Chase Carroll returns with part four of her Mental Health column. This week, she looks at the power of sisterhood in community, and how as sisters we have a duty to empower and nurture each other, and focus on the positives. As ever, if you enjoyed this piece, get in touch with her on Twitter @ManaCurves to give your feedback. Read the previous articles here. – Kristen
Being a woman in a male-dominated hobby isn’t always easy. At times, sexism and stereotyping can rear their ugly heads. Unfortunately, the Magic Community is no exception. Not every individual within the community treats women in such a way, however, to ignore it is to risk perpetuating it. Despite the often challenging environment, over the course of the past 3 years, my relationship with and love of the game has only increased. The main reason for this is my relationship with other players, and no relationships have been more impactful than those of my fellow women in MTG. My old coworker Sarah, my group member Xenia, and my CMC’s Emi, Joei, Kelso and Tara. These women have been the sounding board for everything from my bad jokes, to deck ideas, to my problems. They have supported me, encouraged me, and have helped mould me into the player I am today.
The love and camaraderie among women magic players can be a shining positive beacon. We lean on each other for support so, so much. When I first started playing Magic, I was filled with anxiety, self-doubt, and was fearful that I wouldn’t be accepted due to my gender identity. It impacted my sense of self and my mental health. However, the community and strength of the women around me built my confidence in myself as a player and as an individual. At my local LGS, I’ve forged beautiful friendships with these and other women. We are even debating on making a ‘Ladies Night’.
It isn’t always this positive, though. Allies are never pushed away, but how can women support other women in this community? Too often our mental health is affected by comments made online and in the LGS. Microaggressions can be impactful and rampant in any community. So how can you help? Rather than solely provide my own opinion, I decided to look to other figures within the community.
How can we, as sisters, support each other in the Community?
“The best thing we can do is to share the work we do. Whether that’s streaming, or articles, or even non-magic related work! We can also support one another by making plans with other women to check in with each other, especially in big tournaments. That way we can make sure we are doing okay throughout the day. I would also say make sure that if you know of a problematic person or abuser that they seem to be interacting with, make sure you warn them. For example, if you know someone is a chaser and they are interacting a lot with a trans woman, warn her about them.”
“In my opinion, we can support each other in two ways.We can continue doing what were already amazing at: sharing and shouting out other content creators and players. I will say since I’ve joined the online community, I’ve had an overall wonderful amount of support from everyone, especially other girls.
The second way we can further our support is taking a serious look at what some of us in the female community are not so great at. I’ve seen jealousy rear its ugly head on more than one occasion. Either it be for “the spotlight” or as silly as playing with someone’s significant other in a match. I don’t say this to simply condemn those who have done this, but to stress the importance of doing our best not to divide an already small segment in the MtG community.”
Emma Partlow (@emmmzyne)
“Women can help support each other and there are many ways we can achieve it. It’s not a ‘them vs us’ scenario, but it’s important we should support each other in good as well as bad. Take Dana Fisher as an example, she’s a young, outgoing personality. Dana flourishing within the community is a great example of the community supporting her, nurturing her with positivity and showing her the best aspects of Magic. The way she’s carrying herself is a reflection of that, and as a result, she has become one of the brightest spots of the community. You can achieve the same effect by being positive, by being a role model and communicating to other females that we aren’t alone in our interests. There are more female gamers than ever before, which is great, but it’s important to support one another positively so we can continue to grow.”
Emma Handy (@Em_TeeGee)
“Don’t tear each other down. Even if you have beef with someone, you shouldn’t be attacking them or their content. If representation is the goal, having as many women in the (content creation) game as possible is unreal important, and simply not making each other’s lives harder is a big part of that”
“Be vocal in our support. For some players, turning up to a tournament or getting a positive record at FNM is a huge achievement. The only way we’ll be able to get more women involved (particularly at higher-level competition) is by proving that no matter what there are people out there in the wider community who’ll always be there to cheer them on and support them.
Do your best to educate your friends to the reality of what it’s like to be a woman in Magic, particularly your male ones. I’ve opened a few eyes recently by sharing my own experiences, and people who were ambivalent before have started actively calling out any inappropriate or sexist behavior. In a community that’s heavily male-dominated, seeing men calling out other men for their attitude makes me hopeful for the future.
And don’t forget your trans sisters – even with all the challenges we face, you only have to look at things like Twitch chat to see how hostile people still are. By lifting each other up we can give each other the confidence to challenge old prejudices and attitudes and make the community a warmer, happier and more successful place for everyone.”
“Every day women are faced with an underlying pressure to prove themselves, ‘If I don’t prove myself, it’ll be put down to my gender.’ This spans far wider than just our hobby it’s at work, at home, driving, shopping, eating out, it’s everyday life.
In our hobby, it’s not unheard of for someone say ‘Ha! You got beat by a girl!’ or ‘This’ll be an easy game.’ I have faced this myself.
I have seen this underlying pressure force women into competing with one another or trying to place their value higher than other women because they ‘put in more work.’
Support and friendship can’t be forced so I don’t expect that kind of change. We just need to not stand by the loud minority of men (and some women) who belittle us due to our gender. This behavior alienates us from other women and eventually any real allies, it turns people bitter and lonely as their attacking turns into being attacked.
In conclusion, the easiest form of support is to not tear others down.”
“I think being a positive force in your community can go a long way. Being the one to organize events, or teaching new players the ropes, can really grow your own reputation, and in turn, the reputation of women in the game. Sitting down with other people at FNM to go over their draft decks with tips, or giving them some spare cards to get going with a deck can go a long way. The quickest way to change somebody’s views is through word of mouth, so being a pillar of your local community pays dividends. People will quickly jump on someone being an asshole if you’ve cemented yourself as part of the community.
I also advocate for inclusivity of all kinds – just because someone has had a different experience doesn’t invalidate their views. People are more than their politics/what they advocate for, and just as much as we don’t want people to judge us on first impressions, we should extend that respect to the rest of mankind. Sometimes all it takes to break down barriers is conversation.”
And the Cabal Therapist?
I think we, as women, can support each other by welcoming each other with open arms and patience. However this isn’t just a women centered problem. Outside the scope of gender, I think too often experienced players get frustrated with newer players, and those relationships often go unforged. Taking the time to teach a new player, showing them their triggers, or reminding them of the untap, upkeep, draw order help cultivate a greater love for the game and strengthen bonds.
I feel that we can also support one another by sticking together. If I didn’t go to my new LGS with my friend Emi, I would have never met my all girl’s playgroup. If I didn’t offer to teach a new girl at my shop how to play, I would have never met my friend Molly. We wouldn’t have our group chat (the CMC’s). I also would’ve never had my fun, all-girls games of EDH where we ended up laughing so hard that we were crying. Some of my greatest connections I’ve made at my LGS were made with these women. The support, love, and laughs I get and share with them has made me feel more confident as a female player. I used to feel anxious before going to an LGS; now I walk in with confidence, because I know I belong.
Sharing each other’s content, listening to each other when we are hurting, and advocating for one another, whether it be online or in person at an FNM or MagicFest can make all the difference. I guess my answer is to help one another. Too often do we see articles about women and MTG online refer to the negative treatment we see. While that is important to talk about, it is also important to talk about the positives. I want to hear more about women supporting women: because it’s a regular thing that happens in the MTG Community that I see overlooked. The concept of supporting one another, standing up for each other, and encouraging each other can be so impactful to our perception of ourselves and others. It’s a wonderful thing to do and experience.