Women in Magic: The Gathering.

Abbi Marie | 18th October 2018

This blog post has been a long time coming, I’ve scraped draft after draft. It is a very relevant subject, and It does need to be discussed. However, discussing it can sometimes feel like your bashing your head against a very large very hard rock. How do I talk about this without offending? Hurting? Or scaring off the very people I aim to help?

Either way, I’m gonna give it a damn good try.

It’s a hard subject to explain, so I took the liberty of borrowing a comment off youtube from a video about women in magic:

“No sjw there are less female pro players on avrage becouse most do not have the IQ to play a game like magic well enough to compete statsticly women do not have the ablity to compete at the same level as men in sports,video games,or card games. This is why there is a womens leauge for sports,if they played agianst men they would get beat the FUCK down. So we gave them their own little space so they could feel special before returning to reality.”

You heard it here first guys women are physically and mentally weaker than men and therefore cannot play a card game to the same ability. Science. Case closed.

But if you can get over the fact he brings up IQ, but cannot spell ‘average’ or ‘because’ and a few other words, there are actually quite a few Magic players with this attitude, and you cannot imagine how it feels reading something like this and having to go to tournaments and come up against people that actually believe this is true, or some of it at least.

I want this blog to help the people that do understand or experience this, and the people that don’t believe it happens. There are certain things that make playing competitive Magic a lot harder for women than for men, they are all things that could be helped and we definitely need to work on. The biggest issue being toxicity. Whether you want to accept it or not, the competitive community can be an extremally toxic place, this is a massive hurdle for any women wanting to enter the scene.

Meghan Wolff wrote an excellent article which talks about “girlfriendification”, the idea that any woman playing Magic is inevitably tied to it as the girlfriend of a male player. I mean why on earth would we be interested in Magic other than an effort to be more involved in our boyfriends lives? PSA: Magic is, in fact, an extremely good game, and it’s actually quite possible to enjoy it, boyfriend or not. Now my boyfriend does play, but I enjoy Magic for myself and would be playing long after he went anywhere. I am asked a lot ‘So did your boyfriend drag you here’ or ‘are you here with a boyfriend?’ Like who would pay 30£ to sit and do the same thing for 9 hours if they didn’t enjoy it?! But asking this isn’t funny or casual, It makes me instantly feel unwelcome and bothered.

In 2015 it was estimated that the gender breakdown of male to female players is 62% to 38%. However, when you look at the competitive play, females only make up between 1-5% of the competitive Magic players. So there are a significant amount of female players that aren’t leaving their kitchen tables or FNMs, why is this? When I went to Nationals this year, amongst the few hundred players there, I saw 4 women, and that included me!

This absence of female visibility at competitive tournaments has a knock on effect, there is not enough Magic content created by women. Without this vital female representation it is very hard to draw women to competitive events, and without this community of female competitive players, these content creators won’t exist. On top of this women are such a rare sight that some players can’t even deal with them without being rude or belittling, (those poor souls).

I took the opportunity of reaching out to some female and male players about their first-hand experiences with this side of the Magic community, and some of these experiences people shared with me made it pretty obvious as to why we won’t be seeing them at any tournaments.

What I will say here is even with all the experience, I struggle to get even the most basic level of respect from some of my customers and co-workers. I’ve always had to work twice as hard for half the respect both on the battlefield and behind the counter of a LGS. I’ve traveled a difficult road to get to where I am and in all honesty if I could go back and change it all I would have left MTG related work behind about 10 years sooner than I did. – Racheal, Virginia

I was kicked from a store for talking with an employee who was female. The owner didn’t like that we were talking as I was flipping through binders. He sent her to the back room (after saying she’s spending too much time talking) (nobody other than me in in the store) and then comes up to me and said to me, “okay you had your fun with my girl, now are you going to buy something and leave?”
I left but came back the next day and told her what he said. She said they’re not together, but he keeps telling people that and being awkward and perverse around her. She quit that day. She doesn’t play magic anymore. – Ed, Pennsylvania

At the prerelease a couple weekends ago I had a guy literally trying to bully me into rushing our second game so that he could get a shot to come back after I won the first one. Literally I would draw and play land for turn and he would be like “you done?” Like I was wasting his time even trying to take my turn. – Anita, Texas

As a player I always used to get “Let me look at your deck, I can build it better than you” if I lost one of 3 games – Bethy, Florida

I have been been targeted by an unknown account claiming to have control over my local magic community and posting sexually themed comments towards me on public posts and in private messages.They had even gone as far as boasting to others about how I’ve been raped. The account has told me it’s always watching me and knows where I play, and it’s not like I’m looking across the table at someone I can respond to. My sexuality and interest in Magic has been attacked by someone in our community and I have no means of making it stop. It’s left the tournament and entered our homes and I feel we can do more to prevent this happening before it goes too far by our approach and attitude towards other players in the community. – Rosie, UK

I recently had a really creepy dude around. Was awesome in person. Then sent me weird messages about how lonely/horny he was. Then started messaging my Facebook friends for sex, then their friends. I approached the people about it, stood up for myself and called him out, and since have been treated differently because it “really embarrassed him”… He is still allowed to be there. I had proof from 3 different girls other than myself he made them extremely uncomfortable, but he can still play there. It sucked. It was a new play group, new venue, and really nice people. I’ve never accused anyone of sexual harassment in my life. – Crystal, Alberta

Some of these were really upsetting to be told, but these are all people who are willing to share these experiences because they don’t want someone else to have to go through it. I wish I could’ve put in all the stories people came to me with, but I don’t think I’d have enough of a word-count. The responses I had from just a few posts in Magic pages were phenomenal, if that doesn’t prove that it’s a real issue, I don’t know what will.

Katie Roberts also reached out to me when she heard I was writing this article, Katie is actually living locally to me (I found out). She helps run local events and plays competitive magic as well as Judging. She recently used an inexcusable incident in the Magic community towards her as a player as a way to share her story and show people this side of the community, you can see her Twitter story here.

Following this incident, she spoke to me about how she was told she was delusional, got told to go and ‘make someone a sandwich’, and told her ‘reverse sexism’ was ‘out of control’. So not only was she targeted in an obscenely nasty way, she was then attacked again for speaking up about it and saying it is wrong. Which it is???

I call out the toxic behaviours because I know of many amazing, welcoming communities that just wouldn’t stand for it. I strongly believe that the vast majority of men want to help their female and nonbinary friends feel comfortable playing Magic, and need to know about our experiences in order to understand what to look out for. However, I feel incredibly sorry for anyone stuck in toxic local communities, you have my eternal support – Katie, Oxford

For those majority of people that aren’t a contributor to this toxicity, but want to help, here are some tips to helping Women feel more comfortable in your Magic community;

5.

Don’t be too full on.

Believe it or not, women don’t go to Magic tournaments to give out their number or find a boyfriend. We go to play magic. I’m happy to chat, but I don’t want to meet up sometime or be messaged after I’ve played you once where you’ve found me on Facebook and thought we could chat about my love life or what I do on the weekends. It’s weird and very off-putting.

4.

Don’t be afraid to call people out on their shit.

If you see players being derogatory, mean, or inappropriate to a player because she is female, or for any other reason really, tell them to get their head out of their ass. Take it from someone who’s been in that position, the player next to you leaning over to your opponent and saying ‘Dude, that’s uncalled for’ can make a world of difference, and normally the embarrassment of being called out shuts them up. Or if you believe its more serious than that, report them to the shop owner/tournament judge etc.

3.

Yes, it’s weird to see a female at a tournament, you don’t need to tell us.

We are just as aware as you that we may be the only female there, probably more so, but letting us know does not make it any less of an intimidating environment.

2.

Don’t criticise female opponents unless they ask you too.

This is a weird one, but if you’ve just played a female player, don’t follow the match by saying things like ‘Oh when you did this you should’ve done this’ or ‘this card doesn’t make sense in your deck you should be playing this’ If they don’t ask for your advice or feedback, chances are it’s because they don’t need or want it. There is nothing wrong with asking if they’ve tried this card or why they made that play, but please don’t be condescending. Honestly, there’s nothing worse than finishing a game and being lectured on everything you did wrong and what ultimately lost you the game.

1.

Always be welcoming, treat us like every other player.

An obvious one and most players are more than accommodating for a female in a male-dominated environment. Just, don’t be a dick, basically.

In general, you could fit these things to any player, female or other. Be nice to people, life is too short and Magic is too fun to be ruined by people who can’t take a loss, feel they have to cheat or look down on a player just because they are female /transgender /gay /black /asian or whichever. It’s not the 1950s.

And for any females reading this, or anyone! Don’t ever let people’s small-mindedness stop you from doing something you enjoy. The best antidote is going out there, kicking some butt and proving people wrong, its better for your mental health and it’s damn fun! We do have a few Magic players to learn from, take a look at Melissa DelTora a Pro Tour player who now works for WoTC, as well as Gabby Spartz, Kathleen from Loading ready run also has a great channel and of course Dana Fischer! Leading the way for future Magic stars.

Of course, I should state this also doesn’t apply to everyone, in fact, I have played a majority of absolutely lovely male players, who have made me feel more than welcome and given me a very enjoyable FNM / Tournament overall. It is also worth mentioning I have played against one or two females with a serious attitude problem. There is no set group of villains or victims here. It is simply the small percentage that makes enough of a scene of themselves with comments and attitudes that make for a toxic environment, the same goes for cheating and even generally sore losers, not just attitude towards female players. The Magic community can, of course, be magical (pun intended), fantastic, exciting and sociable. I have made many friends and met some amazing people, as well as learnt so much, and found a game which helped me through one hell of a tough time. Magic is my outlet, and any pros 100% weigh out the cons. I hate to think that some cons may be enough to put other women like myself off Magic and even more so, competitive play, especially when most of the cons are so ridiculous they shouldn’t even be a thing.

Also, talk about the good things! Let people know that your FNM group is fantastic, or that your LGS doesn’t accept this type of behaviour! I had a few responses to my posts telling me about people’s amazing and welcoming communities and experiences, or issues that we’re dealt with swiftly and not heard of again. We’ve got a great thing here, a hobby that when it’s done right, brings a massive community of people from all over the world together, from all walks of life.

So that’s what I have to say about it. Whatever you may think, this stuff happens and it shouldn’t be happening. Just because maybe you haven’t seen it, or have been lucky enough to not experience it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. We need to talk about these incidents and deal with them, it shouldn’t get brushed under the rug, it shouldn’t get ignored, it’s not ok.

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