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Rather than dwell on the $125 cab to D.C. at 3:15 AM, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the GP Top 8. First of all, major props to Matt Costa. Coming off his other GP Top 8s and making Top 8 of Pro Tour Dark Ascension two and a half weeks ago, he earned this trophy. Also props to Paulo, who continues to defy logic and reason with how much he wins.
Congrats to Jackie Lee, whose 3rd place finish with R/G Aggro was triumphant—and not just because she is a woman. She had a fantastic tournament by any metric, and I’m pretty tired of hearing, “People only care because she is a woman.”
A woman Top 8ed last weekend at Grand Prix Lincoln, and Jackie is the third woman to Top 8 a GP in the last four months along with Melissa DeTora and Mary Jacobson. During that time, 51 different people Top 8ed a Grand Prix, with three women and forty-eight men. Now, let me ask you something. Do you suppose those tournaments were made up of 6% female players? Percentage-wise, women are performing not only better than ever at Grand Prix, but better than men by a clear margin. Seventy-five percent of all women to Top 8 a Grand Prix in Magic’s 15-year history did so in the past four months!
That is a story. When invisible ceilings, such as the color barrier, are finally broken, it begins with just one or two pioneers, but once that tipping point is reached, it can seem like an avalanche. After all, what if women actually are equally well-equipped to play Magic? What if the largest factor holding back female play at the highest levels is residual sexism in networking, preparation, and tournament climate?
Over the years, many women have fought to blaze a trail, not just for women Magic players, but for the game itself. Michelle Bush, Carrie Oliver, Kim Eikefet, Ellen Koberer, Asami Kataoka, Eda Bilsel, and Liz Lempicki are just a few of the many women who have succeeded at tournament Magic and kicked open the door.
We as a community—and a heavily male-populated one—have a long way to go. Our culture has advanced so much in the past year or two alone. Still, there is a terrible disparity between those who “get it” and those who don’t; the battle is far from over. This isn’t a battle over women’s rights or anything else along those lines. It is about increasing the awareness of a community that doesn’t always realize when it is hurting people (or itself).
Some people will argue the straw man that women shouldn’t get special treatment. Special treatment? Is this a joke? As far as I can tell, the vast majority of women I know competing in events just want to be treated as Magic players and don’t want to hear “She is pretty good for a girl.” Special treatment? Oh, you mean the kind Jackie Lee received when some critics cut into her for making some mistakes on camera in the Top 8 of a Grand Prix? It’s not sexist to point out mistakes; however, when comparing the responses she got to the ones Paulo and I got for making mistakes on camera, it’s very revealing just how sexist some of the audience is (or can be).
I lost at least two matches this weekend that I didn’t have to. Paulo made Top 8 and is one of the two best players on the planet, and even he was telling everyone about a number of blunders he had made throughout the tournament.
Guess what? This is Magic. No one, no one, plays close to perfectly. When there are no cameras, it is real easy to rewrite history to cover up the painful truth: everyone makes tons of suboptimal plays. It’s easy to jump on players when they make their first big finish. After all, they don’t know that person, so they can attack them (and make themselves feel better about their own abilities). The only people who get it worse than rookies are women.
Jackie Lee played a helluva tournament, as I can attest to from getting to sit next to her so many times. She was able to face each of her mistakes and learn from them. As a result, she Top 8ed a 1,534-person Constructed tournament. How did you do? Remember, there is no trophy for “Most Delusional,” so if you play a big event and think you didn’t make tons of mistakes afterward, don’t expect one.
The fact Jackie is a woman is an obstacle she overcame—not because she was at a disadvantage physically or mentally, but because she had to deal with countless doubters and haters, who doubted her because she is a woman. Look at the responses to Jackie Lee games on camera, and compare those to the ones other competitors received. It’s always a matter of shades of gray, but it’s painfully obvious that some amount of the venomous responses she received were because she is woman. Heaven forbid not having that half of the population to feel superior to!
I am so #@!%ing proud of Jackie, Mary, and Melissa, I want to cry. When I am seventy, I am going to be telling my grandkids about this exact four-month stretch. This is not an exaggeration. These three women made three times the number of GP Top 8s than were made in the previous 15 years! Women are outperforming men, percentage-wise, for the first time ever! This is the beginnings of our Billie Jean King, our Jackie Robinson. It may not be long before the first woman Top 8s a Pro Tour. We are watching history happening right now, and just as with Billie Jean King and Jackie Robinson, there are going to be people hating on those pushing for progress.
Our community is at a crossroads. The floodgates have recently opened, and not everyone is going to be okay with this. Magic is a game filled with an awful lot of smart people with an awful lot of ego invested in convincing themselves how smart they are. A lot of these people are young men, and a number of them will have their feelings hurt by more slots being taken by women—something they will take as a personal affront when they don’t accomplish the same thing. One response is to lash out at those women and try to get them “back in line.”
Another response is to move the walls out of the way and free up admission to the clubhouse. Our culture is awesome, and the more people we can share it with, the better. The more perspectives we gain, the more life and love people want to share with us, the better. Inviting women in is great because there are tons of people who could bring so much good to this game…and half of them are women.
It isn’t about making the bar different for women or giving up anything that makes the game great. It is about minor changes in perception and behavior that make all the difference in the world.
For instance, sometimes players don’t realize when the language they are using is further perpetuating the underlying sexism of the culture. One of the worst examples of this is the use of “rape” slang. The use of rape terminology as slang for dominating someone hurts the effort to break down the barrier—and not because women are the only rape victims (in fact, at least 10-20 percent of rape victims are men). The problem is that it further perpetuates a language that takes the worst of human behavior and uses it to describe something “good.”
Rape is about dominance and control. Continuing to use language that values men dominating and controlling people sexually as being a “good thing” flies in the face of the recent advances our community has made to break down the barriers described above. Rape slang is one example, but there are so many more. Another is spreading rumors about female Magic players’ relationships. Believe it or not, not every woman in Magic is trying to sleep their way to the top! Shocking, right?
Another glaring example of the pervading sexism is with the recent GP Indy playmat situation. You can view the playmat here . The Tournament Organizer for this event (not Wizards of the Coast) commissioned and produced this playmat to give away to each participant. However, I am not even talking about the TO, who made a poor judgment call. Any one individual can make some decisions from time to time that aren’t going to look great in retrospect. I am talking about the people who lashed out against those who had the courage to actually speak up about yet another example of mindless sexism that was holding back our culture.
The playmat is not inherently “horrible,” and it’s cool if you are into that sort of thing. There are plenty of men and women alike who enjoy certain kinds of fantasies. The problem is that this was the official playmat representing a Wizards of the Coast Grand Prix. These are the largest tournaments in the world put on by a major corporation that is part of Hasbro. Can we really not see why some people would be nonplussed at having Magic’s largest event promoted with women shown as sex slaves?
What the #@!%?
No, really, what the hell is wrong with those people? As a guy who is miles from being “overly sensitive” or even “generally regarded as compassionate,” if you can’t piece together a) why those playmats are not okay, b) why it’s acceptable people are outraged (at the least), and c) why it’s not at all cool to attack people who spoke up about it, then consider this hypothetical (with the hopes that—just maybe—you can understand where these people are coming from before throwing barbs at them).
Imagine a graphic and widely circulated description and depiction of your mother or your girlfriend/wife/SO being raped.
Would that bother you?
Sexual slavery is not rape, but the two are closely related. Can people find domination and the like a turn on? Absolutely, and consenting adults can have tons of positive experiences in this area. However, it is pretty clear that it is not for everyone and more importantly, that this has no place on a mainstream Magic: The Gathering promotional playmat.
You may disagree, and that is your right. However, it is ludicrous that a grown, rational person couldn’t at least understand why some people would feel this way. Arguing over whether this playmat goes too far is a very different thing from attacking people who speak up about it. I am rarely accused of being too feminist, but even I think this playmat was not even close to okay. That said, people make mistakes, and hopefully good will come of this.
The ones who disgust me are those attacking the men and women who spoke out against it. Debating the issue around the playmat is one thing, but personally attacking someone because they somehow “took something away?” Guys, come on. Please.
Are we, each one of us, going to make an effort to raise the level of awareness of a part of our own community? Or are we going to drug ourselves with the delusion of superiority and try to beat down the women in our community—who have the audacity to do something of significance?
We can be, and are, better than that.