Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why the phrase "games for girls" makes me cringe

I'm going to take a break from gaming-related porn here. The thing about delving the depths of the internet is that you always discover that there's an entirely new level of awful that you didn't know about until you went looking. Instead, I'm going look at girls' versions of board games today as kind of a palette cleanser. Before I start, though, I'll note that several of these pictures were ganked from an excellent article on The Society Pages that deserves a read.

Anyone who has ever tried to buy a board game for the children in their lives will know that toys and games for children are marketed in a very gendered way. It is not at all uncommon to go to a toy store and see displays like this:

Stuff like this just makes me cringe because this isn't me, nor has it ever been me. As a child, I refused to own anything pink - although to my mother's credit she was far less dismayed by this than by the fact that I refused to wear dresses from the age of 8 onward. So the fact that the robots in marketing departments everywhere have decided that LITTLE GIRLS LIKE PINK is discomfiting to me. Sure I liked pants better than dresses and took tae kwon do instead of ballet, but I'd like to think that didn't make me any less of a girl.

Now of course I'll admit that there's a good reason why game companies do this - these things sell. Look at the Disney Princess line; it's practically a license to print money. But just as with any group of people, not all little girls have the same tastes - so it makes me sad to see game companies marketing to girls as if all girls ever want the same things, especially when that same marketing comes with the added sexist baggage that goes with it.

I mean, check this out:

OMG! Why bother with the boring game when I can just pose with this pretty, pretty purse?

So, yes, a pink version of Twister is pretty ridiculous. I defy you to give me a rational explanation of how the default Twister is a "boys' game" and thus warrants a "girls' version". But aside from the total eyeroll factor, check out the packaging and you'll notice that Twister Pink doesn't come in a game box - it comes in A PURSE. Even better, there's a tiny drawing of some girls actually playing the game up top, but the image that dominates the packaging is the girl posing prettily with the purse.

Does Milton Bradley think that girls won't play games if they don't come in gender-appropriate containers? Like little girls who would not have played vanilla Twister IN A BOX would suddenly jump all over playing Twister Pink IN A PURSE? How is the purse a value-added feature? Arg. Just... arg.

And there's plenty of other examples of patronizing packaging as well. Like:

"F*CKYOU" would also be a bingo, and would be worth a lot more with F, C, K, and Y. Too bad its two words.

Fashion? FASHION? There's an entire world of seven letter words out there, like "entrail", "retinas", and "inertia". And you chose to go with FASHION. I mean, even from a Scrabble point of view it's a shitty word since five of your seven letters are 1-pointers.

And, man, what are you trying to say with this? That the only reading girls do is Twilight, fashion mags, and celebrity gossip? That fashion is such an all-consuming part of a girl's life that even while playing a board game her thoughts are, naturally, about what she's wearing? That she can't relate to any concept that isn't directly related to fashion?

Well, that would at least explain this monstrosity:

Monopoly for girls! Colon capital D! I have to have one!

This edition of Monopoly comes with the pieces in a jewelry box. And even better, all those boring properties like "Boardwalk" and "Park Place" have been replaced with things way more relevant to girls - like shopping malls, hair salons, and fashion boutiques! Because heaven knows that girls can't ever aspire to be usurious property barons out to make a quick buck. That would make them successful business people! Much better to change it so that the things that they own are stuff that boys wouldn't want to own anyway. Eew, cooties!

But then, everyone knows that girls can't expect to have the same careers as boys:

Quick! Someone give me some insulin! I'm going into pink overload!

So the great thing about this game is that you get to play to figure out what kind of career is best for you. Don't worry about having challenging professions - your options are all things won't be intellectually taxing. (And if they are they'll be jobs men don't want.) Potential careers include things like: "Fashion Designer", "Animal Doctor", and "Super Mom". Because it's important to start teaching girls at a young age that the only value they offer to society is their ability to reproduce.

I realize that this is an older game - from about 1990 - and I don't honestly know if there's a newer edition. I devoutly hope not. But I thought it deserved a mention since I found it while browsing through Board Game Geek. Wei Hwa Huang wrote an excellent review of the game called "Most Condescending Game Ever", and then some BGG users proceeded to then argue that this actually wasn't sexist at all.


Other things that are, apparently, not sexist include:

New preschool curricula include Disney Princess Recognition. True story.

It doesn't really matter what pictures you use for Memory as long as there are two of them. But you know what I'd love? A "Girls Edition" of Memory with pictures of astronauts, spaceships, and power tools. I would totally buy that for the girl toddlers in my life.

Last we have something that a friend alerted me to:

The fail is so large it practically has its own gravitational pull.

So. Much. Hatred.

The bottom right hand of the package says SOLID WOOD BLOCKS (are pretty in pink). Because I guess it's important that all board games for girls are pretty. What makes this extra terrible is that it's essentially Truth or Dare, but without the Dares and with only really insipid Truths. Like "If you had one wish, what would you wish for?" and "who do you have a crush on right now?".

Now, I'll admit to creating a Truth or Dare Jenga set with some friends in university, and it was always a blast to play. Why not create a non-gendered Truth or Dare Jenga and let the game stand on its own merits for crying out loud?