This is a question I am asked often – sometimes by curious magicians, sometimes by concerned-looking, sympathetic people, sometimes by womxn who are considering it themselves.
My answer changes all the time...
When I started learning magic 10 years ago, I didn’t have many female role models in the field, but that is changing rapidly. More womxn have begun learning magic, more are sharing their skills through social media, and this inspires even more to start learning the craft themselves.
This has gradually made female magicians less rare whilst changing people’s expectations of what magic performances should look like…
This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s all rosy and glorious…
...see what I did there?
The people who don’t risk asking me the above question, are my close family and friends.
They know the dangers of opening that can of worms, the overflowing jar of rants threatening to burst open anytime I get home from a gig where a man has told me he’ll watch my magic if I take my clothes off…
That, is a great example of what it can be like to be a female magician.
Views can still be very old-fashioned.
One evening, a woman told me I was brave for my choice of job, brave for getting up on stage. The strange thing was that she didn’t think my friend was brave, and he is a magician too. The only difference was that she expected him to be able to go up and show bravado, to be ‘cocky’ and to have the ego needed to make an audience love him.
Stereotypically, womxn aren’t expected to behave in this way, they’re expected to be quieter and more self-deprecating… (unless they want to be labelled as arrogant.)
The only way to change these views, is to get out onstage, challenge people’s perceptions, and demonstrate why some views no longer fit with our society.
But you’re probably here for the gory bits. You want to know what it’s really like being a female magich…
So here you go – my pet hates, the things I tiptoe around in podcast interviews…
1. Disrespectful comments from audience members – these are rare, but they sting:
“That’s really good for a woman” – is it not impressive for any human being?
“Yeah I’ll see your magic, if you take your clothes off” – seriously, I’ve had this on more than a few occasions.
“How much do you charge for a private show (*insert wink here*)” – just allow me to throw up in my mouth, then I’ll be right back with you, pretending I didn’t hear your question.
“Your magic is amazing, but I think you’d be more successful if you wore tighter dresses” – …I just, can’t…
I don’t really need to go into why these aren’t appreciated – if you believe these are the correct things to say to a performer, then I’m not quite sure how you found my website.
2. Some magicians complain that I’m more hireable than them, because of the way I look.
If I went around saying that I really wanted to be a professional cyclist, but that I’d never make it into the Olympics because there were men competing who had stronger thigh muscles… then yeah, I’d never make it into the Olympics.
Control what you can, nothing more, nothing less.
Maybe go and write some exciting new stage material…
Don’t blame any lack of work or money on the appearance of another magician.
3. Getting told that I’m “just as good as the guys”.
This isn’t a compliment!
It’s basically ‘good for a woman’ said politely.
I know that people have good intentions when they say this, but I haven’t spent 4 years working my way up the ranks just to be told that I have succeeded in catching up with men.
Also, I thought every male magician was unique? –
They don’t have a communal skill level that every female magician should aim to reach...
…I think I’d also take offence from this if I were the best male magician in the world.
4. Being called a female magician.
It’s dated to put genders in front of job titles – I assume female comedians also get this quite a bit too?
But there are positives –
I believe I find it easier to shock audiences.
Often, people walk into my show with a preconceived idea of what it will be like, not expecting the show to be as dark as it is.
When someone has preconceptions, performing in an opposite style can be extremely effective, and can make it easier to shock an audience…
…in a good way, of course.
And, it is strange, but as a female magician, I am often seen as rare.
If a corporation decides they would like something a bit ‘different’ for their work party, a female magician may actually fit the brief – and with fewer to choose from, I have a higher chance of getting the gig.
So, in answer to this question…
Being a female magician can be awesome. It can also, however, be incredibly frustrating at times – but for me, it’s worth it.
You do need a thick skin, (as all performers do), and you do need to choose your battles…
…as my friend once said, after a man made a sexist comment to me at a gig –
“Arguing with an idiot is like trying to play chess with a pigeon; you’re never going to win.”
But if you can survive the odd offensive comment, surround yourself with supportive magich friends, and stay focused on your own goals, (not the goals people suggest you should have), then you’ll do just fine.
So, if you’re a womxn reading this, who’s thinking of going into magic?
Do it. What have you got to lose?
And if you ever need someone to rant to… then I’m right here.