I’ve been a fan of Warhammer 40k for more than 20 years. For those of you that don’t know, put simply Warhammer 40,000 is a sci-fi table-top battle game. There’s more to it than that though. The detail that has gone into the game itself, the miniatures, and the story behind it all takes it beyond just a game, or a hobby. Most fans would probably consider it an obsession.
You only need to look at the time and effort that my fellow players put into converting their miniatures to represent their army’s general, and that they have put into painting their army, to see how passionate we all are. You can also see it in the Facebook groups and other discussion forums where the lore and history of the Warhammer 40k universe is heavily discussed.
One of the questions asked time and time again is “Why are there no female Space Marines?”. Again for those that don’t know, Space Marines are genetically and cybernetically enhanced super soldiers. The majority of Warhammer 40k fans have collected at least one loyal Imperial or renegade Chaos Space Marine army. According to to the official Warhammer 40k fluff, all Space Marines are male.
Still the question keeps popping up. Partly, I believe, because most of us began our obsession when we were teenage boys, recently fascinated by the female form but still feeling too awkward and dorky to actual talk to an actual girl. Maybe I’m just projecting. I still think when most of us ask that question, we’re imagining sexy slim busty space marines, lovingly modelled, painted and arranged on the battlefield.
I could point out that the Dark Eldar have plenty of semi-clothed busty maidens. They all want to cause you agonising pain, but so what? There’s also the Sisters of Battle. Power-armoured warrior nuns, and the closest thing the game has to a feminine Space Marine you’re going to get. For some reason it still doesn’t satisfy us. We still keep asking for female Space Marines.
Let’s have a look at the process of creating a Space Marine for a moment. The candidate, usually selected from the most vicious, brutal and strong warriors the world has to offer, is injected with the geneseed of the recruiting Chapter of Space Marines. The geneseed causes the candidate to grow new organs, many of which are modified from the organs the candidate already has. The bones become larger and denser, the ribs become overlapping plates to protect the new organs. The muscles also become larger and longer to accommodate the enlarged skeleton, and to provide the superhuman strength.
All traces of super-muscular body fat is burned away. The Space Marines new body is a solid wall of muscle. Even the face would look different since the skull will also have become larger and stronger, and the facial muscles too. What I’m saying here is that, even if a woman was selected to be a candidate and survived the process, there’s no way that you could tell that the candidate had once been a woman by the end of it.
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but she’d still be a woman where it counts”. Nope. Do you remember the geneseed I mentioned? The Space Marines produce it in an organ called the Progenoid glands. These glands replace the sexual organs. This is the reason why they have to be male traditionally. The process is designed to convert male organs into Space Marine organs.
However, Warhammer 40k is full of exceptions to the rule, and perhaps a ‘flaw’ in the geneseed allows it to work on women too, or even only on women. Even in that case, I would argue that the process of turning these women into Space Marines would make them just as asexual and genderless as any other Space Marine.
Unless, of course, the Space Marine in question has breast implants, like real-life female body-builders do. Or prays to the Chaos God Slaanesh to give her a curvy sexy body again.
If you have a valid counter-argument I’d love to hear it. After all, in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.