[Allan: The following blog post was written by Katie Woolley. In addition to being my girlfriend, she's an artist, a wonderful person and very insightful when it comes to the magic scene, which makes her uniquely qualified to write this post. Please enjoy the read!]
Ever since Allan started his blog, he’s mentioned to me that at some point I should chime in and write a guest post. I spent quite some time thinking about what to share and wanted to address something I had unique experience with. For those of you reading who don’t know who I am, well… I’m Allan’s girlfriend, Katie. Hello!
I’m also a magician.
And no, that’s not how we met, which should be proof that real magic exists.
Anyway, let me clarify on the title of magician and explain my background before I jump into my thoughts.
I lack any refined technical proficiencies. Whatever I was once good at, I am not good at any longer. At one time, I was on a path to getting pretty okay with some things, and really starting to get interested in parlour magic. Ten years ago, I moderated on a big magic forum. Apologies if 16 year old me ever scolded you to use the search feature.
Some people might say that since at this point in time I don’t perform or maintain technical skills, I have no right to call myself a magician. For years, I would have agreed with that. Unable to meet my own personal high standards and the minimum daily requirement for practice, magic and I eventually had a parting of ways. It wasn’t until around the time Allan and I became friends that I started falling back in love with magic, and as a newly matured adult I had accepted that I could be a magician who focused on theory, knowledge and performance art.
Coming from a background and education in art, a conceptual approach to being a magician made sense. My “magician-ness” was not to be measured by technical skill, but rather my mindset. I have been learning magic and learning about magic since I was 8 years old, and I continue to do so today.
So that brings me to this point, because I am constantly trying to better understand magic as both a performance art and a community of thinkers and artists.
I recently saw a short video of a female magician performing an absolutely terrible effect. Her method was obtuse, and most importantly, could not be done in person. To give you an idea, it’s like if someone held a black card, quickly dropped their hand out of the frame of the video, switched it for a red card, and then called that a magic trick.
Curious about the feedback, I checked the comments. Out of large number of different responses, only one person commented that they knew how it was done, which is probably a world record for internet magic comments (as addressed in an earlier post, there seems to be an epidemic of people using comments as a platform to tell others that they know the method too). Everyone else gushed over this woman, and fed her embarrassingly positive praise. I could not stop cringing for all parties involved.
Keep in mind that this isn’t just someone with a hobby in making fun little videos of “tricks”. From what I can gather, she is a professional who charges people money to see her perform magic.
For comparison, I checked comments of some male magicians who are performing comparably weak material. First of all, they don’t get the same volume of engagement on their videos, even with similar amount of followers. When they do, people are more frequently honest and critical. With an adult male magician who isn’t new to magic, no one feels the need to pretend that something is good when it isn’t.
So why are we pretending some female magicians are so great when they’re terrible? Where is the equality?
When I was a young female magician, I was fawned over like you wouldn’t believe. Everyone wanted to add me on Skype, tell me their secrets, send me their pirated videos to help me out, give me free cards and books, etc. After a while, I started to believe maybe I was special after all, and had this gone to my head any further I may have never found myself on the more productive and humble path I am on today.
I understand the initial inclination. There are so few women who call themselves magicians, which makes men swoop in and want to coddle and mentor female magicians and continue to encourage them. I think in general, women are wanted in this community. Many people just want to help, further the art along and end the massive imbalance of the genders in magic. Sure, some guys use comments like “that was good for a girl”, but more so, it seems people are afraid to critique these women for much bigger reasons.
By giving female magicians praise that is more easily earned, they are being taught that they don’t have to meet the same standard as their male counterparts who are doing the same thing.
Now of course, there are some women out there that use this imbalance to their advantage and continue to do poorly constructed shows, run social media accounts filled with awful magic, and so on. They may have found that they have a leg up on the competition and can use their unusual position as a “female magician” to further themselves without the hard work. I myself have even witnessed some younger women who appear to be in it for all the extra attention they get, because as soon I personally have reached out to them they have either told me or indicated to me that they’re really not interested in magic, but rather in getting more likes, comments and notifications.
The sad thing is that often I don’t think anyone starts doing magic as a means for attention, but mainly because they love magic or saw magic that inspired them! But as soon as they realize they’re going to be treated like a prodigy, the desire to learn more for the sake of magic can easily fade. I experienced this myself so I am not just speaking from speculation. It does happen, and getting so much praise for such little work is very confusing.
Female magicians deserve the same kind of respect and to be held to the same standard as men. Holding lower expectations just because you’re happy to see a girl doing magic may seem innocent and helpful, but you are robbing someone of achieving their full potential.
Now, all this being said, no one should be commenting on videos or performances in a way that is mean or unhelpful. Instead, do not continue to feed into the attention machine and give comments and likes. Vote with your attention, not your words, just like you would with anyone else.
If you do want to offer advice or a critique, you should reach out to that person in a way that will not embarrass them publicly. This applies to everyone and is good manners, but I figured I should mention it on the off chance that anyone takes my crusade against groveling over female magicians as encouragement to be rude and rough. It is not, not matter who you’re doing it to and what their gender is.
Also, if someone is brand new to magic, give them a break! This post is referring to those who have been doing magic for years and call themselves professional working magicians or at least openly say they’re proficient in magic.
In closing, I would like to add that some women out there are absolutely rocking it in the magic world, both on stage and behind the scenes! But ultimately, fairness is key and once women stop being put on a pedestal for learning a double lift, the more women will probably be comfortable to give magic a try without fear of being thrown into the spotlight like a rare animal at the zoo.
So please, if you ever find yourself in the position of interacting with a female magician, make sure that when it comes to discussing magic with them, you treat them the same as you would with anyone else. It seems like common sense, maybe even a little silly to discuss equality in 2016, but even I have been guilty of it too. The sooner this habit becomes a thing of the past, the sooner women will thrive in magic and perhaps even bring new styles, freshness and perspective that everyone could really enjoy and benefit from.
Disclaimer: There are at least three other Katies who have been involved in the magic community over the last ten years. At least one of them has said things I strongly disagree with regarding magic, so please try to withhold judgment if you’ve ever had a bad Katie experience on an internet magic forum… it probably wasn’t me.