Today is the International Women’s Day 2020.
This is the day when year long projects dealing with women’s rights and women’s health is being presented and initiated.
Last year’s theme was “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, which put innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.
This year, the theme is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. Besides supporting the big international efforts, there’s also what we can do as individuals. United Nations gives 12 examples here.
Within our own fold, there might be cause for some reflection and considerations this day.
When a culture becomes too homogenous, its growth becomes stilted. We have had such an overwhelming lack of women in magic for so long, that many of us have taken it for granted that it is normal. It isn’t.
Since Peter Rosengren made me aware of the lack of learning in our field, 20 years ago, I have seen the wonderful outcome when magicians work together, during the workshops I have led. Creative exciting work. I didn’t think anything was missing.
Then, 5 years ago, in my and Johan Ståhl‘s university course, we had our first female participant. That made us happy, but we didn’t think further than that. We assumed she’d just be one of the “guys”, albeit in a slightly unusual shape.
A few days into the course, unexpected things begun to happen in the group exercises. It was like a new door had opened in our midst, and through it came faint whifts of new scents, possibilities, vantage points, thoughts, ideas, perspectives… and the presentations changed accordingly; became wilder, more unexpected, more artistic, more nuanced…
…That was when I for the first time realized that the lack of women in magic wasn’t their problem – it was my problem. If the prescense of just one woman could transform the creative dynamic of a whole group…
…I had previously assumed I had come pretty far in my own artistic evolution, but when imagining how much further I would have come, if I through my life have had access to the same kind of influences as the group now had… it was pretty clear that my creative range actually was impoverished and pitiful. That needed to change!
I thought back to my youth, on all the things that made me go into magic.
The sense of belonging.
The role models.
The relief it brought to ignore the awful world around and jump head first into intense problemsolving sessions…
…then I tried to imagine that I had been a young girl instead. And that was pretty depressing. Had I been a girl, I would still have the benefit of the problemsolving (but even more problems to solve).
But I would have had almost no rolemodels.
No one in the books would look like me.
There would be no sense of belonging.
How to solve that?
As an experiment, I decided that in all my Genii articles for 2016, I would put women in my own place in all the illustrations.
I wondered if I should explain the reason, but decided against it. Better just do it straight-on as if it was the norm, since I wanted it to be the norm. I was curious to see if it made any difference.
So far, I have no idea if it did.
I also decided to that of those we invite to collaborate with us, in the Mystique project, at least 40% should be female magicians.
Another aspect I began to ponder over was… over the years, I’ve seen the occasional girl enter magic, and then phase out again. I searched my memory and counted on the fingers, and realized that if they had stayed in magic, we would have a pretty good ratio of men and women. So one essential step could be to track down and interview those who left magic, to find out why they left. No idea how that could be done, though. Perhaps magic clubs could go through old membership rolls and do a survey, but who’d organize it?
Reading Nikola Arkane’s blogpost for this week gives a hint. It is not only about dealing with socially inept and predatory men within our fold, it is sometimes even worse when venturing out in the real world. My own experience of being groped is limited to when I did close-up magic at the Ladies’ Dinners at the Chalmers University when I was 23. Sounds like a joke, but it was bloody terrifying, humiliating and diminishing. I had bruises on my thighs. And I had no one to ask for advice on how to handle that experience. Had I been a young woman, I would have even fewer to ask for advice, and it would probably be more frequent than once in a lifetime. Soo… we do not only need more women in magic, we also need to encourage the growth of a community of female magicians, so that there will be somewhere to turn to for advice and encouragement in dealing with matters that male magicians seldom experience.
During the last decade, there have been a huge increase in the emergence of female magicians. So, evidently, we are doing at least some things right. Would be nice to pinpoint those things and do more of it.