As a young boy, Hudson Taylor was given a deck of cards from his father and dreamt of one day becoming a successful magician. He mastered basic techniques: extracting tens from a deck and finding four-of-a-kind instantly. He stunned his family with these small gags, and as much pride as it brought Taylor, revelling in childhood fantasy, his keen sense of observation surmounted a discrepancy among his family. As pleased and surprised as his family was with Hudson’s expression of creativity through the gags and the cards, he had noticed that his two sisters were not given the same opportunity. And it was okay; it was expected. His sisters’ participation in the magic realm was allotted to being his childhood assistants, though in itself harmless, this sparked Hudson’s young mind to attend to other inequities within the magic realm and beyond into daily life. He noticed that there are no female magicians, at least none that jump to consideration. Harry Houdini, sure. David Copperfield, of course. As with many female accomplishments, the undercredited mediums and illusionists of yesteryear, their influence is invisible.
Take Swami Laura Horos, cited by Houdini in “A Magician Among The Spirits” as being, "one of the most extraordinary fake mediums and mystery swindlers the world has ever known." Eusapia Palladino, a “spirit guide” active in the late 1880s, was famed for levitating tables, “spirit knocking”, and glowing hands. Or Mina Crandon, active during 1924 and investigated by Harry Houdini for telekinetic powers under scientific conditions, was found to be worthy of the sleight-of-hand cleverness attributed to most illusionists. Renowned for throwing her voice and a very creepy disappearing “spirit hand” carved from animal liver, Mina was among the most cunning mediums of the time, swindling onlookers out of cash under the guise of “magic”. Unlike Houdini, Copperfield or Criss Angel, any sensible person knows that divination and sorcery is fake, and by default, the act of participating in such an “otherworldly” ritual would render the paying customer a doop.
However devious the contemporaries of Miss Cleo may be, the magic realm for women, according to Hudson, is minimized to the girl that gets sawed in half. The sidekick. The beautiful distraction. Beginning with mediums and ending with glowing assistants strutting to hold attention elsewhere, Hudson, now 28, expounds on this inequality, and discovers that harsh disparities extend beyond the world of magic.
“Women make up just five percent of the artists in modern art museums, but about 85% of the news. While their contributions remain equal, women earn just 77 cent to the male dollar, black women earn just 64 cents and hispanic women earn even less. Only four out of every ten global companies in this world employ women at senior positions. 99% of the women in this country have experienced street harassment and one out of every six women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape.”
With each statistically-relevant flip of the card, Hudson provides a poignant commentary on what men can do to help these disparities, which affect men’s sisters, daughters and mothers. “How can I break this cycle? How can I take masculinity, how can I break it down into all its errors and restore it with all its virtues for the better?”
Image via "Hudson Taylor Story Deck Part 1." Hudson Taylor is a former wrestler turned magician, founder of Athlete Ally, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homophobia and transphobia in sports, and prominent straight ally to LGBT rights and civil rights. https://www.athleteally.org/