Guess Who Might Be Sexist?

GuessWhoMy husband, a true board game nerd, showed me a news article recently about the children’s game, Guess Who? You’ve probably played the game at some point in your life. Guess Who? is less tedious than Candy Land, for sure (which was so boring I often wanted to poke my eyes out with the plastic people-shaped pieces), but excruciating to play for more than ten minutes, nonetheless.

But that’s just me talking. I think playing almost any game is excruciating.

Anyway. The story about Guess Who? centered on a six-year-old girl from Ireland who’d written to Hasbro, wondering why the Guess Who? game has only six female figures and nineteen male. The girl’s mother transcribed the message to Hasbro, in which the girl apparently writes “I think it’s not fair to only have five girls in Guess Who and 19 boys. It is not only boys who are important, girls are important too.”

And, you know, she—or her mother, maybe—has a point. One that Hasbro failed to seriously acknowledge. In a return letter, Hasbro wrote that “Guess Who? is ‘based on a numerical question’ and that each of the characters share five of any given characteristics.”

Being female, I guess, is a characteristic, akin to being bald, having a mustache, or wearing glasses. So glad that’s clear.

What was truly depressing about the article, though, were the comments that followed. (One of these days, I will learn to stop reading those comments!) Readers predominantly sided with Hasbro on this one, castigating the girl and her mother for being “feminist whiners” and for “petty complaints from the feminist camp.” A few pointed out the mathematical necessity of having only five females on the board for the game to work. Of course, I wouldn’t have understood the math part, being a girl myself and all.

But the letters made me wonder: Are women who point out these inequities merely feminist whiners, making too big of a deal about something so seemingly small? When girls in Afghanistan cannot even safely attend school, should we care how girls are represented in games, in toy stores, on television commercials?

Because despite the snarky comments about feminists that followed the Guess Who? article, this is a question with which I sincerely struggle. Should I be critiquing the sexism that taints my culture, even as women in other parts of the world experience oppression I cannot even fathom? Is it okay to call out the inequity I see in my workplace, when other women are not even allowed to leave their homes, or drive, or make decisions about who they will marry? Or in my faith community, when other women are not given any voice whatsoever within theirs?

I suppose my answer to this inquiry is an uneasy “Of course. Yes.”

Fighting for equity in my culture will, I hope, empower others to fight for equity here and elsewhere. Letting my sons know that men and women are created equally, even in Hasbro games, will, I hope, influence the way they treat others. Telling a woman at George Fox University that she should passionately pursue her vocation, despite what her church is telling her, will reverberate far beyond our Newberg campus. Creating awareness about the need for justice in our micro-cultures will, I believe, extend justice to other places as well.

Which is why I was thrilled to find this small petition and video on Facebook. It’s from what looks to be an eleven- or twelve-year-old girl, fighting Hasbro in her own way. She wants Hasbro to create commercials that show boys as well as girls playing with the Easy Bake Oven. Her brother likes to cook and wants an Easy Bake Oven, but the commercials suggest the toy is only for girls.

At the video’s end, she asks folks to sign a petition urging Hasbro to change its marketing practices, and provides a link to the petition. There, she explains that she wants Hasbro to stop reinforcing gender stereotypes, to feature boys in its Easy Bake Oven ads, and to make the ovens in primary colors (rather than pink) so that boys as well as girls can feel comfortable using them.

The petition, on Change.org, had 42,655 signatures when I last checked. Although I imagine Hasbro might respond in the same way it did to the Guess Who? inquiry, the girl’s video and her petition give me hope, reminding me as well that even small battles—for a brother’s longing to cook, or a game that fairly represents gender—are worth fighting.

Here’s the video: