A reflection on the Female Space Marines of the 41st Millennium and on the political philosophy of Warhammer 40.000. Because female Space Marines can exist in the lore of Warhammer? And why shouldn't we talk about inclusion?

In the gloomy darkness of the distant future there is no canon that holds up. Trillions of Google searches and billions of Astra Militarum infantrymen have lost their lives in the attempt to EXPLAIN ALL THE LORE of a setting born in 1987 and with a very "smarmellato" system of "canon".

So, I say it right away: this article does NOT explain the lore of Warhammer 40.000 in its abnormal complexity. I will try, however, to give some guidelines to those who read this article without ever having browsed one of the wikia dedicated to the Games Workshop product.


What is this article about?

Of the Female Space Marine. The bio-modified female soldiers covered in power armor who would defend the Imperium of Humanity, if they existed. At the center of a debate in the international community of one of the most important existing wargames.

The Space Marines are the fighting elite of the Imperium, humans empowered with the Emperor's genetic seed, a symbol of marketing and lore for the universe of Warhammer 40.000. Within the canonical representation, these soldiers are uniquely men.

For some time now, however, there has been talk of the existence of their female version: LE Space Marines. Between claims of "correctness in the canon", "impossibility of transplanting the genetic seed of the Emperor into a female biology", terribly sexist claims, parts of communities modifying the miniatures of entire Space Marine armies with female heads, claims of inclusiveness, and flame on the lore, the issue of the Female Space Marines seems to be the clashing point of various political positions within the community of Warhammer 40.000.

To analyze this situation, it is necessary to embark on a ship of the void, face a dangerous Warp journey, and arrive on dark planets, called Community and Canon. I offer myself as a Navigator for this endeavor, guiding you through the perils of the 41st and 2nd Millennium.
But first, a preamble.

Representation of a "Female Space Marine", a Space Wolves soldier, made by David Sondered
Representation of a "Female Space Marine", a Space Wolves soldier, made by David Sondered

A dive into the Warp: why talk about Warhammer 40.000 how about a political and philosophical product?

With its gloomy and dark setting, Warhammer 40.000 it inserts many political reflections through themes bordering on the ironic, starting from the construction of the concept of Empire Humanity.

Brief description of the Imperium

The dystopia is extreme in the Imperium, a xenophobic, obscurantist, militarist, religious extremist and colonialist galactic domination. On millions of worlds, thousands die every hour in factories dedicated to the continuous production of a war-based galactic system. As many die on the battlefields of the dark future (the average life span of an Imperial Guard is fifteen minutes). Anyone with mutations is an abomination to be exterminated, prey to the Inquisition.

The Warp, a parallel dimension without space or time, insinuates itself into the material world, manifesting itself through the demonic possession of people with extraordinary powers, the Psykers. The latter are exploited by the Imperium for all kinds of tasks, not only war but primarily of navigation. In fact, the Psykers are the only ones able to telepathically communicate through the Warp, sending messages to every corner of the galaxy. Therefore, many of them are coercively enlisted in the Astronomican, a guiding beacon powered by the Emperor himself, which allows safe and lightning-fast travel in all sectors.

This is the Imperium of Humanity, founded by theEmperor to fulfill the "destiny of humanity itself": to dominate the galaxy. The Emperor, "almost alive and almost dead", buried from his Golden Throne, after having suffered a terrible revolt ten millennia ago. As a rationalist atheist known for creating a transhuman army of super soldiers, the Space Marines, the Emperor is now revered as a God.Ecclesiarchy, a state church, converts and pontificates on every world, looking for signs of heresy: heresies such as the denial of His Divinity are punished with death. The ancient xenon species are considered enemies to be exterminated by any means, for the maintenance of human purity.

A galaxy without heroes

Now, with this brief summary excursus, it is easy to understand how mixed and varied political theories are present in this setting, from Feuerbach to Marx. Yet, as we will see shortly, there are those who manage to exalt the Imperium as if it were a possible utopia, despite the dry and clear judgments on the toxicity of a similar political system expressed by the authors who wrote them. These judgments are present in the same setting manuals, supplements, base manuals, and so on.

What strikes, and has always impressed, the audience of Warhammer 40.000 it is the presence of other factions, equally dystopian, crazy, authoritarian, terrifying. From the isolationist Aeldari, to the extremist BDSM Drukhari, from the Orks capable of destroying only, to the devoted Chaos to the "pernicious powers" of the Warp, there are no "good ones", not even "a little good". We are not talking about anti-heroes, but about a galaxy that literally falls apart.


The hero who is manipulated into believing he is a hero

Certainly it could be said that this setting has a problem with Darkness induced audience apathy, of the tendency to escapism in the absence of characters to identify with. But it is precisely in the reflection on the dynamics of power and exploitation that the entire narrative of Warhammer 40.000, especially in the RPGs dedicated to it and in the numerous novels. Characters and protagonists are deceived, used, manipulated by multiple powers and factions in constant struggle with each other. They are puppets in the hands of a much larger system, a post-modern trope that leads back to the figures of the "losers", and certainly not to those of the "heroes", although cloaked in heroicism. We talk about it better Thu.

Indeed, the hero of Warhammer 40.000 it's just a facade. He believes he is, he is led to believe it. And the audience, along with the hero, believe that he or she is, and then continue reading the novel by Black Library or to play the adventure of Wrath & Glory, and discover that it is all false. It is therefore the trope of the anti-hero in his almost nihilistic decadence.

Deconstruction and parody of fantasy tropes

A setting like this even offers deconstructed models of the concept of fantasy race. In fact, for example, the Orks are not "savage destroyers because they are by nature", where the term nature is superimposed on a colonialist vision of culture. Orks, on the other hand, are a kind of anthropomorphic mushroom created to fight in intergalactic battles: they are not, like Jessica Rabbit, “designed like this”, but have been “grown like this”.

All this is combined a constant halo of macabre irony, between puns and puns, and deliberately absurd or parody lore. Also the Orks of the 41st Millennium build all kinds of technology with scrap, and by a Gestalt principle, they work. In fact, the technology of the Orks exists because they believe it, and the "rough means" (meaning vehicles painted red) go faster for the same reason. The pernicious powers, the Gods of Chaos who inhabit the Warp, exist as gods because someone in the material world believes they are. Obviously, these gestaltic reflections also lead to a total revision of the concept of God Emperor: is the Emperor, the greatest Psyker ever, really a God or is he such because a gigantic human Imperium of believers allows him to be?

Even in its older generation fantasy version, collectively connoted as "less political", political themes are not lacking: to learn more, see this article on We are the mutants.

Representation of an Orko fighting a Space Marine, by MelvinChanArt
Representation of an Ork fighting a Space Marine, by MelvinChanArt

The toxicity of part of the community of Warhammer 40.000

In the board game environment we often talk about the toxicity of the Warhammer 40.000, and in many cases these rumors correspond to reality. Just take a look at the old dedicated forums or dig a bit into Reddit to notice.

It is also true that the community has changed a lot in recent years, even influencing dedicated pages of 1d4chan (not exactly the most progressive virtual place). Sites like Bell of Lost Souls, Goonhammer and Spikey Bits have totally changed their editorial line, purging a vast amount of neckbeard nefariousness.

The case of Arch Warhammer

Even the greatest bastion of toxicity, Arch Warhammer, has recently fallen. Arch Warhammer is a youtuber known for his positions close to the alt-right, for his videos against Black Lives Matter and against global feminist movements, and also known for constantly incensing the "political line" of the Imperium (sic) . It is not too different from other toxic and reactionary realities already covered on this site, like One Angry Gamer. The Arch Warhammer channel began to collapse when the house of cards it was based on was wiped out by "a very serious accusation": the notorious "neckbeard" has never played or taken part in the hobby. Arch Warhammer confirmed this assumption and, precisely because of the toxicity of the community built by himself, he found himself with a sudden drop in subscribers.

Subsequently, the launch trailer for indomitus, that is the evolution of the setting based on the new edition of Warhammer 40.000. This trailer, in computer graphics, showed a extensive female representation, between the protagonists of an Adepta Sororitas, nuns who make up the army of the Ecclesiarchy, and soldiers of the Imperial Guard.

Thus, the Arch Warhammer videos began to attack the games Workshop manufacturer directly. Following the Games Workshop inclusiveness statement, "Warhammer is for everyone", Arch Warhammer launched a boycott and mail bombing campaign via non-electronic mail. The campaign began less than a year ago. In the last year, Games Workshop has made 115% more turnover (certainly also “helped” by the global lockdown).


Community reaction to Arch Warhammer videos: a noticeable change

It is therefore very clear that the community has changed, at least for the better. And it's equally clear that gatekeeping doesn't sell, and progressivism does.

Of course, then, the concept of “Warhammer is for everyone” doesn't hold up very much when you're selling some very expensive, finely sculpted pieces of plastic. Warhammer It is certainly NOT an anti-class hobby.

But what struck me most was the material reaction of the community itself to the toxicity of a character like Arch Warhammer.
Indeed, his Reddit channel has been hacked: r / ArchWarhammer has started posting threads on social change, with the claim "Welcome to the Sigmarxist Sector" (a pun with Sigmar, the celestial god of Warhammer Fantasy and Age of Sigmar) . Now, the Arch Warhammer channel introduces itself so.

But why is the history of the community and Arch Warhammer so important to our analysis? For two reasons.

The first concerns the debate on Female Space Marines. Arch Warhammer's positions on the issue have, of course, always been contrary. They are an avant-garde of sexist motivations disguised as lore, closely followed by a part of the community that has joined its useless and minority mail bombing campaign. And the second is connected to the first: the canon. Arch Warhammer and his community of reference claim the canon of Warhammer 40.000 as absolute and "not rewritable for mere reasons of inclusiveness".

But is it really so?

The Games Workshop statement
The Games Workshop statement

The "canon" that is never "canon"

Let's start this talk with two quotes (our emphasis):

With Warhammer e Warhammer 40.000, the notion of canon is erroneous. There are certainly established facts - the current emperor [of Warhammer Fantasy Battle] is Karl-Franz, the Blood Angels wear red armor, Commissioner Yarrick defended the Hive of Hades during the Second Armageddon War. However, to suggest that everything else is not canon is a disservice to the players and authors who participate in this world. To suggest that the Black Library novels are somehow of less relevance to the background is to imply that every player who has created a unique Chapter of their Space Marines or invented their own Election of Electors is somehow wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Warhammer e Warhammer 40.000 they exist as tens of thousands of realities overlapping in the imaginations of game developers, writers, readers and gamers. None of these interpretations are wrong.

Gav Thorpe, Lead Designer Games Workshop (Source)

In the possibility of an endless interpretation lies potential freedom. What matters is to respect the source material, contribute to it and stick to the theme. […] Because no matter who writes the details, 40K has unalterable themes, engraved in the most solid stone. They are the keystone. They are what matters most.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden, co-author of the Horus Heresy series (Source)

Themes and canon in Warhammer 40.000

In Games Workshop settings the themes prevail over the canon.
In fact, the canon does not actually exist, is in continuous remodeling by every authorship involved and by the same people who participate by playing the largest wargame community in the world. Is it a clever way not to go crazy following the complex plots that are intertwined through many (perhaps too many) different editorial lines? Certainly. It is clear that Games Workshop has no plans to end up like the canon of Star Wars.

But what does this notion of canon entail? Well, it entails a wide freedom of customization of their own adventures and narratives, the generation of sub-communities, which will inevitably collide to carry on their own vision and their own interpretation of the non-canon.

A canon made more of irony than order

Personally, your Navigator finds this canon model to say the least confusingespecially when you find yourself working with affiliate products from the Games Workshop universes. But on the other hand the themes and themes, the “keystones” of the concepts expressed by GW in its products always remain clear, pillars of a lore system based on well-defined narrative tropes, and obviously macabre irony. Just the irony will save us, "a laugh will bury you" someone said, and this is one of the key themes of the Games Workshop settings: theself-irony, never taking yourself too seriously.

In a universe like that of Warhammer 40.000, where green humanoid mushrooms make things work because they believe in it and displays of strong emotions can literally conjure a demon inside you because you believed too much, is a canon necessary? Is coherence, a likelihood with reality necessary to make everything playable?

That said, let's talk in more detail about the Space Marines and Female Space Marines.

A cosplayer who plays a Female Space Marine in Soviet sauce (source unknown)
A cosplayer who plays a Female Space Marine in Soviet sauce (source unknown)

The Space Marines

The Space Marines are a project that the Emperor has been carrying out for millennia. Descendants of his own Non-biological "children", the so-called Primarchs, the Space Marines make up a physically and psychologically enhanced warrior elite. Before them, we talk about a few millennia ago, came the Thunder Warriors, the first version of the Space Marines, built by the Emperor with a "planned deterioration", conceived as tools.

Can we therefore speak of the Space Marines as the "sons of the Emperor"? Or rather, grandchildren?

Not exactly. They remain instruments. The ultimate goal of the Non-Alive God is to lead Humanity (with a capital U) to rule over the galaxy, not the Transhumanity of the Space Marines. Once again we clash with the trope of the Puppet Hero, and who better than the proud, mighty, warrior-brands, can tell this post-modern tragedy?

The first Female Space Marines to ever appear in an unofficial publication: the Sisters
The first Female Space Marines to ever appear in an unofficial publication: the Sisters

The Female Space Marines

One of the reasons for Female Space Marine's absence is the incompatibility of the Emperor's genetic seed with female biologies. In more than one Games Workshop product, and not, this "fact" is narrated, but several times the lore of Warhammer 40.000 has been upset by twists and turns in subsequent and previous products, in total contradiction.
In the lore, always a-canonical, of Warhammer 40.000 Female Space Marines appear and disappear multiple times. So let's see their extras.

The first appearances or mentions of Female Space Marine

In one of the books in the series Horus Heresy, set when the Emperor was still "alive", Malcador The Sigillite, a character with scientific knowledge almost equal to that of the Emperor himself and involved in the project of the creation of the Primarichi, suggests that at least a couple of Primarchs should be female. The Emperor categorically rejects this proposal, saying that it simply "cannot be done". Additionally, Fabius Bile, a traitorous and devoted Space Marine Apothecary to Chaos, has repeatedly cloned himself and is said to have created female clones, in fact, of the Space Marines, albeit corrupted by Chaos. In an unofficial Games Designer Workshop publication, however, a All-female Space Marine chapter, quite distinct from the Adepta Sororitas. They are visible in the image above.

But what moved the international community the most was the presence of miniatures depicting the Female Space Marines, miniatures of the very first Citadel lines, as seen from the image below. In fact, in White Dwarf 99 two miniatures appear, two “Female Warriors”, Gabs and Jayne, wearing the power armor typical of the Space Marines of the time. These two miniatures are presented as part of a group of Adventurers, simple warriors in power armor, yet they look like Female Space Marines, complete with a distinctive Chapter symbol painted on the left shoulder.


Why weren't there Female Space Marines?

Alan Merrett, who was working at GW at the time, clearly explains in this post how the existence and non-existence of Female Space Marines has nothing to do with lore, much less with non-canon. In fact, at the time (we are in the middle of the 80s) retailers complained that female characters sold less, and it was useless, from their point of view, to produce them. Those who bought Citadel miniatures were mainly male audiences, who did not seek representation in female characters, and the composition of the wargame community was 98% male, as evidenced by Jon Peterson in his historiographical article "The First Female Gamer". This article has been translated into translated in Outside the Dungeon: Gender, Race, and Class in Western RPG, of Asterisco Edizioni, of which we have spoken Thu.

In short, the lore has nothing to do with it. The fee has nothing to do with it. The absence of the Female Space Marines is an absence "called" by those who resold and played at the time.

Instead, with the current production methods, with plastic miniatures with easily replaceable heads, with the abandonment of the "single piece" in metal, and, above all, with the exploding demand, the Female Space Marines could soon reveal themselves on the market , produced by Games Workshop. Meanwhile, there are thousands of "conversions", that is customization of pre-existing thumbnails with the simple replacement of a head. The power armor of a member of the Space Marines hides any sexable or gendered attributes, the simple replacement of a tiny part like the head already contributes to the presence on numerous "battlefields" of the Female Space Marines.

But can we talk about inclusiveness?

Alan Merrett's explanation for the absence of Female Space Marine miniatures
Alan Merrett's explanation for the absence of Female Space Marine miniatures

The patriarchy of the Imperium: when inclusiveness is right-wing

I pass here to acompletely personal analysis, yet another interpretation of the non-canon, which I think is however in line with the key themes of Warhammer 40.000.

The problems of introducing Female Space Marines into the lore

I see in the Emperor a father-master, a strongly patriarchal figure obsessed with the personalistic guidance of Humanity towards a destiny of greatness. The Emperor is not interested in having "daughters", since for him the Space Marines are to serve only as a tool. Space Marines beyond the genre, emotionless, disinterested and detached, have a specific purpose: the defense of the Human Being through their being Inhuman and Transhuman.

Instead, the current conformation of the Imperium sees the Ecclesiarchy, state religion and religious institution, as extremely important. The Ecclesiarchy was forbidden by imperial decree to have "men at arms", or "garrisons of men in arms". Using the pun, the Ecclesiarchy founded theAdepta Sororitas, a church army of only warrior nuns, zealous religious extremists who are very faithful to the concept of Emperor-God.

In this sense, therefore, the presence of Female Space Marine could bring many problems. Indeed, the chosen daughters of the Adepta Sororitas may not see positively these other Space Marine daughters (missing, hidden, hidden, lost?), And the same Ecclesiarchy could see itself deprived of its specificity.


The problems of introducing the Female Space Marines into a right-wing dystopia

This is associated with a reflection on the concept of inclusiveness placed in a setting like that of Warhammer 40.000. Why be included in a terrifying dystopia like the Imperium?

One of the positions in favor of the “canonical” introduction of the most common Female Space Marines on the net is precisely the claim of inclusiveness: "Hey, we want to see the inclusion with the introduction of Female Space Marines into a dystopia, we want to identify ourselves with the Space Marines!"

In this sense, I believe that the problem lies precisely in one term: to identify ourselves. Do we really want to identify with bio-enhanced female soldiers, tools in the hands of a self-proclaimed god genocide who brings military colonialism to every corner of the galaxy?

When "inclusion" clashes with "disidentification"

In fact, one of the themes of Warhammer 40.000 it's just the disidentification, which is not escapism, as each faction is too bleak, dark and "evil" to truly identify. The Trope of the Puppet Hero plays on this disidentification, as mentioned above.

The alt-right claims the Imperium as a real solution to the "problems" of our society. Therefore, responding with a declaration of inclusion in the Imperium seems at least a suicidal choice. The warrior nuns, the Adepta Sororitas, are the only entirely female faction for reasons of lore, a faction in which you must NOT identify yourself: they are literally a sect of extremist religious fanatics, ready to eliminate any person who brings claims of heresy, ready to exterminate every single non-human creature.

So why claim inclusion through identification with power structures?

If we were in the academic field, this very common position on the net would be associated with femonationalism, well described by Sara Farris: the use by far-right parties of the demand for gender equality to carry out Islamophobic and racist policies. Okay, let's replace "extreme right parties" with "Imperium", and "Islamophobes and racists" with "religious extremists and xenophobes". You get the perfect description of the “egalitarian” introduction of the Female Space Marines for inclusiveness reasons.

Female Space Marines should exist for the simple reason of "why not?", Perhaps motivated by a series of intrigues by Fabius Bile (giving a negative meaning to their existence), as a secret project of the Emperor (two Primarchs are not yet been "found" after the machinations of Chaos scattered them across the Galaxy).

Fanart of a Female Space Marine, from the Daughters of Persephone chapter, created by Michael Fitzhywel
Fanart of a Female Space Marine, from the Daughters of Persephone chapter, created by Michael Fitzhywel

The other inclusiveness in Warhammer 40.000

Claim the inclusion of female miniatures and characters in other contexts in the world of Warhammer 40.000 it's a whole other story.
Indeed, as the well-known Imperial Commissioner of the Astra Militarum, Severina Raine, exists, why shouldn't there be simple female soldiers represented through miniatures? In every passage of lore, this time never in contradiction, it is always specified that the war machine enlists from every gender and every social class "for the glory of the Imperium".

Can we really talk about inclusivity? I would not say. It is simple likelihood. If female soldiers exist in the 2nd Millennium, thinking that they do not exist in the 41st Millennium makes little sense at least. Having female role models in the vast plethora of models of the Imperial Guard is necessary in order not to break the suspension of disbelief.

Conclusions on Female Space Marines in Warhammer 40.000

Yes, Female Space Marines should and could exist.
But let's not talk about inclusiveness: as a transfeminist person I don't want to be “included” in a dystopian and totalitarian context, however imaginary and critical cast of the real world. No thanks.
We keep the criticism of the setting of Warhammer 40.000, as it was meant to be: to make us smile while we think about the extreme tropes it proposes, not to identify ourselves with something deliberately "designed like this".

The cover image represents the cosplayer Lucky Chanzlyn as a Space Wolves Female Space Marine (Source)