First things first, because these things are sometimes fuzzy with bloggers, and people have made this mistake before(!): I am a guy.
Like many players, I play a mix of male and female characters. It's always interesting to examine people's opinions about their character's gender. Some people have no qualms about playing characters of either gender, while others refuse to play characters of the opposite sex because they think it's weird. On the other hand, some players like playing female characters because it gets them treated more preferentially - something that unquestionably DOES happen. And some players play the opposite sex (male or female) because they think the characters are hot and like staring at HOT BELF ASS.
Personally? My character gender choices revolve around three main factors: how cool they look (which does not mean attractiveness), their fighting/casting animations, and how appropriate a name I can think up for the gender/class/race combination. For example, my Warlock is a male Blood Elf because I wanted to use the name Marendas, which was the name of a Lich in an old D&D campaign. And my Draenei Hunter is female because I wanted to be a Draenei, but got really tired of the male Draenei flip-reload animation.
These motivations are why my most popular race/gender combination are female Forsaken. They look really cool in big heavy armor or in robes, they have THE BEST 1-handed fighting animations (ninja flips > all) and their caster animations feel very raw and powerful.
I also love coming up with names that imply a state of unrest, bitterness or brokenness. For example, my female Forsaken characters are Morgion (Death Knight, named for Dragonlance's god of Decay), Glasya (Mage, named after a powerful, intelligent Princess of Hell in D&D lore), and Shrapnel (Warrior, a name/class combination I thought suitable for someone angry and jaded about having their happy and loving life ripped away from them).
A pair of Forsaken ladies you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.
Another (slightly depressing) luxury about creating female Forsaken characters is that they're not "hot" like say, female Blood Elves or Trolls. When a male player tells someone that he has a female character, there's a certain amount of eyerolling and preconceptions that immediately occur if they happen to be one of the shapely races. It's inevitable - I mean, how many times do you hear of a male playing a female Blood Elf or Draenei and suspect that their choice is because they like watching their toon's rear?
THIS IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT. I came to sell Copper Ore, NOT LOOK AT YOUR ASS.
Hopefully she is at the Auction House to BUY SOME FREAKING PANTS.
I purposefully selected one of the most scarred, unsexy faces for Morgion when I made her. I did this mostly because I felt it really fit her character, and so that the DK eyes would glow blue through the leather face straps, which is AWESOME. Then I chose a hairstyle that was ghastly and prickly, further cementing her angry personality in my mind.
These were my primary goals during the creation process...but inwardly, privately, I can't deny that a small part of me also wanted to ensure that no one would look at her, see a sexy character, and assume I was just one of "those" male gamers playing a female character to fulfill some perverted fantasy.
When we were just stepping into Bastion of Twilight, Morgion got some upgrades so I started doing some reforging to balance out my stats. In the process of doing so, I ended up swapping out my current chest armor for a set of Phantom Armor that I'd stashed away in my bank for this very purpose.
The Phantom Armor reforged perfectly (seriously, I ended up 0.06% over the Hit Cap, 2 Rating over the Expertise cap, and 0.01 over my Mastery threshold), and I was all ready to head back in next raid night and kill me some twin Dragons. However, I found I had a new problem.
My dark, vengeful harbinger of death looked like she was going to a beach party.
A comparison shot between a normal piece of armor...
...and the infamous Phantom Armor.
What. The. Hell.
It seems that Phantom Armor is just a scalemail halter top, with a shockingly low neckline and completely exposed midriff. (It is also bright yellow, though that's not really related to this subject.)
I was floored when I first saw it, and honestly found myself thinking, both as a player and in-character as Morgion, "How can I POSSIBLY fight alongside my teammates looking like THIS?! I look RIDICULOUS."
If Morgion wasn't already dead twice-over, she would have died of shame.
My baby Paladin Leisl, member of Eff the Ineffable. Properly clad! (Though wielding a bone.)
Female players have long lamented WoW's revealing, "sexy" equipment options. They argue that such outfits perpetuate sexist stereotypes, encourage the objectification of women, and cater to a puerile, juvenile demographic. And I can definitely understand why many female players feel the chainmail-bikini treatment is insulting and offensive - not only is it unnecessary, sometimes bordering on shameless fanservice, but it's also just STUPID - a chainmail bikini when you're fighting for your life? Ludicrous.
Now, I'm not even going to really touch on these topics, because a) As a male gamer, I can't actually accurately relate to how they feel, since I am not in their shoes; and b) female gamer bloggers have stated their arguments much more eloquently and passionately than I could ever hope to. I'm going to leave this in their capable hands.
But what I CAN talk about is how annoyed and exasperated I feel whenever my female characters get a new piece of gear that looks like a Girls Gone Wild outfit. Surely I'm not the only male gamer who feels this way.
(And YES I AM FLEXING WHILE RUNNING JUST BECAUSE, SHUT UP)
In the case of Morgion's Phantom Armor, I imagine it wouldn't be a big deal to some players, especially those not on a roleplaying server. But I found it very, very difficult to stomach. Not only was it silly looking, it just FELT inappropriate - I felt like consciously making the decision to wear this "armor" would be putting me in the same boat as the 14-year-old boys who spend hours dancing their naked female characters on mailboxes, despite the fact that I just wanted STATS, not eye candy.
Now don't get me wrong - I have a few other female characters who aren't as broken-looking as poor Morgion, and I definitely prefer the smiling, attractive faces over the options that are horrifying scowls. And I love when the combination of gear + character looks great. I'm not going to purposefully make unappealing characters just so people know I'm not ogling them (despite what I said earlier, Morgion's appearance really is primarily because of her backstory).
But even though I never run around stripped naked, sometimes the game all but FORCES me to flash the flesh. I HATE when my best equipment choice is some LOL LOOK BOOBS vest or barely-there pair of shorts, because it makes me feel like such a sleaze...and I assume that if I am thinking it, so too are other players who can see my character's state of undress.
Case in point: the Barbaric Loincloth.
Way, way back, I created a baby Draenei mage to hang out in Single Abstract Noun. I was particularly tickled with her name: Warp. I breezed through the first 15 levels and found my way to Ragefire Chasm, where I won the Barbaric Loincloth. It was much better than my old leggings - which were essentially old rags - and I was excited to wear these new awesome pants...until I put them on.
BEFORE: Oh man, new pants, this is going to be awesome! Look out Blood Elves, here comes Warp!
AFTER: ...oh yes. Fear my incredible magical prowess...when you stop laughing. -_-
Remember, this was SAN, a group of respected blogging peers! I was mortified to meet them in-game for the first time looking like THAT. Talk about regrettable first impressions!
In the Loincloth's defense (a phrase I never thought I'd write) it IS a LOINCLOTH. And it's also equally as revealing and embarrassing on a male character. I was still extremely put out by it, though.
In retrospect, I think Morgion's raider status is another reason I was so irritated about the Phantom Armor. (Seriously, I raged about this in guild chat for like a week.) It's one thing to have to endure embarrassing outfit choices as a fresh-faced level 16 Mage, since I'm basically scrounging my entire ensemble from dead bears and Troggs at that point. I can accept that it's not all going to look fantastic.
But at endgame? When I'm invading Cho'gall's stronghold, slaughtering Twilight Cultists and corrupted elementals, and striking a decisive blow against Deathwing himself? Really, haven't we left the silly armor models behind us at that point? I've killed the Lich King - I deserve some dignity, for crying out loud.
And maybe it's just me, but when I'm facing off against a fearsome servant of the Old Gods, I'd want to be dressed for war, not a fun night out at the club.
As for the notorious Phantom Armor, it obviously occurred to me that I could just wear a tabard and hide this shameful display of undead chest. Except...well, it didn't really work.
Sure, it was definitely an improvement - no more bare belly! - but the neckline was still ridiculous. It looked like I wasn't even wearing armor at all! And imagine how gratuitous this would look on one of the more endowed races, like a Human or Dwarf.
I ended up disguising my discomfort by taking the silliness of the armor and running with it. I wore a garish bright pink shirt under the yellow chestpiece, resulting in a blinding, hilariously terrible look. There's nothing sexy about looking like a clown. Not the ideal solution, but better than having to explain repeatedly why my Death Knight was raiding in bright yellow underwear.
Thankfully, this period of intense personal shame and self-loathing did not last long. I got another upgrade within the next week or so, and was able to relegate the Phantom Armor back to the bank...hopefully never to again see the light of day.
In closing, I hope Blizzard someday realizes that it's not just the female gamer demographic and feminists who dislike the skimpy armor choices. I like a sexy female form as much as the next straight male, but that doesn't mean I want my characters running around half-naked and flashing their naughty bits.
After all, it's hard to look badass when you're in beachwear.