Just a Judge

A bit more than a year ago, I wrote a post about my experience as a female Magic player.  It somehow made its way onto Reddit, and from there, on to Wizard’s front Magic page.  I look back on that fondly; the reaction was more positive than negative, and it gave a lot of female players a chance to say, “Me too.  I’ve felt this.  I’ve had something similar happen to me.”  It gave them a chance to feel like they weren’t alone.

Most people don’t know what sparked that article, what put my fingers to my keyboard and in a manner of an hour or so post it in a pretty raw form for all to see.

I was angry.  Actually, angry doesn’t begin to come close to what I felt.  I was incensed, furious, raging over one of the largest miscarriages of justice I had seen: the conviction and ‘sentencing’ of Brock Turner.  My fury took the form of words and I opened myself up and spilled out everything that had hurt me while playing, everything that had made me feel alone, everything that made playing the game that had grown to be such a part of my life difficult.

I don’t know why I did it.  Maybe at some deep level I hoped that by addressing the incidents I had experienced first hand, we could keep things from being as bad in the Magic community.  A lofty goal to be sure, but if speaking out meant that even one more female player had the courage to call out the bad things that were happening to her or one more male player realized what he was doing was wrong, it was worth it.

That post was very player-centric, as I had only recently become a judge so I wrote about what I knew.

This time I’m once again writing about my experiences, only this time as a woman judge in the Program.

I’m once again writing because I’m angry; because something small happened today that was the proverbial last straw; because the past two large events have been the most emotionally draining and hardest of my judging career.

I’m writing because while the Program is vocal about change, I continue to see the same things happening.

I’m writing because I’m so tired of bringing up the same concerns again and again and again to concerned faces who lament with me about what happens but mostly don’t push hard enough to change things.

Two weeks ago I judged Nationals in Richmond.  (There were three female judges on staff. Total.  Only two staffed for Friday.)  I started off my Friday with an email explaining that I had received my first decline for staffing for a GP.  Logically I knew it was bound to happen, but as we head into the world of a single Tournament Organizer for Grand Prixs, it put me in an anxious place so I separated myself from the group so to speak and worked on helping get the event set-up before the doors opened.

Turns out I misread my schedule and wasn’t supposed to be in until later.  Oops.  My (then) team lead was nice enough to adjust my schedule to make up for having worked longer than needed, and after a nice lunch with a fellow judge, I checked in with my new team lead, and talking things over with him, I went over to begin to handle moving top four results of Last Chance Trials to one spot.

Soon after my most recent ex-boyfriend showed up and my emotional well-being went to shit.  I was going to detail the exact events that happened, but frankly, revisiting them will probably do me more harm than good.

I was upset because he was there; not because he was in the same space, but because I had asked him to stop messaging me, a request he subsequently ignored.  I was upset because it was very obvious he was approaching me because I was relatively alone and he walked to talk. I was upset because he pulled the same stunt a few months ago at another large event in Richmond, made me feel cornered and trapped and I had already told him after it happened that it wasn’t okay.

Long story made short, he played in a Last Chance Trial not to gain byes, but to stay near me because I was handling top four placements.  I know this because he scooped to his opponent in top four and then hung around.  I know this because he tried to talk to me, twice.  I know this because it took another judge on Saturday asking him to leave me alone or be escorted out of the venue for him to stop.

It shouldn’t take a male judge asking a male player to stop doing something in order for that player to not do it.  Fun fact, female judges have autonomy outside of their male counterparts and deserve the same level of respect, but we don’t get it.  I was harassed at my job because a man decided that my wishes weren’t important enough to be respected, especially since they didn’t match his own.

I almost didn’t leave the venue for lunch Saturday because I was worried about a confrontation, most likely a verbal one but every woman knows there’s always the what if factor.  We live in a world where men kill women who ignore their catcalls.

I spent way too much time in the bathroom controlling tears, even breaking down once in the judge area, though I made sure I was facing away from everyone else because you don’t want to be the girl crying or you get labeled the ’emotional’ one.  You don’t want to be the one that attracts drama and issues, especially as we move into a world of a single Grand Prix tournament organizer.  Women are stereotyped by society as being lightning rods for drama, so anytime something dramatic happens the fear that someone (usually a man) will use it as an excuse to exclaim, “Ah ha! I was right! This is why women don’t belong/can’t be trusted/are unsuited to the task at hand!” is so strong.  When women ‘stick out’ negatively, consequences of those negative interactions are unfairly put on all women; this doesn’t happen for men.

Friday and Saturday should’ve been amazing judge days; instead I spent them stressed and harassed. Sunday he didn’t show up and I had a great day.  Until the ‘Diversity’ talk.

Do you know how exhausting it is to always be the ‘expert’ on women’s experiences in judging?  To be asked time and time again to rip open old wounds so you can tell male judges what happened to you so that maybe you have one more man will believe you because it came from you directly?  To sometimes feel that you never get to be the expert on anything rules or policy related, only on what makes you and other women upset?

Look, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be having these talks, because we should, but instead of it being a round-table discussion of issues it became two women laying out their grievances to a table of mostly silent men.  Some of them looked like they were slightly interested, others just looked bored.  A very small number did try to engage us, though for a few it felt forced.  I eventually had to step away because I was tired of exposing my past hurts to the table to just feel like what I was saying was valid.

It perhaps wasn’t the best idea to have this talk at the end of a three-day judging weekend for a lot of us but I didn’t leave the table with much hope that what I said had any real effect after the blank faces and general feel that people felt obligated to come instead joining us of their own volition.  Also, without a way to disperse the discussions that are had at each event, we’re looking at multiple instances of women having to publicly produce the things that hurt us again and again, and that will drive us out just as much as the overt and subtle sexism will.  I don’t want to seem overtly critical; I think with more organization and advertising, these talks are and can be important but I left this particular one more bruised than hopeful.

At the end of the day, I just want to be a judge.  But I can’t be.  I get to be (these are a conglomeration of things that have happened to myself and others):  miss, or sweetheart, or being interrupted more, or appealed more, or talked over, or bossy, or ‘You lost to girl?!’ I’m “can I get your number” or catcalled as I walk to post pairings.  I get to be ignored while my male colleagues converse with one another, only being talked to when it becomes necessary.  I get ‘helped’ with more tasks when there are greener judges.  I get told to smile more because my neutral face is not pleasant enough.  I get beat down for being excited about a fellow woman being my head judge for a large event for only the second time ever.  I get to have never had a female Grand Prix head judge.  I get dismissive team leads who assume I’m going to do a worse job than a L1 on their first event.

I get to look out onto a sea of faces and see very few that are women like me.

I get to have a player ask me if blowjobs are something that can be exchanged for a match result.

I’ve been doing more events lately and I’m starting to, very incrementally, get more and more tired.  It’s not the tired from traveling or being on my feet for hours at a time or dealing with complicated boardstates and rules interactions.  I’m getting tired of working twice as hard to have my voice heard and not even heard as much as my male counterparts.

It is exhausting, infuriating, frustrating, and sometimes I feel, not worth it.  I’m not giving up, because pushing against it means it will be easier for the women judges who will follow me, but just once I want it to not be.  And frankly, we can’t do it on our own.  We need men to listen, and more than that, we need men to engage.  Call out each other on your problematic behavior; don’t make assumptions about our ability without, I dunno, talking to us first; when someone interrupts us, interrupt them back.  I’m getting tired just writing these sentences because I have lost count of the times I’ve said, or read these sentiments.

Women just want to be able to go to an event and judge; set goals and push to achieve them; interact with players as positively as they can.

I just want to be a judge, friends, but I need your help to get there.

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5 thoughts on “Just a Judge

  1. I’ll always have your back if need be friend! I might not always speak up about things I observe or hear from friends (I hate confrontation), but I will do my best. I want a better world for my female friends and one for my future daughter.

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  2. Wait, so a feminist writing on her blog unironically says “proverbial last straw” like some sort of pseudo-intellectual? Makes sense, later.

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  3. Thank you for writing your experiences down Meg! I’m also a judge (though with less experience) and your anger and frustration are very recognizable to me since I often feel the same way. It’s relieving to know I’m not the only one feeling this way. Judging magic events is awesome, so I want to do just that without having to deal with these issues most of the time.

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