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The Tiger Roars 
Guest Commentary

Regarding Female Marines by Philipp Gresse
I write this in response to Sticking Up for the Girls: In Defense of Female Space Marines. I am not to trying to convince anyone to agree with me; instead, I would like to give visitors to the Jungle a different viewpoint on female Marines, and to clear up some misconceptions.

Raja Khandar MaduI am one of the “No, ma’am” people on this issue. Sure, female Space Marines offer nice conversion possibilities (like Kenton’s very own Raja Khandar Madu), and it would be rude to refuse to play against such an army, not to mention to insult someone because of it. But I would not accept an army with female Marines as 100% true to the Warhammer 40,000 background. I would consider it a “fun” army, like those based on popular TV, movie, or comic books (for example, see Patrick Eibel’s Star Wars Daemonhunter army). Nice conversions, cool armies, probably enjoyable to play against—but not true to the 40K background.

Here are the reasons why I (and probably some other people) think that female Marines are not true to the 40K background.

Reason #1: The background says so
The article about the creation of a Space Marine in the first Index Astartes book clearly states that the Space Marine implants are not compatible with females. It can be speculated about how much sense this text makes considering real science, but we could just as well question the function of a plasma gun or a vortex grenade. The background says the process won’t work on women. What more needs to be said? 

If the people in the Imperium who usually are responsible for the geneseed can’t make it work on females, then for sure, a lonely chapter somewhere in the galaxy can’t come up with a method by itself. Not to mention that it would be heresy to tinker with the geneseed that was given to them by the Emperor himself (who apparently also could not make it work on females).

Reason #2: Space Marines are like monks 
Every chapter might have different styles and traditions, but they all (even Space Wolves) have one thing in common: a monastic organization. Their fortresses are like monasteries, they have Chaplains, they call themselves “brothers,” they pray to the Emperor. Space Marines are monks, perhaps a mix between monks and knights. And monks—all monks—are male. Could a woman be a monk? No—she would be a nun, and in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, nuns are Sisters of Battle. 

To make your Space Marines less like monks would not be true to the 40K background, and to do it so you can justify female Marines would be, well, even less true to the background.

Reason #3: They are called “Sons of the Emperor”
And probably for a reason. There are the “Thousand Sons” and the “Sons of Horus.” Sometimes, the Space Wolves commanders call their men the “Sons of Russ.” Other chapters might also do this. By contrast to this, the Sisters of Battle are sometimes referred to as the “Daughters of the Emperor.” So apparently we have the Sons and the Daughters, and there is a distinction between them.

Reason #4: No female Marines are mentioned in the background 
Besides the hundreds of Space Marine stories that can be found in codices and White Dwarfs, there are two especially noticeable narratives: the first “Ragnar” novel and the older novel, Space Marine. Both deal with the recruiting and the initiation process of a Space Marine. If Space Marines did recruit females, then this would have been the place to mention them. To see a female Aspirant compared with the male Aspirant hero would also have made for a pretty interesting story. But there are no female Aspirants mentioned. And there are also no female Marines mentioned in the hundreds of other Space Marine stories. This alone is a sign that in the 40K background, there simply are no female Marines.

One interesting side note about the Ragnar book: at one point, he encounters a female Inquisitor, and he wonders how his view towards females has changed now that he has become a Space Marine. It’s only a small bit, and not necessarily important to this issue, but interesting nonetheless.

Now I would like to address some misconceptions some gamers may have concerning the issue of female Marines:

“The Imperium discriminates against females”
This is not true, or rather, not explicitly stated in the background. There are several examples, especially in the Black Library novels, of female soldiers or females in high ranking positions:  the female soldiers in the “Gaunt’s Ghosts” novels or the “Last Chancer” novels, the female Inquisitor in the second “Ghosts” novel, and the female Planetary Governor in the Ultramarine novel Nightbringer

Remember that in the Imperium, planets are governed independently and have independent states of civilisation. The Imperium has no control over this. The Imperium only interacts with the planetary culture if they are not loyal to the Emperor or if they are not paying their tributes. It may well be that, on some worlds, females indeed are discriminated against, but that has nothing to do with the Imperium and it surely doesn’t affect the Space Marines. 

“Not allowing female Marines will drive women away from the hobby”
I cannot agree with this assessment. Most wargamers, whether they play historical-, fantasy- or sci-fi-wargames, are men. This is nothing that will surprise any woman who tries to get in touch with the hobby. It is also not true that people only want to play with models from their own sex. Men play Sisters of Battle or Amazons. Surely a woman can get into an all-male army. In historical wargames, chances are that all of the armies are male.

Also, while Space Marines surely are the main focus of the Warhammer 40,000 game, not all people want to play them. I know several players who outright despise Space Marines and stick to their Eldar or Orks.  If a woman is interested in 40K, then she will find a race or army she likes. If she likes the style and stories of Space Marines, then she might be a little disappointed when she learns that there are no female Marines, but if she previously liked Space Marines, she will not suddenly dislike them.

“GW made female Space Marine models once”
This is not true. The models in question were “Female Adventurers” in power armor, which does not make them Space Marines. Note that according to Solegends, in the same White Dwarf (WD 99) where the “Adventurers” were presented, GW also presented new Space Marine models. The females in power armor were not put with the Space Marines, but instead with the Adventurers. So they obviously are not Space Marines. I read in a 40K forum that apparently some blisters with these were accidentally labelled “Space Marines,” so perhaps this is where the misconception came from.

“Warhammer 40K itself is sexist”
Let’s have a quick look at the different 40K factions:

Imperial Guard, Eldar, Dark Eldar, and Tau. These armies are “mixed,” having male and female soldiers. This is most apparent with Eldar and Dark Eldar, where every 4th or 5th model is female and some elite units are all-female. This is partly because of the fact that Eldar and Dark Eldar armies consist largely of “civilians.”

The Imperial Guard is (in theory) also mixed, though this is not so apparent from the available figures. Female soldiers are mentioned in the stories and novels and there are some metal figures, like the two from the Last Chancers, the one female Ghost or the Games Day Female Commissar. This might not be enough for some people, but I think it is understandable why GW did not include female models on the IG plastic sprues, forcing all players to use a female model for every 5th Soldier. 

As mentioned in the Fire Warrior novel, Tau also use female Fire Caste Warriors. As for the lack of obviously “female” Tau models, perhaps they cannot be recognised beneath their heavy armour or perhaps they are visually indistinguishable from males (like other species of animals). 

Orks, Tyranids, and Necrons. These creatures are (for our purposes) sexless. Orks grow from mushrooms, Tyranids are just insectoids, and though it’s probable that the Necrontyr souls that power the Necron Warriors were from males and females alike, now they’re all just machines.

Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines. These are the all-male armies: about 1 million loyal Marines and an unknown number of Traitors. Not much for a whole galaxy.

Sisters of Battle. In contrast to the Space Marines, we also have an all-female army. Sisters Orders probably are somewhere between 10 to 100 more times as numerous as Space Marines.

So, in total, I would say it doesn’t look that bad in the 40K Universe. Most armies are mixed, some are sexless, and only three are gender-exclusive. One might suggest that it would be discriminating towards men if there were female Marines, because 40K then would have one all-female army but no all-male army.

It is true that the focus of Warhammer 40K lies heavily with the Space Marines, and I myself once said that the game might well be called “Marinehammer 40,000.” But in this case, claiming that females are overlooked is not totally fair. There are other game systems set in the 40K universe, like Armageddon or Battle Fleet Gothic, in which Marines are not the most important army. Suddenly, you see a whole universe with an all-male force of 1 million and an all-female force of 100 million.

Some may claim that it is still unfair towards females, because the “all-male” soldiers (Marines) are stronger than the “all-female” soldiers (Sisters of Battle). I guess that is true. But the Sisters of Battle were developed and fleshed out quite some time after the Space Marine army list. GW decided to give them their own personality instead of making them the equivalent of female Space Marines. If GW had not done that, and had made them like Female Marines, then there would be no “Sisters of Battle” today. Would that be better?

So, I hope you can understand why some people won’t accept female Marines. They have been accustomed to the “fact” that all Marines are male since Warhammer first came out in the 80’s. But, of course, nothing justifies being rude toward people who like female Marines and use them in their chapters. Just because an army background does not 100% conform to the stated canon, it doesn’ t mean you can’t play against them (or even worse—gasp—side-by-side). Boo to those rude people! 

Related Pages
Sticking Up for the Girls: In Defense of Female Space Marines

Posted February 2004. Used with permission.


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle