Casting off “The Mantle”: Female Friendships in Competitive Magic

Chantelle Campbell Uncategorized

Last October I attended Canadian Nationals, and it was my first time staying in a house with other women. Normally it’s just me – the lone girl in my friend group ­– duking it out with the guys. Before that weekend, I had always preached the importance of female representation in Magic without ever having experienced its effects first-hand. I had understood the what, but never really the “why.” Why is it important for women to get to play Magic with other women?

I did not realize, when I first started to take this hobby more seriously, that there was a far-reaching network of women and non-binary players that I could access through social media. Now that I have become a part of it, I could not imagine playing this game without them. They provide a support system, and have become role models and close friends. I was lucky enough to meet a small portion of these women at Grand Prix Vegas in June, and for the first time began to understand that I was not alone, and that I could build connections – and friendship – across the globe. I found people that I would be able to trust, and who could trust me, too.

Over Grand Prix Vegas I met and became fast friends with Carolyn and Teresa. The three of us and a few other friends spent a night out on the town. It was one of the first times that I didn’t feel like the odd one out in a group of Magic-playing friends, and to this day, it remains one of my favorite Magic-related memories.

Fast-forward to Nationals. Carolyn, my friend Jenn and I joined four of my male teammates to take over an AirBnB. I can honestly say that it was the first time I did not feel like I had to constantly represent female Magic players – both inside our testing house and at the tournament site. For the first time I was no longer a girl playing magic with the boys – we were all simply Magic players. We were able to connect with each other between rounds, and go out for dinner as part of a large group, none of us feeling like the odd one out. We could all listen to each other without criticism and help one another talk out problems or bad experiences, with no one feeling the need to “prove themselves” to the others. It was a breath of fresh air that I didn’t realize I had been so direly lacking.

Funnily enough, I was having a similar discussion with my mom, an avid snowmobiler, just recently. Just like Magic, snowmobiling is a male-dominated hobby, and my mom had recently gone on a trip with my dad and another couple. She remarked that it was refreshing simply to not need to prove that she could hang with the guys over and over again, and I couldn’t help but to nod in agreement.

To get some more perspective on female friendship in male-dominated hobbies, I reached out to some friends and asked what having more women and non-binary Magic players meant to them.

 

Having women in the game normalizes the idea that women can play the game.  It creates a snowball effect that makes the game more accessible to more people, which makes the game MORE accessible to MORE people, and so on. 

 – Emma Handy

 

Being the odd one out isn’t fun, and honestly sometimes being the only woman in the room can be a bit scary if you don’t know anyone else. Having even just one other woman in the room really means so much to me because it gives me someone who understands how I feel. Having someone you can relate to in any space definitely can help you feel safer and Magic tournaments are no exception.

– Katie Bates

 

Having other women and non-binary people in the game has reinvigorated my love for the game. After transitioning, I felt lost in the community that I had given so much time to as I was suddenly seen as an outsider. It was only through the love and support of these other people that I’ve been able to reengage in the game I love.

– Lauren Mulligan

 

In the last year, I’ve been able to meet and connect with many women who play competitive Magic. I have developed a very close bond with some of these women because we have so much in common. Seeing my friends and other women at events has become so important to me because they always support me and lift me up.

 – Jennifer Crotts

 

Seeing female and non-binary representation lets me look forward to doing the same when I’m done with school. It just makes me more comfortable like I would in any case where I was the minority, because my experience just from Twitter interactions tells me how much more closely a lot of our interests align, and that can’t necessarily be said for a lot of other minority conglomerates in other communities. That’s sort of the key to me being more comfortable when seeing other people like me at tournaments: on a general level, even if I don’t know them, there’s some extent of camaraderie.

 Ali Liao

 

Seeing other women playing Magic makes me feel like I’m not the only one, and takes away from this feeling that I like to call the “Mantle effect.” That’s where you feel like you have to represent all women, and if you don’t do well at an event, you have somehow let your entire gender down. Just about every woman I know has experienced this at some point in their travels. You might even feel that way after you do well at an event. “Great. Now they’re going to expect every woman to perform as well.” You feel like you’re wearing this mantle that you didn’t ask for, and that you can’t shake. It’s insidious.

– Erin Campbell

 

Having more women and non-binary players in the Magic community is exciting and so very needed. Magic is the best game in the world, but it needs a diverse number of voices and perspectives to help keep it accessible, modern and relevant.  While it is exciting to meet and work with amazing women and non-binary folks in the community, what is more amazing is the support network that we have created that champions us and our efforts. More and more women and non-binary people are feeling comfortable speaking out and being seen in all parts of this community, and this bodes well for the next generation of Magic players.

– Michelle Rapp

 

And they shared some of their favorite memories:

 

GP Vegas last year was my first real interaction with the community. In the months prior, I had been attempting to get to know some people through Twitter, but essentially was completely on my own. The first evening there, I ran into Rachel Agnes, who recognized me from Twitter, and we became instant friends playing old school all evening. I had an instant sense of belonging.

– Lauren Mulligan

 

One of my fondest memories involves renting a house for Grand Prix Louisville last year. It was me, four trans women, and a trans man. It felt so good to have a house full of people like myself, when at times we have all felt like the outsider in our local communities. Despite coming from different walks of life, and having different experiences, on some level we were the same, and it felt incredible to tap in to that.

– Erin Campbell

 

Release weekend for Kaladesh was the first time that Jadine Klomparens and I ever worked together.  I was on a sponsored team at the time and got her into the testing group because she told me she was making a run for the SCG Player’s Championship.  She and I got a hotel room to ourselves because we were the only women on the squad, and we hit it off almost right away.  We both had similar Magic-centric humor, but didn’t have any of the stuff that normally made us feel ostracized from groups in which we were consistently the minority. Saturday night, after Day One of competition, we stayed up until 3 AM sharing stories with each other and talking about things that our male counterparts either wouldn’t be interested in, or wouldn’t be able to empathize with in the same way that we could.  It was so incredibly refreshing to not have to explain WHY makeup is annoying-but-necessary – she just knew.  It was nice having somebody who could empathize with the treatment I’d received while traveling to large Magic tournaments as a woman. That night ended up spawning the most important friendship I’ve formed in the last half-decade.  Since then, we’ve stayed together at almost all the events we traveled to (with each of us going to events that we wouldn’t have otherwise attended if it weren’t for the other), just to make sure that the other person would have somebody there and that they felt safe.

– Emma Handy

 

I always love telling the story of the time I got seated next to Jackie Lee at the first GP I ever played in. I ran into her in the ladies’ room afterward, and she was so supportive; getting to chat with her totally made my day.  Besides us, there was only one other woman in the room of a few hundred people, so having someone to encourage me meant the world. I also really cherish when I met Erin Campbell at Eternal Weekend; we had been internet friends for awhile at this point and she really is somehow even better in person.

– Katie Bates

 

The Magic community has given so much to me, and I can only hope that I can provide a fraction of that to new or aspiring lady Magic players. This community is still small, and the women and non-binary folk within it work tirelessly to provide representation, from cosplay to streaming to writing to playing.

Why is it important that women play Magic? Why is it important for women to feel comfortable in any hobby we choose to pursue? Because we make our hobby better for each other. We lift each other up. And, at least for me (and my mom), it wouldn’t be the same without the friends that we’ve made along the way.

 

Header design: Justin Treadway
Header image: “Vendilion Clique” by Willian Murai