it. You’re sick of complaining. People have started giving you that ‘who put a quid in the angry feminist?’ look when you point out that boobs just don’t do the anti-gravity thing. They just don’t care.

A Negative Body Image

And why should you? After all, in a world where Commissar Yarrick is levying his forces against your Ork armies, policing women’s bodies seems pretty pointless (hehe). But representation matters, especially in an industry which is actively trying to expand and become more inclusive.

recent study concerning images on Instagram has proven what people have known for years; if people are consistently exposed to unrealistic body images, they start to believe their body is the problem. And, with 90% of young girls in the UK stating that they don’t like their bodies, maybe it’s time we stopped pretending that "bad representation is better than no representation" is a good compromise.

Yet this particular angry feminist comes up against regular resistance for seemingly obvious arguments for better representation. And since you can’t win every battle, I choose carefully. Rather than point out follies in stereotyping female roles and female bodies (the buxom bar wench springs to mind), instead I just try to point out the ones which are overtly impractical.

valkyrie

Going into a gun battle wearing only your underwear, for example, seems like a silly idea. Indeed, none of the male infantry are doing it. But - you know us women - we’re always after that perfect bikini body selfie, even under heavy fire.

I’m being hyperbolic, of course, but I feel it’s an absurd position to have to try and defend. I’ve had gamer guys tell me that these half-dressed women are fine - it’s a uniform. That I’m overreacting - it’s only a game, after all. However, you show me the soldier that’s happy to go into battle with more skin showing than a beached Kardashian, and I’ll show you a guy whose miniature paint fumes have gone to his head.

(Side note: saying it’s ‘only’ a game is another pet peeve of mine. We’re a gaming community. Gaming matters for us)

“But what about Conan?” “What about Hero Quest?”

Alright, keep your loincloth on guys - I’m aware some men go into battle with nothing but their sword and, one must assume, a sense of muscular pride. But comparing knights and barbarians is like comparing apples and...well, barbarians. They’re different eras, different universes, different weapons, different armor (or lack of). And I think we all understand how women are treated in Howard’s Hyborian Age - let’s just say Conan never read much Simone De Beauvoir in college.

heroquest

However, for those pedants who insist on comparing the two scenarios, I would direct your attention to the ongoing argument in comics, film, and gaming which debates whether these stripped, muscle-bound gym bros are, in fact, male power fantasies. There are, of course, two sides in that debate, with many men stating they have never wanted to look overtly muscular, and women who like that type of body. However, the sparce research which has been done so far suggests the opposite is true in the majority of cases. Indeed, the fact that these hyper-hench images originally existed in an industry once targeted to an almost exclusively male audience confirms that these men were not designed to appeal to the female gaze.

But it isn’t all hopeless, and there are people in the field who are trying to make a difference. Annie Norman, one of our Women to Watch for 2019, founded the Believable Female Miniatures project, which seeks to get women out of the bikini and into well-fitting, useful armour. However, the fact that her tireless work is considered niche and pioneering speaks volumes about how much more still needs to be done in the gaming industry to promote inclusion.

The Dreaded Boob Armour

Take boob armour, for example - my own personal hatred. It’s ridiculous, impractical, and sometimes the only protection offered to these women (I have no doubt representations of the boob armour bikini will seriously confuse the archaeologists of the future). Despite its impracticality, I regularly hear the defence of its use in the gaming industry. Indeed, Greek Hoplites and Roman soldiers wore muscular cuirasses, so it would make sense to represent the body through metalwork. But let’s look closer at that argument.

armor

First of all, historical artefacts tell us that these highly detailed cuirasses were rarely used, with the few that have actual battle damage being much more limited in ornateness. Furthermore, these cuirasses were developed during the bronze age - at a point when the most extreme armour piercing weapon was an axe (and perhaps a few Roman maces). My point is this - when the hardest weapons you face are spears and swords, you can smith all the nipples you want and it doesn’t really matter.

However, a lot of these female miniatures are in the middle of firefights, and I sincerely doubt that each breast, divided and cupped into individual metal holders is going to protect anyone in that situation. Indeed, in history, by the time the late medieval period rolls around, armour had already changed from flat or bell-shaped to an outward crease in the front (which would eventually turn into the full peascod style) to cope with a range of heavy shock weaponry, lances, pollaxes, and guns.

armor2

It seems obvious, but these outward creases allowed central hits to angle outward - a pretty important and life-saving advantage. Chest blows would naturally angle downward and out, hopefully allowing you to battle another day (although sometimes the fauld would be pierced or, less often, the neck). So by changing the crease to an inward, boob-separating format, you’re pretty much committing yourself to getting maced in the mammaries. Not to mention the fact that one heavy blow, even if it doesn't pierce through, is going to almost immediately damage the sternum with the impact.

That’s just the science of armour, but it’s also important to remember that, from a fashion perspective, women didn’t even wear bras until the 19th century, so the idea of parting the ladies up and out for battle makes little sense. There are no records of shaped female armour in medieval times. So let’s just dispel the myth for once and for all. There is no practical, historical, or social reason for boob armour. It’s a fantasy object.

Changing The Status Quo

So why is it on the tabletop? I can only speculate, but I would argue that for designers, sculptors and companies, they feel that they are still targeting a majority of their products to young adolescent males or men who have grown up with these figures and are comfortable with their design. After all, the gaming industry is a free market, and a valuable one at that. These designers have a right to create what they believe will be a profitable income source. To an extent I understand this thinking, but we’re never going to get the diversity and change we want to see in gaming if we don’t begin to adapt to new markets.

Step into any gaming shop, look at the female figures on offer, and count the seconds until you come across boob armour - I guarantee it will be less than a minute. In fact, you’ll have a hard time to try and find a lady who hasn’t gone to Ann Summers the Blacksmith for her battle garb.

For me, this is a massive part of the problem - sheer availability. Morals are noble and important of course, but sometimes you just want to add female infantry to your table without having to research for three weeks first. But the more you ask your FLGS about real female figures, the more they’ll begin to stock them. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t happen at all if you don’t try.

Boob armour is a fantasy object, and that means we can change it. We can choose not to buy another half-naked general because she has a cool gun that makes it okay. We can make real representations of real women. We can put them in actual clothes. And, maybe one day, their breasts won’t be bigger than their heads and their waists smaller than their thighs.

boob (2)

Here’s the thing: that original generation of gamers - we’ve grown up, and most of us have kids of our own now. Little boys and, importantly, little girls. We don’t want our daughters believing that these accentuated bodies are what they should be emulating. My daughter shouldn’t believe that bigger boobs or a smaller waist will give her more value as a person. I don’t want her to believe that women need to look good, even at the cost of their very lives.

I’m raising a warrior, and when she holds aloft the severed head of her enemies, she’s not going to worry about being sexy enough. She’s going to worry about the horrified looks of the other children on the school trip, and how long she’ll spend in prison.

So, my fellow gamers, let’s band together and ask for better breasts from our gaming experience. Conscientious chests. Moral mammaries. Most importantly, let’s keep talking tits.

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