A few weeks ago I was chatting with another magician and I referred to myself as a "female magician." The magician I was talking with stopped me and said, "No, you are not a female magician. You are a magician." However, while that's true, I am still a female in the magic world and I do get treated differently. And don't get me wrong, there are really great perks of being both a magician and a woman, but there are a lot of struggles as well.
Out of all of the magicians in the world, only 6-8% are women. That's a really really low number, and beyond that, even fewer perform regularly. This frighteningly low number makes it difficult for women to be taken seriously and for women to be held at the same level of standards as men in magic. The first trick for a magician is being accepted by the audience; the first trick for a female magician is being accepted not only by the audience, but also by her peers (both men and women alike).
I often find myself approaching a group of men publicly jamming with magic, and I'll want to join in, but the men won't talk with me or give me the time of the day, unless of course they want me to pick a card. I'll stand around and I'll watch random men walk up and be automatically accepted into the group, where I'll have to prove myself and my level of commitment before I'm welcomed in.
And once I'm welcomed into a group, there's still an uphill battle of dealing with the significant others of male magicians. I've received countless emails, texts and phone calls from angry wives and girlfriends asking me to stop being friends with their men. I've been accused of spending too much time with their men and have been told that I need to stop. I've had girlfriends and wives SIT DOWN with me and their husbands or boyfriends during jam sessions to make sure no funny business happens. I've had friends tell me that they couldn't accept my friend request on social media, because their wife or girlfriend wouldn't be ok with it, and would ask questions like what role do I have in their lives and why should I be connected with them. NEWSFLASH: I am not and have never been interested in a taken man. He's all yours, honey. I take the sanctity of marriage seriously and I would never tell anyone to cheat or be disloyal in a relationship. All I want is friendship, and in the magic world, since there are such low numbers of women, if I want friends, the likelihood of a friend being a man is high.
Being a woman in the magic world means standing up for myself... a lot. It means reminding people that I have a voice and I can speak for myself. It means knowing when to smile and brush comments and attitudes off, and when to fight back. It means constantly reminding people that I AM serious about magic, and that I have earned the right to call myself a magician, rather than merely being a magician's assistant or magic groupie.
I went into a magic shoppe once and asked for an item that is commonly used by magicians. The store clerk asked me if I was looking for the item for my brother, dad, husband, boyfriend... I stopped him and said, "No, I'm looking for myself." The clerk asked me what I wanted to do with it, and I said that I didn't have an idea in mind, but I wanted to play around with it to learn what was possible. The clerk chuckled and said, "Sweetie, it's best to pick up a magic kit first if you're just beginning." I smiled back, thanked him for his advice, and asked once again for the specific item. I was taught to always be polite and respectful, even when others are not.
I just returned from a magic convention and even there, some unnecessary comments were made, simply because I am a woman. Most of the men at the convention were totally accepting of me, and welcomed me into the group right away, where others felt it necessary to point out that I am a woman. On the first night of the convention, I was jamming with a few friends and a male magician came over and half-jokingly said, "Are you guys holding this poor girl hostage and against her will? This IS a magic convention..." I just smiled and tried to bring light to the situation by saying, "Right, because I totally look like I'm having a terrible time, huh?" However, one of my friends immediately jumped in and said, "She's a magician, you jerk!" The hostage comment really upset my friend and I told him that I usually just brush comments like that off, because at this point, I'm used to them. My friend frustratingly said, "But you shouldn't have to be." And he's right. I really shouldn't have to be used to comments like this. I am so grateful to my friend for standing up for me. These comments are unnecessary and are not ok, however I let comments like this slide because they happen so frequently and if I were to say that the comment bothered me, I'd be looked at as being too sensitive and unable to take a joke. However, having one male magician point out how uncool that comment was to another male magician helps to make a point. When other men come into the magic world, they don't receive comments like this, so why should I just because I'm a woman? During another day at the convention, another magician asked if I would show him some magic. I nodded "Yes," and gladly went over to a table. A small group of people gathered around me and right when I put the cards on the table, one of the male magicians asked what I was doing. I responded with "Magic." He then condescendingly said, "Hah right. And how do you know that?" To which I replied, "Same way as you. I'm a magician." The magician watched me perform a few effects, heard people compliment me, and walked away without even apologizing for doubting me or my ability in the first place... And this was AT a magic convention, where I was wearing a convention specific name-tag in a place designed to be supportive of one another and the art.
There have also been countless times where I've been performing a set at the Magic Castle, and before taking the time to watch me do anything, either a magician member will come to me directly and tell me that I have to be a member to perform, or they'll ask someone else what I'm doing and if I know the policy that I have to be a magician member first if I want to perform at the castle. When I receive questions and comments like these, they always come from men who don't take the time to watch me do anything, and just go off assumptions that I'm a woman, so I couldn't possibly know magic. At the castle, magician members wear gold pins on their left side, and I proudly display mine, yet some people would rather assume that I'm not a magician, rather than look for the pin. And even after I mention that I AM allowed to perform at the castle because I AM a magician member, 9/10 times, I won't receive an apology or any type of acknowledgement that the comments and questions were out of line.
Men in the magic world are also a lot more hesitant with women. While one man might give constructive criticism to another man, many men are too nervous to be honest when giving feedback to women, in fear of hurting our feelings or discouraging us. Constructive criticism is helpful, and if one person's thoughts make someone quit magic altogether, then perhaps other areas need to be reevaluated instead. False praise is a real thing and it doesn't help us women become better, but instead, it hinders our ability to grow and to change.
There aren't many of us, but thankfully, there IS a Women Magicians Association at the castle. I told all of the ladies in the group that I was writing a blog post about this topic, and asked them to tell me what they've experienced as well. A few women said that when they bring their husbands to the castle, everyone assumes the HUSBAND is the magician. A couple of other women said that people ask them which magician they assist. Male magicians don't get comments or questions like these, so why do we as women?
And just for a minute, let's delve into the world of getting hit on by male magicians. I understand that many male magicians are socially awkward individuals and don't know how to talk with women in general, so when they finally have something in common with a woman, they get excited, but that doesn't mean I want to be hit on. That's not to say that I would have something against dating another magician, but the flirtation should be tactful. And no, I'm not going to be interested in a man who is 20-30+ years older than me. Sorry NOT sorry.
It's also difficult for women not only within the magic community, but out of the magic community as well. I frequently get stopped at parties when I'm about to do magic, and receive comments like, "Oh YOU'RE the magician?" or "Oh you're actually not bad," after I've finished a performance. I also often get told that I don't look like a magician, to which I reply that I've left my cape at home, or it's getting dry-cleaned. Though will someone please answer the question to me of what a magician is supposed to look like? Do all doctors look the same? Lawyers? Teachers? No? Exactly. So there's no standard way that a magician is supposed to look either.
One time while I was being interviewed for something, the interviewer told me that I was pretty and asked why I wouldn't be a magician's assistant instead of a magician. He said that I had the right look for it and clearly I had the knowledge in magic. Without skipping a beat, I jumped in and responded with, "Why be the sidekick when you can be the superhero?" That part didn't make it into the interview.
Even with all of the struggles, there are some great perks of being both a magician and a woman, and I'd be silly to not mention those. Many male magicians are fascinated by us women in the magic world, and tend to take the time to get to learn more about us and our story. They want to know what we're interested in specifically, what got us started, and what our journey has been like. I've been blessed with having the privilege of knowing so many incredible magicians who have immensely helped me with my magic journey and career. They take the time to sit down, work with me, help me improve, and teach me, despite me being a woman. I feel so much support from really great individuals and I'm so touched and honored to have so many friends behind me.
I've also had a lot of positivity thrown my way from people not in the magic world. Many times, someone will finish a set at the castle, and someone will announce that if people want to stick around, a female magician will be up next, and most people choose to stick around, just because it's rare for them to see a woman. They get excited seeing a female magician, and they let me know how truly excited they are. After I do a set, people compliment me and tell me that I'm pioneering the world of magic, and comments like that make me feel incredible. People also tend to remember specifics about my set or about me because I stand out from the men. I have been called a unicorn on more than a few occasions, and I like that. I like being someone special and sticking out from the crowd.
So while there are a lot of frustrations and battles that I face as a woman in the magic world, magic makes me happy and I'm not leaving this world. I'm learning more and more, and getting better each day. I enjoy pushing the limits and being in the minority. I'm learning how to stand-up for myself and the other women more. This world is growing, changing, and flourishing, and if you don't like women being in the magic world, then you can choose another world to be in, because I'm a woman, I'm a magician, and I'm here to stay.