(Blood) Elves - Why the hatred?
Milady consorting with the enemy and showing a terrible fashion sense.
I'm 100% sure that if you have played WoW past level 15, when the world is finally open to you via LFG, and jerks start knocking at your door, that you have heard at some point that "elves are gay". Even the Alliance bull-shouldered Night Elves are subject to this "smear", when they seemingly fit the rigid definition of masculinity. I ought to provide such a definition, to clarify my argument. This is taken from a master's thesis in Spanish1 and translated and summed up the best I could:
The masculine ideal follows four basic mottos:
1- He should not be effeminate.The true man lacks any kind of femininity. It is required of him that he renounces to a part of himself, forcing him to repress his capacity to express affection and his most sensitive side. Tenderness and sensitivity are usually female-attributed virtues. Man, above all, shall show that he is neither woman nor homosexual, which would denote his lack of manhood.
2- He must be an important person, in possession of status.Manhood is measured by reaped successes, by harvested power. Also by the admiration that causes in others. Man's goal is to achieve superiority with regard to the others, to possess a higher status than those in his environment. To be important, man needs to see his work recognized and triumph economically.
3- He ought to be strong.
Man has the obligation of being completely independent, powerful, autonomous and implacable, so as to not show any sign of weakness. Phrases such as "men don't cry" and "man up" signal the duty of a man to show resistance and endurance. Even against their own strength, men ought to keep firm.
4- He ought to exert his authority
Man is trained to be the strongest, and allowed to make use of force if necessary. Man is culturally violent in the necessity to show his fragile identity. To avoid any doubt regarding his masculinity, a man has to publicly show that he can be reckless, abuse of power, humiliate the weak and make use of his strength. This grants him authority. This man, much like Marlboro's cowboy or Stallone's Rambo, is the toughest among the tough. He seems to be better equipped to face death than marriage and childrearing. This, according to Badinter, makes him an affection-mutilate. Such mutilation has its origin in his first years of life, when he is taught to abdicate his feminine side, inherited from his mother, and submit to the hard work that is becoming a great man.
I suppose that it is important to make plain that this description accounts for the gender stereotypes of masculinity, not for the biological sex nor any particular man, not even Rambo. Masculinity and femininity, this is never stressed enough, are social labels traditionally pinned to one sex or the other, and they don't appear unadulterated but intermingled with each other. In fact, you can consult your degree of each of these labels with the BSRI test.
The point which interests me the most is the first one: "He should not be effeminate". I reflected upon what made Elves in fantastic literature effeminate, and could not find any examples of passivity, subservience, or even sensitivity. It would depend on the source you claim, but in general none of these traits are espoused by the Elvenkind. In Tolkien, for instance, we find quite the contrary: the Elves, who were there before the Men, were a quarrelsome kind who engaged in war with the Enemy and with each other, and showed indisputable bravery and endurance and all those masculine characteristics. It might have harmed their reputation Peter Jackson's portrayal of elven battle prowess, which was ridiculously over-the-top for Legolas. What is most curious is the fact that Legolas' ideal beauty and grace was not translated into the big screen. But Arwen's was.
The only remaining point that accounts for their 'gayness' is Beauty. Not mundane beauty that derives from a fine build, a display of athletic strength inherited from Greek sculpture. Intangible, aloof beauty such as Arwen and Galadriel's. 'Feminine' beauty.
It was apparently of a shape similar to that of an earthly being and was completely covered by a transparent, glassy envelope or suit, as supple as gauze. Through it a pair of enormous and brilliant eyes looked at him curiously. Its skin, where visible, was the loveliest, luminous blue that Dirk had ever seen, its features human in outline, yet strangely alien, as though the spirit behind them were of another essence and tempered in unknown fires. Although standing a foot or so taller than his own goodly height, it seemed almost to float with an effect of airy grace instantly noticeable and arresting as though it was impervious to the influences of gravity. (Vaughan 1932: 367).
This is a fragment of a science-fiction short story called "The Woman from Space". The title already gives away that the being which was initially neuter is a woman. Notice the adjectives used to describe it. They are reminiscent of the descriptive pattern of thousands of similar stories about alien women, and of earth women of an aloof and distant quality, physically and psychologically veiled. But this could very well be the description of an elf.
The undeniable beauty of the being from space seemed more natural now that he knew it to be feminine. (Vaughan 1932: 369).
Beauty, or at least this kind of distant, mystical beauty, is more natural in women. Have you noticed that none of the aforementioned points on masculinity mentioned beauty, or even physical attractiveness? It is derived from the strength factor, and not valued as a means to attain masculinity, although it is certainly esteemed in the social spheres. You can find proof of this duality in the language itself - We are taught that 'beautiful' is more appropriate for women than for men; 'pretty' is reserved for women; and 'handsome' is exclusive for men. Notice the etymology of the word? It is related to physical aptitude, not to attractiveness.
Thus, beauty is a trait which is conventionally attributed to the female, due to a multiplicity of factors. One of them is the hegemony of the masculine point of view in literature. Men, who held the pen exclusively for centuries, fixed their view in the other sex, and depicted it as an unreachable mystical figure, a natural phenomenon to dissect, the object scrutinized. What happens when this exclusive beauty is appropriated by men (or elves)? They become partly feminine and, as we have seen, to be rejected by the masculine, which ought to be clean from such influences. People who identify wholly (perhaps subconsciously) with the masculine ideal, and which believe in biological sex to be equated to gender, are those who subscribe this view.
Male Blood Elves, even though they conform to most aspects of masculinity, are deemed 'gay' because of the alien beauty of the feminine, often paired with a certain haughtiness which may render them insufferable. But I like them, nonetheless. They make fine bastards in roleplay.
And they needn't be sexualized to be appealing.
1 Rodrígues González, Clarissa. La recreación del andrógino y sus representaciones en el arte y los mass media: un estudio etnográfico sobre roles de género. MA Thesis. Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, 2010.