On Happy Pills, or “shut up Daily Mail”.

The Daily Mail are at it again.

Anyone see this headline emblazoned across their front page yesterday?

daily mail

Once I’d gotten over my disbelief (even now I continue to be surprised by trash, like finding a raccoon in my wheelie bin) I was infuriated. So this one’s for you, Daily Mail, and anyone else who believes this dangerous crap.

Let’s get this straight, first of all. They’re not “happy pills”. They’re not tablets your GP will hand out like Haribo on a wet Monday morning. Britain’s not hooked on a chemical shortcut to a good day.

What Ben Shepherd, Medical Correspondent is referring to is the group of medications known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs. Medication. Like you’d get for diabetes, or high blood pressure.

They’re prescribed for a number of mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression, and they basically work by slightly increasing the amount of serotonin – the stuff that makes you feel happy – in the brain to counteract chronic low mood and anxiety. They’re not opioids. They don’t induce addiction or physical dependency.

They take the edge off. They gently relieve the unbearable struggle. They let you regain your footing when the world feels like it’s falling away beneath you. They lift the albatross. They stop the wild oscillation of anxiety that renders you incapable of function.

That’s what SSRIs do. They make being alive seem less like an ordeal. But that’s not going to sell papers. So let’s sensationalise an illness that kills more men under 50 than anything else in the UK.

Throwing around the idea that “Britain is hooked on happy pills” like they’re fidget spinners is vile. It’s not trendy to take antidepressants. The line “Experts last night said patients were demanding a quick fix to avoid feeling down” is staggering. Imagine reading the same headline about insulin for diabetics. Experts last night said patients were demanding a quick fix to avoid dying.

Mental illness kills. SSRIs save lives.

I was going to pose this as an open letter to the Mail but I thought, what’s the point? They’re hysterical and completely tone deaf. Instead, I’ve written it here in the hope that the perspective of someone who’s actually experienced both horrendous mental health problems and the way that medication for mental illness can pull you back over the precipice.

If you’re struggling with your mental health and make the decision to speak to your doctor about it, don’t balk at the idea of medication. Don’t listen to idiots like Ben Spencer, Medical Correspondent, who really should know better.

In fact, do youself a favour and just don’t read the Daily Mail.

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.