An on-going project is my all women Cube (“Playing the Woman Card”). Its creation has been way more difficult than I expected.
1. I wanted to use cards that only had women on them, particularly in positions of power.
2. I wanted this to be a Commander Cube, and ideally include Planeswalkers.
2a. If this is a Commander Cube, I would need approximately 960 unique cards (but that includes Commanders and non-basic lands).
3. I hadn’t/haven’t yet decided if I want to stick to just humans/elves/orcs/kor, or if, say, a Gorgon counts.
4. I try to avoid buying cards as much as possible, just because the whole point of Cube is to use the old cards you already have. However, I will buy cards that are an awesome fit and I have basically no chance of picking up at a draft.
4a. So far, I have not spent more than $2.00 on an individual card. You gotta have a limit.
I did the initial sort. I had plenty of legendary creatures, and just enough Planeswalkers if I included Vraska.
However, I was nearly 100 cards short, with especially large deficits in blue and red. (Because of the popularity/presence of Chandra and Jaya, I was particularly surprised by the lack of red.) I also had nearly 200 lands, which is a lot; really I’d only need 90 for a 6 person draft.
So I went back through again. On the first pass, I try to grab every single card that meets my theme; I can always remove it later. But this time I paid extra attention. Was the person on this card female and I hadn’t realized it? This card has multiple genders, but more women, so I’ll use that. This one has a woman in a position of power over a man, so that’s okay. This one you can’t tell the gender, so I’ll use it, because who’s to say?
I was tempted to use something like Black Cat because many women like/own cats. Or Market Festival, because ladies be shoppin’. But something that was meant to be fun and empowering was quickly turning into ugly stereotypes, so I removed the cards like that that had already been added. I did, however, use cards that didn’t have women in the art but did use a flavor text from a woman. Riptide Chimera, for example, has a monster on it, but also a humorous quote from Kiora.
After the second pass, I had over 1,000 cards, which is great — now I can winnow. White is still fairly over represented, and I still have under 100 red cards (not counting Boros, Rakdos, etc). Pulling the physical cards is the third pass, and I might find more when I do that. Filtering out commons leaves me with less than 600 cards, so this will be a process yet.
Intriguingly, I found myself happy and angry about the same thing: how women are often depicted in fantasy art. So often the women are in skimpy, form-fitting clothes. Disciple of the Old Ways comes to mind. Or Skyknight Legionnaire has plenty of armor, but has boob cups and the focal point of the scene is her crotch. It’s a good card, but I might learn how to alter just so I can change all of mine.
But characters not depicted in such a way can be much more difficult to distinguish. Anafenza is female and you cannot tell that in Anafenza, the Foremost. Which, ultimately, is great! She has a sensible warrior’s haircut, and sensible armor. Likewise, I’m pretty sure Deepwater Hypnotist is female because it looks like she has eyelashes. But otherwise, this merfolk doesn’t really have any gender markers. It looks like she has mammalian breasts, but not necessarily. (Same for Bellowing Saddlebrute above.) Likewise, I think Sultai Flayer is female; the creature appears to have mammalian breasts and the male naga seem to have broad chests and less cloth covering their chests.
So on the one hand, I was cursing the impractical armor/outfits, and on the other hand, I was grateful for it, because it made identifying women easier. Something like Elspeth’s design is closest to my ideal — there’s still the faint hint of boob armor and she generally has long hair, but she looks both powerful and feminine.
An additional factor, of course, is the cards I own. Maybe other blocks (Lorwyn? Kamigawa?) are better at female representation. And I’m really heartened by all of the cool female characters that have come out recently and are coming out soon such as Arlinn, Kaya, and Saheeli, plus updates to, say, Marchesa, Avacyn, and Tamiyo.
I’m not writing this blog post to accuse anyone of deliberate sexism or anything like that. In general, I have found Magic and its players to be quite inclusive, and I’m thrilled that we’re seeing more representation in terms of female, trans, and POC characters. I’ve just been surprised by how difficult this process has been.