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Friday, January 27, 2017

Changing the Culture

Yesterday, discussion broke out on Twitter about the fact that there were zero women on any of the #PTAER Pro Tour Team Series Rosters. Many people were quick to cite the fact that there are currently zero Gold or Platinum level women in the game. Discussion then began about why that is the case, and it's at least a credit to those involved in the discussion that I didn't see any arguments about women being worse at the game itself. But there is a participation problem.
Two years ago, I did some quick eyeball counts of the number of women playing in SCG Opens. Across nine events, the average was 12.7 women per Standard Open, or a hair over three percent of the field. Participation in Legacy and Modern Classics was slightly less, but those tournaments have such small sample sizes per weekend that it's hard to put much stock in them. I haven't taken any counts recently, but my gut says that it is more. I'll ask someone to do a count this weekend in Richmond.
While there's always room for improvement, I like to think that SCG Tour events are a friendly and welcoming environment for women. It helps that our stage staff and judge staffs always have a strong representation of women among them, and we take matters of harassment seriously. Like I said, things could be better though. One thing I'd like to see is a sign that more directly addresses this, as has been displayed by other TOs and event organizers. While our Tour regulars know us and our values, newcomers don't, and placing a sign that addresses and allays concerns right up front can send a powerful message and establishes a tone. I'm also going to bring it up to add this to our opening announcements.
Education among judges could be better too. Judge conferences often feature a "Women in Magic/Judging" seminar. I've attended a few of them, and even among what a consider to be a more enlightened crowd, there are cringeworthy moments, especially of audience men-bers mansplaining things to the women giving the talk. Yeah.
But we need to move forward in education beyond just "this is a problem" into "this is how we address the problem." We have reached a decent level of saturation of awareness in the Magic community, but we don't know how to deal with it. This is most evident in the number of Twitter posts that shifted the discussion from the #PTAER team representation to the issues at LGSs.
Yeah, those Local Game Stores aren't always friendly. I recall one FNM in a city where we were holding an Open that weekend where a random person came up beside me while I was watching a match and said, "Are you, Chinese? (Me: 'No.') Korean? ('No.') What are you then?"
In that moment, I was speechless. I was powerless. I've felt that way at other LGSs as well. Nothing as personally dramatic as this, but the all-too-familiar phrases "that card is so gay!" or "I got raped by Affinity." We've been at a place for years where we know that these are unacceptable things to say, so it can be demoralizing to constantly fight against it over and over again.
A few people on Twitter mentioned that they feel more comfortable at larger events than an LGS. I feel the same way, and I wanted to explore a few reasons why.
* Smaller spaces, same faces - If you run into an unpleasant person at a GP, you walk away, and chances are good that you never see them again. At an LGS, if you meet a bad seed, you're likely to be within earshot of them throughout the night, and there's a strong possibility that you flat out get paired against them. If you run into that same person week in and week out, it becomes much easier to just walk away from the store.
* Their house, their rules - At a GP or SCG Tour event, I am in charge, or at least in a position where I have agency over the environment, and there's something to be said for having that kind of power. There's also a responsibility to use that power wisely and compassionately, which I try to do. At a random LGS, I am a visitor, and in that kind of environment, it can be difficult to speak up against hurtful words. If it's this hard for me, I can imagine how hard it is for others.
I don't get out to local events often, but for the game as a whole, they are the lifeblood of our community. Players find and play the game there, and some percentage of them get invested and graduate to the higher tiers of competition. It's painful to think about how many players we lose at the LGS level because of the issues we keep hearing about. If you're reading this, it probably means you survived the meat grinder. Something, or maybe a someone kept things going for you. If you're a store owner or a local judge, you have direct control over the kind of environment that your store fosters. But you also have control if you're a regular at your store. Other players know you and the example you choose to set can help everyone to be more thoughtful with their words.
For my part, I'll continue to keep my house in order at SCG Tour events and the GPs I make it out to, and also continue to work on educating judges, not only in speaking up, but how to speak up, because the messenger matters a lot in turning the tide of the culture. I've written more about this in the past. You're no good as an authority figure if you're isolated from your audience.
In closing, this is important to me, now more than ever. In America, we were subject to a rude awakening with the election of that guy. There's nothing we can do about that. This is what we can do. We can win the small battles. People think that attendance at large events have plateaued. Sure, maybe for now. But imagine what attendance would be like if we had more than 3% women at these things.

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