Art Feminism Rants

On 40k Sisters of Battle Sexism

I was inspired to write a post recently about the sexism in the look of the current range of Games Workshop figures. I wanted to analyse all the female sculpts in one post; but with just the Sisters of Battle I’ve already hit 2600 words, so I figured that I’d do the others in a second post.

This is an attempt to analyse the range of Games Workshop female figures, simple from images of the models and the small amount of text that accompanies them on the official website (UK version, correct as of December 2016). I’m going to use a fairly standard feminist history of art approach to the sculptures (with more swearing than is acceptable in academic papers), and I will treat them as if they are works of art like any other you might find in a gallery or museum.

Sisters of Battle Canoness

Back Sisters of Battle Canoness

It’s the tit armour. I’m sorry, but it’s hideous. I mean, lets just think a little about reality; if Space Marines are hyper muscular under all that armour (a pretty standard thought about Space Marines) then they most likely wouldn’t have massive tits that needed to be accommodated on the front of their armour with weird globe-like structures. The fitter you get, the more fat you generally lose, and breasts are just made of fat and not really much else.

I mean, I’ve got pretty large breasts (a DD cup last time I was measured) and I can fit just fine into nominally ‘standard’ plate breastplates made for men (it’s the waist and shoulders that’s actually difficult with the fitting). I know that some women are exceptions to the rule that the more athletic you are the less fatty tissue you have sat on your chest, but the reality is that this armour looks like she’s struggling to contain an extreme set of round breast implants. Why are some of the most elite soldiers in the universe so concerned about how they look that they have breast implants?

There’s an argument I’ve seen tossed around many times that space marines are actually totally androgynous because the gene seed fucks with their genitals, so like, we already have female space marines. But if that’s the case then why haven’t their secondary sex characteristics disappeared too? If male space marines have no testicles then female space marines would logically have no breasts. However that argument against Games Workshop making female space marines is a load of crap – because if all secondary sex characteristics had disappeared then they wouldn’t have beards either. Sorry Space Wolves. Your mighty Viking manes are just as bullshit as the breasts. Mind you, I almost always use the clean shaved heads on my Marines. Or the ones wearing helmets. Even for my Space Wolves.

Not to mention that the decoration on the boob armour looks far too much like those trashy fetish club outfits called ‘chastity bras’. You’ll have to Google that for yourself – I’m not posting it here. In fact, don’t bother Googleing it. It’s every bit the dull male power fantasy that you expect from a name like ‘chastity bra’.

Verdict: Sexist.

Battle Sister with Heavy Flamer

Battle Sister with Heavy Flamer

From this angle she looks pretty good. However, I’m pretty sure that her heavy flamer is hiding the same hideous tit-armour that the Canoness has. I like the cute gas mask she’s wearing though. I should put this model on my wishlist, then carve off her inevitable boob armour if you can see it.

Verdict: Inconclusive.

Exorcist Tank


I can’t seem to find a good picture of the sprue to see what armour she’s wearing. Can anyone help?

Verdict: Inconclusive.

Penitent Engine

Penitent Engine

Oh. Lets pause here.

This model, a bipedal walker, has an almost naked, extremely pert and busty woman on the front of it. I mean I say *almost* naked, she’s not naked in exactly the same way as Milla Jovovich is not naked in Resident Evil. ‘What do you mean she’s naked? She’s not naked! She’s wearing an A4 piece of paper that just about covers up her rude bits!’ Yeah. She’s naked. And so is the woman on the front of the Penitent Engine.

What does Games Workshop say about the Penitent Engine on their product page?

‘Driven by their pilot’s frantic need for forgiveness, they will charge towards the foe heedless of danger, knowing that only in death, theirs or the enemy’s, can forgiveness finally be earned.’


So basically what seem to be looking at here is an example of the ‘fallen woman’. The Victorians used the phrase ‘fallen woman’ to describe someone who has been a bit naughty with sex outside of the expected parameters of chaste life until marriage. So that would be hookers, mistresses, and any woman who enjoyed her sexuality more than was acceptable in Victorian times. The meaning has persisted and can still be found even now in some particularly insidious circles.

I’m kind of unsure where the women on the front of the Penitent Engines come from. Are they Sisters of Battle who have committed some kind of heinous crime? Or are they just women off the street, as it were, who have committed crimes and are expected to atone for their sins with implanted feelings of guilt and pain, and eventually death?

It doesn’t really matter that much – but ‘fallen women’ drawn from a group of battle nuns who have dedicated themselves to a life of religious vows is kind of unpleasant. The sexualised nudity of the figure in *that* context feeds straight into the Madonna/Whore complex which is pretty much The Worst.

I mean, I suppose at least she’s wearing a sheet that goes to her ankles.

I don’t really understand why women have to atone for their sins by being strapped naked to the front of a machine that walks into battle with no fucking clothes on when the men in the universe don’t have to. Is it because the only appropriate punishment for wicked women who have done wrong is sexual humiliation or something? I must have missed the memo. I’m pretty sure I remember from reading some of the books that blokes generally just go to prison.

Verdict: Sexist.

Seraphim Squad

Seraphim Squad

Mm, there’s that tit armour again. This time, with added corset!

Battle corsets. I’m not sure who ever thought that was a good idea. I like the visible pipework on the male Space Marine’s power armour – it looks cool! Instead the Sisters of Battle get corsets that look completely inflexible and probably renders them unable to fight particularly well.

I don’t know if you’ve worn a corset, but I have. In fact I wore corsets quite a bit in my early twenties and still do ocacsionally now. Corsets are very stiff – that’s the point of them. They are designed to force your body to conform to certain shapes that are aesthetically pleasing to other people (mostly men) so that you can then put fashionable dresses over the top of them. They were largely worn historically by women in the upper echelons of society who didn’t really have to do do much for a living. They’re more suitable for standing around in Royal courts than fighting Xenos on the front line.

To many people corsets are symbolic of the fact that women have historically largely been considered decorative objects rather than people. Women were meant to stand around and look pretty rather than actually do anything useful. So why the fuck have these objects of bodily oppression turned up on an amazing fighting force of kickass women in the future? If I was designing the miniatures I certainly wouldn’t use this kind of symbolism.

Talking about symbolism – lets talk about the name for a moment. Seraphims. Do you know what a seraph is? It’s an angelic being associated with high levels of purity (Isaiah 6:2-6). Unless you use the other meaning of it which basically means serpents instead (Numbers 21:6–8,Deuteronomy 8:15, Isaiah14:29, Isaiah 30:6). Oh yes. Angelic, pure beings vs serpents. Madonna/Whore complex again anyone? Poor Eve, she’s always being blamed for man’s sins. It’s not a name I would have picked for my cool warrior jetpack women.

Verdict: Sexist.

Retributor Squad


Corsets and tit armour.

Verdict: Sexist.

Battle Sisters Squad


More corsets and tit armour.


Verdict: Sexist.

Repentia Squad


I can’t help noticing that these scantily clad women have what look like whip marks all over them. I thought I noticed it on the Penitance Engine woman, but I let it slide there because I thought maybe they’re battle scars. I wonder if there’s an explanation in the sales patter on the Games Workshop website…

‘they are led to war by a Mistress of Repentance – a harsh warrior who drives her charges onwards with a pair of neural whips.’

Right. Of course. So here we have scantily clad, gimp mask wearing, women who are forced into combat by a dominant woman with a whip. Basically, it’s a lesbian sex slave party. I mean, the tit armour and corsets on the other minis wasn’t great, but this model type basically just proves that in fact this is *not* an army designed to appease women, it’s absolutely nothing more than a wank fantasy for a submissive man.

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-13-04-26Do you think these outfits are where they got inspiration for Milla Jovovich’s other outfit in Resident Evil? I suppose at least the red dress is A3 in size and she’s wearing pants under it.

Oh and the armour! Why the fuck are their feet and nipples more armoured than anywhere containing vital organs? I suppose I should be grateful for the fact that two of them appear to be wearing armoured thigh high boots which will at least offer some protection against leg wounds when fighting Xenos. Even Space Marine Scouts have more armour than these poor chicks (who will fucking freeze their tits off as soon as they go anywhere below twenty degrees Celsius). Why don’t they even get shoulder pads? Is it because their delicate lady-shoulders can’t take the weight of them?

Fucks sake.

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-13-22-27I also can’t help noticing that the women that make up this squad are really quite young and beautiful compared to the gnarled, ugly faces of the rest of the Sisters of Battle. I always thought that it was just the house style of Games Workshop to make basically everyone in the entire universe really fucking ugly. Turns out that’s not actually the case – Games Workshop will make an exception if you’re a lesbian sex slave who likes a bit of whipping. Apparently their sculptors are capable of sculpting beautiful women – but only if they’re to be used for some sad blokes to bash one out to. I’m also making the assumption here that the designers just thought the idea of an old, ugly woman in these sexy outfits would be just too horrendous to think about. Women who grow old or who are scarred should not get their tits out it seems…

Verdict: Sexist.

Dominion Squad


More tit armour and corsets. It doesn’t get any better if I say it the opposite way round.

Verdict: Sexist.

Sororitas Command Squad

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-13-44-08Tit armour, corsets, and a blow job face.

No, I don’t fucking know either. At least the woman with the blow job face is wearing robes without tit armour.

Verdict: Sexist.



Again, hard to find pictures of the figure.

Verdict: Inconclusive.

Battle Sister Squad Upgrade


I love the way that their breasts seem to sit on the top of the gun as if it’s a shelf.

No wait, I really don’t. Guns should never be used to hold tits up, a bra is a far more appropriate garment. Probably a sports bra if you’re a kickass soldier of the Imperium.

Verdict: Sexist.

Canoness Veridyan


I understand that this is a figure based on artwork by John Blanche that was on the cover of the original Sisters of Battle codex. No, it doesn’t really make it any better. Games Workshop themselves mentioned it in a post recently on their blog.

Lets make it clear that this is an new model that has been released in December 2016. Quite frankly I’m surprised that Games Workshop would bring out such an appallingly sexist model with such celebration.

I mean, she’s wearing high heels. HIGH HEELS. I know that fantasy wargaming isn’t based on the real world, but I’d really like the design team, the marketing team, and the top tier of management at Games Workshop to wear thigh high boots for a day with at least a six inch stiletto heel and see just how goddamn impractical these things really are.

Ridiculous, long, black, stiletto boots really are the preserve of fantasy dominatrixes (with few exceptions). The whole point of them in that particular fantasy setting is that they are difficult to walk around and do things in, meaning that the man (who worships the woman, of course) has to do things for her while she is pretty much helpless. She is reduced to mere object. Decoration. Diminished to living a languorous lifestyle. SO WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY DOING ON A MILITARY HERO? If high heeled thigh boots are so effective for combat why aren’t the Ultramarines wearing them? Actually, I’d quite like to see an Ultramarine soldier wearing a high heeled thigh boot – but lets not examine that thought too closely.

Other than that – lets see. Skulls for breasts? That’s a bit… peculiar. I’m sure that can be traced back to Freud again. In fact I don’t even know what to make of it really, I feel like it deserves a whole post just to itself.

And that corset. We’ve already established that corsets are just wank on fighters. But this one appears to have a metal ring sitting just above her pubic area. What’s the significance there? My mind goes straight to some kind of chastity signifier. A woman who can be controlled. That’s why you put rings into bulls noses, isn’t it? Either that or it’s reminiscent of a door knocker… something something knock for entry? Not sure which one is worse really.

At least she has shoulder armour. And a cool sword.

And I really like her little surcote with the fleur de lis on it and the nice design around the split sleeve. I think I need that surcote for my LARP character.

Verdict: Extremely Fucking Sexist.

Battle Sister with Multi-Melta


I thought this model was awesome, then I noticed the tit armour poking out behind her gun.

Verdict: Sexist.

Battle Sister with Heavy Bolter



Verdict: Sexist.

Battle Sister with Simulacrum Imperialis


Alright, I’ll level with you. I think this one is kind of cool. Her hands and robes are in the way (mostly) of her tit armour so you can’t really see it. And it doesn’t seem to have weird chastity or skull decoration. I’d buy this model. She also has a really cool surcote. I mean it’s still sexist really, but it’s literally the least sexist mini so far.

Verdict: Inconclusive.

Sisters of Battle Superior with Bolter


Cute surcote, but tit armour and corsets. Again.

Verdict: Sexist.

Battle Sister with Meltagun 2


This one is getting an ‘inconclusive’ rating just because I think if the gun wasn’t so big then they would have made the tit armour mode visible.

Verdict: Inconclusive.

Battle Sister with Flamer 2


Tit armour.

Verdict: Sexist.

Battle Sister with Storm Bolter 2


For some reason Games Workshop have photographed this one at a different angle to just about every other model. But this allows us to see exactly how much of a tit shelf they are using their weapons as. URGH.

Verdict: Sexist.


Uriah Jacobus, Protector of the Faith


What a surprise that the only male figure in the Sisters of Battle collection (with the exception of the alternative withered figure for the front of the Penitence Engine) is a leader who the Sisters of Battle follow faithfully into war. Fuck off.

Fuck. Off.

Verdict: Sexist.

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