Over the past few weeks a series of events has begun to rekindle the discussions around women and their treatment within the Magic Community at large. While women are given more respect at tournaments than in the past, and the general tone has improved, there is still a large issue that has come to the fore-front of this topic: indifference. We’ll take a look this week at the way two of the largest pillars of our community continue to be indifferent towards women and what we can do to make a change.

What is the Misogyny of Indifference?

This controversial piece of Magic art, Triumph of Ferocity, is often cited as an example of the misogyny that runs rampant in the imagery of Magic: the Gathering.

It’s easy to spot active misogyny. These are overt events whereby a person or group of people says things or takes actions which are harmful towards women. It can be talking down to your female opponent or bragging to your buddies after a match about how you “beat a girl.” It can be flirting with your female opponent who clearly does not want to engage in that kind of activity. These things happen but the community at large has taken many positive steps to curtail misogynist behavior and make it unwelcome in our gaming stores and at our tournaments.

Indifference is a passive form of misogyny and is therefore much more difficult for the common person to identify as an act that is harmful towards women. This is because it is often the complete lack of action that defines the indifference. There are many ways in which this can take shape. One common example is the case of the observer who witnesses an act of misogyny but does nothing about it. They’re not the victim nor are they the assailant. Thoughts such as “let someone else deal with it” or “it’s not my problem” run through their head as they carry on with their own life. This type of associative evil was popularized by the 1999 film The Boondock Saints. The point is that the observer acts out of what is most convenient to them, not out of what would be most helpful to the victim.

In Magic’s color pie, which we all know and love, this would be a selfish act, making it part of Black’s slice of the wheel. By doing what’s convenient instead of what’s helpful, the observer is taking the “easy way out” instead of being helpful and could be classified as “evil.” The claim made in The Boondock Saints is that this can be considered as harmful as the original act of hate. One of the movie’s famous quotes addresses this:

Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.

This indifference can show itself in many forms, not just in observing an act of hatred and doing nothing about it. The world is full of hateful, spiteful, and evil people. We live with a terrible imbalance between groups of people. Within our society, and especially within the Magic Community, there are the privileged (men) and the disadvantaged (women). The indifference we’re going to look at today is when members of the privileged group, who posit themselves as “good” people who are doing the “right” thing, still choose to take the easy way out when an opportunity to help the disadvantaged group presents itself.

The Indifference of Wizards of the Coast

Jenna Helland was on the design teams for Magic 2015 and Theros

Alexis Janson was the lead designer of Dragon’s Maze and was on the design team for Return to Ravnica

The lack of women in prominent roles at Wizards of the Coast may be difficult to see sometimes because the few women who attain those roles are very vocal in social media. Helene Bergeot, the director of Global Organized Play, and Elaine Chase, the senior director of Global Brand Strategy & Marketing, are well-respected members of the community who have helped shatter ceilings for women in gaming. However, while the day-to-day organization and operation of Magic have prominent women, the design and execution of the game are still lacking diversity.

33 different people worked on the design and/or development of the eight Magic expansions that will make up the Standard constructed environment once Magic 2015 is legal. That covers Magic 2015, all of Theros block, Magic 2014, and all of the Return to Ravnica block. Among those 33 members of Wizards Magic R&D, only two are women: Jenna Helland and Alexis Janson. The average R&D member designed or developed an average of 3.3 of these 8 sets, with 12 people working on a single set while two members, Mark Rosewater and Shawn Main, worked on six different sets. Jenna Helland and Alexis Janson each worked on two sets, below the average.

Wizards designs sets two years in advance, so it is entirely possible that they have already begun to change the culture behind this structure of having men outnumber women 15-to-1 in R&D. However, the next fall set, Khans of Tarkir, was announced two months ago and does not contain a single woman on either the design or development teams. The future of Magic design continues to be a boys’ club.

This is only one example of Wizards’ indifference to women. Perhaps it is because Helene Bergeot and Elaine Chaise have made so much headway in other areas of the company that R&D has made virtually no effort to increase the number of women who design Magic. Unfortunately this is a debate that often goes the same route as any debate about affirmative action. The argument is made that women simply aren’t as skilled at being game designers as their male counterparts, and therefore it makes sense to have more men than women. It is simply untrue that the women who design games are any less skilled at it than their male counterparts. What may be true is that there are far fewer women interested in pursuing a career designing games, but certainly not the 15-to-1 ratio represented at Wizards.

This is representative of the Fantasy Art culture of 1994. We’ve made some progress, but is it enough?

Another place that Wizards has slacked off when it comes to acknowledging the disadvantaged position of women (and minorities) is in the artwork on the cards. Their laissez-faire attitude towards their art direction is unacceptable. If companies like Wizards won’t make the effort to encourage fantasy artists to tone down the misogyny and increase the diversity in their artwork, who will? Perhaps over a long period of time, social changes will eventually creep into fantasy art. That change could come much, much quicker if Wizards was pushing the envelope even just a little harder.

The indifference highlighted above has lead directly to the acceptance of the absence of women in the designer credit promotion featured in Magic 2015. Last week on this very site Jess wrote a detailed article explaining why it is unacceptable for Wizards to pass the buck when it comes to making sure women are involved in the creation of Magic the Gathering. At the end of the day that’s what this really is all about: making the effort to find women who are skilled at game design, attracting them to take a role designing Magic, and building a safe work environment where they can flourish. Is this too much work for Wizards of the Coast? Would they rather break the cycle that keeps women in this community disadvantaged or would they rather keep the status quo and maintain the boys’ club that is R&D?

The Indifference of Star City Games

Pictured above: The only woman to ever write a premium article for Star City Games.

Pictured above: The only woman to ever write a premium article for Star City Games.

On Wednesday Star City Games did something that they had not done in 18 months: they published an article authored by a woman. I expected Jadine to write a tournament report for a major site soon enough since she had performed well in a few recent Grand Prix events and was now Pro Tour bound. I was not expecting it to show up on Star City Games and was almost immediately shocked to see it there in my RSS feed.

I’ve long suspected that SCG is the Magic Community’s biggest “sausage fest,” but I decided to do some research to see if I could back up that hunch. My fiancee and I poured through SCG’s archives and tabulated how many articles had been written by men versus women, whether they were “select” or “premium,” and what were the first and last publication dates of each author. The goal was to identify just how underrepresented women are by SCG. The results were appalling.

The statistics below are based on the compilation of all content in Star City Games’s archives excluding pieces explicitly labeled “News” or “Podcast.” Also, any video series which is attributed to a group by name instead of authors was excluded. Finally, anyone whose name has an apostrophe in it was also excluded because SCG’s search tool can’t handle an apostrophe so those articles are not searchable.

Star City Games, in it’s 14+ years of publishing Magic content, featured 529 unique content authors. Of these writers only 14 were women. That is 2.6% of all contributors to SCG. The number of women in the Magic community is low, but it is not nearly that bad. If, conservatively, only 10% of Magic players are women, that still means that SCG only represents 25% of the female portion of the community. If 30% of Magic players are women, a much more likely scenario, then SCG represents less than 10% of them fairly.

Things only get worse if we drill into the details:

  • 368 writers have authored more than a single article, a total of 70% of all contributors. However, of the 515 male writers, 362 (70%) have been allowed to write multiple articles while only 6 of the 14 female writers (43%) have done so.
  • The most articles written by any female writer is 29 by Laura Mills from May of 2002 through April of 2005. 134 of the 515 male writers (26%) have written 30 or more articles for Star City Games.
  • Laura Mills also holds the longest tenure for any female writer, even though she hasn’t written in over nine years now. Her 1,048 days as a writer for SCG is only good enough for 153rd all-time.

After Laura Mills stopped writing it was 13 months before Johanna Virtanen became a regular writer (May 2006 – Sep 2008). After Johanna it was 19 months before another woman wrote an article. At that time, in April of 2010, Allison Medwin wrote a single article. In August 2010, four months later, Thea Steele began writing regularly. Thea’s tenure concluded in February 2011, followed by another gap of six months. In August 2011 Ashley Morway started writing regularly and did so until September 2012.

During that time was SCG’s “golden age” of female authors. While Ashley Morway was writing regularly, seven other women wrote articles for Star City. Five of them only wrote a single article and one writer wrote three in a single week. However, the highlight was the three-and-a-half month period from late January to early May of 2012 when both Ashley Morway and Jackie Lee were writing for SCG. Jackie Lee even worked her way to the premium side of the site.

But all good things come to an end, and since Ashley’s departure in September 2012, only Lauren Lee had penned a single article until Jadine Klomparens was featured this past week. That’s 14 years of producing original Magic content and a grand total of 14 female writers, averaging one per year. The 515 men to come through the gates of Star City’s website make an average of almost 37 per yer. The numbers are staggering and point to a single conclusion: Star City Games does not actively seek out women to write for their site.

This is the misogyny of indifference. The largest, longest lasting, and most prolific publisher of Magic content on the internet does not want women to write for their site. If they did, there would be more than one woman introduced every year. There would be more women writing regularly. There would not be a 12 month gap in which not a single woman was asked to write for the most popular Magic site in the world.

Other sites in the community are only marginally better, but for the most part they all seem to have a “token” female voice. Channel Fireball has had Carrie Oliver write regularly for years while Melissa DeTora has been a constant contributor for TCGPlayer. Up until very recently a number of women were writing regularly for Gathering Magic and this here blog you’re reading has two regularly published women on staff. The only other widely read site I can think of that is devoid of female presence is Quiet Speculation, but that’s a different topic.

At the end of the day, if Star City Games wasn’t indifferent to the disadvantaged group of women in our community, they would find at least one, single, solitary female to write regularly. But they have only done so five times in the past 14 years, and not once in over a year now.

How to Make a Difference

Look at that. A powerful female character who doesn’t have to be depicted in a mini-skirt and bikini top.

It’s easier said than done, but it’s important that we all strive to improve the situation for disadvantaged groups in our communities. This includes the condition of women in the Magic Community. Don’t take the easy way out. Take the road less traveled instead. It all starts with the simple understanding that women are a disadvantaged group within our community.

In Buddhism this could be referred to as “right view” and is the first division of the Noble Eightfold Path. Once you have this perspective you need to have the right intention. You have to want the condition of the disadvantaged to improve. You’re now on the proper path. At this point you can still find yourself being indifferent. Sure, you understand the problem in the community, and you want to see it improved, but it’s just so much work. You need to make the conscious decision that you will take action, and you will not stand by idly while others suffer. The next two divisions of the noble path are valuable here in guiding us to achieve this goal:

  • Right Speech – Don’t say things that are misogynistic. Be mindful of the things that come out of your mouth. Also, when you hear things that are offensive to women, tell people to stop, or inform the owner of your LGS or your tournament organizer or head judge. Making our community a place where women are safe from verbal abuse is critical. Keeping yourself from saying these things while letting your friends continue to do so is an unacceptable indifference towards women.
  • Right Action – Don’t act in a way that is misogynistic. There are many things you can do that can be threatening or offensive to women. Be mindful of your hand gestures and of the way you act around women. Flirting with a girl at a tournament is only acceptable if the girl is okay with it. If she’s uncomfortable and just wants to play Magic then just play Magic. As with speech, it’s also not enough to just watch your own behavior. When you see others acting in a manner that makes women uncomfortable you should tell them to stop, or you can get a judge, tournament organizer, or store owner to intervene.

The rest is up to you to put the effort into making the community a better place by taking action and refusing to be indifferent to the plight of the disadvantaged. Magic doesn’t necessarily need it’s own Boondock Saints, but it needs good people to step up and proactively improve the community. You can be one of those people.

Pro Tour Update

Top 25 Update

Top 25 The race at the top of the standings grew much closer this week after Jeremy Dezani finished with the win at Grand Prix Milan. He now sits less than half a point behind top-ranked Reid Duke in the top 25 rankings, but has surpassed Duke in the Player of the Year race. With only two more Grand Prix events before Pro Tour Magic 2015 we could see Duke lose his top spot soon enough. Meanwhile, Japanese pro player Yuuya Watanabe climbed up into the top 10 with a second-place finish at Grand Prix Washington D.C.  The rest of the rankings remain relatively unchanged.

The Quick Hits

  • Erin Campbell interviews Adrienne Reynolds who will be conducting an ethnography of the Magic Community over the next few years [The Deck Tease]
  • The playmats for Grand Prix New Jersey later this year will feature the original art from the Mercadian Masques version of Brainstorm [Quiet Speculation]
  • Glenn Jones dives into the logistics of running a Grand Prix, in the wake of negative reactions to GP Chicago [StarCityGames]
  • Mark Nestico ends his run as a Magic writer by leaving us some advice on how to be a good community [StarCityGames]
  • Brian Kibler wants the coverage of Grand Prix tournaments to start on time as advertised [BMK Gaming]
  • The playmats for Grand Prix Orlando are also going to be super sweet and are a parody of Disney’s theme park maps [Quiet Speculation]
  • The full spoiler for Magic 2015 has been released. Check it out [Product Info]

Wallpaper of the Week

Garruk, Apex Predator, is one mean looking hunter. The black mana poisoning his veins is a nice touch, but the highlight of this piece is the blood-soaked blade of his axe, fresh from it’s latest kill. It was likely one of your planeswalker buddies. No, don’t turn around and look if Steve is still over at table 7 playing his match. If you turn around now, you’ll be decapitated by the time you’ve realized everyone else is already dead. My only gripe is that there isn’t more blood everywhere on Garruk. I doubt he’s being careful with his kills.

Grade: B+

The Week Ahead

It’s time for the Magic 2015 Core Set prerelease events! Head to your local game store and pick up your oversized Garruk challenge card and go nuts with the latest and greatest Wizards has to offer! I’ll be hoping to hit up the midnight prerelease at Tap N’ Atk Games in Camp Hill, PA. 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.

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