Hello, people! Since this is the probably your first time reading something that I wrote, let me introduce myself: My name is Carol Anet, from Rio de Janeiro – Brazil. I’ve been playing Magic: The Gathering ever since I first heard of the game, which was in the middle of 2015. So far, I’ve been grinding my way through GPs, PPTQs and two RPTQs. Competitive Magic is a huge part of my life, specially for the past two years and, despite been fairly new to everything, I’ve seen a lot and I’ve heard even more. I’ve been writing articles for LigaMagic (biggest Latin-American website for Magic: The Gathering) for almost a year now and this one was originally posted there on January 31, 2019. I hope this piece speaks to you as much as it spoke to me and the (almost) 50 amazing women that helped me put this final version together.
I’ve been working on this text for many months, in many parts, and it will go through a lot of editing, solely because I don’t want to make one single mistake. It might be the most important thing I’ll ever link to a platform and it needs all of the care and nurture this responsibility brings.
The Day I Exploded
The annoyance that tipped the scales
My day started completely normal. It was, actually, my deadline for an article for LigaMagic. Then, my phone started to ring. It was a player, whom I had never given my number to, texting me about anything BUT Magic the Gathering. I tried to brush him off but he insisted. And kept insisting for a while, and he wasn’t rude or impolite or anything, so I extended him the courtesy and gently told him I wasn’t interested. A few days later, coincidently or not, I started to hear rumors and gossip about how “I think too highly of myself” coming from the same group of the person who’d asked me out. You know the feeling when you have something stuck in your throat for some time, and it consumes you little by little, offending you until you explode? That’s exactly what happened today. In the last 3 years, I stopped counting just how many times I had to say “no”. How many times I wanted to say “no”, but I just couldn’t. Be it out of fear, lack of reflex, habit or simply because I was afraid to create a bad situation. But I think it’s about time our community starts to hear when we say something isn’t right. And if you’ve read the (brilliant) article “Death by a thousand paper cuts“, you’ve already understood what this article is about, but I kindly ask you to keep reading and please, try to read it with an open mind. And if we know each other and you recognize something has happened with us here, if I’ve told you everything is ok between us, everything is ok between us. I’m just using examples.
In the last few months, I researched, I read, I got in touch with several national and international female player groups. I asked for stories, points of view, and what they would like male players to know, all that you can imagine. I ended up with this report of almost 100 stories, suggestions and such amazing material that I really want to show you as much as I possibly can.
The point I’m trying to make with this article is that there are certain basic things, which can be done to facilitate our lives a lot. I don’t want you to think that we believe all men are like the ones in these examples. But these things happen, and unfortunately happen too often. If you’re a person who worries about making our community a better and more welcoming place, all my gratitude goes to you. But maybe a friend, or acquaintance, or someone next to you might do it differently, and we need all the help we can get to change that scenario. So, I ask, please, that even if you don’t identify with anything that is presented as problematic here, you keep an open mind and be willing to help us. We’ll go through examples of what to do, what not to do, and a few examples that will show you how we’re not delusional. It’d be impossible to invent all that is documented in this text.
Let’s start with things nobody should do, all suggested by female players.
If it’s obvious, there’s no need to explain
This term was put into polemic discussions recently, but don’t frown upon it yet. It’s nothing more than a term to describe a man who explains something obvious to a woman because he believes that she wouldn’t know anything about it in the first place… because she’s a woman. Would you like a concrete example? I always get classes on how to play MTG after a game. I’m fed up with seeing other girls getting the same class. It doesn’t matter if I won, if I lost, if it was a tie. It’s almost as if while I get my sideboard out of my deck, I’m obligated to receive coaching from people I don’t know and that usually play competitive less frequently than I do. If you think your advice is absolutely irrefutable and must be heard, please be kind and ask if your opponent wants to hear it, listen to the person on the other side of the table. Don’t simply assume she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Deal? Deal.
Hitting on a player
We’re here to game, not to date
We’re human beings, right? Human beings get interested in each other, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to approach the person who made you feel that interest. It sounds obvious to say that, but when you do that in a game area, you might embarrass someone for a series of reasons. Firstly, because there are people paying attention. Secondly, because if she’s not interested, the rest of the day will get somewhat awkward, given that you’ll continue to share a space that might not be that large. My advice: It’s the XXI century, look them up on social media later, and don’t insist. “Ah, but that’s an exaggeration, nobody does that”. Guys, there have been girls who have left the game area of a GP, running, because they had been grabbed against their will. Inside. Of. The. Event.
Women as Men’s Company
Don’t assume a woman is only there because of her boyfriend, husband or brother
This topic was the one most girls talked about. Guys, let me tell you something: there isn’t any biological requirement to play MTG, it is not required to have a male figure to get DCI-number, I swear. Almost 40% of Magic players around the world are women. And if I were to guess the reason why 40% of tournaments aren’t composed of women, based on every single story I researched, I’d say it’s because of how toxic the environment can be. It’s not because women are less competitive or play because of their boyfriends or any other silliness you may have heard. There’s a reason why exclusively female oriented tournaments are a huge success: Less stress. My example for that is a story from Brazillian Nationals 2 years ago. In 2017, I finished day 1 of Nationals at 5-1. When I finished my last round, I got up to meet a friend of mine who was about to finish his match and touched his shoulder to let him know I was there. His opponent promptly smiled and said: “I think it’s so cool that your girlfriend supports you and stays here all day waiting for you to play!” The organizers of the National tournament of 2017 had players wear an identification badge and I, of course, was wearing one, like everybody else.
Losing to Women
If anything about that bothers you, it should be losing at all
Again, MTG does not require a male figure, so there’s no reason to assume that a player is worse or inexperienced simply because it’s not a man who’s across the table. Nobody likes to lose, it’s part of the game. But I heard absurd stories about players literally losing it completely because they lost to a girl. Some stories about that are so intense, that I’m embarrassed to tell you here. One example: One of my opponents from GP Sao Paulo 2018 came to tell me that the next day, his friends made fun of him for “losing to a girl”. I mean, really?
If you don’t know your opponent, don’t make assumptions
This is a complaint I got mostly from women outside of Brazil. Misgendering, in case you’re unaware, means to treat someone by a gender they don’t identify with. I haven’t heard any Brazilian girls complain about getting called dude, man, or anything like that. I guess it’s because our language is really informal, so it’s not a problem here. However, I’ve noticed that this is something really serious in other countries, to the point of no discussion. I talked to many women who absolutely hate to be called “dude”, “man”, “guys”, or anything like that. The reason why they hate it varies, but I noticed the most serious cases happen when the person is transgender, because it might trigger something bad and ruin the person’s day. I’ve only seen one case like that happen and it was so sad, the woman came to the counter of the store to speak to the owner and a bunch of men started to laugh and whisper, until one of them called me, holding his laughter, and made the following comment: “you noticed it’s a dude, right?” Well, it wasn’t a dude. It was a trans woman, and this kind of comment is extremely toxic. Please, don’t be the kind of person who mocks other people’s appearance. I’m not going to get into this debate too deeply, because I don’t feel it’s my place of speech, but I’m sure there are transgender/non-binary people who could answer better to any questions that may come in the comments.
Alright, Carol, what do I do?
The answer is easier than you might think
The answer couldn’t be easier. Treat women with respect. When you sit down to play with another man, what happens? Probably a handshake, a normal game, maybe some chatting. Simple as that, right? It is that simple. We’re not asking for special treatment, we don’t want you to be afraid or anything. We just want you to treat us equally. That’s all.
Where are you getting all this from?!
Ok, let’s move on to the part everyone here wanted to read: the famous stories. There were too many, most of them happened some time ago, some are mine, the crushing majority isn’t, and some were edited to be shorter or for clarity reasons. All are being posted anonymously and no, of course you can’t verify the degree of veracity in all of them, but judging by the volume of material I gathered, I imagine it wouldn’t be some sort of collective delirium from dozens of women from different countries who never met each other.
I had a bad day during a tournament, so I dropped out and went home earlier. When I checked my Facebook, there was a message from a player who I barely know saying: ‘I noticed that you dropped out, guess you couldn’t handle to see me there?’
I owned a store for a while, but the guys simply told me to get my fiancé and refused to do business with me until he explained I was the owner and they had to talk to me.
I’m a judge, and it makes me so mad when men doubt me on the most simple things and ask to call the TO, who is not even a judge, instead of accepting the ruling.
People from the store I play in took 3 months to learn my name, even though they saw me every week. I was called ‘Player X’s girlfriend.’
A friend of mine said his wife called me ‘that whore’, but said he understood her. After all, for me to play MTG and only hang out with men, the only possible explanation was for me to be a whore and sleep with all of them. Or a lesbian, she said I could be a lesbian too.
I arrived at a store to play and the manager said ‘it was pretty obvious I wasn’t married nor had kids, if I had all that free time to play.’
I heard that ‘it had to be a woman to match the color of nail polish and the color of shields’. I hadn’t even noticed they matched.
I once got a lecture on how to manage my store, from a player who’d never even owned a store, stating that men know better about how an MTG store operates because they are … men. This conversation started because he complained about the floral scent I used in the men’s bathroom, to disguise the strong urine odor there.
I lost to a player I hadn’t met before, and he said that ‘it was so nice that I, much like his girlfriend, was starting to adventure in MTG. I asked when he’d started to play and discovered I was already competing before he even had heard about MTG for the first time.
Once, at a championship, I got paired against my friend for the first round. We laughed a lot, then the guy who sat next to my friend said ‘wow, that’s bad luck’, we got confused, because we didn’t know him, so we asked why the ‘bad luck’. His answer was that my friend was paired against a girl and if he lost, nobody would forgive him.
When I learned how to play, the guys at our local store told me it was too bad, because now my boyfriend couldn’t escape from me by coming to play alone.
A player once came to me in the middle of the PPTQ and said ‘hey, you’re a woman, so you’d know this: can I put this package in the microwave?’
My opponent saw he had been paired against me, turned to his friends and said: “it’s a chick and she’s hot, be back in 5.
I own a store. A guy asked my business partner if I am allowed to buy cards.
I was behind the counter while a tournament was happening. A player asked me to call my business partner. I asked if I could help, he said he needed to talk to my partner and he was the only one that could help. I called him, and the player said ‘hey, I scored 2-1’. I asked if that was all, and why he hadn’t told me his results. His answer: ‘but do you know how to scorekeep?’
A player said I was ‘very bold’ for going to an MTG tournament by myself, after he asked who I was with.
I got on a plane to go to an event in another city and ended up sitting next to another player. Before the plane even took off, I had already had to scream at him so he’d stop trying to force kiss me.
I won a relatively big tournament. One of my opponents didn’t know me, but chose to concede because he felt like my deck would do better at semifinals and finals than his. He was a retired player, so he was just there for the fun. A third guy who had nothing to do with that said ‘well, she’s playing in yoga pants, who wouldn’t concede?’
During a tournament, a man stood behind me (while I was playing) and said: ‘you should do this, this, and after, that’. I had to call the judge, because he basically revealed my whole hand to my opponent. He didn’t do it to anyone else in the tournament, neither before, nor after.
Because we’re outnumbered in these championships, boys, you should know we could use some help. Maybe if each of you came to a friend and said ‘hey, could you please just play with her and leave her alone’ it would probably help a lot.
I feel like some male players don’t listen to female players, but they listen to their male friends and male players.
A player came to me after a round and said I was the best ‘woman’ he’d ever played against. Not ‘player’, but ‘woman’. He highlighted the word ‘woman’ as if my qualifications were different and I didn’t compete against men.
I hid the end of my relationship with another player because I was afraid the harassment (which I already suffered even though I had a boyfriend) would get worse.
I was at the counter of my store, entering the slips for a championship, and a dude passed by me and slapped my butt. Just like that, no intimacy between us, out of the blue.
I used to own a store and, more than once, I had players trying to grab me against my will inside my workplace.
I was at a pretty large event, and a player said he loved my perfume and asked if he could smell it. I gave him my wrist. He held me by my waist and stopped me from cutting loose while he sank his head on my neck to sniff it. I left as soon as I could. I was so appalled and embarrassed, I felt like crying the whole next round.
A store owner told me: ‘you still don’t reeeally know my store. Let’s go upstairs, just the two of us, and I’ll show you.
There’s a girl who plays at the same store as I do, and she always has to hear derogatory comments about her body.
A girl came to sell cards once at the store I go to, and all the players ignored her. They justified it by saying that ‘that was not her environment and they’d be too excited talking to her.’
Men at the store I play in said that Olivia’s illustration wasn’t of a real woman, that she was a ‘trap’. When I asked what ‘trap’ was, they explained, all the while laughing, that she was a trap because a trap was meant to fool someone into falling on it, because she was transgender. I got extremely bothered by that, said it wasn’t funny at all, that transgender people aren’t traps and that, even if it was the case, that didn’t make her less of a woman.
I was judging a PPTQ and watched a match during the top 8 which made me very uncomfortable. The girl had opened 3-0 and given two ids, passed first. Her opponent played in a very explanatory way, making a point to teach even the basics, like which abilities his cards had (regular abilities from standard cards at the time). It looked like he didn’t believe she knew how to play and it was his mission to explain everything step by step to her. I decided to follow the guy through the entire tournament and he played normally against male players, not explaining a single card.
I played with a deck which had a few expedition cards and my opponent asked, emphasizing his surprise, how I had got that deck and who I was hanging out with, as if I needed another person to play with expensive cards.
During a Prerelease, my opponent said, as soon as I sat at the table, that I’d better hurry up, because women take forever to play. I got super nervous and ended up crying because of that.
It has happened to me and some of my female friends who play: opponents give up the event after losing to one of us because it’s too ‘humiliating to lose to a girl.
A player was on the phone with his wife next to me, we didn’t know each other. When he hung up, he turned to me, in mockery, and said ‘women, right? They don’t understand anything without a lot of explanation.
During a large event I was working at, a girl called me to tell me her opponent turned to her and said: ‘why are you even here? I beat you so easily, how did you manage to be paired against me?’ She explained her results to him and he moved on saying that ‘oh, but women would only lose to me anyway, there wasn’t the slightest chance for you’. I called the head judge to investigate and they talked for a while. When the investigation process was over, I came back to her and she was crying. I thanked her for the courage to tell what had happened and asked her not to give up playing, and that everything would be ok. The judge talked to her opponent and the guy said she was lying. The case was settled when people from the tables next to theirs were called and they confirmed the guy’s behavior, so he was disqualified. It should have ended there, but not only did he not leave, but also started to hang around her table and the organizers had to intervene so he would go away.
I tried to organize a girl-only event here in my city, and a male player complained, saying that I was prejudiced against men and that, if my concern was about men looking for girlfriends at these events, for sure lesbians would like to find girlfriends there, too.
I’ve lost count of how many times I needed to call a judge to follow a game because there was a woman playing and the opponent simply couldn’t respect her. Either because of the way he was talking to her, or trying to take advantage in plays, or losing temper.
It might seem like a stretch, but when I arrive at a store and I see that there’s no bathroom for girls, or that the bathroom is completely unprepared to receive a woman, I don’t feel welcome at the store. When the store owner is a woman, I see concern with separate bathrooms, a few stores even have tampons and pads, but the crushing majority doesn’t seem to care about this stuff.
When I was 14 years old, I came to a group of boys who were playing MTG and I got interested, they told me I couldn’t play because it was a ‘boy game’.
I’ve been playing for a long time. I went back to playing when I met my ex-boyfriend. I’d go to stores and make friends, but most of them were his friends. Thing is, when we broke up, he started bad mouthing me to all the guys he was friends with. He even posted in one of the store’s WhatsApp groups that he was grossed out by me and that if I stayed in the group, he’d leave. I felt completely lost when that happened, but little by little I’m gaining my space and even the people who he had said bad things about me to, are starting to realize I’m nothing like he painted… Today I’m in the groups of the same store and everyone talks to me normally. I go to both stores and everybody plays and talks to me, which didn’t happen before. I guess things got kind of awkward to him, because as soon as I set foot at the stores, if he’s there, he always leaves immediately. It’s taken me 6 months to deconstruct the image he made of me, but today I feel like I’m winning by being myself.
My female friend and I spent half of a GP round near a judge who was following another female friend of ours’ game. The reason was her opponent started to get agitated, speak loudly and be rude to her, the more advantage she gained. She got super nervous, but she needed to keep playing. Recently, I played against this same guy and it was exactly the same, he lost it when he started to lose, my friends and a judge also had to follow the game and that made him even angrier.
During a FNM, we were waiting for a female player to arrive. Her own boyfriend said we could start without her, because she was a newbie so she didn’t count. I can’t stress this enough: her own boyfriend said that.
I heard from a couple inside a store that the man wouldn’t teach the woman to play MTG because ‘it was too complicated for her, she wouldn’t be able to grasp it and learn anyway, so there was no point in trying.’
I played against another woman at a GP and it was an amazing experience, light and fun. I ended up winning and, when I found my friends afterwards, they said ‘oh, it was a woman, of course you won’. I guess sometimes they forget I’m a woman, too.
I hear a lot about how a friend of mine, who’s an excellent player, only wins because of her cleavage.
I find myself hiding all of my personal life because the amount of malicious comments and cursing like ‘whore’, ‘tramp’, ‘easy’, ‘pro-player bitch’ that I hear from men referring to women who are single is enough for me to never ever want anyone to know anything about me.
From competitive tournaments around the world
The next stories are from Marcela Almeida, a competitive player who is known by most Brazillian people who play at large events. Marcela and I talked about three different situations, which occurred abroad, and later she decided to publish her stories and said I could use her name here. It wouldn’t make any sense to bring her reports anonymously, given that you can find them easily. Here they are.
The first embarrassing event happened to me in Las Vegas in 2017. I was wearing leggings and a cropped top which had a slight cleavage and showed a little strip of my stomach. I was pulled to the corner by a female judge to talk. I didn’t know what the conversation would be about. Extremely ashamed, she told me I should put on a coat or T-shirt that the organization would give me so I could better cover my body. I said it was already covered, given that it was boiling hot. She said she understood, but it was just a request so I wouldn’t cause any discomfort in others. We looked at the room and saw girls in shorts, broader cleavages, clothes with sexual connotations written across, and, to none of them, the same was asked. I questioned the judge about that, and she said, looking terribly sorry, that the request was only for me. The problem wasn’t about the other girls, just about me and my clothes. After a long conversation, it became clear there was prejudice related to the fact I was Latin.
During GP Lille, on Friday, I was approached by a man from the organization of the event while I was coming out of the bathroom. I was wearing pants, another top that showed a little strip of my stomach and an overcoat. He told me not to take off my overcoat under any circumstances, nor keep its buttons open, to close them all, and remember that for the next days of the event, so I would avoid trouble. All I wanted was to leave. I spent the night sending e-mails to Wizards of the Coast. On Saturday morning, someone from the event apologized to me and offered me some kind of compensation for what I had gone through. I ended up accepting it, but in reality, I just wish it had never happened.
In Atlanta, I was following the game of a friend who’d got to Top 8 at a PTQ. It was hot, so I took off my coat and I was wearing a crop top and pants. The main event was already over; the judges were already gathering the tables. There were more staff members than players at the place. Once again, a person from the organization came to me and asked me to put my coat back on. I said no. She said she could give me a T-shirt so I felt more comfortable. I said I was pretty comfortable the way I was, until she approached me. A Brazilian judge came to talk to us, and the person ended up apologizing. This time I didn’t accept any compensations, I just wanted respect.
The first woman to win a GP
Last year, an Australian woman won the GP Trio, becoming the first woman to win one of these events in history. Jessica Estephan wrote an article about her experience with the game, which has many points in common with what we saw here. In “oh, you’re that girl that won a GP”, Estephan tells us about her trajectory in MTG ever since the beginning. She starts by saying that, as soon as she learned how to play, she heard comments like “it’s a girl, should be an easy win” and that people referred to her as the “bye”. Every time she thought about stopping to play MTG, she rationalized to herself, “if you stop, they win”. When she began to play even better, she says the comments changed to “you’re pretty good… for a girl”. She states that hearing that was frustrating, she didn’t want to be good for a girl, she wanted to be good, period. With time, she started winning PPTQs, accomplishing day 2 in GPs and ended up winning a GP. When that happened, she said she wasn’t happy the following days. Estephan got a wave of hate comments from people complaining that her male team mates didn’t get as much recognition as her. She needed to close her DM on Twitter and spent days asking her friends not to show her the mean comments that were being made. Jessica had to hear people say that she didn’t deserve the attention she was getting because she wasn’t ideally photogenic to be there. In other words, not beautiful enough to be good at MTG. She finishes her text stating that the comments that made her remember why she played, were female, from girls thanking her for giving them hope.
I recognize so much of Jessica’s trajectory when I remember my own. I remember being considered an easy opponent, or always being someone’s girlfriend, the girl who’s too good for a girl and, no matter how much respect I’ve conquered, and just like her, I earned that respect by fire and sword. I heard a dozen sexist comments on my first PPTQ. I got out of there destroyed, and I decided, right there, that nobody would make me stop playing. I faced almost everything that happened to me and stood up for myself and other girls more times on last few years than I had ever had to do during my whole life. I had the guts to do it. I still go through one or another uncomfortable situation, and today, I know how to not let it get under my skin. But don’t think for a second that this is what I want for other women. I don’t want any of them to need my iron fist to conquer space. I want them to be able to do exactly like men: To be able to just sit down and play, without having to answer where their boyfriends are, or if their cards are really theirs, and without getting surprised looks if they do well at tournaments. I want it to be uncomplicated. Everyone deserves the easy way.
I could spend days here gathering new stories, increasing my research and joining more groups. If I do that, this article will never be over. So I’ll be closing other girl’s stories here and I’d like to include a story of mine, to wrap up the issue.
My Own Experience
Always call a judge! Always!
When I knew that I’d be writing regularly for LigaMagic after GP Sao Paulo, I made plans to not keep bringing representation topics into my articles. So, my intention was to write about it 3 times: First, with an opening paragraph on GP’s article; second, with Meninas de Ouro, an article about female figures in Brazilian MTG, so more people would acknowledge incredible women who make a difference on the national scene; and third, with this article, so we could have a healthy debate about habits that need to end.
Right after I wrote the GP article, the wave of feedback and support I received because of it was really heartwarming and could make anyone hopeful. However, I got a DM, signed by a store, which was so upsetting to read. The guy introduced himself as a storeowner and proceeded to tell me his trajectory as an MTG player, to state he’d always played against women and had never had any problems (what a blessing, huh?). He continued telling me a completely twisted story of a day when he was playing against a girl and he missed a trigger of a card, so the girl said it was ok, she was just going to call a judge, as the trigger could affect the match. He convinced her not to call anybody, because she’d also get a warning and the judge would just tell them to continue playing, anyways. Do I have to explain why that posture is wrong? Always call the judge. It’s up to the judge to decide if the game will continue normally or not and which ruling to apply. A warning for missing a trigger and a warning for failing to maintain the state of the game are different things, and convincing your opponent not to call the judge is not a nice posture. The storeowner finished his e-mail by saying he was sure that “there was no reason to play the victim here”, just for being a female player.
I didn’t respond at the time, but I’d like to answer him publicly here: It’s not about victimizing ourselves, it’s not about whining, and, definitely, it’s not about special conditions to play. It’s about respect, empathy and making the community a well-being space as a whole. If we can’t have the basics, we won’t have anything. And if I can be a voice, it would be an honor, and much more than a text message will be needed to make me change my mind. Thank you for your feedback, and, as you insist on signing in the name of your whole store’s team, don’t worry – I’ll never set foot there. I hope you rethink your posture and never ever ask an opponent not to call a judge during a tournament again. That being said, let’s move along to the last part:
It Happened to Me! What Now?
What to do in an uncomfortable situation
Well, you have several options and a variety of different channels. If you are inside a game area, call the judge. In the absence of a judge, call a TO. It doesn’t matter if your doubt is small, or if someone said it’s not necessary. The judge is there to help, call them. If something happened outside an event or was only noticed after, contact Wizards of the Coast. There are channels for complaints and people who can help you with that. The e-mail for these complaints is firstname.lastname@example.org. At the end of 2017, there was this awesome article from Wizards of the Coast, explaining the code of conduct and how to proceed in these situations. Besides the official solutions, look for groups that can support you. There are several of them.
With that, I close these stories and this topic here. I don’t plan on writing about this topic again, but if you liked this piece and would like to read more about other game related topics, let me know in the comments. If you’d like to know my work better, you can follow me on my social media. My DM is always open. You can find me on Twitter and Twitch as @carolanet and on Instagram as @carolinaanet. To all of you who read until here, my most sincere thank you. I hope it was worth it.
See you next time,
The original article was translated into English by Carol Anet and Raquel Bruder