If you were to name a list of top 10 magicians from your own memory, it would most likely be filled with men.
The reason is understandable: there aren’t a lot of big-name female magician acts out there, and those that do exist often fail to capture the type of mainstream media and journalism exposure of their peers. So what is going on here? Why are there plenty of women on the stage when a magic act is happening, but so few heading up the marquee?
The answer partially lies in a number of historical and cultural factors, but one of the biggest is that we simply take for granted the type of interests our children will take up as they age. Notably, a magic set is a common gift for a young boy but less so for a young girl.
Let us explore how these differences come about, and what historical events could have lead us here:
She Turned Me into a Newt!
Chances are good that you have watched this iconic scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where a woman is being accused of practicing witchcraft on the flimsiest pretexts imaginable. The satirical/farcical nature of the scene makes it memorable and endearing, but its implications are actually quite horrifying.
Throughout history, up until the 18th Century in fact, accusing women of practicing witchcraft and heretical sorcery was often a near-instant death sentence. Actual figures on the number of women killed as a result of this paranoia vary wildly from 30,000 on up to the millions. In the U.S., around 20 women were executed during the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Believe it or not, this monstrous practice still continues to this day.
While such a topic may be a bit heavy-handed for a magic blog, it does help explain why women throughout history have had a strong incentive to avoid behaviors that would make them stand out. In the meantime, men began to form secret societies as the first and second Industrial Revolutions took hold. The Society of American Magicians, headquartered at Martinka’s Magic Shop in New York City, provided the cultural foothold that allowed acts like Houdini to become immortalized. Despite the fact that a few men were also caught up as victims in the witch hunt hysteria, the stigma against magic largely impacted one gender.
Moving beyond the social morays of yesteryear, there is still an uneven approach to the way that men and women are expected to take an interest in certain fields like science, math and chemistry. That gap is closing fast, but it still exists.
The truth is that many parents and relatives make assumptions about the interests children will take up based on gender. Men are encouraged to pursue fields like sports and sciences based on gifts like athletic equipment, chemistry sets and magic sets. Women, less so.
This social construct can be evidenced by the fact that in East Asia, there are more women magicians in general as a result of them being encouraged to take up a “parlor entertainment” hobby. According to magician Lisa Menna, “in the Asian tradition, women have always done magic as a high art form.” For this reason, a significant number of women of Asian descent make up the shortlist of famous female magicians — Juliana Chen, Magic Babe Ning and Princess Tenko, who even had a Saban anime produced from her famous exploits.
Take Your Kids to See a Mentalist in Miami
While elements like history and personal preference come into play, the biggest one is encouragement. More parents need to expose their children to a variety of interests, including magic, to ensure that there will be plenty of magicians of both sexes on into the future.
Who knows, maybe your little girl will someday become the next most-famous mentalist in Miami like Mio? You can take a look at our videos section to see the fun and mystery that is in store for her.