I don’t even know where to start with this. I have a nagging suspicion that my efforts might be completely fruitless, because I have had countless discussions just like this in my local Magic group, and they have all largely headed in the same direction.
But nonetheless, I am going to take the time to type out a systematic and articulate response to your article. I’d like to preface this by saying that I read your article word-for-word, top-to-bottom. I became emotional, upset and sometimes downright livid, but I’m nonetheless making a point of replying calmly and respectfully, and I hope that I will be afforded the same dignity.
You open with a scenario from South Park. I will not go into the merits of referencing South Park when making any kind of social commentary. But the gist of the argument according to your transcript is this: The children seemed like they were being racist but didn’t know it because they were blind to race, so we forgive them or even congratulate them, and carry on.*
The fact of the matter is that behaviour that is oppressive remains oppressive irrespective of the motives behind that behaviour. I do believe that the correct approach is to try to educate as to why the behaviour is wrong rather than simply becoming indignant and belligerent about it. But please remember that oppression, whatever the motivation, hurts people.
Your argument here, if I follow, is that by addressing these inequalities, we are creating more prejudice, or “widening the gap”. And I will retort by saying that you are widening that gap, perhaps because you have become defensive after reading Meghan’s article.
You state that you and Meghan share a common goal, but you set about explaining systematically why she is wrong in pursuing that goal. The primary problem here is that you address this matter from a position of privilege.
Your first argument is against the necessity to have women in positions that are visible, in terms of coverage, feature matches and so on. What you have failed to realise here is that gender is an issue. For years and years, the coverage booth has been staffed exclusively by men, because that is the expectation that society has. The goal is equality between genders, but we are starting from a point that is already heavily biased in favour of males. In Magic, people should indeed be recognised by their merits, but do not forget that achievement is informed by opportunity, and opportunity while abundant for men, is far less so for women.
We are not asking for special dispensation – what we are asking for is representation. And this is particularly pertinent with regards to your comment about saying that there may “some day” be a woman in a coverage position. There may not be many positions available, but the fact is that although we play the game, we do not enjoy the same luxury of representation that you do. And this is the kind of inequality that should be addressed rather than left to sort itself out on its own at some arbitrary point in the future.
What are the criteria for having a match featured live on camera, exactly? Those matches are selected for a number of reasons, and often the position of the players on the standings is not primary amongst them – very easily proven by virtue of that Table 1 is not always featured in coverage. So why is it sexist to suggest that representation should be a factor in considering which matches are featured?
You preface your response to “Girlfriendification” by saying that you are male and the problems do not directly affect you, so this already lessens all the arguments that follow. You have indeed not experienced these phenomena for yourself, and to argue that they do not exist because you have not personally experienced or witnessed them is naive.
You then argue that as your girlfriend becomes more proficient at the game, she will be regarded as an individual on her own merits rather than as an extension of your own presence. The implication here is that by default, she undergoes girlfriendification until she earns the right not to. When you began playing Magic, was your very presence at an event undermined? Did anyone say “Oh you’re Joe Schmoe’s friend?”. I imagine it is more likely that from the outset you were judged according to your own merits or lack thereof.
Then you give examples of incidents where she did in fact experience sexism. Firstly, you laud her for laughing off these occurrences. If it did not faze her, that is well and good, and more power to her. But it is not a praiseworthy thing for a woman to ignore these kind of comments. The implication here again is that if she is perturbed by it, that is a weakness. In the first instance, she should not even be subjected to that kind of treatment – if she is, it is unfair to blame her for not being able to ignore it.
The argument that “some people are going to be jerks” no matter what is a poor one. Of course it is unacceptable to be rude or discriminatory to anyone, on any basis. But again, acknowledge the reality that women are subjected to this more often than men. Even in the instance of someone who is a “natural born jerk”, that individual is more likely to behave inappropriately towards a woman than towards anyone else, because it is perceived as being more acceptable.
Of course we should actively discourage people from being jerks, and we should work together towards this goal – I do not think anyone would dispute that. But I do take issue with your second point. It’s all well and good to say that we should speak up when we are being oppressed, but this is very typical victim-blaming – what you must try to realise is that even if she is the victim of harassment or disrespect, a woman may not necessarily feel safe in calling it to the attention of an authority figure!
Put yourself in her position for a moment – she has just been insulted on the basis of her gender by an obnoxious player, and seated all around her are a bunch of that player’s friends. How comfortable do you think she would feel in calling the TO or a judge? Don’t blame her for “letting a few jerks ruin… [her] hobby” – blame the jerks for trying to ruin it in the first instance.
You’ve used an example of Gerry Thompson’s hair to compare the body shaming that men undergo with that which women experience. Sure, there are a batch of people ripping on Gerry about his hairstyle. None of them talk about him being f— worthy. None of them are catcalling him. The “nom” pales in comparison to the abusive remarks leveled routinely at women. The salient point here is that we are not arguing that men are never victim to body-shaming – but that it is often far more pervasive, and far more abusive in nature, when it is directed at women. As soon as a female player is on the screen, she is scrutinised according to the standards of acceptability imposed upon her by the male gaze, which again makes every aspect of her existence secondary to her physical appearance as judged by men. Surely it is clear that is problematic?
Meghan’s article was written with the best intentions, but you are belittling and undermining her. You are criticising her for not doing enough to elicit real change, when she has patiently and considerately articulated some very real challenges and concerns that women in Magic face. Creating awareness and starting conversations is part of the process of initiating change – and your entire article illustrates this, as you show how you, and I am sure countless others, have not yet grasped the severity of the problem. Some even deny its existence as a whole. And again, your straw-man argument that women are asking for “special treatment” is what is actually misleading here. The environment as it stands in Magic is heavily skewed towards male benefit – your entire point about “weak” woman in a “strong” man’s world is evidence of this. We want no preferential treatment – what we want is safety and an environment free of oppression. And here’s a little tip – if it’s an environment in which women aren’t harassed, it will also be one in which men aren’t harassed – now that is true equality.
Respect is earned in any community. But that is not a valid argument to the point that in this community, women start off receiving less respect at the baseline than men do. And I hope you will be able to understand that.
The original article, to which this was written as a response, has been pulled from the site on which it was originally published though an online archive is available and screenshots are included below.
* Editor’s note: The noted sentence originally read “The children were being racist, and they didn’t know they were being racist, so we forgive them for being racist and allow them to continue, and no one has been hurt.” which can be easily misunderstood as not accurately reflecting the original article by Davis. The point was that the behaviour by the kids in the story is still racist in impact regardless of the intent being pure due to their blindness to race. The sentence was re-worded to avoid this potential confusion.