A few years ago, I wrote an article titled, "Being a Magician as a Woman." I received an overwhelming amount of support from the article, and now feel that it's time to write an update.
I shouldn't have to say this, but I'd also like to include a note that these opinions, experiences, and views, are MINE and do not pertain to every woman or every man in magic. For some reason, people think when they hear a woman talk and give her opinion in magic, it's connected with ALL women, but that's simply not true. We all have different opinions and experiences, because well, that's life.
Having the benefit of the gestalt view, helps people understand magic on a deeper level. Magic overall is greater than each individual magician put together, however the perceived uniqueness of each magician, makes magic better. This perceived uniqueness can help magic grow, but each person needs to be accountable for his or her own actions and issues at hand.
There have been an influx of ladies in magic within the past few years, which is great. I love seeing more and more women get involved, regardless if they're planning on performing professionally, or deciding to be hobbyists. However, there's still a long way to go for both how men and women approach these issues, and I'm hoping that writing about past experiences, observations, and what we, as a magic community can do to improve, will help magic overall.
Ok, deep breaths... here we go...
It's time to level up. My dream would be for women to be technically at the same level or better than men. Unfortunately, we're not there yet. There ARE women who are shining among us, but as a whole, we still need to work harder. I see a lot of women be complacent with where they are in terms of skills, performance, and business, and if we want to continue to move magic forward, we need to continue to push ourselves. It's not enough to know five tricks, be able to do one show, and that's it. It's not enough to say that women need to be better, because "better" is too abstract. Instead, we need to continue to learn, grow, and change.
I see women complain that there are not enough women booked for rooms at the Magic Castle, or for certain gigs, but we need to take some ownership of that. In order to officially perform at the Castle in one of the rooms, you need to make an audition video and send it to the Academy of Magical Arts Director of Entertainment. I have still yet to do that, because having a full time job on top of magic, means I'm not able to commit to doing 28 shows in a week (even just doing cocktail hour would be hard, due to it starting so early). Just like myself, a lot of others have very valid reasons of why they haven't submitted videos, and that's ok. However, if we're not submitting videos, we can't expect to be booked. There are already a lot less women in magic than men, so if we're not trying to get booked, we can't complain about there being a lack of women who are booked, when we are the ones standing in our own way. When a lot of women try, they do in fact succeed. Every year, I see more and more women get booked at the Castle, and I see more and more women get booked for really cool gigs, which is incredible! However, there's still ample room for improvement and growth.
A lot of women also believe that in order to get the attention from men, we need to primarily use our voices to speak up. While that's true, that's only a small, itty bitty fraction of it. I've noticed that men gain respect through action. When men see women in magic work hard on an effect, or put the time in, they instantly gain more respect than the ones who just complain or rant. And I'm not saying I'm excluded from that "complain and rant" category, because believe me, I have definitely ranted and complained. However, I've noticed a much bigger impact when I've been able to "talk shop" with the men, and bring something more to the table than just complaints. Sessioning is a great way to improve, and the people who put in the time and effort in magic, are more noticed in positive ways than those who just complain.
And now... let's talk about looks. I understand that sex sells. Believe me, I get it. There are some STUNNING ladies in magic. Like, absolutely gorgeous ladies. And I've seen many of those women use their looks and bodies to get ahead (or so they think). While most men in magic get booked for their personalities and skill levels, many women get booked for their looks. I know this for a fact, because I've been booked for my looks before. I've been told by prospective clients that even though they've never seen me perform, they like my look, so they want to book me. How many men have experienced that? I'm not here to judge, because you do you, and I'll do me, however, what if we as women, when performing, focused more attention on our magic than our looks? Obviously, as women, we should be able to wear whatever we want, but if you're going to show a lot of skin, the attention will inevitably be on the skin. If you show more magic than skin, the attention will hopefully be on the magic. Totally up to you. Personally, I love being deceptive in the way that people tell me that I don't look like a magician, and then after I perform, they tell me that I've blown their minds.
So, in short, what can we as women in magic do? Improve. We can never stop improving our effects, our presentation skills, our appearances, and beyond. And in doing so, the respect and recognition will come.
Men... now it's your turn:
Please realize that the magic world has evolved, will continue to change, and the numbers of women in magic are growing. And yet... women in magic are STILL receiving unnecessary comments, and that needs to be taken down a notch, or ten... like, way down... to being nonexistent, if possible.
As examples of behaviors that should really stop, these instances have all happened to me within the past few years:
I was at a magic convention, and this man who had never met me before, started talking to me. He was telling me about an invitation only convention, and I said that one of these years I'd like to check it out. He responded with, "Well, you have to be really into magic to go." I just looked at him puzzled, and he continued, "...Because the whole convention is just at this one hotel, and there really aren't cool shops or malls around." Uhm... this man was alluding to the fact that being solely at a hotel for a convention would automatically bore me because I'm a woman... but let's be real, that's what all magic conventions are, and I love attending.
I've gone to a lot of magic lectures, and I've asked questions at said lectures. Afterwards, I've had men come up to me and in a condescending way say, "Those were very good questions, dear," to which I replied, "Thanks! I thought of them all on my own!!" Would the same tonality occur towards a man who asked the questions? Most likely not.
I've also been in magic related settings and have fooled male magicians with my magic, but since they were upset that I fooled them, they responded with crappy comments like, "Well, I know how you did it" (even though they probably didn't); or "Wow, you're having too much fun with this. The alcohol must really hit hard for a person your size..." as if the alcohol was the reason for me being so happy about performing. For some reason, many men are threatened by a woman fooling them. Hey men, remove gender, and get over it. Magicians fool other magicians.
I've been at conventions or magic related settings, and have been asked what I'm doing there. I've come up with the funny response of, "Thought this would be a good place to pick up magicians." However, I shouldn't need responses like that, because my attendance and motives should not be questioned, when men seem to be accepted automatically.
I'd like to also share two of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to these issues. If these two things alone would stop, we would be leaps and bounds ahead of where we are now when it comes to equality in magic.
False praise and gender specific support - It doesn't help anyone. I was at the Castle a few weeks back, and I just wanted to show a friend some moves we were talking about. I wasn't in performance mode, and purposefully went to a table of magicians to borrow their close-up mat in order to show my friend. I messed up the first move and said, "Oh shoot, I messed that up, I'm going to start over." I know when I've messed up, and I know when something doesn't look good. This magician that I've never met or talked to before, leaned over and said "Noooo that was so good! Keep going!" I asked him to not give me false praise, because false praise is extremely condescending, to which he replied, "No, I wasn't doing that... I'm just supportive of all of my female magician friends." And BINGO. That's another problem. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be supportive of ALL of your friends, regardless of gender. Before starting the trick again, the same guy said, "Ok, take deep breaths... you can do it." See, this is a tricky (pun intended) thing, because that guy probably thought he was being supportive and was being great, however chances are, he wouldn't have said any of that if I were a man. So while he actually thinks he's helping the situation, he in fact is hurting it. The guy then went on to try and tell me that I needed this thing called patter (which he mansplained to me was a script), to go along with the moves. I told him that patter wasn't necessary at that moment, because I was just showing my friend something. This guy was relentless. He continued and continued until another male magician stepped in and said something, finally causing the man to shut his mouth and back away. It shouldn't be like that, though. Women shouldn't need these "white knight" scenarios to help situations like this, which brings us to pet peeve number two.
White knighting - Since the conversation of women in magic has been coming up more and more, many men have taken on roles as "white knights". For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, I'll explain: A woman complains about something, or lots of somethings, and then multiple men step in to her defense and make the issue much larger than it initially was, campaigning for people to excommunicate all men involved. Many times, the men seem to be more offended than the women, which only exacerbates the negativity. While it's great to have men helping women, and standing up for what they believe in, please stand beside, and in support of, instead of in front of. Standing in front of hurts situations, because once again, it appears that women need men to come to their rescue.
So, what does "being supportive" actually mean?
Being supportive means not assuming reasons for why a person is in a magic environment. Ask questions. Instead of just assuming that a man is there for one reason, and a woman is there for another, it's ok to ask someone, "Are you a magician?" And if you forget to ask the question, and you assume incorrectly, being supportive means admitting that you were wrong, which is a sign of strength, not weakness. It means making an effort to correct your actions in the future. Being supportive means giving and taking constructive criticism when asked. Instead of just assuming that everyone wants your thoughts after they show you something, it's ok to ask, "Do you want feedback?" And it's ok to say "No." Being supportive means giving praise when you're actually impressed and delighted. It means not being afraid to figuratively lift someone up. It means giving someone a gig that for whatever reason you couldn't take, because you know they'll do a great job at it. Being supportive means helping others in ways they might not be able to achieve on their own, such as introducing them to someone else, introducing them to a really cool effect or book, or simply asking if they want help with whatever they're working on. Being supportive means standing up for others, in respectful ways. It means not taking over and white-knighting the situation, but if you see something happen that you disagree with, say something. Power in numbers. Being supportive means fighting for equality. Men, if you wouldn't do or say something to a man, don't say or do it to a woman. (Shout out to the amazing people in my life who have been extremely supportive, making this section really easy to write).
Bottom line is that magic should continue to be elevated, and all sides, regardless of gender, race, or any other differentiating factors, should be held accountable. After all, magic is greater as a whole, than the sum of its parts.