Alumna declares war on misogyny in ‘World of Warcraft’

COURTESY ANGELA WASHKO
COURTESY ANGELA WASHKO
COURTESY ANGELA WASHKO
COURTESY ANGELA WASHKO

Trolls are pretty easy to spot on the Internet, but artist and feminist Angela Washko may have found the best troll ever in online history.

“That’s the thing about trolls!” Washko said. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell.”

Washko discussed a section in her “Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft” project called “Chastity.” It’s named after a female she met in the game that had very old-fashioned views toward women. Washko said the woman was a pregnant 19-year-old housewife who was coherent when expressing her anti-feminism views. She said that Chastity’s beliefs are solid, however, she has the characteristics of a troll just like anyone online taking the opposed stance.

“She was so consistent in her tone and so spontaneous that I feel like I was talking to a real, recently-married 19-year-old pregnant woman,” Washko said. “But you never know. You don’t know who you’re really talking to, ever.”

Washko is an artist based in New York and a self-proclaimed feminist. She said she believes in promoting the ideas of women and interest in the inequality of women. In her work, Washko examines the moral footing of feminism in video games – mostly role-playing games and the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, “World of Warcraft.”

Washko graduated with her bachelor’s of fine arts from Tyler School of Art in 2009, at which time she began her career in studio fine arts and the spread of feminism.

Her interest in “World of Warcraft” began in high school, but she didn’t start to play the MMORPG until 2006 during her sophomore year at Tyler.

Initially, Washko played “World of Warcraft” for the same reasons everyone else plays video games: to have fun. However, she stopped playing the game regularly after realizing the lack of women and constant mockery toward them in the game. This project started out by bringing the topics of feminism in art galleries into the famous MMORPG.

“I was interested in how kind of diverse WoW is,” Washko said. “I thought it would be interesting to bring this debate that is easy to have in galleries, difficult to have in conservative, more traditional places, and bring it to WoW where there’s kind of a mix of everything.”

“WoW on Gender” is an ongoing project where Washko goes in the massively multiplayer online game and brings up feministic topics and how people feel about the issue. Washko said it is interesting how people communicate in games and public spaces, and a good place to see people’s views on feminism from different backgrounds. However, she said that some think that “World of Warcraft” isn’t the place for feminism, with some even calling it a project of feminist drama starters.

“It’s very problematic,” she said. “Everyone has very different reactions to [feminism], and very negative and aggressive reactions to it without knowing why and how what caused them to have this deep-seeded hatred about the idea of feminism.”

Men are not only the ones in the game that feel this way about the movement.

“It’ll be the women that are saying that [feminists] are attention-seeking whores,” she added.

Recently, “WoW on Gender” has reached a focal point on men playing as female characters. Washko said that most of the female characters she meets on “World of Warcraft” are, in fact, men. When asked why, they give a homophobic response.

“The most generic response I get is, ‘I’m a dude. Why would I want to look at another dude’s ass all day?'” she said.

Before the “WoW on Gender” project began, Washko started a project called “Heroines with Baggage.” This project is based off of female leads in role-playing video games that are strong but still lack willpower and play the damsel in distress role.

Washko’s love for role-playing games started with the first installment of the Final Fantasy video game series. When she entered college, her roommates introduced her to more social games that still held similar elements to RPGs, like MMORPGs.

“I became interested in the opportunity to talk to real people as we all played, sorta, the same instance of a role-playing game,” Washko said. “That was really attractive to me.”

During her downtime, Washko replays the video games she played when she was growing up as well as “World of Warcraft” when she has the time. Though her primary game genre is role-playing, she still has an open mind.

“Sometimes I play first-person shooters too,” Washko said.

Washko is currently part of an artist residency program with Helsinki International Artist Programme in Helsinki, Finland, and will be giving artist lectures to universities in addition to going to Toronto to display her feminism research from “World of Warcraft.” She will be continuing both “WoW on Gender” and “Heroines with Baggage.”

“I feel like everyone should be a feminist and there should be more feminists in ‘World of Warcraft,’ being conscience of what women go through,” Washko said.

Amber Clay can be reached at amber.clay@temple.edu.

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