Wow! The post I made on why I disliked Space Marines resulted in a lot of excellent conversation in the comments section which touched on a lot of issues I didn’t get to in my previous article, so here’s a repost of some of the commentary, and my rebuttal in an effort to make myself more clear and to offer a differing opinion on the subject.
I would also love to make it clear that I do not dislike anyone for liking or playing Space Marines, and my issue with them is strictly with their portrayal by Games Workshop.
Commenter Elderon brought up these following points:
There’s something missing here.
There’s plenty of females in the WH40k world ( Let alone the other games too that Games Workshop makes ). There’s females in Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tau, Imperial Guard, Sisters of Battle, Chaos, Chaos Demons, yadda.
The writer here seems to be upset that Sisters of Battle are not equal to Space Marines. Every army has it’s unique twist to it. Let alone Games Workshop has stated that you can make your own Space Marine chapter ( So if you want to make a all female “Space Marine” chapter… ) go for it.
Had the writer really looked into the official rules for the game and the ‘openness’ of the chapter rules, she would’ve seen that her dissatisfaction here really holds no weight.
There’s plenty of literature on Sisters of Battle as well. You’re right there’s not as much as Space Marines, but Space Marines were the very first army in the game. Sisters of Battle was added in 4th edition if I recall correctly? Maybe 5th. I know they were added along with the Dark Eldar to the game and they are the most recent army(s) to be added.
Give it time and they’ll be well developed as the other armies as well.
Also, Sisters of Battle are not that fanatically crazy, and they don’t “bow down to men”. They serve the Ecclesiarchy and have been known to hunt down corruption even in the Space Marine chapters. They work alongside with the Witch Hunters. They are also known as ‘Daughters of the Emperor’ ( So the whole ‘There’s no daughters of the Emperor’ is thrown out the window ). The writer is correct that the Sisters of Battle are not affected by the geneseed that the Emperor of Mankind had created to form up the Space Marine chapters.
You bring up an argument I was definitely expecting with this post, and I appreciate your point of view. It’s often hard to see what the problem is without it being brought up, and while the examples may be extreme there’s a reason for making people aware of them. My rebuttal here will be point by point.
1) There are plenty of women in 40K.
This is technically correct. There are women in many 40K armies, but not a representative proportion. 50% of the human race is female, but the population of the armies in 40K, or even in the fluff, comes nowhere near that number. The total number of named female heroes across all of the books is less than the number of heroes in any single given 5th or 6th edition codex. Commander Shadowsun, for all of the mention of Tau females across the different 40K media, might very well be the only female in the Tau army, if not the race itself. Meanwhile the Eldar, which do have female unit choices, have only a single female named character in their codex, and she is relegated to the unisex Howling Banshees. The same is true for the Sisters of Battle, who, despite being an all female army, only 1/3 of their named heroes are female. It’s a matter of a lack of proportionate representation even in cultures where there is no privilege given based on sex.
2) Open chapter rules.
Again, technically correct. There is nothing stopping anyone from creating female Space Marine chapters according to the rules, and I do mean anyone, Games Workshop included. Despite this, after nearly 30 years of development, dozens of armies, even more books, hundreds of models and numerous opportunities Games Workshop has yet to ever mention, much less produce, any female Space Marines. That makes purely male Space Marines a choice by the company to exclude women from the ranks of the “Battle Brothers”, which itself is an exclusionary term. The pressure of this weight of history from the company, along with pressure from gamers who defend the established fluff, makes creating a female Space Marine army an action which can easily result in ridicule or shaming.
3) Literature on Sisters of Battle as a newer army.
Absolutely correct. I have no argument with this. I believe Tau and Dark Eldar have even less fiction than the Sisters do.
This, unfortunately, is a major problem with how they are represented. Sister of Battle are known in fluff for being fanatical to the point of throwing themselves naked at the enemy in penance for imagined sins (Witchunters Codex Entry: Sisters Repentia). Celestians have the Holy Hatred special rule which gave them bonuses to hit against literally every enemy due to their fanatical hate. This, in 40K, isn’t really too egregious, but the major issue comes from all of the Martyrdom inherent in their concept. Sisters of Battle are made to die, and used to even give bonuses to the army for doing so. This is bad because it pushes the idea of the female as sacrificial, or incapable of achieving her goals completely. It’s a common conceit that a woman must make sacrifices more often than men, that she has to give up an important part of her life in order to gain something new. A prime example of this is the idea that, when a woman has a child, she has to either give up her job or give up raising her children. This isn’t any more true for a woman than it is a man, but it’s still expected of her culturally, and the emphasis on martyrdom in the Sisters of Battle helps to reenforce these ideas.
5) Bow Down to Men.
The Sisters of Battle have no agency of their own, unlike Space Marines. When the Space Marines go into battle, they are asked directly for help, or they move on their own. When Sisters of Battle fight it is for one of three reasons. Either they have been ordered into the field by an Inquisitor or Ecclesiarch, or they are defending their territory. Sisters of Battle to not lead crusades, or invade other planets, or even exercise their force unless prompted to do so by another, and the other is almost always male. Unlike Space Marines, Sisters of Battle do not enforce their own will, but rather serve as enforcers of the wills of others, be they Ecclesiarchs or Inquisitors. Along with this comes the fact that they are the most tightly bound to Imperial Authority of all of the armies of the Imperium of man due to their direct worship and close ties to the God Emperor, who is the core of their concept as Church Militant. This means that even the decisions they make themselves are, to a much higher degree than any other army, attributed to The Emperor, and they are themselves more subject to “His Will” than any other faction.
6) Daughters of The Emperor.
This represents what I’m talking about in male vs female more than anything else, actually. Though Sisters of Battle are called The Daughters of The Emperor, they are obviously not his favorites. They do not receive the same gifts and benefits of his Sons, nor are they as favored. The Emperor dotes upon his Sons and heirs, giving them his geneseed, and all of the super powers that Space Marines get, while the Daughters are left without. Instead of giving his Daughters the tools to protect themselves, as he did with Space Marines, he watches over them and protects them himself, not allowing them out of his sight.
In conclusion, what I meant to express was that Games Workshop could, at any time, have chosen to make any of the Primarchs female, and didn’t. They could have, at any time, chosen to make any Space Marines female, and hasn’t. They choose exclusionary male language in “Battle Brothers” for their main cash cow, and they promote the masculine ideals of the Space Marines as the face of their company while choosing to exclude females from the group. This is not random, this is a choice by the creators, and it represents a policy, even if it is an unspoken one, of excluding the feminine from their media except for a token representation making up less than 5% of their products, or 1/10th of proportional representation.
While this policy is almost certainly designed for their demographic of young males, it chooses to exclude young women from their target audience, though I am sure they are perfectly happy to catch a female gamer here and there. The reason this upsets me isn’t due to targeting however, it is due to the influences this can have on their audience, reenforcing ideas and stereotypes that are already culturally ingrained in the minds of the youth.
DISCLAIMER: I promise the original post was about Space Marines, not Sisters of Battle, which were just used as a counterpoint example to the marines.