In just the last few weeks, I have seen four articles talking about women in Magic. Despite the lambasting of Wizards and other fellow writers about their views of women in Magic, I was impressed that the community considers this an issue worth discussing so publicly, and with nothing but respect for the female Magic player.
Yes, you heard me. Nothing but respect for the female player.
Having just a little bit of, you know, particular interest in this topic, I made sure to send a quick e-mail to Charles Mosseau, Ron Vitale, and Geordie Tait just to let them know that the female population out there was listening. You know what? I was distressed to find out some of the negative feedback they received from their articles, mostly from men. I can understand how some people might take offense to Geordie’s mildly inflammatory style. Or Charles’ slightly hypocritical complaints about Wizards making a big deal about women, through three whole articles. That would indicate that there are some men out there who really feel strongly about sticking up for the women in the community.
Thank you, gentlemen, at least for the intention.
But what really distresses me, though, is that the most important points of each article were missed.
So I’m going to spend this article reiterating what those points are and why you should at least give them some thoughtful consideration.
In”Adventures of Alpha Lackey #7 -“U.S. Nationals Commentary, and, Who Passes Foil Mutilate?”, Charles is decidedly frustrated at Wizards for making such a big deal about women Magic players. He states in a single eloquent sentence why this isn’t necessarily in the game’s best interest:
“To treat a woman like Laura Mills, or any of the other women who play top flight Magic, as some kind of circus sideshow or, even worse, a selling point (‘NEW! Magic: the Gathering! Now With 66% More Women!’) would be to insult and cheapen them, and yet Wizards has no problem doing just that.”
Now, before you consider this a whole-hearted condemnation of Wizard’s coverage tactics, I have a point to add: Giving attention to women isn’t always negative.
We all need role models – and when a woman does well, it is important to let the other women and the younger female generation know that there is someone out there that they can look up to. Having a woman at Nationals really is an accomplishment. Having a woman at a Pro Tour is also an accomplishment. There is no reason not to give some attention to the people who make it to these events.
However, once these events happen, the attention should be on those who are doing well. If nothing else, to prevent embarrassment to the people who find themselves facing tougher competition than they might have expected or could handle. So, in my case, right after Regionals would have been the appropriate time for congratulations and an interview. I know I can still see some people condemn that practice as well, since there were another 198 competitors who also deserve the same attention.
All right – this isn’t the best example in the world, but I hope you have at least some kind of grasp on the idea here.
When women are given a feature match just for the sake of being a woman, this can promote negativity towards said gender. Just thinking about this last sentence makes numerous scenes from”A League of Their Own” flash through my mind.
Look! Women playing! Women losing! Those girls just can’t cut it with the big boys – they should go back to raising kids.
I’m not accusing any men of having these Neanderthal notions – at least not yet. But can you see how some of this inordinate attention harkens back to not much more than fifty years ago, when not only women, but other races, had to deal with such public negativity for their bold endeavors?
When I was given the honor of a feature match with Sol Malka, I was incredibly nervous. I would have felt really foolish being made the center of attention, and then not showing everyone why I deserved to be here. When my husband told me afterward that most of the people around him were chiding Sol for his poor deck choice, I would have felt even more embarrassed losing. Public spectacle #1 can’t even put up a fight against the low man on the totem pole (no offense, Sol).
However, when Elizabeth Lempicki was battling it out with Mike Turian in the final 8 of GP: Milwaukee, that was worth a feature match, regardless of the outcome. Why? Because she battled to a place where she deserved to have some attention. Credit also goes to Melissa DeTora, who also saw a first-round feature match in the New England Challenge – despite the possible attention due to her gender, she showed herself well-deserved by ending up just one place shy of the top 8. If she had scrubbed out, can you see the possible repercussions from the more deserving players?
Charles Mosseau didn’t stop his frustrations here. In his second article,”Adventures of Alpha Lackey #8: ‘The Real Laura Mills Interview'”, he poses a question that I think everyone should take at least five seconds to think about:
“Anyways, after reading the Sideboard.com interview, I wondered how, on such a big day for Magic, that they could not think of better things to ask her about besides her gender and ‘why women don’t play Magic’ type of questions.”
This is really important – when you ask yourself the question”Why don’t more women play Magic?”, don’t look to the Magic community: Look outside it. Look at those who are familiar with the game, but don’t play.
To understand this concept a little better, let’s pose a similar question to a stamp collector:”I understand that stamp collecting is a dying hobby. What do you think led to its decline?”
How the heck is this guy going to know? He loves stamp collecting, and probably can’t understand why other people would rather watch the buildup of mold on some six-month old mac and cheese still sitting in the refrigerator.
Now me, I think Magic is one of the best games out there. I haven’t a clue why other women don’t want to play it. In my personal life, Magic isn’t the only activity I participate in that is sorely lacking in female representation. Why don’t more women play softball? Why aren’t there more women engineers? If I could find the fundamental reason behind the dearth of women in these three activities alone, I’d be the next Susan B. Anthony. I would have broken through whatever stigmas out there prevent women from finding their full potential in such male-dominated fields.
Ron takes a different spin on women and Magic in his article,”Whatever Happened to Bethmo?” He asks readers what is wrong with the community such that women decide not to make an appearance. My answer? See above. What I want to bring attention to is that this article, at its heart, isn’t really about women. It’s about the Magic community in general:
“A Magic tournament is typically not an arena of sportsmanship or maturity. Let me rephrase that: Some Magic players at tournaments are highly immature and downright unpleasant to be around. (Here’s a hint: Take a bath!) Personal hygiene and maturity issues abound.”
“Magic is a social interactive game. I believe that players have forgotten the human aspect of the game.”
Those are some pretty important issues worth reflecting on: Magic, at its roots, was meant to be a very social and public game.
Yet I’ve recently had a long discussion with another person in my local Magic community who explained in detail why it wasn’t even worth his time to acknowledge the existence of his opponent if that person wasn’t a Pro Tour-caliber player. Since I spend a lot of time playing for the pure enjoyment of the game, his attitude disturbed me to no end. I couldn’t imagine that Richard Garfield’s original intention for the game was to develop a societal caste system that gave otherwise ordinary people the opportunity to evoke their own selfish brand of elitism.
There is nothing positive about this attitude. Nothing.
Look at major league baseball: Who are the people we admire and cheer for the most? The players who accommodate the fans. Those who recognize they have talents and are willing to share their success with others. Kirby Puckett. Cal Ripken, Jr. Who don’t we care for? The elitists. The selfish. The ones we boo every time they step up to the plate. If the world of baseball were filled with nothing but these types of people, then there’s probably a good chance these guys wouldn’t be making the millions they do now.
And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Magic follow a similar fate if so many people took such an arrogant attitude to those just starting to learn the game. The next time you sit down and shake hands with your opponent, take some time to at least see that there is a person sitting across the table from you.
As far as hygiene and maturity is concerned, I can’t say I’ve seen the rampant lack of showering Ron talks about… But if you are sitting at a three hundred-person tournament and wondering why Magic doesn’t get the kind of press an equivalent sporting event might bring, look around you. Would you feel proud to see this event on the evening news? Would you be proud to say that you participated in this event?
So back to the original topic: Women and Magic. Geordie Tait was a little incensed by Ron’s article, and went off on a little tangent of his own in”The Daily Shot: Bethmo Had Better Deal, Dammit.” His rebuttal was so over-the-top that I couldn’t help see his article as not much more than a Kinison-like attempt at humor. Buried within the visuals of fresheners stuck in inconvenient bodily places and hordes of people with pit stains walking around holding their noses, there was a glimmer of an actual point:
“Kudos to every woman who plays Magic and doesn’t expect any preferential treatment. If you come into a tournament and keep an open mind, you will be accepted: I guarantee it. If I see a woman at a Magic tournament, I treat her the same as I would a male gamer – with respect. Most other gamers are the same way.”
See? Geordie really does believe in treating women gamers with respect, if they don’t expect anything more. The only problem is, though, that men seem to expect something more from women than just being an opponent.
I have a Magic-playing friend who happens to be fairly attractive: Her sole purpose of going to tournaments is nothing more than to play Magic and have fun. Unfortunately, by the end of the day, she finds herself hit on by almost every guy she plays. It doesn’t seem to matter if they are clean-cut and gentlemanly, poorly dressed and underage, or even already attached. They will insist on giving her their phone numbers or asking her for a date.
Now, men, is this really treating her with respect? She just came to play Magic and have a good time – yet some men feel the need for her to be something more than a gamer to them. How much respect are you really giving her if you dare to approach with your shirt untucked, your armpits covered in sweat, and your breath stinking of three straight cigarettes? Would you dare present yourself like this to any women you might want to get to know somewhere else? If you feel the need for women to be something more than gamers, the least you can do is show enough respect to present yourself properly.
Women gamers aren’t afraid to be friends with and hang out with men… Maybe even date if we feel the desire. But when we play Magic, we aren’t looking for dates. We’re here to play. If nothing else, please at least give women enough respect not to make a pass at us when we sit across the table from you.
So, have we learned anything from this momentary revisit of polarized opinion pieces that have”fallen on deaf – and dismembered – ears”? If you’ve managed to read this far, then I believe the answer might very well be yes.
Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled Magic.