Let’s Get Rid of “Slut Plate” Forever

Draenei women in sassy plate and mail transmog outfits.

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 in functional items that would provide some measure of protection. Making this the only option 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 is bad, 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!

Shaman poses in sassy plate in Blackrock Mountain.

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.  

 

34 Responses

  1. In pen and paper RPGs the term “Chain Mail Bikini” has been around for at least as long as “Red Sonja” if not longer. Since the WoW circles I inhabit include a large number of older gamers, this term was what we reached for when first encountering the phenomenon in WoW. In fact, we tend to be sarcastically amused by anyone that hasn’t heard that term before. “Out of the way, Junior, ‘real gamer’ coming through!”

    Where this is relevant is contrasting it to the term you’re discussing. It either represents (1) what people come up with not being familiar with the older term, or (b) a term deliberately chosen to be hurtful.

    Sadly, I can’t figure out which. But either way, it’s telling on current gaming culture, and lends wieght to the idea that older, more mature gamers really aren’t making much of a difference in gaming culture anymore. /le sigh.

    (Which is a topic all its own, I suppose. Do older gamers matter, culturally? Is that a null concept to most, who envision gaming as something to move on from at some point? Do older gamers just hang about to drain youthful energy from the larger gaming community, like cultural vampires?)

  2. You and I have had many discussions about topics similar to this one and I’m really glad that you brought this up in a post. I was expecting this to be yet another post about why said gear is bad, but I like that you turned it around and instead talked about how the gear itself isn’t the issue. The problem is how it’s viewed by its supporters and its detractors.

    Sexuality, as a whole, has always been something that people tend to enjoy more when they are in control of it. It’s natural to want to be in control of your own sexuality, but what’s not natural is feeling the urge to control the sexuality of others. I used to get angry at people who would discuss the sassy plate and they would say “Aren’t you offended? If you’re not, you should be.” Um, why? Why should I be offended because you find this outfit to be too risque? You can define that armor as too sexual for you, but don’t you dare define it as too sexual for me. I just feel like everyone’s sexuality has become fair game, which I don’t agree with and that it should stay a personal choice.

    Note: I didn’t mean “you” as in Apple Cider, I meant “you” in general.

    Fantastic post!

    • Thanks! Yeah, I sat down and really thought about how I felt on the topic. The term and the ideas around it make me unreasonably upset, because it seems like once again, expressions of self in a largely sexist game environment can only be for someone’s enjoyment and how dare you enjoy it for yourself!

    • Except it’s not personal any more when you’re out in public. That’s the problem. Unless you’re the Thought Police, you can’t control what other people think. You may not agree with it, and you may not be unapologetic about your own choices, but you can’t dictate that others think your way and then turn around and demand that your thinking be inviolate.

      • If I totally had a desire to control people’s thoughts, I’d make sexism a thing of the past!
        However, when the thoughts and words come tumbling out of your mouth or fingers in a mixed, public setting, then yes, it is something that maybe you should think about. That we should all think about. The fact that this is a concept that numerous people know about or have heard about or use colloquially means they are opinions or feelings that people express regularly, even at a societal level. Which means in turn, it becomes culture.

        This really isn’t about what people think unless they choose to express it – which I think I addressed! Sorry for the confusion.

  3. Since when did “Slut Plate” become a prominent term for the gear that you’re describing? I did a Google search for “Slut Plate” and this blog post was actually the second result.

    I don’t see any problem with how people transmog their gear. If a guy wants to do it as a male or female toon, whatever. If a girl wants to do it as a male or female toon, same deal – I don’t care.

    I don’t care for the skimpier outfits either way though, I prefer unique looking transmog sets.

  4. One thing that would be nice, especially since we have transmogrification now, would be armor consistency. I distinctly recall a pair of (plate?) pants in Hellfire Peninsula which are entirely standard for men, and amount to a plate bikini for women. I think that since we have transmogrification, armor should be consistent across genders. A ‘chainmail bikini’ piece should be such for both genders of character. If people don’t like it, regardless of gender, then they can just transmog out of it.

    Pants should be pants, regardless of the wearer. As should everything else. Not only would this be nice, but it would open up more options of dress for female AND male charcters.

  5. My mother used to use the word “slut” a lot when I was little. Not to describe me when I went wandering out of the house aged 15 in 4 inch heals and skirts that barely covered my bottom but instead when I refused to tidy my bedroom. Thus when someone accused me (and my shaman) of being a 13 year old boy with sweaty hands in AV and told me that I was pathetic for showing my virtual midriff by wearing “slutty” clothes, it took me a second or two to get on the right track.

    Words are fascinating, especially given how their meaning shifts across generations.

  6. Many words used in games are inappropriate and (I suspect) are used by those who feel being anonymous online gives them the ability to do so without recrimination or repercussion. I thing we need to educate people, but sadly I don’t think this is practical in many cases because it’s clear people just aren’t listening.

    However, I still try, and maybe if enough people make the effort, opinions and language will eventually change. We can but hope.

  7. I fully supports bad-ass lookin’ wimmenz. Whether they achieves it through wearin’ all metal an’ horns an’ skulls all overs, or showin’ off they’s skin and muscles, or whatevers, I figgers that’s they’s call.

    I wonders if’n there’d be less judgifyin’ and name callin’ if’n Blizz’d let there be more armors what let us dudes have more options fer ta show a little skin when we’s got the whimsy. I’d have no problems showin’ off a bit of orcflesh – I sez let the bad guys see the amazin’ virility of me scars an’ muscles before I smashifies they’s faces! But Blizz sez nopes, ya gotta stay covereds.

  8. I have nothing against the skimpier items of armour, as I said in my own blog i mogged my priest into the black mageweave set one evening because I was bored, and also because in real life I’d never look good in that kind of outfit. Plus a female guildie of mine had mogged her Warlock into a skimpy outfit and had gotten comments like “I bet you are male IRL, no girl would dress her character like that”, so I was showing solidarity. Honest!

    But it annoys the hell out of me that most armour is totally different on male characters. It’s very hard to find anything revealling for a male toon. So I guess Blizzard expects girls to be girl and men to be manly. Their versions of that anyway. And I guess I am being unfair as it’s not just Blizzard.

  9. “Slut” is a slur and phrases like “slut plate” are dumb for the reasons you outline.

    However, just as it is reasonable for someone to dress their character however they like, it is also reasonable for me to think they’re dressed in an overly sexual way with which I am not comfortable. It is reasonable for me to call these outfits “tacky” or to mock how poorly equipped for combat these characters are. It is reasonable for me to not take the elf in Black Mageweave for my group.

    Sometimes I feel these conversations veer into the “let’s never have a negative opinion about anything ever again”, and as an avowed feminist and cranky curmudgeon I like to remind people that it’s possible to be both. :)

    • Are you talking about from an RP perspective? Because there’s no difference in combat (game mechanics-wise) between the person who mogged their gear to look like Black Mageweave and who didn’t mog their gear to look like anything in specific.

      If that kind of gear bothers you, that’s your opinion, but when you extend it outwards into using sexist/shaming terms, that’s when it is a problem. However, looking at things critically, even our own internal opinions, is part of feminism. Doing some deep digging is par for the course.

      I don’t feel that this conversation is “let’s never have a negative opinion” so much as “these opinions are rooted in gross and harmful societal values.” I’d like to think people can see that without derailing.

  10. I am a woman, and I sometimes like to dress up my female toons in the aforementioned outfits.
    I just think they are sexy and pretty to look at (btw, that includes my Tauren Pally ;) ), but then again maybe I’m influenced by my sexuality (I’m bisexual).
    I don’t care what other people thinks or even says; my friends know me and like me for who I am and that is all that ever mattered to me.

    That being said, what about Armorkini, or just “bikini”? I don’t know who first came up with the idea, but that’s how everybody seems to call them on my server. ^__^

  11. My issue is as always find the source of the issue…look to the foundation. Some designer made this stuff and you know full well he/she thought “Damn…thats smexy” If the originator thought it…how can we fault the community for thinking it?

    Now you have a secondary issue layered on top…the valuation of “sexy” in one’s own mind. using age merely as an arbitrary qualifier…a typical 25+ is going to think its “sexy” and think only that it is such. the average 13-25 yr old is going to think “sexy” and interpret it as “slutty”. Is it right? no. Is it the expected norm…yes.

    So the responsibility here lies in either being a conscientious designer and ensuring you limit if not remove the possibility for said interpretation. Or in suggesting we alter the mind set of adolescent and immature individuals. Good luck with that one, I’ll lay it at the feet of the designers.

    Poor Design Choices are POOR.

    • The source of the issue isn’t different from the people at the end who call it slut plate. It’s part of sexism. It’s part of the culture we live in so in essence, the beginning is the end is the beginning. Designers are operating under similar intersections of value and gender as the audience they believe they are catering to. So it isn’t just the designer’s fault here. The source is all of us. We need to dismantle ALL of it. So in that way, I can fault the community. Because it’s the same pile of shit. I can fault everyone involved at every level. That’s sorta the point.

      Taking a look at the language involved at this one specific point in the problem (which I tried to include but was glossed over in favor of my specific point) isn’t futile and is meant to illustrate problematic thinking and how it affects how we discuss concepts that are, yes, still steeped in sexist nonsense. Looking at a problem from all aspects, all levels and from grand scales to tiny details is how we start to clear out this nonsense. All of it is Good and Right and Productive, in my eyes.

      I don’t think this has anything to do with age – when you designate sexiness as sluttiness (aka a way of policing unacceptable sexual behaviours, particularly in women) it doesn’t find itself in JUST set age brackets and that’s letting a lot of people off the hook. I’ve encountered it at every age as far as I can remember, as a woman. It’s been around for aeons, sorry. Norms that are gross and undermining need to be taken down, examined and obliterated. That’s what I aim to do. I even seek to do it in how our language and thought interacts with eachother. I feel that this is a necessary part of social discourse.

      Interpretations of sexiness should not come with using inflammatory, sexist language and all the shitty thoughts about that go with it. If you MUST think that, keep it to yourself. I don’t want it in my society. I hope at some point in our future, it isn’t even a thing. But right now, people still feel entitled to thinking shitty things about women so, whatever. I am not going to accept that, apologize for them or let it be an idle part of my life. This is why I’m a feminist.

      • I completely see your perspective as best as I am able (not being a woman, feminist, or more specifically you). I think we approach the problem though from 2 different angles though with the same ultimate goal in mind.

        You want a societal change on all levels which while not truly futile, is far harder to attain….FAR harder. Where as I am willing and find it more preferable to look at one specific instance of this issue and tackle it.

        You want to win the war…I want to win a battle.

        I actually think one could make an interesting observation merely on our differing viewpoints and tactics on handling a similar problem.

        I do not fancy myself as someone who denigrates women. I am the only male in my generation within my family. I grew up in a matriarchal home and extended family (My mother and her 5 sisters rule their respective homes…at times with iron fists). My oldest sister went to an all women higher education school. And my oldest child is also my only daughter. I coach her all girl teams as well as co-ed teams. I am all for the fair and equal treatment as well as a healthy respect for a woman’s sexuality.

        But I am not going to try and change all of society in one shot. My example analogy of an abuse victim becoming an abuser being at least partially NURTURE…is regarding the battle to correct such things. How I raise my 2 sons and daughter affects how they become adults. If I disrespect my wife and other women, my sons are apt to do the same and my daughter apt to have self esteem issues as well.

        In short…Model good behavior to affect good behavior.

        And as I did explicitly state, I used the age bracket as an arbitrary qualifier. It was merely a generalization and not intended to give anyone a free pass or condemnation based on age…just a quick classification to say all the people to my right and all the people to my left.

        In my former guild on Madoran we had 3 women in our raid team. 2 male players both constantly made joking references to beating women and sexual conquests. I twice asked them politely to stop. 3rd time I kicked them from the raid and demoted them in guild. They were pissed, and I doubt they learned their lesson, but here’s hoping regardless.

        In the end…you and I (I trust) want the same thing; however, we have different methods of attaining that. I’ll raise my children and influence those I can as best I can. And I will be far harsher and expect better from those in positions of authority or control over such attitudes (in this case the game artists who designed the content to begin with).

  12. While I can see how problematic it is to call it “slut plate” (and I should mention I’ve never heard it called that outside of your blog), I don’t see any issue with terms like “stripper plate” or “hooker plate,” the latter of which I myself used to describe my belfadin’s skimpy transmog set.

    It’s not demeaning to those in the sex industry. Sex workers and strippers do traditionally dress in skimpy attire, and so it’s not unrteasonable to call a skimpy armor set “stripper outfit”. If I had a transmog set that looked like something a pirate would wear (and my priest is working on one) would it be bad to call it “pirate plate”? So why does the descriptive term take on a negative meaning when it’s a different word?

    Dressing my character in a pirate outfit isn’t bad and neither is calling it such. Dressing my character in suggestive attire isn’t bad either, and nor is calling it such. A spade is a spade is a spade, and trying to spin it into something soft and less descriptive (like “sassy plate”) just further reinforces that being a stripper is bad, or calling someone a hooker is bad. Imho.

    • What reinforces strippers/hookers/sex workers being bad is a largely sexist culture that frequently uses those terms to call women not in the sex industry out for dressing in an inappropriate fashion. So that is why I do not use the words stripper/hooker plate for items that are being worn by people who are not representing themselves as hookers or strippers. The terms are used as a pejorative, so I’m not sure why they should be descriptive as such.

      • I’m sorry, I do disagree. I’m not using it in a perjorative sense, merely a descriptive sense. I’m not trying to be a pirate, either, but it would be silly not to acknowledge that, stereotypically, pirates wear eyepatches and boat hats and cuffed boots. I don’t mind the term “armorkini” or “plate-kini” bit “sassy armor” just feels like watered-down language that doesn’t really describe much. I could be equally “sassy” in a bold patterened robe.

        • I think people are fixating on one specific (slightly tongue-in-cheek) suggestion to move away from a sex-negative way of referring to skimpy armor in-game rather than embracing what kind of concepts I’m trying to discuss here.

          Even if you aren’t using it in a pejorative sense, doesn’t mean that it is divorced from how most people use it. Language is descriptive but it isn’t devoid of context or social skews.

  13. Dude I love you. I get so tired of the whole “oh look MORE slut plate” because honestly.. meh. It’s silly, sure, but do you know something? I kinda like it! I don’t dress provocatively in real life, not in the slightest, but when I’m gaming I do like my characters to look pretty and if tomorrow I decided the Black Mageweave set was the one for me, then I’d bloody go for it. I LIKE platekinis and yeah, I’ll transmog into them if they look good. Okay, there are limits, but a little bit of skin is just a bit of fun.

  14. I studied a form of Japanese sword fighting for a while. The kata’s were designed to focus on the vulnerabilities of the human body and the armor that was used to cover it. While I completely understand that WoW is a game set in a fantasy world, it galls me to no end that my female character has to wear armor that does absolutely nothing to protect her. And that her male counterpart looks totally different in the same armor set.

    I’ve looked at the scantily clad toons and thought to myself that it was probably a guy playing that toon. I’ve wondered about the motives of that ‘guy’. Why would he choose a female avatar? Why would he want to dress her that way? And then as my thoughts progressed – oh, it could be a woman and why would she want to dress that way? Are they trying to get some sort of response or reaction? What is that, specifically? After reading your article I realized I need to change my thinking about this aspect of the game.

    As a woman, I’ve felt the need to protect myself and take steps to be sure that my motives are never misunderstood by anyone. I try to be clear about the messages I send, verbal, written and otherwise. How I appear in-game and out, makes a statement about who I am and what I am about. I don’t like the choices that the game designers have made for me.

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