A few weeks ago on Limited Resources, Marshall and LSV shared the results of a listener poll in which only 3% of respondents were female. They encouraged listener feedback on what we can collectively do to help create a more female-friendly community.
My name is Gaby and I've been playing Magic for four years. I’ve been active in the tournament scene for two years and I stream MTGO on Twitch. Having played for as long as I have, if there's something negative to be said about a female player, I've been on the receiving end of it. But it has never dissuaded me in my love of the game.
I’m a lifelong gamer who is obsessed with Magic. It’s by far my favorite game that unquestionably has been one of the most positive influences in my life.
I didn’t want to write an article complaining about the obviously sexist things some guys do that we all look down on. That’s a waste of time—blatantly sexist guys aren’t reading this anyway. So I’m going to focus on a few positive things we can all do to make the Magic community the best community.
1) I know it’s weird to play against a girl, but you really don’t need to bring it up.
You and I are not that different. I’m thrilled about the new set that’s coming out. I’ve stayed up to the wee hours of the morning for midnight prereleases. I go to FNM almost every week, PPTQs whenever they’re in the area, and have made questionable decisions about how far to drive to GPs. I read articles to improve my game, and I dream of playing at a Pro Tour someday. I’m sure much of this is familiar to you, and my gender isn’t a factor.
If you are paired against a girl at a tournament, there’s no need to discuss gender. Imagine what it would feel like if you played against girls every round who often brought up your gender—even if it was just to say supportive things. Sure, they mean well, but every conversation is a mildly uncomfortable reminder that you’re different. And you’d get sick of discussing it.
2) Shower, use deodorant, and brush your teeth. Every day.
And if one of your friends is guilty of poor personal hygiene, SAY SOMETHING. I’m used to the smell now and rarely notice it, but I can only imagine how many girls are immediately turned off by the aroma they experience when they attend some Magic events. Eventually most competitive Magic players gets used to it, but why should they? Why is this something we all learn to cope with? Magic player hygiene is often embarrassing. Yes, it’s scary to confront a friend (or stranger) regarding personal hygiene, but someone has to do it. If you smell something, say something.
3) Eliminate “...for a girl” from your vocabulary.
After a match I often hear from opponents that I’m good at Magic “for a girl.” Even though it’s often well-meaning, you should be aware that this is the translation: “most people like you suck at this, but you… well, you suck less.”
I, like many of you, have spent countless hours playing different decks, playtesting the matchups, and learning how to sideboard properly. My gender was irrelevant in my ability to defeat my opponent. I didn’t play well for a girl, I played well.
4) Throw out your preconceived notions of women.
I’ve heard people make the argument that “women are bad at Magic because of their nature.” This argument is ludicrous. Attendance of women at the competitive level is 1-2%, which is incredibly small. Of course you don’t see women taking down GPs or Top 8'ing Pro Tours consistently—we haven’t created the right culture for them succeed. When we do, it will be just a matter of time until we break these glass ceilings.
5) Speak up against negative behavior, and encourage others to do the same.
One of the most positive experiences I’ve had was during a Team Sealed event at GenCon. I was able to emerge victorious from a close match to improve my team’s record to 3-0. As my opponent signed the slip, he lashed out in frustration that he can’t believe he lost to a girl, and that his friends will never let him live this down. Then, he stormed off.
Despite having pretty thick skin, I was obviously hurt by his reaction. I tried my best to brush it off.
Before the next round started one of his teammates approached me. He told me that my opponent was just being salty, and he was frustrated because he played poorly. He wanted to make sure I knew that I played that game well, and that our team deserved to win. He said it wouldn’t be fair for a fun tournament like this to be ruined by such a mean-spirited comment, and that he wanted to apologize on behalf of his team.
No one asked him to do this, but his actions have impacted me deeply to this day. His classy act of sportsmanship filled me with hope. I encourage you to have the courage to do what’s right to support the community when you see a situation like this.
6) Encourage female Magic role models.
Imagine what it would feel like to become obsessed with a game only to see nothing but female competitors, writers, streamers, and commentators. You’d probably feel like something was a little wrong with you. Magic desperately needs more prominent female figures. Let’s celebrate women who can provide inspiration and confidence to other female players that they can also succeed. This is one of the reasons I stream on Twitch—I hope to serve as a notice to other women that this is a game that can be enjoyed by all. Anecdotally, I saw a noticeable increase in female players in the Chicago area after Melissa DeTora’s Pro Tour Top 8.
We all share a deep love for this wonderful game that has brought us together. Treat your opponents—male, female, and otherwise—with the respect that you would show to any other human being.
I hope that this perspective has been helpful. If you’ve made it to this point, you are someone who cares, and you can have a real impact in making Magic the most welcoming community in the world.
I’d love your feedback in the comments. What do you agree or disagree with? What did I miss?