Perspective And Gender In Magic: The Gathering
I had originally planned to write about my experience at Pro Tour Atlanta last week when I came back, but Sophie Barrass’ article offers an opportunity to write this article without dealing with some of the more problematic issues of writing about this topic from my perspective.
So, I’m going to do that, then write about the pro tour next week – I’ve got quite a few things to write about at the moment so there ought to be a few articles from me in the next little while.
The way people react to things is largely based on their interpretation of those things. Their interpretation is largely constituted by the ways in which they have been socialized over their lives; by what their parents believed, what their schools taught them, how other people have treated them over time. So for instance a child who has a bad experience with a dog is more likely to be fearful of dogs in their adult life.
More broadly if a person generally has positive experiences as a result of a societal bias in their favour, their perspective regarding how the world is might well change if they don’t actively consider their advantageous status. This is often described as a “privileged position” or “being privileged”.
I am a man in my late twenties, “white”, middle class with an advanced degree and living comfortably. I suffer from eczema and I’m carrying more weight than I would like, both of which affect my confidence to some extent, but nothing major – I’m dyslexic too, but again this isn’t something which causes me issues.
I own loads of cards, and if I don’t have something then someone I’ve met over the last 17 years playing the game will likely be able to loan me them. I am also pretty accomplished, and attending tournaments is completely mundane to me. Mine is a position of privilege.
I also care deeply about inequality. Over the course of my time at university, I mostly took modules on class and race inequality with some social theory, but I’ve always been interested in gender issues as well, and I’ve spent a lot of time discussing these issues with other people.
I’d like to see more women playing the game because I think they’re just as likely to be good at it and enjoy it as men, but are socialized in such a way that their perspective is bias against it. To me this seems like the obvious reason why fewer women than men try Magic. Fewer stay because of the way they are treated at events.
Obviously I would like to see that change.
People (not just men) ought to stop saying “oh, you got beat by a girl haha!” or anything like it. What with men and women being equal, this is just stupid. I’d like to think if someone said “oh, you got beat by a black guy haha!” they would be called on it immediately in most places, but while this is unacceptable it’s pretty common to hear people say it about women. It’s not even just guys who say it, either, which is the impact of the way women are socialized.
Similarly (but differently enough that it’s worth commenting on separately, I feel) don’t make sexist jokes and don’t talk about raping people. You shouldn’t be doing this anyway but it’s particularly relevant when you’re more likely to offend people.
Don’t be overly put out if a girl who plays games won’t go out with you. I’ve heard some horror stories about this which are massively shameful for the guy, and no doubt very off-putting for the woman. Presumably these men don’t act the same way in the work place, or at bars, or in other contexts, because you would definitely face negative consequences.
This raises two interesting points, the first being that some men seem to think that women who play games have implicitly made themselves available or something, and second this this sort of behaviour – which is relatively well discouraged elsewhere – isn’t really punished in this context. The second one is actually pretty easy to take action against, while the first is a bit more nebulous.
On a related note, don’t do anything you would be embarrassed to be caught doing. Likely as not the reason you’re embarrassed when a women catches you staring at her chest is because you’re aware it’s a bit creepy.
In debates on this topic sometimes people (generally men, but again sometimes women) mention women who deliberately dress provocatively for attention or advantage (distraction or take backs or whatever).
Generally people who say this are trying to dismiss everything else on the topic by saying it (e.g. “ahh whatever, women take advantage of being women, so it’s their own fault”), which is ridiculous because it neither justifies the way other people behave, nor accurately represents the way all women behave.
That said, this isn’t a complete myth and some women do this (I realize that statement is likely to annoy some people, but I do think it’s true) just as some women do this in other contexts. Obviously anyone can wear or do whatever they like, but I think this undermines women somewhat in Magic, and in gaming in general.
Be friendly and inclusive to women. This is how people get involved, right? For my perspective, this is one of the big problems though.
It is difficult to be friendly and inclusive if this might well be perceived as creepy. Often men at Magic tournaments are characterized as unwashed, socially maladjusted borderline sex offenders in articles about gender.
Often, it seems to me, that on one hand a man might be friendly and this will be seen as him hitting on the woman, but on the other he might be reserved, and this will be perceived as being exclusionary, rude or hostile.
I’ve been in a relationship for 8 years and I’m very happy in that relationship. I wouldn’t consider cheating in a million years, and I am quite introverted especially when I’m playing Magic, so the reality is that I am absolutely never hitting on women at Magic tournaments.
Naturally I resent being seen as a predator, especially since I am absolutely sympathetic with women because of the unequal experience they have, and would actively try to act against it where possible.
The end result of that is that I am generally a bit more reserved when I play female opponents, which makes me guilty of sexism in that respect and I’ve probably contributed to some women feeling unwelcome, which is pretty depressing.
I suppose for me (and probably quite a lot of others as I expect I’m not alone in this dilemma) the best thing I can do is be supportive where it makes sense, and to be prepared to go a little out of my way for female players.
Maybe the best thing is to make sure to include female players in all the peripheral stuff you would normally make an effort with a new male player with – offer to play some games before the draft if you’re both there anyway, invite them out to lunch with whoever you were going with anyway.
I expect a lot of the problem is that fewer women make the transition between playing at home and the local shop, and fewer still from the local shop to the PTQ, and the easiest point at which to help on this front is on a local level.
That’s it for this week! Hopefully I’ll have written about the pro tour by mid-week next week, and have some thoughts on block constructed for the upcoming GP.
I’d love to discuss your thoughts on this, so please comment below!