The Magic community on Twitter recently revisited a discussion on what to call lands that can turn into creatures (e.g. Shambling Vent, Mutavault, Mishra’s Factory). Traditionally these had been called “man lands,” a semi-rhyming slang that has become fairly entrenched in the community.
I still call creature lands "manlands" and every time I write an article I have to ctrl f "manland" and change it. How do I break the habit?
— Melissa DeTora (@MelissaDeTora) February 19, 2016
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa asked his female twitter followers whether the name bothered them, particularly when translating ‘manland’ to Portuguese make a feminine phrase. Most said it did not, but many recognized there was something to it and some questioned posing the question this way. It is important to realize that people can recognize things maybe aren’t optimal, and there is a need to improve, without it greatly affecting them in one direction or another.
— Mrs. Mulligan (@TheMrsMulligan) February 22, 2016
@PVDDR I like creatureland better but manland doesn't bother me.
— Melissa (@jedimelmac) February 23, 2016
@PVDDR Not a bit. I will say that it's great that you asked the question!
— Amie Bailey (@ajbailey) February 22, 2016
@PVDDR does not bother me, but I know it bothers others, so I try to say creature lands too
— Gaby Spartz (@GabySpartz) February 22, 2016
.@PVDDR "does this bother you/why are people so easily offended" (they're not) misses the point. Inclusion isn't about avoiding offense.
— Sam Black (@SamuelHBlack) February 22, 2016
The responses in favor of “manlands” broke down into three broad categories: (1) tradition, i.e. “We’ve always called them that.” (2) aesthetics, i.e. “Manland just sounds better.” or (3) semantics, i.e. “Man stands for human and is not gender exclusive.”
In truth, all three of these ultimately seem to collapse into the first. Aesthetics, aside from being subjective, are more likely to grow out of familiarity more than any inherent virtue of the older name.
@PVDDR Is it uglier or are you used to man land? Sultai was worse than BUG until we just 'did' it. I'll concede that it's definitely longer.
— Emma Handy, Knight Фf Autumn @ PAX! (@Em_TeeGee) February 22, 2016
The semantic argument is also rooted in tradition. In older English style manuals, the male gender is prescribed default and it has indeed been used as a stand in for “Human” in traditional texts. However, on issues of inclusivity, appealing to tradition is rarely useful. After all, the very issue being addressed is the traditional lack of inclusiveness, so looking to the past is not a useful guidepost. It’s also worth noting that, other than Mutavault, none of the lands become Humans.
— Ma:rta, Knight of Autumn 🍂 (@TragicMtG) February 22, 2016
Inventory of #mtg Landimals: 10x elemental 2x blinkmoth & 1x each ape, faerie, soldier, insect monk, skeleton, plant zombie, & "all"
— MTGDiversity (@MTGDiversity) February 24, 2016
The last response that came up fairly often was, “Who cares?” Ultimately, as a poll on MTGDiversity’s own twitter showed, most of the participants (55% of 96 respondents) felt it was a small issue but a worthwhile one. But there’s room for a lot of space between “The Biggest Deal Ever” and “Literally Irrelevant.”
Does it make a difference to how welcoming places #mtg is played are if people say creature lands vs. man lands?
— MTGDiversity (@MTGDiversity) February 23, 2016
Ultimately, you aren’t being inherently sexist and likely aren’t directly offending someone if you say “manland”. But it’s also not discriminatory or offensive to cross your arms and sit silently when a new person enters your Local Game Store. Still, making this small change is a gesture toward inclusivity, a show of good faith, and a relatively low cost way to remove a small barrier to entry for those that the name does bother.
Instead of “manland” consider saying “creature land.” If you don’t like that, the MtG community has no shortage of quirky nicknames for things, so try lanimals, elementalands, ani-lands, critter land, or your own non-gendered way of referring to our animating land friends.
It can certainly be said that the Magic Community can and will adapt to change, it just has to be a unified effort. Trying these alternate names on could be as simple as using them at FNM for an evening and getting people to discuss it more in depth. Being an advocate for such change in your local community can change the community at large and make various people feel more included.