There has been much discussion since Blizzcon about the lack of female characters represented in what we've seen so far. It's a pretty important topic, and I think it's definitely worth examining. Lissanna wrote a very good post about feeling excluded and the implications of such a severe marketing misstep, while Akabeko started rallying the twitter troops around the egregious lack of Aggra in the expansion.
I have some basic thoughts on a few of the issues being discussed, and here they are.
Complaint: All the chieftains are male
One of most obvious points of contention is that all of the orc chieftains are male. Blackhand, Kargath, Killrogg, Durotan, Grom, Ner'zhul, and Gul'dan, all males. There are even other chieftains who don't appear on the Warlords promo image, such as Zuluhed and Cho'gall, who are also male.
I personally don't think this is something that deserves complaint at this time. Is it balanced or fair for WoW's female audience, that none of these clan heads are women? Of course not! But these positions and characters were cemented in Warcraft lore over 15 years ago. Even if they wanted to, it's not like the current writing team could just retcon Kargath or Killrogg out of history and simply swap in a new female chieftain replacement.
It's very firmly established history, so the writing team really had no choice or say regarding the all-male chieftain lineup. It's like the Arthas novel - large segments of that book felt extremely stiff, since author Christie Golden had to literally shoehorn in entire pre-existing conversations from the earlier games, to stay accurate to canon events.
Could they have shown some non-chieftains among those seven dudes? At least like, Draka, since we know of her already? They could have...but I think they were sticking pretty firmly to the actual literal chieftains for that promo shot, since Orgrim Doomhammer, one of the most influential characters in the entire Warcraft universe, is conspicuously absent.
That being said, while the writers can't help who the existing chieftains are right NOW, there's absolutely no reason they can't switch things up moving forward. There is plenty of room to introduce cool new female characters in important positions, such as Drek'thar's role as Durotan's trusted advisor. Or if one or more chieftains die in Warlords, it would be great to see a badass female orc warrior or shaman step up and take over, much like we saw Zaela do in Cataclysm's Twilight Highlands quests. They could be a chieftain's daughter, or wife, or maybe not even a blood relation at all, simply a proud member of the clan.
In summary: Since the current writing team had zero input about the current all-male lineup of chieftains, I don't think we should hold it against them. But what they do next and where they take this sausage fest of leadership? That's a different story. The original male-dominated hierarchy is old-fashioned and quite honestly, unacceptable in today's age and considering WoW's audience. What the writing team does to improve upon these outdated orcish traditions will be very important.
Complaint: All the Warlords are male
Like the chieftains, the "Warlords" shown on the WoD website are all male. There are the seven major orc chieftains mentioned earlier, as well as Velen, Khadgar and Maraad. No women.
Unlike the orc chieftains, Blizzard COULD have avoided this. Let's say they absolutely had to show the seven chieftains, and there was only 3 spots left, and one HAD to be Velen, for obvious lore reasons. Okay, sure. I can buy all that so far. But what do they do? They use up the remaining spots on Maraad - a character who's only had minor appearances/importance so far in lore - and Khadgar??
While it's true that Khadgar is a pretty significant Warcraft character, his presence here as young (well, younger) Khadgar is baffling and feels totally random, since it seems to contradict existing lore. Why not put a few women in these spots, such as Ishanah, or the new "Joan of Arc" female draenei paladin Yrel, who's apparently going to be very important in WoD? Why not include her in this lineup of "Warlords" and get people really intrigued/excited about her upcoming role?
I have to say, right now I'm intrigued with Yrel but so far it's all talk. Seeing her up there on equal footing as Durotan, Grom and Velen would have really impressed me and made me think "Wow, they're serious about her!" Put Yrel in the lineup of Warlords, and give Maraad the brief casual mention instead - the people who know and like him would still be plenty happy just to know they'd be seeing their favorite paladin again.
Complaint: Thrall in, Aggra out
First things first. Whether you're sick of Thrall or not, he absolutely should be in Warlords, because of the amazing story potential of him meeting/talking with his long-dead family. It's great story, and it's definitely worth exploring. Same for Garrosh, possibly interacting with Grom, perhaps visiting Nagrand as a healthy orc warrior, not the weakened cripple he was as a youth...endless options!
But I'm really bewildered that Aggra isn't going to be there too. Aggra, who unlike the Azeroth-born-and-raised Thrall, actually has personal connections and memories of Outlands/Draenor. And Aggra isn't some non-combatant civilian who would be a liability in the field! She's an accomplished shaman (she's probably a better shaman than Thrall, considering she was originally Thrall's mentor/teacher), she's not afraid to speak up and tell Thrall right to his face when he's being an idiot, and she fearlessly set out to save her man when no one else would, after his own doubts and repressed emotions almost destroyed him. And she succeeded!
And what does Aggra get from this impressive resume? She gets benched because Thrall's story in Warlords of Draenor is "a boy's trip." Like it's some frat boy bachelor party? That is more important to Thrall than his wife, than the mother of his child?
We don't yet know how this will go down - will Thrall order Aggra to stay behind, or will Aggra actually want to stay home? Frankly, neither seems at all plausible or realistic for the characters involved OR what we already know about orc couples. I can't help but be reminded of this exchange from Lord of the Clans, between Draka and Durotan, Thrall's parents.
"You shall not go alone, my mate," said Draka, her soft voice a sharp contrast to the ear-splitting sound of Durotan’s Oath Cry. "We shall come with you."
"I forbid it."
And with a suddenness that startled even Durotan, who ought to have known better, Draka sprang to her feet. The crying baby tumbled from her lap as she clenched her fists and raised them, shaking them violently. A heartbeat later Durotan blinked as pain shot through him and blood dripped down his face.
She had bounded the length of the cave and slashed his cheek with her nails.
"I am Draka, daughter of Kelkar, son of Rhakish. No one forbids me to follow my mate, not even Durotan himself! I come with you, I stand by you, I shall die if need be. Pagh!" She spat at him.
Draka isn't having ANY of Durotan's "I'm the man, I'll tell you how things are going to be." And the best part? Durotan laughs at his own foolishness moments later and scolds himself, realizing how arrogant and disrespectful his words were. He loves his wife, he values her advice and opinions, and views her as an equal, a warrior well deserving of respect.
Now put Thrall and Aggra in that situation. Like Draka, Aggra is a complete badass - do you REALLY think she'd stay docilely at home while Thrall was out risking his life? No! She'd react just as Draka did, smacking her stupid husband for daring to order her around. That's the Aggra we saw in The Shattering and frankly, it's the Aggra lots of people would love to see more of.
Can you imagine Thrall meeting Draka and telling her he told Aggra to stay at home with the baby? Because she's a woman, or a mother, or that he felt like she didn't belong because this was a "boy's trip"? Man. Time for mom to smack some sense into her dumbass little boy.
So what now?
Hopefully Blizzard is listening. Like the issue with Ji Firepaw's dialogue before Mists launched, people have concerns, and are not afraid to voice them! And like Ji Firepaw, we have seen that Blizzard is willing to listen to such concerns, and make adjustments.
I like to think Blizzard is TRYING to be better at acknowledging their vast female audience. Yrel sounds like an exciting new character, especially if she's going to be pivotal to WoD's main storyline. And I suspect most people were surprised that one of the four new character models shown at Blizzcon was the female gnome model. Obviously, 25% isn't as balanced as 50%...but it is definitely better that what we've seen before. (ie, the "female Pandaren" being male Pandarens with bows.)
Regardless, it's early, and there's plenty of time for Blizzard to take note of what people are asking for. Personally, I'd love to see Zaela, Garona, Aggra and Draka play major roles. Not just because they're women, but because they are all extremely INTERESTING characters! Like Zaela! I mentioned the great story possibilities of Thrall and Garrosh meeting the old clans, but what about her? Her relationship to the Dragonmaw clan would be SUPER fascinating to explore, as well as just being able to see how she went from "just joined the Horde" in Twilight Highlands to "absolutely dedicated/loyal lieutenant to Garrosh". We want to hear what happened in the meantime!
But most importantly, I cringe and hope that Blizzard doesn't ignore the issues being so heatedly discussed. Obviously, we don't know what all they have planned for WoD, and maybe these early concerns have all been neatly and adequately planned for already. Fingers crossed! But until we know, I think it's certainly fair for people to be both worried and skeptical from the content we have seen so far. It's early, yes, but that just means it's even more crucial to start talking NOW, to make sure Blizzard hears these complaints and - hopefully - has the time to address them.
As for the awful and dismissive "boy's trip" line...I hope it was just a case of unfortunate phrasing and not REALLY a case of "we flat-out don't care about Aggra because she's a GIRL so she's being left out." (To be fair, Metzen does tend to just shoot wildly from the hip and let his excitement get ahead of him, as we saw when he tried to talk about the time travel elements of WoD. It very well could have been intended differently and just came out terribly wrong.)
But speaking of NO GIRLS ALLOWED, here's one more quote from Blizzard's own Rise of the Horde.
Blackhand watched, his frown increasing. When the last of the Warsongs had drunk from the cup, he grunted. "I will drink!" he demanded, seizing the cup and swigging down a great gulp. Blackhand clutched his throat for a moment, but stayed completely silent while whatever dark magic was in the cup did its hellish duty. He had removed his armor, and the muscles rippling and growing beneath his taut green skin were clearly visible. Red eyes glowed when he finally looked up.
He motioned to his sons, and Maim and Rend shoved other orcs perfunctorily out of their way as they rushed forward. Durotan saw Griselda, Blackhand's only daughter, hesitate before she, too, stepped up to drink. Blackhand sneered at her.
"Not you," he snarled. Griselda drew back as if struck.
Don't be Blackhand, Blizz. He was pretty much a giant jerk and nobody liked him.
(PS, Griselda, there's someone else we could meet! The poor woman could use some new lore - her existing canonical story is...rather depressing.)