We recently interviewed Beatriz Accioly, a female L1 judge from São Paulo, Brazil.
Please tell us a little about you and how you felt when you came in contact with the magic community.
I learned about Magic 15 years ago. I was 13 and shopping with my old sister and we went to a bookstore. While we were waiting in the cashier, I saw some boxes on the shelf and I asked to take a look. I thought it was interesting and asked her to buy it for me. It was something similar to the duel decks we have today; two decks with 40 cards each, with a learn how to play guide and stuff.
So I started my collection, started do trades in the anime events in Maceió, my hometown. But, back then, in Maceió we didn’t have neither tournaments nor judges, I had no idea such things existed.
I played for three years but I stopped playing for a good while. I came back to Magic two and a half years ago. It was when I met my ex-boyfriend, who is also a judge. When we were dating, he told me about the tournaments, games, stores and I dived right in this forbidden love again.
When I decided to become a judge, what pushed me forward was the fact that we only had one female judge in Brazil at that time. I loved that aspect of the game and I wanted to strengthen the female presence in Brazil. I want to be carry a presence at events and motivate other girls and women, and show them that they can play the game they love and not be afraid of being isolated.
Unfortunately our community has problems, and we’re still very immature in confronting diversity. At almost every event, there’s always that one person that ruins everyone’s experience by being unaccepting and generally rude and bigoted. However, the more minorities, not just women, who participate, talk, and question, the faster we create changes towards a healthier and safer community.
Some stores have a very aggressive atmosphere, which discourages a lot of new players to participate. It’s frightening, it’s like the first day at school where all other people already know each other and you are the newcomer.
Due to our cultural and social constructions and paradigms, games in general, not only Magic, but video games, sports, are still seen as “boy’s stuff only”.
At least in my generation, women were not taught to face those kinds of places and to play, to fall, to compete – we were taught only to compete amongst ourselves for male attention… very toxic.
It was always like “oh, you are a girl, don’t do that, don’t run, don’t play in the mud, etc, etc”. And still, the ones that did it, stayed hidden for years due to harassment, verbal aggressions and sexual abuse.
I sense that this has changed in the last three years, but still, we face serious retaliation just because we want to play anything.
One example is when a fellow player asked me to help him open a store, placing me in charge of developing the store’s identity and managing the store’s website and social networks.
We started interacting with each other a lot because we were having work-related meetings. This person started having feelings for me, but I didn’t, as the project was only work for me. He started making huge Facebook posts with hints about his feelings for me, which made me feel extremely uncomfortable.
I tried to talk with him, but he’d always deflect the subject or try to talk about something else. Until the day I confronted him about his feelings for me, he sent me messages and creating drama, saying things like “nobody supported your work, but I understand it’s important to you and I stand up for you”. He also would put me down and make him look like a Prince Charming.
It was a really tough situation, which culminated with me not working with that project anymore.
My biggest concern is that there is still a taboo on talking about harassment, as we feel scared of being judged or blamed. We are afraid that people would question our actions and think that we are guilty of being ungrateful. So while we talk very little about harassment, it’s important to confront the issue, because only then people will realize that it is a real problem and it really does happen. We also hope that store owners will become aware of the harassment and stop pretending that “it never happens in my store”.
We need to talk about this, for everyone’s sake. A lot of women have the constant thought “Oh, if I change how I act [and subdue myself], the harassment won’t happen again”. Because society has taught us that if we restrain ourselves and be well behaved and quiet, it will be better for us, and we won’t be harassed or questioned. But that’s not the case.
Was there ever a time where you felt welcomed to a store?
Yes! When I started playing, I used to go with my boyfriend and the other men in our local store, and I felt intimidated because that was a new environment for me. There was a once a day where I got a bye in the last round and the judge that had dropped from the tournament saw I was alone sat down to talk with me. He taught me some strategy and we talked about Magic. It was a kind gesture.
What would make you want to play Magic at events more?
The store owner and judges receptiveness to feedback. It should be a clean store, with good lighting, calm and civilized players, and no excessive yelling, immaturity, or vulgarity.
If there was one thing you could say to all Magic players, what would it be?
I face the problems I encounter as just like I do everything else in my life; As a woman, I don’t have a way to escape just by not doing things or stop going somewhere. I continue going to persevere and facing problems just so other women can feel empowered to do so too. I want to make those places more welcoming to other women that aren’t as comfortable confronting biases and prejudice as I am.
What are some suggestions to help Wizards of the Coast and the Magic community become more inclusive?
I’m really glad that Wizards has an active policy regarding equality, diversity, and respect. Judges and players as a community still have a lot to learn about these concepts, but it is comforting that there are people who believe in diversity and work for a better environment. Wizards’ support is incredibly valuable.
For the players; listen to people around you, observe more, don’t pretend that there’s no issue just because it doesn’t happen at your store.
To judges and store owners; take a stand, be responsible. You are the ones that take care of tournaments and events of all types, and even if you disagree with something, respect everyone. As a business owner and a person, you should value everyone’s experience and feelings as valid and important.
Look for support, talk, speak up about problems, ask for opinions, don’t close yourself, we are not alone and only by discussing that we are going to make things better. I know it’s scary, but if we keep quiet, nothing is ever going to change.
What is a welcoming Magic atmosphere?
A place where everyone feels comfortable and safe, enjoying the game in the presence of friends, and a place where we can be ourselves without being afraid of judgment or prejudice.
Anything else you’d like to say?
If I and other women, gays, lesbians, trans give up, stop fighting for equality and justice, we all lose. We inevitably are going to be harassed, bullied, stalked or mistreated, but we have to look for support and talk about our problems with others, and bring the injustice in Magic and in life to visibility. Otherwise we will never be heard, and nothing will change.
This article was written by Antonio Zanutto, L2, Campinas, Brazil, and Ian Doty, L2, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.