Subconscious Biases

This entry was prompted by a tweet I read earlier today by a magic player who top 64’d the legacy GP this past weekend. The tweet stated “seemingly innocuous comments that are low-key sexist… …my opponent told me he kept FOW game 1 because whenever he sees women do well at events they’re playing a degenerate combo deck.” To her credit, she was trying to rise above being stereotyped. Two things stood out to me about this tweet—the first was that she stated their match was otherwise pleasant (which to me paints the picture that this was a “normal” guy); the second was that the comment seemed to be driven by subconscious bias.

I don’t expect many readers to feel like this applies to them, because it’s subconscious. The minority of harassment is intentional or blatant. The most offensive acts are jarring and when we hear those outlandish stories, we get to pat ourselves on the back for not being like them. But I would argue that there is a common subconscious belief that women are not equal competition. And because many hold this subconscious belief, they have made rules for themselves to uphold it. These rules can manifest like “I cannot lose to a woman based on her outplaying me” or “I can only lose to a woman if I get mana screwed or flooded”. The rules you make up are not universal, but they are based on the belief that you are by default a better player than the woman across you. For the guy in our tweet, I propose his rule manifested in his deck choice—I am a better player because I do not have to play “degenerate combo” to win. He probably didn’t intend to be sexist, but rather saw himself as being clever for making an observation and capitalizing on it.

So what is the harm? I can sympathize with unintentionally making someone feel bad and not wanting to feel blame for that. Intention does matter. I wanted to highlight how there is a fundamental shift that needs to occur in society. It’s not going to change by just showcasing those obnoxious sexist examples. We all need to address what unconscious biases we have and how they manifest in our treatment of others. How for example, we are not making fun of the deck but rather using it to justify women being inferior players.

Before writing this blog, I ran a poll which asked “have you ever been harassed?” and so far it’s been hovering around 33% of responders answering yes. Whether intentional or not, it’s very likely that you have perpetuated harassment in the tournament scene. We can all do more to help make everyone comfortable to play the game we all love 🙂

Thanks for reading!

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