Four years ago, Wizards of the Coast released the expansion set Avacyn Restored and with it an innocuous card titled Triumph of Ferocity that created a major debate in the Magic community about artwork and misogyny. Two years ago I put a few thousand words to print on this very site about the problems with the Magic community that lead to cards like Triumph of Ferocity being created. This week, Fox studios issued an apology for a misogynist billboard advertising their new X-Men movie. Today we talk about why apologies aren’t getting the job done.
Sorry Doesn’t Cut It
We shouldn’t have to explain to anyone in the year-of-our-lord-two-thousand-and-sixteen that it’s offensive to erect massive billboards depicting a woman having the life choked out of her. I went to see X-Men last weekend (mistake) and there’s no shortage of ways in which Apocalypse’s might can be depicted. He beats the snot out of James McAvoy. He kills tons and tons of extras. It’s very clear just how powerful he is when he is fighting the combined force of Storm, Cyclops, Magneto, and ultimately Jean Grey.
But Fox decided to put up a billboard of him choking the life out of Jennifer Lawrence, hash-tag-face-palm.
As a Magic fan and blogger I was immediately reminded of the tumult that followed the 2012 release of the card Triumph of Ferocity which depicts Garruk Wildspeaker choking Liliana Vess. You might be more familiar with this card from last year’s re-hashing of the misogyny debates when Wizards updated the art for Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015.
We’re not here to talk about why it’s misogynistic to depict women being choked by much, much larger men. We’re not here to talk about why it’s the responsibility of Fox or Wizards of the Coast to stop this from happening in the first place. These are facts. If you’d like to debate them I can try to scrounge up a time machine to 2010 for you.
We’re here to talk about why this keeps happening, something I already talked about two years ago but apparently needs to be said again. This happens because there aren’t enough women involved in the process. Two years ago I lamented the fact that there were only two women working on Magic in R&D. Guess what? That number has gone up in recent years but it’s still appallingly low. There are plenty of women in strong positions at Wizards like Helene Bergeot and Elaine Chaise but ultimately it’s no secret that Magic is created primarily by men.
Fox studios has a similar problem. Too many men calling the shots. Too many men directing. Too many men producing. It goes on and on and on and eventually there just aren’t any women around to say “Hey, maybe we can have Apocalypse choke the life out of someone else or at least not make a 40-foot billboard glamorizing it?”
There are a lot more women creating content in the Magic community these days but it’s still an embarrassingly low number. How many women write regularly for Star City Games? One? Zero? How are the numbers for Channel Fireball? The Mothership? Not much better. I called people out on this two years ago and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa asked me if they’re supposed to just go looking for women content producers or something?
Yes. Yes, you are.
I attended a panel at PAX East many years ago that talked about women in the video games industry. One of the panelists shared an anecdote that went something like this. A woman was working on a AAA-title in which one of the scenes has dialog about a character being a victim of rape. The woman felt very strongly that this was a problematic scene but the men involved said she was overreacting. It wasn’t until another woman on the project took a look at it and confirmed there was a problem that the men decided to change things.
One woman is not enough. Two women is better, but really it’s not enough. How many women do we need to make sure we don’t have to repeat this scenario over and over and over again until I don’t have to worry about seeing depictions of women being choked to death on billboards?
The answer is as many as it takes.
Until we’re willing to do what it takes to bring more women into the decision-making process as equally-valued members of our society, you’re going to see a lot more Triumph of Ferocity.
What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.