Guess Who (Isn’t Really Getting a Fair Deal)

We’re a gaming family. Not so much the video kind (although we’ve been known to get our Mario Kart on), but more so of the board persuasion. Both MD and I played board games growing up, and we started our own substantial collection when we got together.

When EZ turned 4, we started getting him in on the action. We started with Chutes & Ladders and Candy Land, and soon he was addicted as well. Every so often we’ll add a new one to our collection, and they are usually child-friendly. This past weekend we picked up both Operation and Guess Who. Operation has changed a bit…there’s no longer a bread basket or butterflies in the tummy (instead there’s “cellphone wrist” and neon green boogers…both of which I’m sure we’ll lose in the next week or two, as is par for the course with any tiny game piece).

Then there’s Guess Who. I loved that game as a kid, and was super excited to play with EZ. But I have to say, once we set it up and got started I was shocked. Out of 25 characters to choose from, only 5 are women. That couldn’t be right, I thought, and rushed to see what the original game had…

Original Guess Who

It also only had 5 (It was also extremely white-washed. The current version is a bit more colorful). And then it all came rushing back to me. Whenever I played as a kid, I hardly ever picked the girls. Why? Because when you’re as calculating and competitive as I am, you knew that the odds would never be in your favor if you chose a girl. She’d be guessed in less than 3 questions.

Yeah, I can't get excited over a victory that is basically handed to you on a sexist platter.

And you know what? EZ is picking up on that now. He hardly picks a female character because he knows that I’ll be able to guess it in a couple of questions. We’ve mostly stuck to the animal side of the board (where this is almost an even ratio of cat:dog, mind you), and I’m trying to figure out if we can somehow create our own board to use.

I could get all angry and up in arms over how Guess Who is a totally sexist game, but really, instead of being shocked and angry, I have to admit, when this all sank in, I was more disappointed than anything else. I doubt it was a conscious choice on the part of Hasbro to only include 5 women in the game. In fact, that’s the problem…Nobody thought about it.

It’s part of a larger, systemic issue, one that is perfectly laid out for us with the latest drama surrounding LEGO’s new girl line.  LEGO continues to claim that their research has shown that girls just don’t like their gender neutral sets, and the company won’t back down from promoting their new LEGO Friends girl line, no matter how upset customers are. But the problem goes beyond LEGO Friends.

Pigtail Pals recently posted a picture from LEGOLand, showing a LEGO female firefighter (yay!) putting on lipstick (WTF?). Nobody from LEGO corporate (or any park employee) took a second to think about why that could be off putting and completely sexist? I have nothing against wearing make up, but to portray a woman as a firefighter, and then to rely on tired stereotypes to complete the piece seems like poor form to me.

But should we be so surprised when the management team for LEGO is compromised solely of older white men? (That ironically look like they belong in the original Guess Who). Their board of directors isn’t any better, including only one woman, who incidentally joined the board just this past May.  

Looking at who makes up the decision-making team of LEGO, one immediate solution jumps to mind: More women. Sure, it might not solve all of their issues, but it would be a good start. We need more women in these types of positions…or we at least need more people in charge that will take a second to really think through some of these decisions.

Hm…maybe we can have the firefighter carry an ax or fire extinguisher instead of touching up her lipstick?

Why don’t we have half men and half women in the next edition of Guess Who? That will really throw them for a loop! 

Let’s be the change we want to see. Let’s encourage our daughters and our sons to find their way into jobs that impact society for the better, so perhaps one day they’ll be the ones making these types of decisions and they’ll make better ones.

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14 thoughts on “Guess Who (Isn’t Really Getting a Fair Deal)

  1. Board games are awesome! There’s no electronic substitute for interacting and THINKING together as a family. I’ve been playing board games for almost fifty years and I still love them, some more than others. Yet, to this day, I remain unable to catch a mouse playing Mousetrap without something falling onto the floor. Fun post! Thanks for sharing!

  2. For your Guess Who game why don’t you replace the given pictures with those of friends and family. Just cut the pics the same size and glue right on top. You could then play the same way as the original with clues about appearance or could ask questions more broadly such as “did this person visit last Christmas”, etc.

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  4. Boardgames are incredibly cool and for all ages.
    Maybe you’d like to look at zman games, if you don’t already know them. They bring some of the European board game tradition over to the US. One of theur newest games, Undermining, can in my opinion be played with kids quite well (though I naturally don’t know how much of it EZ can grasp already).
    have fun and with greetings from Europe
    die kleine frau

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  6. In guess who there are only 5 female characters, but it’s the same for every thing you decide to ask: only 5 are wearing glasses, or a hat, only 5 have got white hair, or moustaches… Having a girl is a problem only because you usually start asking: is it a boy?

    • There was actually a little girl who mailed in to Hasbro, asking why there were only 5 girls and 19 boys. They replied that statistically, there are 5 of every category, therefore, you have the same chance to win as someone who picks a boy.

      But then the questions comes in: Why is being female a category, while being a man isn’t?

      • Yes – I’ve read about that young girl – good for her! And what an answer that reeks of avoidance. You’re totally spot on re: why is “female” a category when being a man isn’t. An observation that can be applied to society at large, no?

        On Sat, Dec 29, 2012 at 6:37 PM, The Mamafesto

  7. Pingback: Guess who is a peer reviewer

  8. how about these apples. ladies you got the long straw! where are all the black people? uh hello? thNK GOD THEY REDIDI IT TO INCLUDE PEOPLE OF COLOR; BLACK AND I THINK CHINESE TOO. BUT THEY REALLY COULD WORK ON THEYRE DIVERSITY. HOWEVER PROPS TO HAVING HANS LOOK LIKE A HOMOSEXUAL, AT LEAST THEY CATERED TO SEXUAL PREFERENCE. SERIOSULY WHEN WE PLAY YOU CANNOT ASK “BOY, GIRL, FACIAL HAIR, OR HAT” YOU HAVE TO ASK “DO YOU LOOK LIKE YOU MIGHT ROB A BANK, ARE YOU GAY AND IN THE CLOSET? DO YOU LOOK LIKE YOU WORK AT MAC? ARE YOU A USED CAR SALESAMAN” IT IS MUCH FUNLINNIER AND YOU STILL END UP HAVING A WINNER. XOXO TRY IT!

  9. I can see your point when looking at this game in a vacuum, but in adding more female characters which traits would you give them? A beard? Bald head? That’s a limiting factor, but outside of that vacuum is where we run into a real problem; 80% of products are designed and marketed for women and girls. That fact makes your complaint akin to feeling white people are underrepresented on BET, or male shows on Oxygen, though you probably didn’t realize it.
    Barbie portrays men as nothing more than an accessory, yet no one’s complaining about that, nor the lessons it teaches our children; hell, my social psych professor got a call IN CLASS from another parent saying that something was wrong with her son… he was playing with Barbie. No parent has ever done anything like that to a girl who wanted to play with Legos or other “boy” toys.
    Criticizing the portrayal of gender rolls et al in children’s toys/games is perfectly legitimate, but you’re the majority complaining about representation in the minority, while ignoring your own dominance. As for blaming old white men at the top, anyone at the top is going to go through the same decision process and land on what is most successful, not what is most politically correct.
    Finally, some advice; try going to a game store rather than a toy store, the fantasy genre has plenty of bad-ass women, and there will be people who know the games to help; plus, there are games which come with multiple small boards used to randomly create a new dungeon map, for example, each game. Randomly generated boards are a great way to have one game last a long time as it’s different every time you play! Plus, many of them have expansions so you don’t have to buy a whole new game if it does start to get old.
    Oh, and Magic the Gathering is also brilliant game, also with awesome female characters, however it can be complex so maybe wait a couple years?

    • Understandable – but, if the 1st question out of your mouth is “Is your character a girl?” and it is, you’ve knocked down the potentials to only 5. How is that fair? There are plenty of ways to make girls look different beyond the facial hair of the men – let’s get creative! I came across this today, reminding me I’m not alone in my questioning: http://www.byjenniferoconnell.com/2012/11/hasbro-knows-all-about-selling-to-kids.html

      I’m not sure where you got the stat that 80% of all toys are made/marketed for girls – I’d love to see that data, so please share if you read this. And don’t worry – PLENTY of people gripe about Barbie – she’s not immune to our ire ;)

      On Sat, Nov 17, 2012 at 5:11 PM, The Mamafesto

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