International Women’s Day – MtG edition!

Happy International Women’s Day! I can already hear the eyes rolling like marbles in the heads of several men. This is your periodic reminder that if you put half as much effort into supporting the issues that are raised during International Men’s Day that you do into being so offended by IWD, the world would be a much better place.

(It’s November 19th, by the way.)

Anyway, in honour of the occasion let’s talk about some of my favourite and most inspirational women in the Magic: the Gathering community.

Magic: the Amateuring

I stumbled across the Magic: the Amateuring podcast on the back of an article by host Meghan Wolff about women in Magic and the subsequent…well, you all know what happened next.

(Episode #126 of Magic: the Amateuring discusses this and many of the issues raised in Meghan’s article about the various – often very subtle – ways in which women are treated differently and in some cases made to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable, so if you’re on the “why are the women complaining AGAIN” side of the fence, I would recommend listening and please, educate yourself.)

Maria and Meghan are my heroes. They’re hysterically funny (I’ve had to leave the office and sit on the toilet midway through listening to an episode because I can’t stop giggling) damn good players and two of the strongest advocates I can think of for opening doors in the game. My favourite moment is hearing Maria go on an impassioned rant in the above podcast about how being a Pro Tour competitor isn’t a necessity for someone to be a strong member of the coverage team, and how there are numerous women out there who are MORE than qualified to take on that role, and now she does Pro Tour coverage for Wizards of the Coast. SLAAAAAYING.

Stef Dolan

HI STEF! Stef is the first woman in Scotland (and to date, as far as I know, the only female player in Scotland) to win a Pro Point. Aside from that, she’s a huge cheerleader both for Team Murphy’s Vault and for the Magic community on the whole, and I think she’s great.

Plus she loves Stormbreath Dragon, which is everything I look for in a friend.

sbdg

Dana Fischer

Okay, so Dana Fischer is only seven years old, but she’s my hero. She’s a seven-year-old Magic player, a regular on the US GP circuit. Her goal is to be the youngest player to reach day two of a GP, and I have absolutely no doubts that she’ll achieve that. She is the future. Get on board.

Chandra Nalaar

Because COME ON.

chandra flamecaller

 

Actually…now that I think about it, literally all of you.

Y’ALL. (I wish I could stop saying y’all. Nobody says y’all in East Scotland.

It’s never easy going into a space that’s traditionally been aimed at a male population (look at some of the early cards and some of the current playmats if you need convincing), especially as it’s a space that some men feel obliged to defend like it’s their firstborn and anyone who isn’t A Man is a dingo, but I like to think we’re slowly improving. And we’re doing it! Yay us.

Special shout out, by the way, to all the ladies in the UKISA judge community – Liz, Roisin, Erin, Sophie, and everyone else I have shamefully forgotten. We are killing it.

*

I am, as I’ve said multiple times, incredibly lucky to be part of a community that isn’t full of assholes. The Scottish community on the whole is 99% of the time is awesome – very inclusive, very willing to stand up and and shout if they see otherwise. We’re lucky here. But I’m aware, both from witnessing and hearing peoples’ stories, that the same isn’t true for all communities.

And that’s why I do why I do. It would be easy for me to let someone else take charge of what we do at Forth Magic, someone with more experience in tournament organising and judging, or someone with more experience competitively who’ve been to a variety of tournaments and seen what’s good and what’s not.

But I want people to see the fact that I’m here, I’m standing up and making myself the first person people likely interact with if they’re coming along to the events or just enquiring. If the fact that I’m there is enough to make even one woman feel better about coming along, that’s a success.

*

I stream on Twitch and I’m learning to be a better drafter on MODO. Sometimes my friends come round and we drink and draft. If you want to see my cats and hear a Scottish accent you can find me at twitch.tv/worstartist. Slam that follow button and you’ll see when I’m back on my bullshit. PEACE.

The State of Magic: It’s Time.

Well. Where do we even start here.

In case you’ve missed it, at the weekend Magic cosplayer Christine Sprankle publicly retired from the game after enduring ongoing harassment following a game of “flip or rip” at a GP. Thus follows accusations of lying, accusations of deleting the posts in question, a number of well-known personalities in the community speaking out to corroborate Ms. Sprankle’s experiences, fans of the accused responding.

Yesterday it was revealed that a post on a secret “shitposting” MtG Facebook group invited its members to “draft” well known MtG women – women who play, who make content, who compete in tournaments and do well – based purely on how much they wanted to sleep with them. The comment thread that followed went about as well as you would expect, and included some particularly awful comments around the members of the LGBTQ community.

I’m not going to write about those in any more detail, because there are a multitude of responses from people who’ve been directly affected that are much more important than anything I have to say on the subject.

I’m writing this because boy, are we tired.

I’m tired of people calling out shitty attitudes being dismissed as a “social justice warrior” or a “cuck”. I’ll let you into a secret: if someone calls you a “cuck” it’s because they frightened. You’re coming too close to underminding them.

I’m tired of seeing people saying things like “she’s wearing a slutty cosplay to try and lure in vulnerable young men for their money”. Spoiler alert: she’s almost certainly not. Women don’t have secret meetings to come up with new and exciting ways to ruin the lives of men.

I’m tired of people relentlessly slamming Wizards for “becoming political”. If you think that responding to people noting that they tend to be treated differently to their male counterparts by increasing visibility and attempting to create a more balanced society is political, expand your world a little.

I’m tired of people being told that “it’s just a joke, if you don’t find it funny that’s your problem” (remember that?) or “grow a thicker skin”. As I’ve said before, if multiple people who stand as the butt of the joke are telling you that it’s not funny and you continue to make that joke, it’s not a joke. You are an asshole being an asshole on purpose.

I’m tired of people immediately dismissing any sort of feedback around inclusive MtG with “well, I’ve never had a problem” or “I’ve never been sexist”.

Just because you’ve never seen it happening at your local store doesn’t mean it’s not happening at all. I’m part of a community – locally and nationwide – that excels in being welcoming and inclusive but I’m not close minded enough to ignore the fact that we are a very small country and therefore very close-knit. What we experience is not the overall experience. This is just one of a multitude of points that people are either choosing to ignore because it doesn’t fit what they want, or they’re genuinely unable to grasp the concept.

People are bitching at Wizards of the Coast for not doing anything. That’s fine. You can do something. You can tell such an individual to stop, even if they’re not targeting you. You can report them to a judge or the tournament organiser if they don’t, or you feel uncomfortable doing so. If you don’t know who the judge or TO is, you can ask at the event. If nothing happens, you can escalate it, either through the judge programme or through WOTC themselves. Local game stores are their own little communities but they’re not islands, and any judge or tournament organiser worth their salt has that role because they want to work with communities to make them fun, welcoming and positive places for everyone.

That is how you fix it.

 

I’m upset. Over the past few days we’ve seen what the MtG community really is when you kick the stone over, and last night was the first time in over four years I’ve had to evaluate whether this is something I want to continue to be involved in.

I think I do. Because this community has done so much good for so many people. Look at all the testimonies of people who’ve found solace while they were being bullied, or while their lives were falling apart, or while they were desperately lonely. That’s the community I want to be part of. That’s the community I want to build. But half-assed tutting and saying “well that’s gross” isn’t enough. It’s time to actively challenge this behaviour. It’s time to stop ignoring it and letting it slide because it’s a little bit uncomfortable to speak up. It’s time to stop this bizarre idea of “alpha” and “beta”.

It’s time to get proactive instead of reactive.

It’s time to get angry. Not  death threats or abuse over the internet, because that’s not on, and it’s slinging lighter fluid onto a fire that’s already out of control.

It’s time to change. Please help us.

 

“The Problem”: old jokes, community, and girls who game.

Most people who know me have probably heard me talk about a trading card game called Magic: the Gathering. I’ve been playing since 2013 and I’m currently heavily involved in running and sustaining our local player community.

Which is why when I saw this Daily Mash article in my timeline and realised it had been shared by a local store with a slightly patronising “Now remember lads, it’s just a joke!” tagline, my eyes rolled so far back in my head I could examine my own spinal cord.

I, along with others, suggested that presenting the article in that way was perhaps not a positive reflection of the community. I was (predictably) accused of not being able to take a joke. The joke, of course, being that men who go to gaming stores are all sweaty neckbeard virgins who panic at the mere thought of a woman, and that the women who go are there for literally any conceivable reason other than they want to hang out and play games. (Spoiler alert: WE JUST WANT TO HANG OUT AND PLAY GAMES.)

I was also told that the problem lies with me if I have a problem. Let’s get real. Anyone who thinks that is missing the point so wildly it looks deliberately obtuse. I really don’t care what people spend their free time laughing at in their own little groups, and if there are people that still actually think this flogged to death meme is funny then crack on. “Lads”.

This is not an isolated incident. Oh it’s rare – I’d go so far as to say almost unheard of – in Scotland, where there’s a tight-knit, inclusive community who aren’t afraid to shout if something’s not right. But widen the net and you see that this “joke” is actually being played out in stores all over the place. Women being asked where their boyfriend is, women receiving comments like “man, I can’t believe I just got beaten by a girl” when they win. Women who, despite making up around 40% of the total player base, are not going to events. Meghan Wolff from the Magic: the Amateuring podcast wrote an excellent article two years ago on this topic, after encountering – as we all have – people who, in her words, “don’t believe it’s even an issue and who don’t want to be convinced”.

Am I looking into this too much? There’ll be thousands who would argue yes, that I’m a snowflake who looks for excuses to be offended, or that I’m a “feminazi” looking for an excuse to throw my weight around and stop all the boys from having a good time. Maybe that’s what they meant when they said the problem lies with me. Maybe that’s what you think too.

But let’s be absolutely, categorically clear. It doesn’t.

The problem lies with sixteen-year-old Sally who’s just come across Magic and wants to know where she can play locally. She is going to see that post and never attend an event. Why would she? It’s not a huge step to assume that the community will be full of men who’re going to patronise her, avoid her, assume that she’s there for a reason other than to play a game she enjoys.

The problem lies with fifteen-year-old Jimmy, who’s going to think that by hanging out in his local store, this is how he’s going to be perceived by people, who’ll make the correlation between “game store” and “any main inept character from The Big Bang Theory”. Even worse, he’s going to see that article being shared and think that his local store will have a laugh at his expense. Because that’s what it looks like.

The problem lies with twenty-two-year-old Molly, whose hobbies exist in traditionally male-dominated spheres, like gaming. Molly has to specifically create a gender-agnostic gamertag because if she doesn’t she’ll get messages saying “get back in the kitchen you whore”. Molly will look at that post and think, what’s the point?

I’ve spent the best part of the past four years watching, actively working to grow our local player base, listening to feedback from people who perhaps don’t feel comfortable or welcome in these spaces and trying to do better. I like to think I have a decent understanding of the nuances of creating a good community, and I’m afraid not being an asshole to your customers when they’re in your store simply isn’t enough. We know this. Scotland knows this. It’s why most of our shops and players and judges and tournament organisers are so wonderful.

And therefore I would ask you to consider, that if you post something and have to double down and argue with the numerous people pointing out the way that it reflects on your community – people who are the butt of the joke you’re inviting your customers to laugh at – that an entirely different problem lies very much with you.