February 14, 2012
Posted by ‘BRIONNE’ aka ‘FORK OF DOOM’
An article about women in Magic that won’t make you feel like a horrible person.
I am a woman. This is not a particularly interesting fact, just part of my identity as a person.
That all changed when I started playing Magic. When I first learned to play, I had no idea what I was getting in to. I didn’t know that I would end up devoting a large amount of my time and resources to this game. Nor did I know that, as a female, I would be overwhelmingly in the minority. It wasn’t something I noticed immediately. I got my DCI number the day of the M10 prerelease. There were few other women playing that day, but I thought nothing of it. Then I started going to FNM, and it hit me—I was the only woman there. Even at events like Grand Prix or SCG Opens, I see very few women, and even fewer who are there to play Magic. I’m far from the first person to make this observation. Countless women before me have walked into a tournament venue for the first time and thought, “I don’t belong here.”
Sadly, women are sometimes made to feel that the first impression of being unwelcome was accurate. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been overlooked as a player because of my gender. Not to mention the times I’ve been forced to put up with extremely inappropriate comments. One incident in particular comes to mind. I was standing around joking with the store owner between rounds at FNM, when one of the guys there walked up beside me and rubbed his deckbox against my shoulder. Such an invasion of my personal space would have been bad enough, but it was the statement that followed that really made me shudder: “This is for good luck. I’d rub it somewhere else, but you’d probably get mad.” (I’m actually shuddering right now just thinking about it!) If all Magic players were like this I don’t think I’d be able to continue playing this game.
Fortunately for me, I’ve spent my whole life being “one of the guys”. I smack talk, make dirty jokes, and give as good as I get, so the male-dominated culture of Magic was nothing new to me. I worry for the more ladylike members of my gender who want to get into this game. I think that for many of them, the initial bump of “you’re a girl!” is too much to overcome.
I’ve heard and read a lot of speculation as to the reasons so few women play Magic. Many argue that it’s because women are not very competitive by nature. I don’t think this is true for all women, but it is for me personally. I feel no drive to “go Pro”, or even to win FNM. I like winning, but it is not my number one priority. That is where Commander comes in. Let’s face it, this little format we’re all so crazy about doesn’t value winning as much as the journey to the end. The crazy decks, the epic plays, the good times with friends—that is what Commander is about for most players. Whether or not women are less competitive by nature, Commander plays an important role making female Magic players feel welcome. With the competetive pressure gone, Commander seems to attract a nicer, more laid back breed of player. These players are much less likely to make women feel unwelcome. Commander players don’t see a woman, they see another player for their crazy multiplayer games.
There is another group of women that feel especially unwelcome in Magic—“The Other Women of Magic”, as Anne Forsythe calls them. Magic players (myself included) aren’t always good at accommodating the wives and girlfriends of Magic, especially those who do not play. EDH helps even these women feel more welcome. The girlfriends who have learned enough Magic to play once every few weeks often find their fix at the Commander table. Without the competitive pressure, these women in particular can relax and enjoy playing a game that probably drives them crazy most of the time.
Not only does EDH take the focus off of competition, it puts it squarely on the identity of the player. This format is a Johnny heaven. The decks people build represent themselves as players. It’s a format that values innovation not for the sake of building the new winning deck, but because it leads to unique decks. Self-expression is not only implied, but encouraged. In a format that values creativity more than winning, there is no room for gender discrimination. This I know from personal experience. In the EDH community, both on the internet and IRL, I have never felt any less respected than any male player. I cannot say the same of sanctioned formats. I feel like my fellow Commander players respect my opinion, and I’ve never been subjected to any inappropriate remarks about my gender and how it affects my skills as a player.
There are definitely problems with how the Magic community treats women. It’s not something that happens everywhere all the time, but the fact that it happens at all is unacceptable. We can’t ignore that. All that being said, I can honestly say I have never experienced this in the Commander community. This format requires you to find people to play with on your own (as opposed to going to FNM, or a GP). Probably people you can stand to be around, or even have in your home. This in turn encourages the development of close-knit communities. These groups seem to always welcome female players. Speaking from personal experience as a member of both my local and the internet community, all you crazy Commander players are pretty awesome!
If there are any women reading this, I’d be glad to hear your opinion. I’d like to know if you agree with my assessment of the EDH community, and about the treatment of female Magic players in general.
I did some background reading before I wrote this article:
Geordie Tait, “To My Someday Daughter”
This is, hands down, the best article regarding female Magic players I’ve ever read. I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I think it is a must-read for Magic players of both genders. It even made me feel bad for how I view women.
Anne Forscythe, “The Other Women of Magic”
A great article from the one perspective I couldn’t hope to understand. Being a Magic player who dates a fellow Magic player, I am unable to put myself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t play the game.
Robin, “Why the Magic Community Should Invite More Women …And Has Already Begun To!”
This article steam rolls the “women are less competetive” argument.
Titus Chalk, “Women and Magic: The Game’s Lost Tribe”
A fairly comprehensive look at the reasons female players are so outnumbered.