I’m a little worried that “gassergnape”* is going to bleed into the Magic world one of these days. I’ve seen some worrying signs lately, like someone going after Melissa DeTora for being a cheater as he ignored the Bertoncini/LSV flareup during this past Pro Tour. Personally, I doubt Melissa Detora is a cheater; in my experience, judges know better than to cheat, and I seem to recall her judging at one of the PAX Easts I attended. But even past that, I think she knows better. Whether she likes it or not she is judged by a less forgiving standard than most of her male peers, and it’s a rare woman navigating a male-dominant space who isn’t cognizant of that.

After all, “twice as good to get half as far” isn’t just something Scandal pulled out of midair; while the exact ratios may ebb and flow based on your privilege, playing off the straight white male setting does tend to up the difficulty level.

Magic has some things going for it that I think may help inoculate us from the full toxic effect of gastrogash. Although “going for it” may be a bit of a stretch, as the first factor keeping us from a full blown outbreak is probably just the relative dearth of women playing this hobby at a visible level. To the best of my knowledge, there were only two women at the Pro Tour this time around: Melissa Detora and Jadine Klomparens. Both seem to be awesome, and I hope that they’ve managed to get tied into the social and testing networks that seem to be the number one indicator of folks remaining on the Pro Tour (excepting, of course, those savants like Shaun Maclaren who largely go it alone). But two people from a tournament that invited 478 is an atrocious ratio. It’s going to take time to change that, and in the meantime women tend to be lower profile. There are maybe ten women Magic writers on all the major sites these days, although the exact count rises and falls with where you draw the “major site” line.

For example, Hipsters of the Coast doesn’t really count.


Meanwhile, the video gaming industry has reached a much higher percentage of participation, as well as having more in the way of raw numbers. MMOs like World of Warcraft have unexpectedly broad female player bases, and the independent gaming scene (like many independent scenes before it), allows for greater participation by those who have been largely ignored by the big publishers.      

And say what you will about Wizards of the Coast (I have, and will again), they are making an effort to rectify some of those disparities.

Another insulating factor is probably the degree to which we Magic nerds have a better sense of what it’s like for the main geek groups to turn on us. I keep coming back in my head to the Fallout series’ swipes at Magic; in the grand scheme of things, we’re slightly more reputable than Pokemon players, and on roughly the same footing as LARPers. None of these groups seem to be having grampaguard outbreaks, likely because we’ve experienced that dip in status that comes with having a nerdy pastime that’s not yet been reclaimed wholly by mainstream culture. Frankly, a lot of the young console gamers driving this outburst of anger have never really lived in a world where their hobby was remotely niche; the elder statesmen of Magic, on the other hand, usually have roots before Magic became popular, and thus they have a calming effect on the roiling anger that characterizes this most recent misogynistic outburst.  

Plus, for better or worse, even the conservative Magic players tend to be more activist-inclined. I may cast a glance askance at those Ron Paul/Cato Institute fellows who trumpet their Libertarian leanings at non-political events, but I recognize that in the grand scheme of things those people want to make some positive change in the world. They’re going about it ass backwards, and they haven’t meaningfully engaged with their privilege, but they’re not the type of entitled pricks who have been railing against “social justice warriors” ever since this ridiculous slut-shaming episode exploded.

I have to say, if you use the term “social justice warrior” in reference to others, or even yourself, I am going to stop listening to you. What an absurd term! As if fighting for social justice is something to fight against. Do you know who fought for social justice? Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Frederick Douglas. Abraham Lincoln. George Washington. While the definition of social justice has expanded as we’ve confronted blind spots in our equality rhetoric, the basic tune is the same. Power never gives an inch willingly; it requires people doing hard, emotionally draining work, and it takes a long time.

There are far too few people fighting for social justice today; money drowns out all but the most dedicated voices. And you were going to burn them? How is that remotely just? How can a person look at themselves in the mirror at the end of the day and say, “I feel good about myself because I fought to keep this shitty world a little shittier today.”

I certainly can’t.

There have been a lot of tone arguments at play that draw false equivalencies between the socially powerful lobbing rape threats and death threats at women who dare stand up to this movement, and the often unkind responses that the less privileged people shoot back. Tone arguments are a common derailing tactic, since it’s easy for a person defending their social power to remain calm, while people who have been shut out manage to work their way through calm and out the other side very quickly. If being nice doesn’t work, why remain nice? But calling some entitled assholes bad names is a far cry from the organized sociopathy driving gatorgrate. And I’ll take mean allies over violent allies any day of the week. Because when one side has some extremists who are tendering in personal attacks, and the other side has some extremists who are threatening real world harm through doxxing and rape, it is absolutely a false equivalency to suggest that those two things are the same.

I hope this social cancer stays out of our community, though. I think we have a strong chance to stay free of it, so long as the key voices in our little world speak out against these trends when they pop up. Because the truth of the matter is that these internet trolls are the new untouchables; there’s no consequence for their actions, and they can do all sorts of real world damage from the privacy of their own home. That’s true power in the modern world, and it makes their temper tantrum over increased diversity in gaming spaces even more galling and stupid.

If you’re interested in reading more about gaimanganoush, here are some random links:

GG’s Vicious Right-Wing Swell Means There Can Be No Neutral Stance

Female Gsme Developer Forced To Flee Home (the Daily Mail!?!)

On GG and Choosing Who You Stand With

The Five People You Will Meet In GG

A GG Explainer for Non-Geeks

A Thing About GG

Jess Stirba is bracing for the inevitable.

*I’m going to avoid using the hashtag here, for several reasons. First off, it’s an Adam Baldwin invention, and I do everything I can to separate his political activism from the fact he was good in Firefly. Second, it’s the search term used by the aggressors to find potential victims, and I’d rather avoid a targeted harassment campaign for having the audacity to speak my mind. And, finally, I just don’t respect that particular framing. The –gate suffix has been completely overused in the political realm; in this context, where it’s referring to imaginary game journalism corruption based on some dude attacking his ex for theoretical quid-pro-quo adultery, it’s just absurd. Even if any of the facts alleged were accurate, and plenty of people have knocked those claims down repeatedly, those factors don’t reach the level of game journalism corruption that the gashergouts accept willingly from the big companies who wield access like a sword. So, no, I will not be recognizing their rallying call as legitimate. It’s silly, and it shall be treated as such.

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