Those things that we all have in common

Another Very Young Girl spots the unfairness in gender stereotyping in the toy department.

A six-year-old girl wrote Hasbro to let them know they only have bros (HIGH FIVE!) in their game, Guess Who. You know, the game that’s like memory but all the characters have googly eyes, dodgy mustaches, and bad toupees? Well, guess who’s not in the game? Women. Actually, no, that’s not fair, there are five girls and nineteen boys. Five girls and nineteen boys.

What is it with that? I swear, I think there are actually people who think women are a small fraction of the population.

Her letter is short and to the point.

Dear Hasbro,

My name is R______. I am six years old. I think it’s not fair to only have 5 girls in Guess Who and 19 boys. It is not only boys who are important, girls are important too. If grown ups get into thinking that girls are not important they won’t give little girls much care.

Also if girls want to be a girl in Guess Who they’ll always lose against a boy, and it will be harder for them to win. I am cross about that and if you don’t fix it soon, my mum could throw Guess Who out.

My mum typed this message but I told her what to say.

Check out what Hasbro replied.

Dear R___,

Thank you for your email. Please find below an explanation which I hope your mummy will be able to explain to you.

Guess Who? is a guessing game based on a numerical equation. If you take a look at the characters in the game, you will notice that there are five of any given characteristics. The idea of the game is, that by process of elimination, you narrow down who it isn’t, thus determining who it is. The game is not weighted in favour of any particular character, male or female. Another aspect of the game is to draw attention away from using gender or ethnicity as the focal point, and to concentrate on those things that we all have in common, rather than focus on our differences.

Omigod did Chris Stedman get a job with Hasbro?!?!

Seriously. That is so fucking weaselly. The idea is to draw attention away from gender so that little pests like you won’t notice that we think there should be five times as many boys as there are girls in our game.

Yes, and another aspect of the game is to draw attention away from using money or power or class or status as the focal point, because some of us have a lot more of those than others, because we have rigged things that way, so kindly concentrate on those things that we all have in common, rather than focus on our differences, before we call Homeland Security.

Comments

  1. Stevarious, Public Health Problem says

    Well, you see, the key to the guessing game is that all the characters have normal features except a few that are not.
    It’s ‘normal’ not to have glasses, so 5 characters have glasses. It’s ‘normal’ to have hair, so 5 characters are bald.
    It’s ‘normal’ to have a penis, so 5 characters do not.

    See, it’s just a simple mathematical equation!

    The reasoning is clear – the characters are designed so that you could never eliminate more than 5 characters with a single question unless you guessed correctly. If half the characters were female, then it would always be the first question you asked. They just didn’t consider the full implications of their decision to make ‘female’ an ‘unusual feature’.

    Honestly the more I think about it, the more I dislike the game. No matter how you do it, it makes the brain consider each feature in question as ‘abnormal’, whether it be glasses or baldness or femaleness – the ‘norm’, of course, being a white middle aged male with hair, perfect eyesight, and no unusual features, when of course very very few people actually look like that.

  2. says

    I am cross about that

    I think she should start a blog with this title [IAMCAT].

    ***

    I’m glad I just finished my drink before reading this.

    Me, too. (Well, glad I was so busy writing about the fetishization of accommodation on the other thread that I hadn’t had time to pick it up.)

  3. iknklast says

    Might check your math, Ophelia. 19 isn’t 5 times as many as 5; if you leave that, you’ll have everyone coming in claiming women can’t do math, so…inferior women. (I’m a woman, by the way, and I can do math).

    Just a friendly tip…not meaning to scold or anything. I just know how those MRAs can be if they spot a slight error. ;-)

  4. Rowan says

    Dont worry, I’m sure they’ll recognize its a problem and rectify it.

    So coming soon, Guess Who: For Girls. Where every one of them is a girl, and you have to guess based solely on what fashion accessories they have (well, except all their fashion accessories will be pink, as will the tiles, the frame, the box, the instructions, and the bag they put it in at the store…girls like pink, right?) There, all better.

  5. Aratina Cage says

    I just know how those MRAs can be if they spot a slight error.

    More like, we know how they can be if their reading comprehension skills fail. Heh heh.

  6. pipenta says

    Here’s a new game called GUESS WHAT. This is a game for toy company execs to play. On each card is a scenario. Execs read the scenario and guess the outcome, then we flip thecard to see if they were correct and score accordingly.

    Example: Hasbro produces a sexist game and lacks the imagination to design a version that is not offensive to a child’s keen sense of fairness.

    Flip the card,

    GUESS WHAT? We stop buying toys made by Hasbro, because the point of toys is fun, but clearly Hasbro toys make children sad and angry.

  7. thrun says

    If there were equally many male and female tiles, that would be the first question you asked. This would teach children that the first and most important thing you need to know about a person is whether they have a penis. That would be bad.

    The “normal” people in the game are those who:
    are not bald
    are male
    have no beard
    have no moustache
    do not wear a hat
    have light skin
    do not wear glasses

    There is only one person that fits all these criteria. The message is that practically everyone is unusual in some way. This is a healthy message to have.

    Classifying female as unusual is bad. One way of avoiding it would be to have 19 women and 5 men, which might be a better way to deal with it.

    I don’t think the existing game is bad enough boycott hasbro. I don’t know much about how well hasbro does from a feminist perspective, but I am aware of one incident where they permanently banned someone from playing in their tournaments for joking that he planned to rape someone. That gave me the impression they were doing all right.

  8. Kels says

    @iknklast

    Interesting thing about cultural expectations. Here in the west, there’s the image of girls saying “math is hard”, but from what I’m told in Asia, or at the very least Japan, the expectation is just the opposite. Girls are the ones expected to do better at math than the boys.

    It’s possible that stereotype has long roots, since during the samurai days, women were responsible for household finances and men didn’t trouble themselves with numbers like that on a regular basis.

  9. Dave X says

    Dear R,

    Maybe “mummy” can explain my mansplainin’ about the differently characteristic-ed. — Hasbro.

  10. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    What a coincidence. Just last week, I busted out the old Guess Who with one of my tutees. Now, perhaps I am mistaken*, but I thought that in older versions of the game, there was an even gender split. When we were starting the game I was about to start by asking about the gender, because I recall always doing this as my first move when I was a child because it narrowed the possible options by half. Anyways, playing the game last week, I was shocked at there being only a few female characters. What the fuck? Am I just remembering incorrectly that there used to be as many males as females, or did they change the game to make it all dude-bros?

    *Does anybody out there know?

  11. M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati says

    Kels @ 11–

    Why, that couldn’t possibly be right! The pop-evo-psych guys have a rock-solid explanation for why men being inherently better at math has been programmed into human DNA for millions of years — just like every other element of conservative Victorian or mid-20th-Century middle-class white American gender roles!

    (Speaking of class…it’s interesting how in so many places the pop image of “our ancestors a few centuries ago” is focused on the aristocracy…)

  12. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    thrun,

    If there were equally many male and female tiles, that would be the first question you asked

    Yes, if you are playing a guessing game, trying to figure out the identity of an unknown person, then it would be prudent to try to eliminate half the options with every guess. Since women make up 50% of the population, that would be an obvious first question to ask in Guess Who.

    This would teach children that the first and most important thing you need to know about a person is whether they have a penis. That would be bad.

    Yes, that would be bad, however I reject that this would be the message kids take away from the game if it were changed to have an even gender split.

    The “normal” people in the game are those who:
    are not bald
    are male
    have no beard
    have no moustache
    do not wear a hat
    have light skin
    do not wear glasses

    Yes, this seems about right.

    There is only one person that fits all these criteria. The message is that practically everyone is unusual in some way.

    Yeah, that is the message. Everyone is unusual. Everyone except that nice-looking, clean-shaven, white male. That white-male is not unusual, they are normal.

    This is a healthy message to have.

    Fuck that. It is a healthy message that white-males are normal and being a woman makes you unusual? Fuck that. It is a healthy message that everyone is a bit unusual (so long as you define unusual as anything different from white, clean-shaven, male? Fuck that.

    Classifying female as unusual is bad. One way of avoiding it would be to have 19 women and 5 men, which might be a better way to deal with it.

    Oh, so now you recognize that othering women is bad? So then, how is this game’s message that the “normal” person is conspicuously male a healthy one? Why can’t the game have equal numbers of men and women again?

    I don’t think the existing game is bad enough boycott hasbro. I don’t know much about how well hasbro does from a feminist perspective, but I am aware of one incident where they permanently banned someone from playing in their tournaments for joking that he planned to rape someone. That gave me the impression they were doing all right.

    Wow, hasBRO doesn’t support threats of rape? They must be good feminists then! Way to go, thrun, way to set the bar high. If you oppose rape, you get feminist cookies from thrun. Because that is an accomplishment and evidence of an enlightened view on gender equality. It is not at all the bare-fucking minimum of not being misogynistic.

  13. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    This would teach children that the first and most important thing you need to know about a person is whether they have a penis.

    Even this message would be better than the message that non-penis havers do not even exist.

    What next, thrun, are you going to argue about how the the default to male-gendered pronouns is also healthy? After all, if you used Xe, Ze, Hir, Zir, or something like his/her, then the reader would be left wondering what the gender is of this unknown commenter. That teaches people that the question of what gender a poster is is an important one!!11! that is unhealthy!!11!

    Sure, using “he” all the time, and defaulting to male-pronouns, may exclude half the population, but if everyone just assumes everyone else is male, then people won’t ever wonder about the gender of others, and that is super-healthy.

    Besides, being white and male is normal, while being anything but is unusual.

    /snark

  14. says

    I checked out the Hasbro.com web site.
    There’s a “demo” page for Guess Who?

    http://www.hasbro.com/games/en_US/play/details.cfm?R=CD0C42BD-8D70-4C97-80E3-243F3B266360:en_US

    If you click “Try It”, the first question is “Is your character a boy?/Is your character a girl?”

    If you click “girl”, all but 9 of the 24 windows close, if you click “boy” all but 15 of the 24 windows close. So they have adjusted the balance a bit from the older versions, but it’s still not even.

  15. says

    Sorry, that was “Guess Who? Extra” in the demo. So I guess you have to pay extra for more women. Not sure how much you have to pay to get up to 50%.

  16. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    re my @17,

    I apologize for reducing gender down to penis-haver vs non penis-haver. I was trying to mock thrun’s phraseology. Just want to make clear that I do not condone biological gender-essentialism.

  17. thrun says

    Yes, that would be bad, however I reject that this would be the message kids take away from the game if it were changed to have an even gender split.

    Games can be really powerful. They come with built in positive and negative reinforcement. Taking certain actions will make you win. Winning feels good, so these actions are positively reinforced. Taking other actions will make you lose. Losing feels bad, so these actions are negatively reinforced.

    The whole abnormal/normal thing crosses the mind of someone analysing the game, not playing it. If there were even genders, children playing the game would literally think “oh no I forgot to ask about gender as the first most important thing. Now I will lose. I am a fool for not thinking about gender first”.

    It is true that looking at all those pictures and seeing so few women is not a healthy message, but it doesn’t come with the reinforcement, and so is not nearly so strong.

    Wow, hasBRO doesn’t support threats of rape? They must be good feminists then! Way to go, thrun, way to set the bar high.

    Yes, it’s a low bar. But a depressing number of organisations would let the “it was just a joke” defense stand. It seems weird to be boycotting one that wouldn’t. A little bit of extra research (ie googling hasbro feminism) shows them to be the company behind My Little Pony, which seems to be about the only children’s show with decent female characters.

    What next, thrun, are you going to argue about how the the default to male-gendered pronouns is also healthy? After all, if you used Xe, Ze, Hir, Zir, or something like his/her, then the reader would be left wondering what the gender is of this unknown commenter.

    That doesn’t actually happen. When I read xe I don’t think “is that person male or female?”. I think “wtf is xe? oh right, gender neutral pronoun.” It’s nothing like playing a game which I will only win if I think gender is the most important property of a person.

  18. jefrir says

    Even if we’re just going for game strategy arguments, surely a game where you have to think about which question gives you the most information would be a better one? It seems to me that if any one feature is exactly as common as any other, you are just asking questions at random, and I don’t see how that makes for a better game than thinking “How can I remove the highest number of people at once”.

  19. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Sorry, still not accepting your bullshit claim that including a representative gender ratio would somehow be bad or sexist.

    You are reaching pretty fucking far in my opinion.

    Let us look at your argument again,

    If there were equally many male and female tiles, that would be the first question you asked. This would teach children that the first and most important thing you need to know about a person is whether they have a penis. That would be bad.

    Bullshit. It would teach children that the best strategy in Guess Who is to try and eliminate options in an efficient manor. Since women comprise 50% of the population, working within the constraints of the game Guess Who, asking about the gender of the mystery card is a good strategy that would be reinforced.

    Where is your evidence that if men and women were equally represented in the game, Guess Who, then that would teach children that gender is the “most important thing” about real life persons?

    It seems like you put forth an unevidenced guess about what message kids might take from equal representation in the game. Two people can do that. Here,

    If there were equally many male and female tiles, that would be the first question you asked. This would teach children that one must not make assumption about gender. That would good.

    See? I could use your language of positive and negative reinforcement too, to lend my assertions a false air of scienceyness.

    An even gender split would teach kids to recognize and respect gender diversity. Kids inquiring about gender within the game would be positively reinforced by winning more often (since asking about gender eliminates half the cards, a strategically optimal move in Guess Who). Thus, teaching kids not to make assumptions about gender, not to be gender-blind, results in strong positive feelings produced from winning the game. This is good.

  20. thrun says

    surely a game where you have to think about which question gives you the most information would be a better one?

    Agreed. However, guess who is better than it appears at first glance (although I would not describe it as a very strategic game). After the first turn you can do better by thinking about which question is best. For example, if you start out by establishing that the target is female, the best 2nd turn is asking whether she wears a hat. Also, the one “normal” guy is a trap. Sure, its really hard to eliminate all the other people, but when you see your opponent is ready to guess next turn, you can take a shot in the dark. That shot in the dark should usually be the “normal” guy if you haven’t eliminated him already, as he is so hard to catch otherwise.

    Sorry, still not accepting your bullshit claim that including a representative gender ratio would somehow be bad or sexist.

    Having thought about this further, I now realise that a representative gender ratio could easily be achieved without causing the problems I talked about earlier. All we would need to do is make half the people wear glasses, and half of them wear hats. Then we have the realistic ratio without emphasising gender differences. It also has the amusing consequence that asking about skin colour is nearly always a bad move.

    Here,

    If there were equally many male and female tiles, that would be the first question you asked. This would teach children that one must not make assumption about gender. That would good.

    See? I could use your language of positive and negative reinforcement too, to lend my assertions a false air of scienceyness.

    An even gender split would teach kids to recognize and respect gender diversity. Kids inquiring about gender within the game would be positively reinforced by winning more often (since asking about gender eliminates half the cards, a strategically optimal move in Guess Who). Thus, teaching kids not to make assumptions about gender, not to be gender-blind, results in strong positive feelings produced from winning the game. This is good.

    I think we have another disagreement here. I thought that playing down differences between genders was a good thing, while you appear to think that emphasising them is good. I believed that the former was better as it makes it harder to make excuses for misogyny, but I can see now that the latter has its advantages too. For example, it would be nice if someone designing seat belts had the presence of mind to test it on both men and women, in case it turned out to be uncomfortable for someone with breasts. Is the position that differences between genders should be downplayed discredited?

  21. eric says

    If you take a look at the characters in the game, you will notice that there are five of any given characteristics

    Except maleness. There are 19 of those. Guess its not a ‘characteristic’ so much as a normal part of what it means to be human.

    Thrun:

    I think we have another disagreement here. I thought that playing down differences between genders was a good thing, while you appear to think that emphasising them is good

    For Habro to play down the differences, they should make neither maleness nor femaleness a ‘characteristic,’ or make them equally characteristic.

    By making one of them a game-revelant matching characteristic and not the other, they are playing up the difference: male is what humans are, femaleness is something you have – like a moustache.

    Is the position that differences between genders should be downplayed discredited?

    “The position?” Well, I don’t know about that, but my position would be that if you are making a matching game consisting of 20 tiles that each have no more than 5 matched characteristics with other tiles, you should probably not use “male” or “female” at all.

    Note I am not saying every tile should be androgynous; I’m saying the sex of the figure should not be used as a matching criteria unless you’re going to use both ‘male’ and ‘female’ as matching criteria.

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