Triumph of Misogyny – Sexism and White Knighting in the Magic Community

Christ, how do you even open an entry on a topic like this? Well let’s start with the obvious: sexism is bad, m’kay? I hope that doesn’t need to be stated, but I don’t want anyone to misconstrue a number of the other things I have to say as an endorsement of the virtues of sexism. More obvious things: sexism and gender inequality have existed for a long time. By a long time, I mean thousands of years. All of human history, in fact. Even in the small handful of matriarchal societies that have existed, there was still massive gender inequality.

Sexism in Magic

I'd tap that! hur hur hurMeet Jackie Lee. Jackie is a really cool girl who I’ve known for almost ten years now from playing at the now defunct Your Move Games. She was always very friendly and funny, and even used to let a few of us hang around after YMG closed to do team drafts with her. She also eliminated me from contention in the 2004 GP Boston the round before what would’ve been my win and in. She went on to win her win and in round, and then overslept and didn’t show up for day two. So thanks a fucking lot for eliminating me.

Jackie was a really good player then, and is an even better player now. So good, in fact, that she’s putting up consistently good results at the top levels of competition. However, the world is (theoretically) a lot more connected now than it was back in 2004. Social media and event coverage have exploded to the point where anyone in the world can watch matches at an event, and if anyone says anything untoward the entire fucking world will hear about it on Twitter within five minutes. And so now sexism has been brought into the forefront of everyone’s minds because we’ve seen some pretty brutal examples of it.

On the live stream of some of Jackie’s matches, there were comments being made about her appearance. There were people rooting for her to lose. There were people telling her to get back in the kitchen. Basically, a lot of classless fuckwads saying stupid shit. You know, THE INTERNET. Of course, people had the option of speaking anonymously in the live stream chat, so they chose to do so and to say awful and disgusting things. Also, some of them made some really, really stupid suggestions about what they felt the correct play was in a number of different situations. That has nothing to do with sexism, just further proof that maybe allowing commentary on the live streams is a bad idea, because people are all stupid and have nothing worthwhile to say.

However, here’s something you may not know: none of this is new. I mean literally none of it. Years ago, I think it was 2005, there was an article on Star City Games Premium involving Jackie. The article was allegedly a tournament report by one John Rizzo, but it was really just a pretty creepy monologue about her and how he could stare at her for days. Yeah, fucking creepy. It also almost resulted in an incident involving local player John Rizzo who was a completely different person. The confusion was cleared up very quickly, and many laughs were had by all. Why do I bring this up, you ask? This happened before Twitter. There was a lot less connectivity and dialogue between players. As such, this quickly faded away. There were no articles written about it, no Twitter drama, nothing. Jackie was weirded out a bit and John Rizzo became known as “that creepy pervert,” but that’s pretty much it. I’m not saying that you should ignore all your problems and hope they’ll go away, but the less attention something like this gets the better.

The problem is, now talks of sexism are unavoidable. There are countless articles about it and how detrimental it is to the game we all love. As I said before, however, this isn’t new. Sexism has existed forever. I don’t condone it, but it is indeed a thing. And no poorly written blog post or tweet is going to change that (Yes, I understand the irony in using a blog post to decry them, so don’t bother pointing that out). Sexism also isn’t limited to the gaming community. This is the part that pisses me off the most, because people don’t seem to understand this. Even if you somehow solve the project of gender inequality in gaming…so what? Are you going to crawl into a cave with your EDH decks and half the print run of Deranged Hermits and just pretend that there isn’t still gender inequality and sexism in every other fucking part of society?

Yes, sexism is a problem and will continue to be one for the foreseeable future. No, I do not condone it or take part in it in any nonsatirical way.  But seriously, guys (and gals), it’s okay to go 24 hours without bringing it up. Fucking relax.

Oh, and one other thing: don’t exploit the fact that women are succeeding in Magic. For serious. In an interview Jackie mentioned how some guy’s girlfriend hated when he asked her to watch top 8 coverage until she saw Jackie playing, and now she’s okay with it. That’s not a heartfelt story of female Magic players breaking down barriers. That’s an example of a terrible, terrible boyfriend. Why are you making your girlfriend watch top 8 coverage with you? The notion that she is required to partake in your hobbies as well, against her will, is extraordinarily sexist. When I lived with my ex-girlfriend I never tried to force her to play Magic or watch event coverage, and she never tried to force me to watch America’s Next Top Model. You’re allowed to (and should) have separate hobbies.

White Knighting in Magic

If this looks sexual to you, see a psychiatrist.While sexism is a problem, an even bigger (or at the very least more annoying) problem is the one of white knighting. The white knights out there, and there’s an increasing number of them, will pounce on anything that seems evenly remotely offensive to women. They are severely overcompensating for something and somehow think this will garner them favour with women who, since this is the internet, aren’t going to sleep with them anyway. Their arguments are ridiculous, unwarranted, and downright pathetic. The two classic examples of white knights in the MTG community are Geordie Tait and Chris Lansdell, but a new challenger has thrown his hat in the ring.

You see, the catalyst for this entry was the ridiculous fucking drama started by an extraordinarily ignorant article published on GatheringMagic.com by one Jesse Mason (@killgoldfish) saying that the artwork for Triumph of Ferocity is all sexist and rapey. This article was also heavily defend by the constantly annoying Chris Mascioli (@dieplstks). I will now go through the article and tear it a new asshole, because it is the stupidest pile of shit I have ever read, and Gathering Magic should be ashamed of themselves for publishing it. Here is how he described the art:

“So, what’s happening here, objectively, is . . . the much larger man has his thick veiny arm around the woman whose back is pinned against a rock (looking up at him), and the aforementioned large man has his fist raised to punch the pinned-down-and-choked woman. Also, her hands are on fire . . . or something.”

Yeah, his arm and chest are all veiny and stuff from Liliana cursing him. You know, that thing he’s all pissed off about. And trying to kill her for. Her hands are “on fire….or something” because she’s decided to fight back. I know, right? Women fighting? How inappropriate! Also, you may want to consult a dictionary as to the meaning of the word “objective.” I do not think it means what you think it does.

“And a bit of her upper leg is peeking out from under her dress.”

You can blame either Steve Argyle or the art direction for that, but that’s how Liliana dressed. It just is. If a tiny bit of her thigh offends you, you should go to your local comic store and buy an issue of Tarot or Grimm. You’ll have a whole new crusade to go fight!

“And his leg is between her thighs.”

Oh no! But that’s where her vagina lives! Seriously, what exactly is the complaint here? They’re fighting and he’s got her in a choke hold about to cut her head off. Unless he’s a geist floating in midair, he has to have fucking legs SOMEWHERE. Sorry if the placement bothers you, but what are you suggesting, that Garruk is going to fuck Liliana with his knee? Last time I checked, that doesn’t happen. And no, this is NOT an opportunity for you to invoke Rule 34.

“There is no humorous way to say that the above image, to me, is reminiscent of sexual assault in a really creepy way, nor should anyone assume that anything related to this is hyperbolic for the purpose of writing or comedy.”

Jesse, were you raped by a huge fuckin’ guy? But seriously, what about the above image is sexual? Garruk looks like he’s about to impale Liliana (not in the sexy way), and Liliana looks like she’s going to burn Garruk’s face off if she breaks free. Are you such a dickless nerd that a millimeter of fictional thigh gets you so fucking hard that this artwork needs justification as something sexual? If ANYONE else sees something sexual here, please let me know where. Actually, don’t let me know. If you see this artwork as sexual, let a psychiatrist know, because you have serious fucking problems. Also, as pointed out by Carol Tavares (@robotouef), even if this was sexual it wouldn’t necessarily be derogatory towards women as many women like to be choked.

“That’s why it frustrates me when people give some story-based explanation for a piece of art looking the way it does. Liliana isn’t being portrayed in a sexist way . . . it’s just that her character is (as described by an R&D member) “a bitch.” It’s all right to show Liliana and Garruk in that pose because Liliana wins in the end! So?”

Um…what do you mean “so?” So the entire fucking point of the artwork is to represent the storyline? And this is the perfect example of why the white knights are so fucking impossible to deal with. No one wants a card like this with a picture of Liliana and Garruk having tea together. You wanna pretend that the problem with this card is that it will scare away new players, especially females? How about this art:

Oh, we’re okay with this? This isn’t going to scare away new players? Alright, just thought I’d check. Okay, I’m done ranting about that awful article. Let’s get onto the main point of this section.

Magic has powerful female characters. Some of these characters are good, and some of them, like Liliana (Whose name is an anagram for Villainess), are evil. When you have important female characters, bad things are going to happen to them. There has to be conflict. Liliana curses Garruk. Is that supposed to be a good idea? He’s a giant…man…beast…thing. So Liliana keeps poking at Manbearpig, and he’s not supposed to do anything about it? That’s insane. It’s not misogyny for a story to have conflict. In a game that takes place in a fantasy setting where you are a planeswalker (like Liliana and Garruk!) and the point of the game is to FUCKING MURDER EACH OTHER, I think it’s fair to assume that there is going to be violence amongst the planeswalkers in the stories. You can have all the glib comments and pithy comebacks you want, but even Bond and Trevelyan eventually fought.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

Aye, there’s the rub. What do we do? I mean, I’ve kinda been all over the place here. The solution is pretty simple though: don’t be a dick to someone because of their gender, race, or any other factors beyond their control, and don’t create controversy where there is none. With any luck others will follow suit, but the world isn’t going to hold hands and start singing together overnight, so just chill the fuck out. Oh, and remember: white knighting, as best as I can tell, works on the assumption that women are incapable of defending themselves and so they need you to step up and protect them from every (often nonexistent) slight against them. Isn’t that behaviour a lot more misogynistic that this stupid piece of artwork?

31 Comments

  1. diablomarcus says:

    Amen sister.

  2. Krimson says:

    As a lady who also happens to play MtG (no, seriously), I would like to wholeheartedly thank you for this post. Especially about the white knighting, which I find way more offensive than the blatantly derogatory comments that anonymous douchebags like to throw out all time. The white knighting just comes across as patronizing (not always, but in cases like your example, it’s just absurd).

    It’s one thing to have art that depicts a fantastically idealized, scantily-clad woman in that contorted tits-and-ass-to-the-camera pose that’s found at comic conventions everywhere, but it’s another thing altogether to have a fully-clothed sorceress almost get slapped around for, well, being an evil bitch. If we’re looking at Planeswalkers, Chandra’s not a harpy, Elspeth’s not a complete wimp, and even Nissa’s not too shabby. I don’t see anything misogynistic about any major aspect of the backstories as a whole; I’m not going to complain about things that don’t exist.

    So again, thank you for articulating my sentiments. A+++++, would read again.

  3. panahinuva says:

    So I just had a thought. The main thrust of the article (from what I read) seemed to be “If this was a real man and a real woman, you’d be super uncomfortable. So you should be super uncomfortable about this.” But it’s not a real man and a real woman. It’s two characters from a canon with supernatural powers that are more than capable of taking care of themselves. Seriously, imagine if this image appeared in a Marvel comic with Wolverine replacing Garruk and Mystique replacing Liliana. NO ONE would call sexism on that, because those two have a known relationship within that universe that would result in this situation and be totally uncompromising. However, like you said, MTG has an incredibly high number of white knights who instantly jump on anything even vaguely potentially offensive to women and call sexist on it. So I think that everyone should be knowledgable about flavor before calling sexism on art. Or something. Or grow a brain, that’s another option.

  4. Hedo says:

    It’s a complicated issue (and the flavor text does ameliorate it) but you definitely have an agenda. I can tell because you reach the same conclusions that I do (sexism is a bad/a problem) but your solution is not to do anything about it and just let women suffer.

    At least, you say that you believe sexism is a problem. You’d have a hard time proving you actually believe that. You often criticize and minimize the efforts of people who point it out.

    Most of your anger seems to be directed at people who are willing to go the extra mile when you yourself would just say “meh, just deal with it, it’s no big deal”

    Check the scoreboard. This may be a “real problem” according to you but you minimize it and rail against people who complain about it at every opportunity. One could conclude you don’t really believe it’s a problem at all.

  5. Teressa1981 says:

    I so sincerely disagree with the original article. (About the card.) So much that I’m still hopping in and out of that thread. I didn’t find it sexist and was in fact offended by the “white knighting.” You did well in highlighting that.

    But don’t, for the love of Jace, say that ignoring a thing, or giving it less attention, will ease actual sexist problems. The article written about Jackie by that creep crossed lines and it would not have been an inappropriate response to take action due to that.

    It’s good to have men who think it’s okay for women to be sexual, to be powerful, and to be shown getting their asses kicked in a fair fight. That’s an ally.

    Just don’t be dismissive.

  6. Christo says:

    Perfect explanation and level of “zomfg!!” Thank you.

  7. Ron says:

    You should write an article about how the set is sexist towards men. Something about how all the angels in the art are female. What, men can’t be angelic?

  8. Macht-Krieg says:

    The comment about the article by John Rizzo piqued my curiosity, so I Googled a bit and found it. At least, I found a tournament report, by John Rizzo, that contains some text referring to Lee, and how he enjoys her looks – so I figure it’s probably the same one.

    Well, it seems inappropriate to me to lavish more than a couple sentences on anyone’s appearance in this sort of article. That said, the report is 8454 words, and the bit about Jackie is 170 words – perhaps two paragraphs, wherein Rizzo explains that he didn’t think she was hot or sexy, but liked to look at her anyway. A little weird, but that’s only ~2.0% of the article – making it not quite a monologue devoted solely to Lee, as you say here.

    That said, this is a fine article, I totally agree, and commenter “Hedo” above is clearly mentally deficient.

  9. […] The logic behind a white knight accusation follows on from the name: women are damsels in distress which need defending by their more capable male counterparts. So any man who is speaking in support or along the same lines as a woman is, the accusers claim, suggesting that the woman cannot speak for herself. Further (or perhaps alternately, I'd hate to try to speak to the motivations of all the WK accusers), the accuser believes that the white knight's sole reason for 'defending' the woman is to gain currency either with that particular woman, or with other women who see him behaving this way. Let me quote some random guy on the internet for example: While sexism is a problem, an even bigger (or at the very least more annoying) problem is the one of white knighting. The white knights out there, and there’s an increasing number of them, will pounce on anything that seems evenly remotely offensive to women. They are severely overcompensating for something and somehow think this will garner them favour with women who, since this is the internet, aren’t going to sleep with them anyway. Their arguments are ridiculous, unwarranted, and downright pathetic. – Some Internet Dude […]

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