I must start this article with a few caveats. The woman writer whose work I discuss below did a great job. She had clearly thought long and hard about the topic, her suggestions were practical and could be addressed by other parties than just Wizards of the Coast, and she took a moment to shout out all the other women content producers with whom she was familiar. She even wrote about this directly on the main page of SCG, which last I checked meant she had 256 comments, many of which hurt my soul. These are all admirable things, and the courage she showed is to be lauded. As such, this article isn’t about her, or anything she did; this article is about me, and my emotional response to the bald fact that I didn’t make her list.


So, to be more specific, the other website that I write for, StarCityGames.com, recently posted an interesting article about women in Magic. Unlike many articles of its variety, it draws the connection between an absence of women and an apparent absence of women, positing (similar to what I have suggested in the past) that the route to get more women involved in the game involves the high-profile teams. We need more women commentators, and the ones that do need to be involved directly in game coverage. It’s not enough to have women doing color commentary; we need a Jackie Lee or Melissa Detora behind the anchor’s desk, delving into the strategy at play more weekends than not.

It’s good for more than just that suggestion, though. The article also goes into the body shaming women are subject to when playing Magic, another thing that many of these types of articles overlook. That Gaby Spartz article on Channel Fireball tried to even the score by promoting the body-shaming of men, but the goal is to bring us up, not to bring them down. I really liked this part of Meghan’s article. Shit, I really liked the whole thing.


But then she advises people to back prominent women who produce content. And there’s a list.


I wish it hurt me less that I wasn’t on that list.


As oversights go, it felt significant to me: I’ve written on the site she hosted her article on for almost a year, and for much of that time I’ve been the only regular woman columnist. At times, that has felt like a burden to bear. But it’s not just that. I have written about these topics, fairly extensively. I’ve even woven progressive messages of inclusion into my Commander advice column, which is important, because all anecdotal evidence supports a higher proportion of women playing Commander than competitive formats. Commander play might be casual REL, but it’s also the farm system to get more women playing competitively. You’re certainly more likely to find the next Melissa Detora slinging 99 than trying to build up a woman with no background in Magic at all.


Anyway. I’m not on her radar. Sigh.


I don’t mean to minimize her article, as I know how she feels, and she expressed herself well. She really put herself out there, in an admirable way. This quote in particular truly spoke to me:


“I struggled through every draft of this article wondering if I was fabricating Nessies in the lake and monsters under the bed.”


I get that. I get that all the time. And I’m getting that now. It’s why hearing someone say, “I’m sure it wasn’t personal,” doesn’t soothe the sting. Of course it’s not intentional. It almost never is, and yet it still happens. That’s the “structural” in structural oppression.


I’m going to pivot away from her article now. I want to talk about who we see and who we overlook, because I feel like it’s an important corollary to the representation battle. To be clear, I do not think Meghan in any way, shape, or form made a decision that would rise to the level of the oppressions I want to discuss. But it was interesting, because I’d be lying if I said this was the first time something like this happened to me. And unlike this one, some of the other examples had teeth.


Y’see, I have a pretty developed perspective on exclusionary conduct because I’ve seen multiple sides of discrimination in action. I’ve been personally discriminated against in hiring. I’ve been involved with many groups where my ideas were shot down only when they came out of my mouth, and yet adopted when they came out of the mouth of one of my male friends. And I’ve worked for a Commission on Human Relations investigating cases of employment discrimination, including one in which I found that rarest of rare things: probable cause.


I’ve had all these experiences, and yet there’s still always that little voice, usually echoed by internet commentators, saying, “well, what if you just suck?” That pablum showed up in the comment section of Meghan’s article, phrased in its more typical formulation, “it’s about the best person for the job, so you (or they, or women in general) must not be the best.”


Let’s pause for a second, because that statement is always ridiculous. First off, to believe that you have to believe this country is a perfect meritocracy, and it’s inarguable that it’s not that. If you need an example, look at how we treat our veterans. By any measure they merit more than they get. Secondly, it assumes that there is even such thing as the best person for a job. People have different strengths and weaknesses. Even a person who is a ten at every specific job function has the weakness of being easy to lure away. Finally, it assumes that being the best at the modern interviewing process means that you’re the best candidate for a specific position. Even if it were possible to perfectly quantify humans, the vast majority of hiring includes a fair bit of input from people whose job duties do not regularly involve the acquisition of new personnel.


Unconscious bias heavily sways each one of these factors. As most of it’s unconscious, discrimination rarely leaves a paper trail. People in power have a sense of the type of person they’re looking for, the qualities inherent to that ideal, and even the most enlightened of us find the culture we marinate in affecting us on a fairly base level.


On Twitter, as this was percolating through my head in the wake of that article, I quoted the amazing Sojourner Truth and said, “Ain’t I a woman?” I had meant it somewhat flippantly, but it stuck with me. The exclusion doesn’t hurt because being included in that discussion would provide me with any material benefit; too much attention makes me anxious, as it’s always correlated with eventual pain. No, this hurts because it feels like it’s yet another day in which my identity is subject to the approval of another. And that’s a way I’ve been attacked in the past. Quite often.


If you’ve been paying attention in the wake of Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal, it’s been open season on the identity of trans people. TERF and conservative pushback on Jenner’s Gender 101 understanding of trans issues seems to have seamlessly lead into all sorts of “transracial” bullshit.* In the wake of both, there have been people in publications as prominent as the New York Times opining that trans people are somehow less authentic. Less real. Less than.


It is highly unlikely that Meghan made a conscious decision to leave me out because I’m trans, given the inclusion of another trans woman on that list. But the inclusion of pretty straight woman who happens to be trans reminds me of the problem I saw when I was interviewing with some high-end law firms: the fewer ticks a person is from the straight white man “neutral” identity, the more comfortable people are with you.


This is not a new observation, it’s something that black womanists have been arguing ever since Second Wave Feminism fucked them over, trading an intersectional view of the structural oppressions in for an easy win condition that let white women access the hegemony. But the ratio of gay men to lesbians in those firms was literally four-to-one, and most of the diverse employees they had were men. It was glaring, and yet it didn’t seem to be the result of any targeted policy.


Now, as I look back, I can find the humor in it. I laugh, because the answers I heard when I asked about these disparities have many a parallel to the answers given when we talk about women in competitive Magic. “Women are more suited for the lifestyle offered by nonprofits, what with their need for work-life balance and the cutthroat nature of us eat-what-you-kill law firms!” It’s the “women are less competitive” idiocy, only the JD version.


It’s also bullshit.


When I transitioned in college, one of my closest friends, a straight white bear of a cis dude, confessed to me that the trouble he was having with my trans identity is that he sorted people into boxes, and I didn’t fit into any of them. I can see why; I’m female, queer, trans, kinky, nerdy, and bear scars from a childhood that I try to forget. Each one of these things shows on my presentation in different ways, and each one of those ways is a jagged edge that can catch on the cardboard when someone tries to box me. But this is who I am. Even if I thought I could hide who I am, my victory condition in life is being true to myself. 18 years** of lying about my identity was intolerable. I won’t go back to that to make someone else more comfortable.


I am a woman. I’m a woman who used to write about eternal formats on this very site. I’m a woman who Day 2ed a Standard GP, beating the architect of my deck in my win-and-in through really tight play. I’m a woman who won her (untelevised) feature match at GP New Jersey, playing Death and Taxes. I’m a woman who prompted the adoption of an anti-harassment policy at my LGS, at the expense of feeling comfortable there myself. And I’m a woman who Top 8ed NY States one year, piloting a Chapin control deck.


I’m not some scrub. I know that, and that should be enough. But sometimes it feels like my accomplishments are utterly fleeting. That, because I’m not some personality, I’m doomed to be forgotten. That’s really why it hurt when my name wasn’t on that list.


To pretend it didn’t sting is the type of macho bullshit that actually does keep women out of spaces.


It’s a shame. I really liked her article.



Jess Stirba has accomplished so many weird and random things that she actually had to write a list to remember them.



*FWIW, “trans racial” is a term with a pre-existing meaning. It’s generally used in the phrase “transracial abduction,” or for the less radical out there, “transracial adoption.” Not only is it fucked up to try to use that term in the context of a white lady pretending to be a black woman in order to get positions of prominence she felt she would otherwise have been denied, but it’s also fucked up because it erases the experience of a lot of kids of color.


**It’s really more like 13 or 14. It took Kindergarten to really beat into me that I was supposed to be hiding who and what I was.

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