In early 2012 Angela Washko founded "The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioural Awareness in World of Warcraft" as a performative intervention within the misogynistic environment of World of Warcraft, the most massively popular multiplayer role playing game of all time. Instead of continuing to follow the quest structure of the game—killing dragons, getting better equipment, joining more competitive guilds—while performing as "The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioural Awareness in World of Warcraft," Washko facilitates discussions with players inside the game about the ways in which the community therein addresses women and how players respond to the term "FEMINISM." Washko is interested in the impulse of the community/player-base to create an oppressive, misogynistic space for women within a physical environment that is otherwise accessible and inviting. Furthermore, WoW is a geographically, politically, economically, socially, and racially diverse community (a much more varied community to engage with than she has in physical public space). Consequently, these discussions within the game space create a much larger picture of the American opinion of the evolving roles of women in contemporary society. In Playing A Girl Washko (as Washclothes) focusses on two topics: the male impulse to play female characters within WoW and why a woman would choose not to be a feminist (conversation meanders into discussions of inherent gendered qualities, homophobia, separatism, and rape).
Angela Washko, Playing A Girl (The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft), 2013, Area 52 Server in World of Warcraft. Recorded in Helsinki, Finland at Helsinki International Artist Program. Permission of the artist.
Playing A Girl
(The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft)
Angela Washko = Washclothes.
[Washclothes] Can I ask you a quick question?
[Yukarri] what is it
[Washclothes] I am looking for player definitions of feminism. Do you have one you wouldn't mind sharing? It's for a research project
[Yukarri] sure give me a sec
[Washclothes] ok – personal definition though, not like wikipedia or whatever :)
[Washclothes] THANKS!! hey Rikle!
[Yukarri] isnt it when somebody acts really girly
[Washclothes] I mean, it's up to you what it means – though that often means feminine I think
[Washclothes] I see you're playing a female character
[Washclothes] are you female?
[Yukarri] im a guy playing a girl
[Washclothes] do you always play female characters?
[Washclothes] why? I am curious about this
[Washclothes] more than half of the female avatars are played by men but women rarely cross over and play male avatars
[Yukarri] its because we are guys. wed rather look at girls than guys. all there is to it.
[Washclothes] so when you look at a character, you project a human woman onto it?
[Washclothes] or a panda with boobs?
[Washclothes] ok human woman
[Washclothes] why do you think women don't do that?
[Yukarri] because girls dont have a bigger sex drive then us
[Washclothes] sorry to bother you with all these questions, your answers are really helpful.
[Yukarri] or not like that its hard to explain. and its cool
[Washclothes] hrmmmm. how long have you been playing wow?
[Yukarri (whisper to Washclothes)] 6 years
[Washclothes] and are you sexually attracted to your avatar? i mean that's like the jump that can be made when saying you play a girl to look at ladies
[Yukarri (whisper to Washclothes)] can we please whisper cause nyzen is weird
[Washclothes (whisper to Yukarri)] oh ok! why is nyzen weird? :P
[Yukarri (whisper to Washclothes)] just trust me i know the guy
[Washclothes] hey all! we're talking about feminism, it'd be great to get your definition!
[Washclothes (whisper to Yukarri)] i will continue to whisper to you. my big question is: if men like to play female characters because they have a bigger sex drive and the woman is associated with sex drive...then are you sexually attracted to your avatars?
[Nyzen] what are we talking about
[Washclothes] feminism! would you mind telling me what you think about it?
[Washclothes] i notice that you are playing a female character....are you female?
[Washclotes] that's interesting- why do you play a female character?
[Yukarri (whisper to Washclothes)] its sorta mixed. no we are not. i do it cause i try to make a character look like my dream girl id guess
[Nyzen] because id rather look at a girls butt than a guys butt
[Yukarri (whisper to Washclothes)] i mean all my chars look the same
[Washclothes (whisper to Yukarri)] what does your dream girl look like?
[Washclothes] are you attracted to your avatar Nyzen?
[Washclothes] so why does the butt matter so much?
[Nyzen (YELL Channel)] CUZ IM NOT GAY
[Nyzen] but no im not gay
[Washclothes] so to play a character of the same sex would be gay?
[Nyzen] no. to look at a mens butt is. to me
[Washclothes] so what do you like about your avatar's butt?
[Nyzen] i dont like it. its a game
[Washclothes] i mean with the cape over it, you cant even see a butt :P
[Yukarri (whisper to Washclothes)] idk really i just pick what looks visually appealing to me
[Nyzen] yeah you can
*Nyzen removes her pants.*
*Nyzen puts her pants on.*
[Washclothes] can you do that again?
[Washclothes] haha ok
[Nyzen] i dont want to
[Washclothes] that's fair. do you play all female characters?
[Washclothes] is this your most attractive one?
[Nyzen] sorry i told you im not attracted to my toons
[Washclothes] doesn't matter what kind of butt just so long as it is female?
[Nyzen] what are you doing this for?
[Washclothes] what do you think about women playing this game? and why don’t women generally play male characters?
[Nyzen] i dont care if they do
[Washclothes] it's for a research project
[Yukarri (whisper to Washclothes)] i told you he was weird hes not giving you straight answers
[Washclothes] i am just curious
[Nyzen] i like them to play
[Washclothes (whisper to Yukarri)] ha, that's fine :). it's hard to get anyone to talk to me about this. so just talking is good
[Yukarri (whisper to Washclothes)] well im taking psych classes so i know what its like to do this kind of stuff so i try to help as much as i can
[Washclothes] but why do you think women don't play male characters the way that males play female characters
[Nyzen] same way that if a girl kisses a girl that dose not make them gay but if a male dose it is gay. So its okay for them to do it
[Washclothes] as a social rule?
[Washclothes] moral rule?
[Nyzen] That's how you guys thinkg
[Washclothes] you mean that's how girls think?
[Washclothes] i think it can go both ways :P
[Nyzen] i do to
[Washclothes] Hi Bloodcc
[Nyzen] but thats not how other people think
[Washclothes] so- if i say FEMINISM - what do you think of Nyzen?
[Nyzen] that thats how wemen act
[Washclothes] Hi Slashette! Can I ask you a question quick?!
[Washclothes] women act like feminists?
[Nyzen] no they act feminal
[Washclothes] feminal? feminine?
[Washclothes] then what is a feminist?
[Washclothes] Hey Taetra!
*Washclothes waves at Taetra.*
[Washclothes] Can I ask you a question quick? For a research project?
[Taetra] .-. Shoot.
[Washclothes] i see you are playing a female character...are you female?
[Taetra] Actually, I am lol. I don't play male characters.
[Washclothes] eeeee! yes! ok! awesome, you are the first female I've found today
[Nyzen] have fun
[Washclothes] why do you think many males play female toons...and almost no women play male toons?
[Washclothes] and why don't you want to play a male character?
[Taetra] Cuz it's more appeal to play a female toon (staring at a female instead of a male)
[Washclothes] What's more appealing about it?
[Taetra] *shrug* You'll have to ask them.
[Washclothes] haha, i have been.
[Taetra] I play female cuz I'm a female lol logic
[Washclothes] yeah. me too :P
[Slashette] not me :)
[Washclothes] are you a feminist Taetra?
[Slashette] girl pandas just turn me on
[Washclothes] Slashette, for real?
[Slashette] for realz
[Taetra] a feminist?
[Washclothes] yes, a feminist
[Nyzen] how am i looking now
[Taetra] Females ftw?
[Washclothes] is that your definition of feminist?
[Taetra] Eh. Feminism is for attention whores. Men aren't equal to women and vice versa.
[Washclothes] ah how so? What's your definition of feminism? so you think that men and women are equal?
[Taetra] Nope. Not by a long shot.
[Taetra] We have qualities and skills that come to us naturally just like men.
[Washclothes] what are some qualities and skills that come naturally to women?
[Taetra] Care and nurturing of babies.
[Washclothes] so women are inherently better nurturers?
[Illidansbro (whisper to Washclothes)] do you actually wash cloths
[Washclothes (whisper to Illidansbro)] all the time bro
[Taetra] Some are better than others and some are just not supposed to be parents. Men can be better nurturers if need be
[Illidansbro (whisper to Washclothes)] dont say bro
[Washclothes (whisper to Illidansbro)] oh, it's the end of your name sry
[Illidansbro (whisper to Washclothes)] oh
[Washclothes] what are some other female qualities (natural qualities)
[Taetra] Keeping order in the family and house.
[Washclothes] What if they don't have a family or house? Is that something they should aspire to have?
[Taetra] Then the priorities and responsibilities shift. *shrug* Matter of opinion.
[Washclothes] what is a woman's priority if they don't have a family or house?
[Taetra] That is utterly dependent on the woman.
[Washclothes] what are some qualities that are natural for men?
[Taetra] Protection of weaker beings .-.
[Washclothes] weaker beings like what? physically weaker?
[Taetra] Physically, mentally, judgementally. Whatever he deems weak.
[Taetra] Men protect women, it comes naturally to them, they're supposed to be the protector.
[Washclothes] why would he be inclined to protect these "weaker beings"?
[Washclothes] protect women from what?
[Taetra] It's instincts. *shrug* Danger. Stress.
[Washclothes] why can't women handle a little stress and danger? :P
[Taetra] Pfft, women and men can handle more stress than they think.
[Washclothes] do you want to be protected?
[Taetra] Definitely, I like having someone watching my back.
[Washclothes] but as a protector, and not like a teammate or something?
[Washclothes] on grounds that they are stronger than you?
[Taetra] In my opinion, a protector can be anyone that wants to take away any harm towards you. Be it harming your career or physical being.
[Taetra] Not necessarily, stronger than me doesn't mean he has the intelligence or skillset to protect me.
[Washclothes] but the natural instinct?
[Taetra] In ancient times, men were the guardians and hunters of the villages while the women took care of the village itself. it is programmed into the men's code to protect women.
[Taetra] Unless the man just doesn't care. In which case, all bets are off.
[Washclothes] but maybe that code is also designed socially and changes from context to context? we aren't in ancient times anymore.
[Taetra] Of course not. But the instinct to survive and prosper is still evident. Very, very evident.
[Washclothes] in men though and not women?
[Taetra] Women can survive just as easily as men in the event of a life or death situation.
[Washclothes] What was your definition of feminism? i think i missed it earlier.
[Taetra] Feminism is the attention whore term of saying that women are better than men and deserve everything if not more than them, which is not true in certain terms.
[Washclothes] so i guess you don't self identify as a feminist
[Washclothes] wehre does your definition come from? experience?
[Taetra] Experience I suppose.
[Washclothes] what makes a feminist an attention whore?
[Taetra] Identifying with the female society instead of humans. Working against the males instead of with.
[Washclothes] so separating from men?
[Washclothes] well, as you pointed out - women are different, and are treated differently
[Taetra] We are treated how we allow ourselves to be treated.
[Washclothes] what do you mean?
[Taetra] I do not allow men to be sexist towards me, I give them no reason to do so.
[Washclothes] how can one control how they are treated in public space?
[Washclothes] how can one give a reason for men to be sexist toward them?
[Taetra] In public? That's easy.
[Taetra] Women of our generation dress in a way that invites men to use them as tools.
[Washclothes] so you think it's the way that women dress that makes them a target for sexism? and that excuses sexism?
[Taetra] Not specifically.
[Washclothes] hi Forsakinone....want to join us?
*Washclothes waves at Forsakinone.*
[Washclothes] so how do women dress that "invites men to use them as tools?"
[Washclothes] hi kenrah
[Washclothes] we're talking about feminism. any thoughts on the word?
[Kenrah] females rule!
[Washclothes] :P. are you female, kenrah?
[Tifftam] ok i missed all that lol
[Washclothes] omg there are three females over here. what are the odds
[Washclothes] what's your definition of feminism kenrah?
[Kenrah] females not being afraid to do things out of the "norm"
[Washclothes] can you give some examples?
[Washclothes] hey tifftam, are you female?
[Tifftam] lol yes
[Washclothes] hey tifftam, what do you think feminism is?
*Kenrah waves good bye to you. Farewell!*
[Washclothes] oh! bye kenrah!
[Taetra] If you can bend over and your ass shows you're inviting men.
[Washclothes] but does wearing a short skirt invite rape? or just sexism and misogyny?
[Taetra] It invites anything and everything. My ride is going to be here soon.
[Washclothes] so wearing a short skirt invites rape?!
Angela Washko is an artist and facilitator devoted to mobilizing communities and creating new forums for discussions of feminism where they do not exist. These forums are created through actions, interventions, videos, and performances—sometimes in video games. Her projects provoke viewers and participants into reconsidering the ways in which images of, and ideologies about, contemporary femininity are presented throughout media and how these representations impact the daily experience of women. Washko's practice has been written about by The Guardian (UK), ARTnews, VICE, Hyperallergic, Rhizome, the New York Times, The Creator's Project, Digicult, Bad At Sports, ANIMAL NY and more. Her projects have been exhibited nationally and internationally including shows at the Biennial of the Americas (Denver), MOD: Monitor Digital (Jalisco, Mexico), Moving Image Art Fair (London and NYC), K11 (Shanghai, China), Interaccess (Toronto, Canada), ICA Boston and Momenta Art (NYC).