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Thoughts on Female Primaris Marines

Seeing a lone woman on the cover of the second edition of Age of Sigmar gave me a reaction I didn't expect: pride. I don't even play AoS, but there it was. Pride. This hobby has been a big part of my life, and much like Frank Turner, I am f---ing proud of it. The creativity, the enthusiasm of fellow hobbyists (well, most of them) and the time I spent working for the company showed me how the hobby legitimately gave kids who couldn't be arsed with maths, art or reading a reason to bother and helped them improve with real life stuff? Yeah, pride is definitely the word.

There is one thing that dented that pride: the way GW's storyworlds tended to be populated with monsters, more monsters, and white dudes. Things have been changing over the last few years, and it's been great to see. And now, a woman standing alone on the main cover art? This feels like a gratifying milestone.
Badass.

The female Stormcast Eternals starting to come out are the sort of thing I hoped would happen when GW announced the new iteration of the space marines, particularly since Cawl has altered the biological side of things. It would've been so easy to do. Cawl's making changes, so it avoids the clunky virtue-signalling step of a retcon. It almost feels like a cautious move - first, give the nerds a new size of marine and see if they freak out. Then, maybe later, take the mind blowing step of having a space marine without a wang.

At least, hopefully that's their plan.  A quick google tells me I'm far from the only person who thought the advent of primaris astartes might see the first female marines, and it would be so easy to box them since the current intercessor kit, for example, has 2 sprues of 5 marines. Just swap the second sprue of dudes for a sprue of 5 wimminz, and there's your box of 10. 

To be fair, you wouldn't even need to make the armour different. Just a few female faces? Hell, you can see how badass it looks with the headswap below:

Link to original article

I harbour no illusions that this blog has more than handful of readers (that anyone reads it at all is highly flattering) so I acknowledge that my opinion is only a single grain of sand on the shores of the blogosphere, but all the same it felt like the time to mentally high-five GW for their recent efforts and urge them to carry on in the right direction.

Comments

  1. My Brienne of Tarth fantasy moves ever closer !!!!!

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    1. That's Sister-Captain Brienne to you :P

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  2. I’m not sure. I think they could easily use females in the AM(IG) range first, but Marines have always been Marines, after all that gene splicing are they men anyway? They are post-human, I think of them as asexual but they see themselves as Brothers, Sisters is for the SOB and Guard.

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    1. Certainly you're right that the IG are long overdue an update on that front!

      The marines are indeed non-sexual posthumans, but they're portrayed as being pretty masculine. Hell, many of them have beards. I've got no issue with that, they look badass. I just don't think it does any harm if some of the new modified marines look as female as the beardy marines look male. :)

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    2. Personally I think that marines should stay as they are. With the news that we are (finally!) Getting plastic sisters, I think there is no need to mess with the fluff that much. Sisters will provide as much variety of female power armoured marines, as introducing female marines proper will.

      The guard on the other hand are a long long time overdue for female options. It's been in the fluff for years and there is no good reason I can think of as to why it's not been done in plastic.

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    3. I guess what I'm not clear on is how it'd be messing with the fluff any more than introducing primaris marines and (gasp!) new technologies messed with it?

      Man, plastic sisters though... they're gonna be awesome based on that test render.

      To my mind one could keep the Custodes all-male (since there's no primaris version of them) and keep the sisters as sisters, then have primaris marines be mixed gender with the older marines being all male. I don't think that messes with any fluff... hell, you could even say Cawl's made another new breakthrough. He opens the way for future changes, rather than changing past fluff.

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    4. Well, from all the comments it certainly looks like you've opened a can of worms here and a fairly big one at that.

      For me, the whole episode with Crawl is just nonsense, written (poorly) and shoehorned (badly) in to the cannon to fit a purpose. It could have been done so much better. Much of the kit and equipment is understandable, it really is just simple design evolution and in itself is not cannon breaking.

      The primaris marines themselves though are not really new either but evolutions of the existing marines. This is where the issue with female marines for me lies, as it is stated several times within the cannon that the implants are genetically tailored to male DNA and while you could use Crawl as a pathway to rewrite this, it would really alter everything about the setting. As its stated below by RSF_Angel the process in which marines are selected and trained is brutal beyond belief in many respects. Many of these trials are effectively both physical and mental torture on an industrial scale. I can imagine what many would say if you start writing about female aspirants going through these processes.

      This is, to me at least, why we have the Sisters of Battle. They provide the power armoured female warriors that many wish for but without the brutal recruitment and training process. Yes there's is a harsh and unforgiving training environment but without any of the overt torturous elements.

      Possibly the most important thing to me is the simple fact that this is 40k, a science fantasy setting and a very dark one at that. It is not today's modern world where we work towards equality across many areas, including sexual equality, it is something vastly different, where such notions are not present and if we do start trying to change that world in order to fit the same rules and regulations we have, what else will we need to change? Slavery is common across 40k, so do we change the dark eldar? The execution of mutants is to, do we change that as well to make it an all inclusive society? Are there things that can be done to make the setting better and more representative? Most definitely there is but I really don't like the idea of changing years of deeply ingrained cannon in order to do so.

      I hope that sounds as coherent to you as it does to me!

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    5. Totally coherant, but I think misses one useful element. Sisters are indeed obviously female, no problem with that, LOVE those models and will be getting hit rather squarely in the wallet. There's nice canonical reasons for an all female army there too (the whole "no men under arms" dodge). But there does not need to be "obviously female". Just an acknowledgement that somewhere in all that power armour there is someone that started with XX chromosomes before being mutated into an unstoppable killing machine.

      I haven't got any open wimmins in my Blood Angels, they were being made before I'd even really ever thought that fiddling with the fluff to be more welcoming would be nice. Sure as hell now I consider at least 10% of the helmeted "Sons" of Baal to be "Daughters". Not least because Baal is hosed and needs all the people it can get :D

      The canon is already changing, it always is, and there's no reason that anyone can't play a chapter who draws only from dudes. Permission doesn't equal compulsion. But in-game permission DOES welcome those who might otherwise have felt like an unusual abberation in the sausage fest. :)

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    6. That's the thing with the 40k setting, everything is done in a very obvious manner, there is very little subtlety.

      I understand canon advances, something that has taken quite a long time to occur recently! But there is a difference between advancing cannon and completely re-writing it. The primaris marines are not new in most senses but just upgraded, from memory there are all of the old upgrades plus three new ones. Yes with there release, you could have Crawl say, here look it works for everyone now, not just males but this change would fundamentally change the very nature of space marines and would not be an enhancement but a complete change to the whole race. You would end up with space marines and "new super soldiers" not upgraded marines. If the primaris marines had been written as proper 100% new replacements and not just upgraded then I would have no problems with the inclusion of females into the new race but they weren't done that way unfortunately (I'd have preferred it if they had in many respects). The whole genitive issue is also one of the reasons why sisters have power armoured but none of the genetic upgrades, if you are going to include female marines, what is to stop sisters going full on genetic engineered super soldiers?

      Talking of sisters, do you feel that there should be canon changes to allow men? If your willing to see the base cannon for marines changed why not the base cannon for sisters to allow men?

      Personally if I turned up to a game and someone started putting female marines down, I wouldn't care, yes I would point out that it breaks cannon but I would still quite happily play them. It is after all what draws me to 40k so much, the availability to be creative and individualistic.

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  3. Considering the lore for Stormcast Eternals, who are bright and shiny warriors reanimated by magic, and its conceptually fine for them to include female warriors, even if Sigmar is supposed to be recruiting the *best* warriors. It's fantasy, and there are warrior cults of snake women with pointy ears. We'll let that go.
    This strikes at the heart of what made WHFB great though, in John Blanche's words:

    "To me fantasy is much darker than American High Fantasy, certainly more violent, and more oppressive. But it's also very real," says John. "I didn't see fantasy being occupied by shiny characters, it was all very Dickensian. Fantasy denizens to me all look like Fagin. Everybody has an eye-patch and a wooden leg, dirty fingernails, and worn clothes. And thereby lies the strength of it. It is evocative, there is so much background there, the universes are so strong."

    The idea of Stormcast abandons these visual and thematic principles entirely.

    Leaving aside for a moment the idea of 'Primaris marines' who have been tinkered with beyond the Emperor's vision and how that jars with the background material, there are a number of reasons why you don't want female Astartes.

    Marines are created through child abuse. This is glossed over because marines are also an adolescent male power fantasy, and young boys can't conceive of what terrible 'means' could invalidate the 'end' of being an immortal killing machine, or what that 'end' would sacrifice forever (family, kinships, emotional maturity, adulthood, sexuality)

    As a marine player who picks up the game as a kid, you progress from unironic enthusiasm at the bloody conquests of your band of musclebound armoured killers to a creeping horror and realization of what the Imperium and its Angels of Death actually are. This may start when you see that the sergeant's bald head has wires trailing from his flesh into his armour, and consider that that seems uncomfortable and inconvenient. Eventually you develop a sense of value for the brotherhood that the marines have- which is all the value a hostile galaxy has left them. When a marine is dishonoured or exiled by his chapter, he is being rejected by all the people who mean anything to him. This is a martial tradition of knightly orders, dialled up to 11 and then the knob is ripped off.

    Arguments for female marines tend to assume that marines are the bright heroes of the game instead of a dark reflection of the ultraviolent adolescent male psyche and child soldiery, necessitating battle-royale for little boys, surgical mutilation and indoctrination. There is no victory to be had by forcing Statuesque cracking hairdoes into that equation.

    This is not an argument against female representation. I'm hoping for better guardsmen models in general, but also female guard sprues would add welcome variety to an army where you have many squads of (effectively) the same guy. Likewise I'm excited for Sisters- the unique all female paladin order aesthetic is amazing. Crucially- Sororitas are orphans raised by the church in schola progeniums. Everyone there is indoctrinated into a violent cult, but they could have been functionaries, stormtroopers or commissars. Instead, the most faithful choose or are chosen to be sisters.

    This is different from a marine being torn from his family and made into a frankenstein's monster with no interest in human interaction beyond kill tallies and bolterfire. From having no living family, they enter the sisterhood and are elevated to be holy warriors in the church of a living god. They retain their sex-organs and drives and interest in human affairs, but devote their lives to their (violent, bigoted, xenophobic) creed anyway.

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    1. Addendum- too much text!
      As for what Cawl has done, the gene/tech heresy on display is such a departure from 3rd -7th ed 40k that it is irreconcilable. it leaves a bad taste in my mouth because it smacks of a lore update to shoehorn in new models. It doesn't help that beyond the Tacticus armour, the MkX variants are really poorly conceived. The boltgun variants are cool but the boltpistol fists don't make a lick of sense. The Gravus armour is shocking, and the vehicles so far look like GI-Joe toys , not futuristic warmachines. The best of a bad lot, the dreadnought, follows on the heels of far better designs (leviathan, contemptor, Custodes) for embiggened dreads.

      In my headcanon MkX armour is just that, armour. Anyone can wear it and the marines Cawl had in testtubes for 10k years are just standard legionnaires of the age. This avoids the headache of having new and improved marines standing head and shoulders above their chapter masters and the narrative mess of Guilliman pushing replacements rather than reinforcements on the chapters.

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    2. Blimey, I suspected I'd meet with disagreement, but hadn't anticipated thoughtful and well-articulated essays in response! Thank you :)

      Certainly your point about the stormcast eternals is well taken; they don't appeal to me either for the reasons you outlined, and certainly it makes AoS as a whole feel more emotionally bland than WFB.

      It's fascinating to see the variety of arguments against female marines. Even in this very thread, we've had the suggestion that marines don't really have a gender, so there's no point making any un-manly ones, to the position in your response (that it's a dark rendition of the male power fantasy).

      My suspicion is that it's humans that have the power fantasy, and that the only reason women don't often express this violently is because on average they're smaller than men. But the violence seen in female prisons is... well, if anything, more brutal than the violence of male prisons (totally worth a Google).

      I suppose what I find interesting is the determination that this power fantasy is purely male (given that many of the women I know get really excited about female power fantasies... by way of example, seeing Wonder Woman was the first time my girlfriend felt really excited about an action scene, despite the fact that her favourite movie is Starship Troopers... true story).

      As an aside, I find it interesting that this post has generated the lengthiest responses of anything I've ever posted by a wide margin. Clearly people feel very strongly about this!

      Your point about how Cawl's tech heresy seriously shifts an element of the setting's tone, well, that's true... and as a long-time fan of the setting and its triumph of superstition and foolishness over reason, I feel I ought to be angrier about that, and yet, I'm rather enjoying the friction created by the superstitious denizens of the far future encountering progress for the first time in millennia and being very confused/upset about it. For me, that retains the underlying tone while adding a new layer of interest on top, plus it sidesteps the hilarious "marines totally had these aircraft models since forever, honest" of past releases.

      But I digress.

      What I'm interested to hear, if you're willing to elaborate, is why you feel that the adolescent power fantasy represented by marines must be purely male, and why the presence of female marines automatically would convert the astartes into shiny shiny good guys?

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    3. Some of the above is informed by an article I have read (but cannot find now) a thought provoking piece on Marines as a cautionary tale. It drew on the authors experience trying to each young children about world war one- and failure to communicate that it was a tragedy to the boys present who felt that everything was awesome and badass. I won't go further into this as I'd like to just link the damn thing when I find it.

      My point is that female Stormcast work in a magical wonderland with reanimated supermen given power directly by a divine hammer enthusiast. The closest thing to them in the Dirtier, gothic Warhammer of Blanche's mind were the Sisters of Sigmar, They work in Pseudo-Europe (in a way that girl knights wouldn't) because they drew on historical imagery of all female nuns/monks and asked: what if they were also battle clerics?

      I wasn't implying that girl marines would make marines less grimdark or more shiny somehow. They would dilute the brotherhood aspect of the marines- who echo that ancient aspect of historical armies in a way that Guard do not- Guard blend age of gunpowder-21st century soldiery with rayguns and more equal opportunity conscription, even if this is rarely reflected in the model range.

      Ultimately it would seem to change a key part of 40k to reward two groups- the guys who have been faithfully greenstuffing torpedoes onto marine chests for decades:
      www.tutofig.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/How-to-make-a-Female-Space-Marine-in-Robes-Simple-5-minute-tutorial.jpg

      And the kind of social engineers who are eroding decades of goodwill towards franchises in comics and StarWars.
      The result would maybe be an upgrade sprue (which again, I'd rather Guard see first) with heads, hopefully not torsos. Going by other franchises , when this sold poorly, the fans would be vilified.

      I won't get into the biological reasons for male aggression/competition v female agreeableness generally. Suffice to say that when given more freedom, women choose different careers, hobbies and types of games than men.

      I find it interesting that you find a rogue tech-priest walking up and inventing a bunch of new things in real time less of an immersion breaker than 'there's a ton of stuff in the armoury that we haven't covered yet', particularly as Cawl grounds the new equipment in the 'modern timeline'. You can't have Primaris during the Macharian Crusade, for example, but you could have Stormravens. If you wanted to explore the Nova Terra interregnum, you'd leave your hellblasters at the door.

      The Imperium has loads of civilian craft, guard ships and landers that will never see plastic or resin. It's why I think the centurions, Primaris and potential marine girl heads represent wasted effort when they could bring us something far more interesting - like the GSC or Rogue trader releases.

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  4. Hmm, I too, think that shitting up 30 years worth of lore to serve an agenda that 99% of the fanbase don't even care about, is justified.

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    1. Apparently I hang out with a misrepresentative section of the fanbase.

      It seems you're suggesting that female marines would crap on the entire setting, which I confess I find surprising, but your opinion is noted.

      Given how many times the lore has changed in GW's settings, it's interesting that this is the change everyone appears to get the most intense about.

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    2. I'd say those you hang out with are afraid of speaking the truth (like most of us having our spaces encroached).
      Let's be honest, being unPC makes you today's Mutant, Heretic, Unclean.

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    3. It may surprise you to hear that I'm not a fan of political correctness (i.e. saying something you disagree with because it's socially expected of you).

      Neither are my friends, so far as I'm aware. Which is probably why we're always diving headlong into difficult conversations. Gotta poke dem brain meats.

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    4. "the way GW's storyworlds tended to be populated with.........white dudes".
      You may not view yourselves as a fan of PC, yet you openly adhere to the agenda's number one canard.

      "White representation in a fantasy universe built by white men in a white country is a problem. Fix it".
      I am yet to have someone explain properly why that's a problem.

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    5. Arguably that point holds true when talking about myths which are purely about European analogues (e.g. the Rohirrim in LOTR are clearly Saxons, so it makes sense that they're white). It also makes sense that the vast majority of people in WFB's Empire/Brettonian armies are white, since those are historical analogues of Germany/France.

      Conversely 40K deals with the entire human race, so it's not really immersive for everyone to be white when the majority of the human genome is non-white. Plus, a number of chapters are clearly heavily influenced/based on non-white cultures (e.g. White Scars). That's my rationale. Should people be forced to change their fiction to fit my opinion? No. Should I be allowed to suggest things I'd like to see in said fiction? Yes. It's up to GW what they do with their setting, I'm just expressing a preference as a fan.

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    6. One other one for your rational, Catachans. Inhabitants of a jungle death world and there usually always depicted as pasty white blokes.

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    7. "Should people be forced to change their fiction to fit my opinion? No. Should I be allowed to suggest things I'd like to see in said fiction? Yes".
      Whoa whoa whoa, we don't do reasonable compromise here on the Internet. Well argued Charlie, I'll concede on that point and I agree.
      I just want to have pride in my white maleness without being told it's bad. There's nothing stopping "minorities" from making their own rich, diverse game universes (literally nothing - kickstarter exists) and yet there's no encouragement to do this. It seems to be easier work to make us compromise and "allow" others into our hobby, changing whatever they want to accomodate them.

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    8. Given that this has been nice and civil I'll add only what I said above. Permission does not equal compulsion. Saying that Cawl's changes for example "allowed those chapters that wished to to draw from all their population rather than just men" grants permission to do so in a canonical way while allowing anyone who does not wish this to continue on happily. There are lots of us who are so happy to ignore and change fluff on the fly. Lots more don't. For that faction of these people who are women, having a nod of official permission to imagine themselves as space marines is nice. It harms no-one and welcomes a whole bunch.

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  5. I definitely agree with you Charlie. The Primaris Marines are, for better or for worse, "new". They are made differently to regular (dare I start using "classic"?) Marines, so any previously established reasons why we could not have female Marines can no longer be applied. The only reasons to not have female Primaris Marines is if GW don't want them. The idea we should also have Female IG is also true, but does not detract from an argument for female Primaris.

    I suppose my only question is, without GW's specific blessing, will you be making female Primaris Marines?

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    1. Since you ask, I was certainly thinking of adding some female primaris marines when I kick off my primaris project (a rather limited project, given that I don't like the look of Gravis armour or reivers but love intercessors/hellblasters).

      My intention is to make the heads removable so that I can stick helmets in if I ever want to use them in Warhammer World, since you're not allowed 3rd party bits in the gaming hall.

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  6. I’m still relatively new to 40K, having switched from WFB a couple of years back, but I love the game and what I have learned so far of the existing lore. From a gaming perspective, I enjoy the process of creating and playing an army when I can include a few female models and characters I can relate to. It’s something I’ve realized over the years playing RPG video games, that I get a lot more out of a game if I can play as a badass female character. I’m not part of some feminist conspiracy to suck all the fun out of the hobby – I would be first in line to tell the PC brigade to go do one if they started ordering GW to introduce all our modern values into the Grimdark future, when they clearly have no knowledge of the setting or interest in gaming. (Much like the idiotic PETA article criticizing the modeling of PLASTIC fur on Chaos Warriors). Also, having witnessed the turmoil of the introduction of AOS and mourned the loss of the old WFB world, I understand how traumatic it can be when something you love and have invested in seems to be morphing beyond your control. But I’m not really sure how a few female Primaris marines running around would ruin the 40k universe? Particularly if they are realized as genuinely hench, GM marines and not just pretty waifs in power armour. I’m realistic in my expectations of GW female model releases, and happy to source female heads etc. from elsewhere in the meantime, but permanently ring-fencing the largest and most popular faction in the game as ‘men only’ does feel a bit mean-spirited
    (As a side note, I am all for armies full of bad ass, muscly white men, particularly ones with beards. I have 5k points of pale and hairy Norsemen in my Chaos army who can vouch for that.)

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  7. Good.

    You lot engage with the 40k fiction with the adult detachment it needs (um hey everyone the Imperium is a racist, fascist, totalitarian dictatorship, that's not supposed to be a good thing) but there are a lot of (I guess mostly boys & young men) online who embrace the setting without that detachment, so adjusting it to be more inclusive without making it less "badass" is probably healthy for that community long-term.

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    1. Yeah the key is that, being a dystopian setting, the Imperium should remain a racist, fascist dictatorship, but its racism and fascism is directed at fictional mutants, fictional aliens, and fictional psykers. Yay metaphors.

      I've never seen anything in the lore which deliberately endorsed sexism or real racism - there's just been an unconscious failure to include those demographics in the product range. Mercifully, this is something GW have been rectifying over the last few years.

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