Womanhood: It’s Not A Draft Archetype

If you play paper Magic, you know how skeevy the venues can get sometimes. Even without the exothermic, sweaty nerds, the place is often extremely cramped and run-down. You know how some players feel like this game is their uncomfortable secret from the rest of society? Well, some of these venues seem intentionally chosen to be suitable as a metaphor for just that.

I was at Wizard World: New York a couple months ago, and they sequestered Magic off in a tiny room far away from the rest of the show. “It’s like the set of the movie, Saw,” said my friend as he directed me down the hall. The door was just a thick sheet of plastic on hinges, with a small hole where the handle would have been. I pushed it open, then looked agape at what would be my home for the next three days. A layer of grime covered the walls and floor. The tiny, windowless room was further broken up by some large pillars, presumably to delay the ceiling’s inevitable crash to the floor. In the back corner, a dark peninsula beyond the reach of the ceiling lights. This black hovel was my destination. “Somehow, I feel like this is not where I should be,” I stammered at the darkness. “That’s because you’re a girl,” a nearby nerd informed me.

Oh right. I suppose there was also that.

I love the average Magic player. I think of myself as one, too. So you can see how it might be a little frustrating to be judged before I even sit down. Since I was young, I always got by in just being as much of a tomboy as possible; I wasn’t allowed to like anything feminine, because that was just an admittance of being different/unequal. It was a constant battle to be viewed as myself, and not my sex. “Don’t you like dolls?” is a question people seem to like asking young girls. Um, no, lady, I like climbing rocks and catching snakes. Which are awesome. Dolls are creepy and boring.

As I grew up, I allowed myself to have multiple dimensions. I realized I actually liked wearing frilly pink, and I no longer judged myself for doing so. I viewed feminism as being personal: it’s about what you’re comfortable doing, and how you view yourself. Who cares what other people assume about you? Most of them, you never see again.

Well, I’m comfortable with myself now, and I don’t care what I wear, what deck I play, or if I even play at all. For the past couple months, with the exception of the post-Jace/Stoneforge PTQ and a couple drafts, I’ve only been altering cards. And that’s like the needlepoint of Magic. (Hey, maybe I can fix the button on my boyfriend’s shirt, or alter him a playset of Lightning Bolts to take to work?) My gender is no longer a weapon, or a handicap, or really, anything. I don’t care. I don’t think of winning a draft as another point of data that will hopefully bring me closer to being viewed as an equal.

But it sucks having to constantly remind people that I don’t need or want special treatment. You know that saying, “separate but equal?” Good. That saves me about four paragraphs of angry raving that, really, nobody wants. But my point is serious. It’s one thing to ask if someone wants help in a situation, but when someone gives me unsolicited, very basic deckbuilding advice, that’s insulting. It says, “I feel bad for you because you’re obviously an outsider, and maybe if I help you out, you’ll do something for me.” I’ve been told that if you just look at my mannerisms for half a minute, you’ll see that I carry myself like a competent player.

Six years ago, I judged my first large event. It was a PTQ, and I was asked to deckcheck the top 8 players. “Thanks for showing me my opponent’s entire deck and sideboard,” one of the players said to me. Horrified, I looked down to see that I’d left the decklists face up on the table. But he wasn’t finished. “I’ll buy you a drink later,” he added. That’s right: While I was shamed beyond belief at my noob error, he followed things up by offering to buy a drink for an underage girl. Thanks for making my first PTQ the best ever, dude.

It’s not just me, either. Every Magic-playing woman I know has a throng of creeper stories. Allison Medwin, a judge in uniform, tells of how she was shushed during a judge call by the opponent. He didn’t want her response to alter the questioner’s play. Not only is that Unsporting Conduct Major, I seriously doubt it would have happened to a male judge. She’s also received such judge questions as, “What’s your number?”

I would hope for more from the younger, internet-savvy generation. We think of older folk as being the ones with strict gender roles. I don’t want to believe that this is real any more than you do. But the sad truth is that we see it every day. And, being individuals, we can only do so much. We’re raised in an incredibly sexist environment, with assumptions that are projected onto us every single day from everyone we meet. It’s in media. It’s in advertisements. And it’s such a struggle.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: If you cut me, do I not take the signal? If you poison me, do I not curse at losing to Tainted Strike?

We women Magic players aren’t here to date you. We’re here to draft. So please take the signal and treat us like you would the person to your left. Thanks.

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Posted on July 14, 2011, in Articles, Extras. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I was actually at the Wizard World: New york. And as a female magic player i didn’t want to play in the hidden back room they put you guys in. I was actually there for a few signatures with a friend who had a table upstairs and some interviews for a paper i’m writing on women in gaming culture. But i have had many an incident occur both when i used to Judge magic and when i worked in comic/card shops including people thinking i was sitting behid the counter till my boyfriend came back.

  2. A very well-written and to the point article. Hopefully Magic players gain some brain cells about this.

  3. Yeah, it’s bad, but if you’re at Wizard World or other such conventions, I’m assuming some have come to expect that the worst can and will happen. Does anyone else that whole fiasco with the Ferrett and the chest grabbing? Not saying that a con is a bad place for women to be, just noting that some may end up turning a fun little weekend into something quite awkward. Getting hit on by a bunch of shut-ins must suck.

    Side note- I need an alteration done. Force of Will is the card. Change the art to John McClain from Die Hard and change the title to “Force of Willis”

    • I don’t know the incident you’re referring to, but I’m of the mind that just because a situation is bad doesn’t mean we should give up entirely. I think a lot of people write awkward nerds off as incorrigible, but in my experience, nerds are some of the best people at learning things!

      If you’re interested in checking out my alters or making a request, my site is http://jackieleealters.tumblr.com.

      Thanks for the comments! I am compiling your diverse responses for a follow-up article in the future.

  4. This might be the best article dealing with gender and magic that I’ve read.

  5. Notorious_Flap

    Lol least commented article on girls in magic somehow

    • It’s hard to make snarky sexist comments and feel like it’s okay when you get an article like this one. There aren’t any lame evolutionary psychology (“women aren’t competitive”) arguments, there isn’t an open question (“why don’t women play?”) or a plaintive lament with empty statements (“why won’t women play? don’t they know we want them to?!”).

      Instead, Jackie’s clear and concise and direct, writing in a language that everyone can understand with a simple practical takeaway that a lot of male Magic players – but by *no* means all male Magic players – don’t want to hear: we’re not here to date you.

      • Notorious_Flap

        And yet somehow 9 out of 10 women I encounter in Magic tourneys ARE dating a magic player. Hmmmmmmmm.

  6. Yeah, the environment for women in the Magic world needs to change. It’s the twenty first century. There is no place for the knee jerk “… because you’re a girl” comments, many that are soon followed by fumbly, pathetic come ons. The environment isn’t just hostile to women though, the Magic community is stunningly conservative to those that could be labeled outsiders. I’m a Trans individual and I feel like members of the LGBT community are not very welcome in Magic dens. Anti-gay slurs are hurled around like lightning bolts, so casually it just blends in. Were certain members of the Magic community less orthodox in their outspoken views, everyone would have a lot more fun.

  7. This was a great insight to what the better sex has to deal with when attending events like magic or comicon… Exquizitly descriptive and well written. I honestly wish more women played Magic I feel it would enrich the community a great deal.

    —Jesse

  1. Pingback: Why the Magic Community Should Invite More Women …And Has Already Begun to! | Completely Casual

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