Why do people even want female Space Marines in Warhammer 40k? Warhammer 40k lore doesn’t lack good female representation nowadays. Waging war is genderblind, and the Emperor of Mankind doesn’t care who you are so long as you’ve got a bolter in hand and heretics in front of you to shoot.
When the Imperium of Man needs every able-bodied person it can get, there are some very badass women spread across the Warhammer 40k factions. Gaunt’s Ghosts, Eisenhorn, Ravenor, and the Ciaphas Cain books showcase plenty of interesting female characters. Good representation is “boring” representation, where the characteristic just happens to be part of a character, not a critical part of their narrative or identity.
To understand why people want female Space Marines, we need to look at their closest female equivalent. The Adepta Sororitas, or Sisters of Battle, are often provided as “gotcha” refutation of claims that female representation in Warhammer 40k is bad.
Ironically, the faction demonstrates how badly female reputation is still faring, at least in some regards. There are only six major Adepta Sororitas orders that are specifically geared for combat. While there are some differences between these orders, to all but the most detail oriented fans their cultures and dogma are practically homogenous.
There’s nothing wrong with female Black Templars: Black Templars are one of the most over-the-top Emperor-botherers in the setting, and they’re awesome.
But if a Space Marine player doesn’t like the Black Templars, they have the freedom to choose hundreds of other Chapters. There are nine major Loyalist Space Marine Chapters from the First Founding alone. All these chapters have very distinct identities outside of being steadfast servants of the Emperor of Mankind.
Few would ever confuse the rowdy Space Wolves with the brooding Raven Guard. In contrast, you’d be hard-pressed to find a casual fan who sees the difference between The Order of the Valorous Heart and The Order of Our Martyred Lady.
If you don’t like Sisters of Battle and want a different flavor of super-powered woman, your pickings are slim. The Sisters of Silence are a cool faction, but they are a specialized elite of soulless witch-hunters who accompany the Adeptus Custodes.
In the Ciaphas Cain books, Amberly Vail gives us a glimpse into how cool a “superwoman” would be without being a religious nut. As an Inquisitor, she gained access to power armor, which made her the “heavy” while Cain did his usual brave cowering from the rear.
But she’s an exception, not a rule. The Inquisition and female assassins from the Ordo Assassinorum are cool, but they don’t fill out whole armies.
The Xenos get their fair share of amped-up women such as Yvraine and Shadowsun of course, but they aren’t humans, and humans are the stars of 40k.
That’s the crux of why some fans are so adamant about introducing female Space Marines. Fans love the sheer diversity of cultures and characters offered by the Adeptus Astartes chapters. It wouldn’t be the most unreasonable thing in the world to have women at the superhuman tier who aren’t nuns, witch-hunters, or aliens.
It’s not like Games Workshop is allergic to diverse representations of demigod women in their other lines. Age of Sigmar’s equivalent to the Space Marines is the Stormcast Eternals. Instead of being mono-gendered like the Adepta Sororitas or Adeptus Astartes, the Stormcast Eternals are just human souls reforged by the God-King Sigmar.
While earlier editions of Age of Sigmar had only male Stormcast, female models were quickly introduced. This made for a very fun and diverse lineup of godlike warriors. Keeping the superpowers mono-gendered is just needlessly alienating.
With the reintroduction of two Primarchs and the rising number of female fans for Warhammer 40k, there’s no better time for changes than now. Yet adding female Space Marines now wouldn’t necessarily address the problem. This late into the game, it would not only be controversial but come off as pandering.
Adding new Sisters of Battle equally would be hard to square with the lore and the product range: the Sisters of Battle are homogenous by design, both as a result of the Ecclesiarchy’s standardized training regimens, and the fact GW isn’t making distinct model lines for different Orders the way it does for Marine Chapters.
It’s not the end of the world that female Space Marines aren’t around, of course. A woman doesn’t need to be superpowered in the setting to be important. But there’s untapped potential that would allow women to star in stories at the higher power tiers of the 40k universe, or give players who want superwomen in their armies alternatives to the stick-in-the-mud Sisters of Battle.
People don’t necessarily even want female Space Marines, they just want demigod women in Warhammer 40k who aren’t nuns, blanks, aliens or insectoid monsters. Giving them that thing is not easy. But if Games Workshop gives players more options, whether by broadening the lore of existing factions, or even introducing a new faction altogether, fans only stand to benefit.
Check out Wargamer’s interview with Annie Norman, whose company Bad Squiddo Miniatures specialises in making miniatures of female fighters throughout history, and bringing to light new stories of female warriors that people are less likely to know.