Top Five things I want fixed about the Sisters of Battle
1. Inclusion of women of color and queer women.
I shouldn’t have to explain why this is my number one thing I want to see changed, but the fact that there is only one official piece of artwork(thus far that I’ve found) that features a woman of color is at best worrying. Also the fact that there has been no mention of any sort of queer women in the 40k universe outside of the Ciaphas Cain novels is also weird as all hell. Even then the depiction there uncannily reminds me of that whole don’t ask, don’t tell idea, that as long as no one notices a queer relationship than it doesn’t matter or count. So yeah, better representation of the wide variety of women that exist is the number one thing I want to see changed about the Sisters of Battle.
2. Show the Sisters of Battle as three dimensional and intelligent
Again this should not be super controversial, but apparently it is. I get that for a lot of nerd culture religion is often seen as inherently anti-intellectual, but the depiction of the Sisters of Battle is just hair-pullingly frustrating. The big example of this for me is again the Ciaphas Cain Novels, where they are depicted as zealous to the point of stupidity, with one notable exception. Contrast that with the Sisters of Battle in their own novel series, it’s rather jarring to say the least. I kinda wish there was a good explanation given rather than what currently feels like a sweaty nerd in a fedora going, “women, amiright?”. I mentioned the Age of Apostasy several times in these sorts of posts and I’ve already mentioned the fix I would implement, but as it is currently, the story just doesn’t make sense.
If it were me, what I’d do instead is have the Sisters of Battle be Foucault-ian in their depiction. For the uninitiated, Michel Foucault was one of the big postmodern thinkers and his understanding/critique of the enlightenment was that a lot of the society reshaping ideas weren’t created from the notion of humans as rational agents, but rather the application of prison strategies to the broader population. This could be a brilliant way of talking both about our current problems with the surveillance state, while also making the Sisters of Battle suitably grimdark for those who thrive on that sort of thing. This could also work beautifully with point number one as it would create a scenario that is different from our m2 existence, in that there would be women of all sorts in all kinds of roles, while at the same time being very understandable in that everything is observed, detailed, and recorded.
3. Show the Sisters of Battle dealing with misunderstandings and the broader culture of the Imperium
Okay this is less about the Sisters of Battle then it is about the 40k universe as a whole. There’s not a lot of stuff unrelated to fighting that we the viewer/reader know about the 40k universe. Especially for me as someone who studies political science, that’s kinda a glaring oversight. I know kind of the formal structure of the imperium and what little glimpses we get of the non-military lives of the 40k universe it seems like on terra and at the imperial level there is no gender discrimination and men and women are regarded as equals(setting aside the fact that it’s the high lords of terra but whatever), though at the planetary level planets can be either patriarchal, matriarchal, or somewhere in the middle.
4. Have the Sisters of Battle resolve things through peaceful means
Seriously they have the Orders Dialogus and the Orders Famulous. I know there are some people who feel that stories about negotiation can’t be as exciting as those about fighting, but I disagree and I think the “audiodrama” (it’s the length of a short story text wise but it’s still 90 minutes of talking) Red and Black kinda bolsters my point. The story is at it’s most engaging when the characters are grappling with the complicated legal, moral, and social issues. It becomes kinda tedious when it’s just about the shooting.
5. Stop Using the Sisters of Battle as a powered armour speed bump.
This problem has been raked over the coals so many times I’m starting to worry that I’m boring people. Bloodtide in the 5th edition Grey Knights codex was heresy at best. I have to admit, the retcon on display in the 6th edition codex of the Sisters of Battle was one of the fast 180 degree turns I’ve seen a writer pull, and I study American Politics. Sanctuary 101 didn’t add a whole lot to either faction(Necrons or the Sisters of Battle), in particular since Hammer and Anvil filled in the blanks and now all we know from that is that the Sisters of Battle can be overwhelmed through sheer numbers, like say every other faction.
Now to be fair, I’ve heard that GW is working on plastic/resin Sisters of Battle, which could mean new models and a greater degree of backstory. I have my doubts, in part because a supposed revival of the Sisters of Battle has been just around the corner for a while now, but I try to stay positive.
After 6 weeks I have finally received a response from Games Workshop regarding Gender Representation in Warhammer 40K. It seems that they have spent this time finding a nice way of saying for us to convert their models for our purposes. Because of copyright laws I cannot post the email in its entirety so I will quote a few things here that I hope will give you the overall tone of the email I received. For reference, this and this are what was sent.
“However, you point out that you personally wish to collect human female warriors of the imperium of man, but do not like the Adepta Sororitas models, and so feel your options are limited.”
Interesting that they take my argument from expensive, outdated and limited availability to “do not like [them]”. Hm, it seems that GW is not interested in the argument itself but just wants to find a way to shove aside what I have to say.
The next line is equally telling: “It should be said that we have rarely if ever received such a request.”
So you are telling me that you have rarely received a request for updated plastic/resin Sisters models? Or that no one has mentioned greater representation for women in the Imperial Guard? Obviously, you either aren’t paying attention or you choose to ignore customers. Several people I know personally have reached out to GW to express their concern about these very issues.
“Of course, we cannot make every conceivable model or address every request for a particular miniature (perhaps based on characters from Black Library novels or computer games for example), so customizing individual models and complete armies will always be a vibrant part of what our customers do with our products.”
So asking you to add more women models to your product offerings and update the very few that you have available for non-xenos armies is asking too much? Got it. What I am supposed to do then?
“So please do feel free to adapt and convert any and all of your models (including your Dark Angels if you like!) in any way that you wish.”
Oh I get it! I am still supposed to give you my money for models that aren’t what I want then spend more time and money adapting them. Never mind the fact that myself and others have been doing that already just to get the same representation as our male counterparts. And that it costs us more to do so. But Games Workshop makes the same if not more off of us than them so it is all good.
“And we do sell a great many Space Marines compared to Adepta Sororitas models.”
I’m gonna throw this out there like everyone else has: you would sell more Sororitas models if they weren’t so expensive, outdated and difficult for new players to see/buy(online only). The fact that you refuse to put any effort into them shows that you care very little for equal representation and by default, those of us customers that want it.
“We do take all customer feedback very seriously, and your comments (particularly about the Astra Militarum) have been passed to the relevant folks in our design departments.”
Hey, progress! My comments got passed on to someone in design departments! As silly as it sounds(because we all know that is code for: we maybe told them and laughed about it in a meeting) I am at least glad I got something back and that this line was added.
Now where do we go from here? Showing them that there is interest for these things. By emailing them individually, the survey and if needed, a petition. The fact that responded at all shows that they want to appear as caring about the customer. Now it is time for us to show them that the customer wants some representation for women.