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Friday, June 7, 2013

Sexy (Sexist) Miniatures debate.


Over at Old School Gamers on facebook there have been a few posts going up about the impracticality of boob armor.



Interestingly, to me anyway, the arguments all seem to run along the lines of the functional impracticality of said armor rather than the sexualisation/objectification of the female depicted.

You can check out the Tor.com article It’s Time to Retire “Boob Plate” Armor. Because It Would Kill You. here.

Now personally, as a sex starved adolescent, I grew up on a steady diet of fantasy art like this:


And of course this:


Not this:


Or this:


So I think that the female fantasy figures that were sculpted in the 80's and 90's were following this paradigm. As a dirty young man, who is now a dirty old man, it didn't particularly bother me or strike the "too unreal for fantasy" nerve. Although I have never been one to question fantasy, or sci-fi for that matter, too carefully. It is not in my nature to try and poke holes in an adventure or campaign, but just go with whatever the story entails.

But I digress. I think there are really two main questions. What is the way to sculpt a feminine figure without over sexualization, and what influence do women and girls have on the miniature market?

I'm not a sculptor or particularly talented artist, and as can be seen by my various posts showcasing boobs I'm pretty adolescent in my outlook about nekkid women but I do have an opinion on this.

First and foremost I have a strong opinion about fantasy. I don't demand it to be real. If it were realism I was looking for my rpg character would be a coopers apprentice trying not to die of exposure or malnutrition, not a Half-Orc Warrior with a giant axe running around beating ass.

In my fantasy I want to look like this:



Not this:

Sorry dude. Just trying to make a point.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I want my fantasy women to look a little bit like a Frazetta inspired wet dream. That being said, I think there are limits. I think for figures we need to be able to obviously see the difference between male and female. The most obvious way is for the female figures to have breasts. I suppose I could paint a vaguely unisex looking figure in shades of pink and say it is female, but that seems almost as bad as just having unrealistic boob armor.

Two women who I follow paint female figures very well and I hope that they might chime in and give their perspective. As a solo gamer I am doubly insulated from the women of the hobby and therefore don't have an inside view of the subject. The two women are Anne of O'Leary miniatures and Elaine from Atomic Floozy. They both are good painters Anne's style is perhaps more flirty, if you will, and Elaine is a gamer who tries to field all female forces. Tamsin of Wargaming Girl also comes to mind but I can't think of anything but male figures that she has done, being a hard core wargamer. I don't mean to call you ladies out you just happen to be women whose efforts I respect was curious what opinion, if any you had on the subject.

I've already gone on longer than intended so I'll try to wrap this up. The last thought is what I would like to use for gaming with my daughter. Personally I want to give her empowering role models, not sexpots. There's nothing wrong with being sexy but it can go too far. As an example lets look at some figures from Hasslefree of Kalee I came across today.

First:

From http://www.hfminis.co.uk/shop?product=kalee-%28b%29~hfh033&category=miniatures~fantasy-humans
It hits all the criticisms, boob armor, posterior hanging out but she looks bad ass to me.

Next Football Kalee:

From http://www.hfminis.co.uk/shop?product=football-kalee~hff001&category=miniatures~fantasy-football
Goes a little too far I think, lovely sculpt but I would not feel comfortable gaming with a young girl with this one.

Kalee again sans armor:

From http://www.hfminis.co.uk/shop?product=kalee~hfh017&category=miniatures~fantasy-humans

Pretty much the same vibe for me as the last one. I may be a hypocrite, but that's how I feel.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe we dudes need to get over the Sears underwear/ National Geographic mentality about our miniatures while still being able to acknowledge our fantasy art roots.


If you made it this far:


And a palette cleanser:


Let me know what you think.

32 comments:

  1. An interesting post, and one worthy of a - hopefully - thoughtful reply, especially as I'm not on forums (for good reasons) and come at it from a different angle/sub-branch of the collective toy/model hobbies;

    If you look at the very first figures (19thC Flats and early 20thC solids and hollow-casts, there were no sexualised or 'sexy' figures of either gender, and outside of farm/zoo toys, very few females at all. The odd cowgirl being a long-haired figure with a slightly bumpy jumper! While Cantinieres had frumpy skirts.

    Then Skybirds 'invented' the small scale figure, followed by Hornby just before the war and Britains and Airfix after it, their females were all within context, pilots, train passengers, huntswomen, wild west pioneers, no underwear showing...

    ...there were however some 'stag' figures in the larger scales, Marx's nudes and bathing beauties for instance, but they were obviously so, and probably not sold to minors! Being designed for sale in joke shops and through mail-order small-ads.

    The first figures that were obviously sexuallised that I can think of were the Rose Miniatures naked slave-market figures (I posted a few on the blog) which themselves came after the naked or near Greek/Spartan warriors by the same company, all of which were historically accurate /in context, but pushed the envelope of what was considered saleable. In such they were just part of the general liberalisation of Western mores since the 1950's.

    However, they seemed to give people like Ral Partha and Phonix Model Developments the idea to go sexy, and the later started its Atlantis range which got more and more risqué, while Ral Partha (and others) started to produce female warriors of the fantasy type in less and less clothing, or more and more sexually exaggerated armour!

    Since then the race to more graphic (or pornographic?!) figures seems to have matched the race to turn 23mm into 25, 25 into 28 and 28 into 30 or more!

    You would have thought we'd grown up a bit, but sadly the more freedom you give the citizenry, the more liberties they will take, we're stuck with them and for better or worse, they will not only stay, but spread. The steampunk brigade (one of the newer branches of the hobby) have whole teams of women running about in Bloomers or underskirts for no particular reason, while some of the wilder fantasy figurines are really only reflecting mainstream comics, movies and US TV serial characters.

    I guess the thing to do is not take them too seriously, avoid them if you find them too distasteful and educate younger people that it is only 'Fantasy' and that it represents 'sexism' or sexualisation, and why that is seen as wrong by some people.

    Ultimately most of it is a bit of fun, the most graphic figures I know of which are commercially available are the couples er...'coupling' by Noch, which are pretty near the knuckle, but when placed in an little upper-window somewhere on a large railway-layout and back-lid by a grain-of-wheat bulb...are just funny!

    It's about extremes, people who are genuinely turned-on by small 'sexy', bikini'd or naked figures will be in need of a real life, as will those genuinely offended by things which are a bit of fun.

    I haven't mentioned the Japanese Toy phenomena which sometimes disturbs even me, but that's about the mental approach and attitude of a whole nation as much as the figures, and is quite odd in my opinion. While it's true that some of the spotty oicks buying semi-naked space-cowgirls for gaming are also buying semi-naked schoolgirl robot-whores at Forbidden Planet, their excuse (not that they know it yet!) is that they haven't tried the real thing - balanced peer-aged members of the opposite sex that is - not robot-whores!

    Have I concluded?...yeah, it's mostly a bit of harmless fun, but watch that Manga/Anime stuff, it really is a bit demeaning!

    Hugh

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    1. Thanks for the comment Hugh. Interesting historical perspective on "naughty" figures. I think educating the next generation is probably the right tack to take. I think I mostly avoided this as a boy/ teen by not really having any female figures. I think I had Lt. Uhuru and princess Leia in her Hoth wardrobe, maybe Bespin as well. I never really got into the Manga. I'll have to investigate semi naked robot whores ;).

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  2. A very intersting post and an equallyintersting answer, few (intelligent) things left to say.

    Like most of the times, everything lies in the balance, your example with Conan is completely relevant in that it shows that heroes turned to "Aragorn" style heroes : humanlike with incredible skills to Conan and the like : muscle freak with inhuman bodyshape.
    This must have lead to orks being ridiculously muscled as well as catachan warriors in 40k for example. Maverick's example about the size of minis itself seems the only solution when all you have to depict "power" or "awesomeness" is size of the wepon/muscle/boobs.
    Sexist it is I believe but even more than this , it is reducing our way to see things and built stereotypes that are now hard to get rid of (hard to get far from a dungeon party with a barbarian fighter, elf archer, axe wielding dwarf and wizard xith greyy beard heh?)
    Anyways, this stereotypes are not evil in themselves and youngsters (boys especially) have much to imagine, it's probably why some people (which I'm a part of) rediscover this fantasy worlds and want to explore them deeper in once they've grown up and are ready to get away from stereotypes.
    With that said and with all the respect I have for women, I like my tea black and my amazon adventuress topless... boys will be boys.

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    1. Hi Asslessman, I think the idea of stereotypes or archetypes is the right direction. I also agree that when you are sculpting small you have to make exaggerations to anatomy to get the effect to be discernible. And I think that topless Greek warrior maidens or Amazons are a legitimate figure to sculpt nude. A chick with a mohawk, a baseball bat and motorcycle boots on the other hand. Not so much. I also found out about the Haselfree mini from a comment on your blog about Kaleb Daark. I don't mean to call them out so to speak, it was just a bit of synchronicity that I had been think about this subject and there it was in my face.

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    2. Yeah I liked that comment! ^^

      Thanks for bringing some interesting subjects to debate on!

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    3. And by the way, thank you for putting "Flesh for Fantasy" in my head. I haven't been able to get rid of the damn for 4 days now... (and I'm starting to make that weird mouth grimace when I talk or sing...)

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    4. Yeah, I didn't watch the whole video for just that reason.

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  3. All stories, whether sci-fi, fantasy or "real life", have a suspension-of-disbelief point. If this boundary is crossed then the story breaks down as the reader or observer starts to concentrate on the flaws rather than going with the intent.

    I'm as interested as any other man in the female form. That's not something I'm ashamed of, but I think I do have a basic understanding of anatomy. It seems to me that almost all the over-sexualised female miniatures fall down on this point; I look at them and they just aren't remotely like real people. For example, the Kurganova models by Raging Heroes or most anything from Soda Pop Miniatures. These have about as much appeal to me as a Barbie doll does: they're ridiculous caricatures.

    I have more of a struggle with figures from some of the better sculptors (example: Kev from Hasslefree), whose models do look like real people. The question then becomes one of equipment and function. If the model is sold as a warrior then a tiny chainmail bikini is just ridiculous, whereas if sold as a harem slave it might be more appropriate. Though even in a fantasy world, not all women should be harlots, serving wenches or slaves!

    There are some other tropes which give me the same problem, most obviously the "weapon as big as an ironing board". Again, the miniature can be exaggerated a bit from real life, but it has to be at least borderline plausible!

    To sum up, I'm disappointed that there's (obviously) a significant market for the more extreme female miniatures. I don't blame the manufacturers so much - they're just making a living - but more because of what it says about adolescent males and what's going on inside their heads.

    Hugh


    [By the was, I'm often finding it difficult to see the comments for articles in your blog. I don't know if this is because of the way you have it set up or if it's a problem with my browser - but yours is the only blog with which I see this problem]

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    1. Hi Hugh, that is one point I was trying to make. I do fantasy because I don't want it to be real. I have enough 'real' in my life. I haven't seen the Kurganova or the Soda Pop figures but I can imagine. The over sized weapon doesn't bother me as much but I see your point. I guess one of my concerns for my daughter is that she also doesn't get a distorted body image. Where we live there is a ton of breast augmentation surgery. I don't want to play into that with figures.

      As to the comment problem. I'll try a different format in a day or two, after the traffic from this post dies down.

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  4. Before I start, yes Colgar, double yes, I had to close this blog like 4-5 times this morning as I couldn't see the comment option. While most of the time I simply don't comment as a result, this time I really wanted to chip in :P.

    I have read something similar just few days back, in regard to useless female armour in fantasy MMO RPGs. There is even a blog dedicated to redesigning armor to something remotely "realistic".

    I have also read a blog that went into full detail regarding some 15mm vehicles and their use in sci-fi, so I must mention that I rarely feel the need to explain the sense of anything in my hobby - it is my word and looking cool is a reason good enough for me to pass the "reality check".

    What is going on with all the boobs, if you ask me, is simply a reflection of a society. If it wouldn't sell it wouldn't be sold. I never understood the thrill of animes, and all those ridiculous baloons jumping around simply make me connect those characters even less to the real women. I can't remember when it was the last time I saw a healthy proportioned woman character in a videogame. Neither I like my miniatures half naked, if there is no need for it.

    As it has been pointed out, as much as I adore Kev White's skill, I have came to the conclusion that most of his, female, at least, models are essentially the same. Obviously arses and boobs sell themselves, but I have always prefered "cute" to "hot" if I put it that way.

    I just think some people make too big deal out of it, the assumption that we got ourselves in this "situation" because some people would find degrading women fun is as ridiculous as their gravity defying rounds. It is simply what majority of us likes. It goes same with the over muscular males and it comes down to personal preference.

    So, while some others might want to do just that (and even if simply for aesthetic reasons, I'd always rather buy realistically proportioned (AND positioned!) figure with nice female head than a porn actress turned dragon slayer.

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    1. Hi Mathyoo, thanks for making the extra effort to comment. As I said to Hugh (Colgar6) I'll try a different format in the next day or so and see what happens. Like you, I don't want too much realism in my games. I think your point about wanting cute figures over porn stars is well taken. I think that is what I would like. Kev White's figures are really good and I feel bad about posting them as examples of what I don't want, but that is where the link took me and it was exactly where my thoughts were going. Lovely figures, that I wouldn't mind having, but I couldn't in good conscience use them.

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  5. Thanks for the shout-out Sean. You're right that most of my painting so far has been historical (and therefore male) minis for gaming, but I think you forgot this one http://wargaminggirl.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Helga which I did last year. I'm also working on 5 more females from Hasslefree at the moment. None of them are overly sexualised.

    I can't really comment on the female fantasy figures that are out there as I don't look for them. However, I will say that a realistically proportioned (and clothed/armoured) female figure is probably more "sexy" than some of the pneumatic types that I remember from my teenage years.

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    1. Hi Tamsin. I forgot about Helga. If I recall correctly now she was your mini me. Helga is a great example of a realistic feminine figure done with just sculpting the hair. Perhaps there's more to it than that, but that is what jumps out at me.

      I'd love to see what you do with the Hasslefree figures, as I feel I may have been unfair to them by holding them out as an example.

      Word of the day, Pneumatic.

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  6. Something to add to the debate:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTGh0EMmMC8

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    1. That is awesome leadaddicted. "Right in the shiny part!"

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  7. Modern marketing, same reason that 'Game of Thrones' is a bonk fest. This is what producers think the people want. If they buy it, then they want it, same as Page 3. For those who don't know, that's a page in a UK national daily 'newspaper' which has a pneumatic young lady displaying her boobs.

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    1. I thought it was also because George RR Martin is a horn dog. But yes I feel like the cable channels use sex in all these shows as a lure and 'because on cable we can' ploy.

      And, if recall correctly, Smantha Fox was one of those girls who made an impact over here when I was in highschool.

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  8. I needed the palette cleanser and the above comments cover my ideas and opinions, I've just finished a 28mm female fully clothed force for my Victorian sci-fi!

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    1. Yeah she is apparently some porn actress who was buried deep in a google image search "renaissance fair fat dude", go figure.

      I look forward to seeing your Victorian ladies.

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  9. This is an important issue for me as I paint a lot of Babes. Now I'm an artist, not a gamer. As an artist, I find the female body to be more pleasing aesthetically than the male form. The curves, the lines, the form makes for such beautiful sculpts that I must paint them. Ultimately it is the sculpt that draws me, not a game, not realism, not what is in vogue.

    All that said there are two men on a forum who think that the only reason I get so many page views is because I post Babes. As a result of this I made a bet. The bet is that I can get more page views by posting serious "high fantasy" by Tom Meier and by posting historical figures. I've already won that bet by a gigantic margin. I've been working multiple forums and haven't posted a single Babe. I know have over 500,000 page views. I can haul in 7,000 page views in a single day without breaking a sweat with serious work. I will publicly announce the wager and it's results after I have pummeled these men so far into the ground they will never get up.

    As for me being flirty. You're looking at me from an American's perspective. Irish women do not flirt by being "flirty" as you know it. We flirt by challenging a man. We yell, we insult and then we're sweet. We take the measure of a man by pushing him. If I'm being nice, I'm just being nice. An Irish woman won't waste her time yelling at a man she doesn't fancy. Just ask Francis.



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    1. Hi Anne, thanks for commenting. I didn't want to call you out, I just was very interested to learn of your perspective. Flirty was my poor attempt to differentiate your style.

      To me you have a very playful sense and an incredible use of color. I was try to express that along with the fact that the figures are all varying degrees of sexy without being overly sexualized. At least I never thought that any of your figures would make me wince if I put them down on the table in front of my daughter.

      So to say all that I chose flirty.

      As for the forum challenge, good for you. I hope you stomp them a new mud hole. To quote Ahhnold about what is best in life: "To crush your enemies etc etc"

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  10. Dude, just a sugestion...

    If it's your daughter who'll be gmaing, it's her fantasy, right?

    So... Hasslefree has a lot of fine miniatures. Why don't you and your daughter browse the lot? Have her choose the miniature SHE wants and then build a character off of that, according to her suggestions.

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  11. Thanks for commenting Ana Paula da Silva, Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette.

    Your suggestion is the pragmatic, sensible approach. I'll admit that I am somewhat schizophrenic/ hypocritical on this point and most of my concern is just parental hand wringing.

    My daughter is much more into video games so she could probably care less. She isn't really invested in the hobby. I also am trying to stick with 1/72 and there are very few female figures at all in that scale and not really any naked ones I can think of.

    I was really just trying to look at why we as a group are driving this market and why I was not going to do it.

    I realize that tweens as a group have a lot more money than we did, but I think this stuff sells because middle aged dudes buy it. Whats up with that?

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  12. Hi Sean,

    The naked/semi-naked chick figures don't do it for me. I think I've seen too many mouth breathers buying figures of scantily-clad anime characters to feel comfortable having similar things on my shelves.

    While there is a time and place for all things, my wargames table and my painting desk are two spots that will resist the modern trend for over-sexualization!

    Cheers,
    Aaron

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    1. Thanks Aaron. Yeah, middle aged men buying katana wielding schoolgirls with their posteriors hanging out just feels kind of creepy.

      I think I'm with you.

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  13. I have come across this exact problem very recently. I was in the market for two female spy-fi miniatures, as I have two girls and they wanted some Secret Show style shenanigans. This in itself was a task, but it did mean that I trawled masses of miniatures sites and time after time I was confronted with miniatures I didn't really want them to see.

    Before I had been completely oblivious, perhaps I was blinkered, or hadn't been to those manufacturers before. Now I think about it, it did seem like a gamer blindspot. I thought that (for want of a better term) the 'Larry Elmore' effect had been an 80s/90s blip but obviously not.

    Now as a father looking for good female figures I really need to filter them out before I show them. I can't just Google Hasslefree, em4, Wargames Foundry or even Reaper with impunity. It is quite sad, especially when there are a number of excellent female minis on these sites, but I can't leave my daughters to look on their own.

    I don't even mind the boob armour if it is actually covering up, but actual naked flesh is a touch too far.

    I love my girls getting into the hobby too, and I want them to have figures they are excited about and feel an affinity towards, but the selection seems somewhat limited and just 'for the boys'. I really can understand this sells, but probably (un)equally it puts off some too.

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    1. Hi CS. My problem as well. It's almost like you need parental filters just to look at figures. The topless ones are flat out and even the clothed ones sometimes make me just as nervous. I guess it's all just part of the tightrope you walk as a parent.

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  14. I'm not in this kind of figures so I will not give comment on them.

    But how I would like to look like is like the first guy, without the sword but with what the other dude has in his hand! On a sunny beach of course! :-D

    Greetings
    Peter
    http://www.peterscave.blogspot.be

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    1. I can tell you from personal experience that a tankard will probably never allow you to remain muscled, at least around the midsection. Thanks for commenting Peter.

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  15. Good post and interesting too, you certainly have obtained plenty of comments.

    While some figures will definitely not be to everyone’s taste, you have to be careful making assumptions based on the age or sex of the person purchasing, painting or gaming with them.

    Being a middle aged male I am often told I am wrong so I thought I best get a second opinion. And who best to get a second opinion from than someone who is always right, you guessed it, my daughter.

    “Would it be creepy if I got an army of Japanese school girls armed with samurai swords?”

    “Creepy” was her quick reply.

    “What if I was sixteen, your age?”

    “Still creepy.”

    “What if you had an army of Japanese school girls armed with samurai swords?”

    “I wouldn’t.”

    “Why not?”

    “Because it’s creepy.”

    That sounds definitive to me.

    I am sure there are people who think all wargaming is creepy and for those that just collect and paint figures, there are some people who have issues with the representation of human beings and living creatures (aniconism) (and in some cultures the deceased).

    Getting back on topic, when I come to get on with my Barsoom project I will be happy to use the sexiest figures I can and only hope my painting skills leave them that way. My daughter enjoyed the John Carter movie so I am on safe grounds there.

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    1. Hi Sun of York, thanks for commenting. I think getting feedback from the ladies of the house is a good gauge for whether or not certain figures are going to be appropriate. I must confess that Barsoom demands sexy, scantily clad princesses and whatnot.

      I just think that Post Apocalyptic nudes with machine guns or fantasy maidens in chainmail thongs for Warhammer is a bit over done at the moment.

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