As part of my continuing effort to be the biggest Guild Wars 2 fangirl, I’d like to talk a bit about Eir Stegalkin, a Norn character featured prominently in the game.
First a bit of backstory: Eir is a Norn ranger, tactician, and sculptor who travels the world with her wolf, Garm. She’s known for her shrewd fighting ability, and she was once the leader of Destiny’s Edge, a group of warriors dedicated to protecting Tyria and fighting the elder dragons. (A group I’m admittedly not all that familiar with because I’m trying to steer clear of spoilers for the time being.) She’s named after a Norse goddess (and sometimes valkyrie) associated with medical skill, and through her involvement with Destiny’s Edge, she’s considered a living legend and proof positive that the five races of Tyria can work together for the common good.
Wander around Hoelbrak and you’ll hear little Norn girls tell each other how much they want to be like Eir when they grow up. She’s been a big part of my personal story so far, and I really enjoy every quest and cut scene we have together. Given all of this, it’s a shame that there’s one thing about Eir I’m really not into: Her outfit.
Now, before I start, let me acknowledge that her clothes at the very least make sense, given her character (you’d be surprised at how often that’s not the case). She’s Norn, so the cold doesn’t really bother her, and I’ll be honest, if I had badass tattoos like that all down my side, I’d probably want to show them off too. It also bears mentioning that her outfit is at least held together with straps instead of looking painted or vacuum sealed on. (It’s depressing that my bar is so low.) If Eir had been created in a vacuum, I’d have no problem with her whatsoever. But, unfortunately, she exists in a larger context of women in video games, and her outfit strays just a little too close to chain mail bikini territory for my liking.
Anyone who plays any sort of video game is familiar with the teeny tiny outfits female characters are so often forced to wear, and for a quick refresher, head on over to the Repair Her Armor tumblr, where there’s a great illustrated roundup of common costume types found in MMOs. In fact, it’s enough of a problem that there are several blogs dedicated solely to showing how representations of women are ridiculously hypersexualized in games and comics.
For reference, this is the type of armour Eir wears. I’m still trying to figure out why the “heavy” class is more revealing.
And here’s the equivalent male armour.
There’s no real reason to have Eir look sexy. She’s well-known, she commands respect (though it’s been awhile since she’s gained any sort of personal glory, a big no no for the Norn), and she doesn’t ever seem to play up her sexuality. And yes, she’s a ranger, so she’s most likely not a melee fighter and won’t be doing a whole lot of close-up fighting. But that doesn’t really excuse having half her body exposed (this isn’t just her “street” wear, it’s for combat too). Arrows and spears and all manner of other weapons can cause damage even if you’re keeping a safe distance and have a 5-foot wolf watching your back. And regardless of Eir’s tolerance of the cold, having someone show skin in the snow makes that skin more pronounced. The contrast is jarring, and I can’t help but think that the shock value detracts from the character.
(Side note, and this one is a pet peeve of mine: Having armour sitting right up against your sternum like that is a great way to puncture a lung and die.)
Are there worse examples out there? Oh my god, absolutely. Am I saying that no one should ever look sexy? Of course not. But I would like to see some more variety in how women are portrayed. I wish sexiness wasn’t a necessity, a baseline characteristic all female characters must meet. And honestly, when we’re dealing with someone as impressive as Eir, someone who’s saved the world many times over, it doesn’t seem like so much to ask.
If you’re interested in seeing beautiful, combat-ready armour, womenfighters.tumblr.com has some great character designs.