Ruining My Childhood

When I was a kid, my parents would buy me and my siblings new board games every year. But the girls in my neighborhood had all the 'cool' games. Pretty Pretty Princess. Electronic Dream Phone. I went web searching down memory lane looking for these fond childhood memories, and discovered serious material for therapy.

I'll start with Electronic Dream Phone.

This game came onto the market in 1991. It's one of the games I fanatically begged for, but my parents remained hardened to the cry for a toy they didn't want in their house. Like any annoyed kid determined to get their way, I went to a friend's house to play it. Electronic Dream Phone is an ages 9 and up game, for 1-4 players. There are 24 boys in the game, but only one of them likes you! He's also shy, and told 23 of his closest friends about his crush. Crushes. FYI: he actually likes all the players.

Winning Condition: The first one to figure out who he is, wins! She gets the guy! Tough luck, everybody else.

Everyone's armed with creepy fact checking sheets as they scour the board for clues, stalk their possible future boyfriend, interview the guys (and you wondered where the phone came in) and take more notes based on their observations than I ever have at a press conference. This game is heteronormative gender programming at its finest. I can definitely point to Dream Phone as my first encounter with the gamification of the message to be competitive with other women.

For younger girls, my generation had Pretty Pretty Princess. It's not much of a game, but she who gets the gaudy royal crown wins, and everybody is supposed to hate the black jewel in the game. You get that black ring and you are screwed.

Only a pursuit of the traditional femininity objects and that crown will get you out of that game the Pretty Pretty Princess. A society recognized model of femininity is exploited in that game, and you're put in competition with your friends to become the Princess. Competition is often a feature of games, but the "pink" games put girls into competition in a gendered context. In Pretty Pretty Princess, a competition for girls ages 5+. The newest edition honestly scares me more.

"Pink" games are the easy sexism you can find on the game shelf. Easy pickings if you walk into a game aisle. Everybody knows pink games are the dark side.

I was really disappointed—and frankly horrified—by cracking open Clue again. Ignoring for a minute that it's a game about trying to get away with murder and evading capture/or catching a murderer, it's the character art and backgrounds that made me freak out during this revisitation. It's easy to forget that the little coloured game pieces were attached to much in the way of visuals or even a background. I'm going to explain why I find what they do with Miss Scarlett in detail, but be aware: all the women in Clue are portrayed as evil. Just because it's a whodunit game doesn't mean it gets a free pass for that.

I remember Clue as a fun, fast childhood game. Wholesome, aside the murder. Imagine my surprise when I discovered most of the art for Miss Scarlett involves plunging necklines, or even better, an inexplicable transition to a Western World racist stereotype, the 'Dragon Lady' from the mid 70's till 1992. I usually applaud the inclusion of minority characters in any game, but find myself less inclined when it's done in such appalling creepy fashion. (Exoticism, table for one!)

Throughout the evolution of Clue, Miss Scarlett's portrayal is commonly one of a social climbing, manipulative woman who's also (according to various editions of the game) willing to have sex with everyone. So we get racism, sexism, and slut shaming, simultaneously. It's been pointed out to me that every player option in Clue is someone who's a terrible person. Be that as it may, why does Scarlett get tsk'd but Colonel Mustard gets a high five from the game for digging the ladies? Regardless of edition, all the ladies in Clue get a pretty sexist treatment.

A picture from an updated Clue boardgame featuring the three women. Ms. Peacock is described as powerful and cold-hearted, Scarlet is described as manipulative and charming, and Ms. White is described as frustrated and jealous.

Clue is for ages 9 and up. This is a game my parents gave me and my siblings because it wasn't a B.S. pink girls game. It's mainstream. Plenty of people have played it. But classic editions or updates, Clue somehow got a free pass.

The sexism in these games is treated as white noise. This is just a tiny sampling of the games that are considered normal to get kids. We haven't even gotten started on the games I've played as an adult—which are just as bad for sexist casting.


by Lillian Cohen-Moore
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16 Comments Have Been Posted

And how right you are

I am glad you wrote this, it's very well done. I know as a guy I can't say I understand the feeling of sexism all together but I can see just how horrible it is and how deeply rooted in games, both board and video, they are. I wasn’t wholly surprised by Electronic Dream Phone or Pretty Pretty Princess but I never even considered Clue to be steeped in it, as you pointed out.

Looking back now, I’m rather appalled by the fact that so many games are so utterly sexist. Even with recent events like the 13 year old girl who petitioned Hasbro about the Easy Bake Oven being sexist and only focusing on little girls instead of boys as well. Men cook and bake just as much as women do these days, and thankfully Hasbro is finally doing something about it.

Regardless, great work, keep it up!

Pink games

My parents had the same attitude toward "pink" games. I knew better than to ask for them, but I always kind of wanted them. I played Pretty Pretty Princess for the first time at a friend's house when I was 8 or 9, and was surprised to discover how boring it was.

When I was 14 or 15, my best friend and I found Girl Talk at a flea market, and it was AWESOME. It turned out that neither of us had ever played but we both remembered the commercials ("Call a boy and tell him something gross!" "No way! I'll take a zit sticker."). I guess you could call it hate-playing, like hate-reading but with a game.

Pretty Pretty Princess

Not arguing about whether the game is sexist or not. I just wanted to mention that I always liked the fact that my father and brother were willing to play pretty pretty princess (and actually wear the jewlery) with my sister and me.

Andy, that is absolutely

Andy, that is absolutely awesome. I've actually run into a few folks who've had a sim. experience of men and young boys in their lives being cool with playing the game with them (which is freaking AWESOME.)

My parents never bought me a

My parents never bought me a doll, I only got stuffed animals and legos and art supplies.
One time a family friend bought me a barbie for my birthday, it was vet barbie. She came with a toy cat and a toy dog. I presume I received this gift because of my love for animals.
WELL, I kept the animals from the package and cut off all of barbie's hair, took off it's head, de-limbed it and buried it in the back yard. My dad found the barbie when he was during his summer gardening...

I remember when a little girl

I remember when a little girl I babysat got Pretty Pretty Princess. I inadvertently insulted her mother by asking who saddled them with that piece of sexist crap (she had - oops!). That game is awful. I can hardly imagine how the new edition is worse!

There's a version of Clue that's licensed with Harry Potter - it's actually exceptionally good (a rotating game board adds to the play experience) and it avoids the sexist issues of traditional Clue. I do remember always feeling a bit uncomfortable about Miss Scarlett, even though I always wanted to play her because I perceived her as the pretty one which overrode everything else. Mrs. Peacock and Mrs. White weren't feminine enough or something.

Miss Scarlet

I had an edition of clue that I guess must've been the dragon lady version of Miss Scarlet--there weren't any kind of character bios so I don't remember anything that would seem kind of squicky in retrospect. She was just Asian and had a long cigarette holder and her dress had a mandarin collar. Was drop dead gorgeous of course. Mostly I remember thinking it was kind of cool that she wasn't white in a vague, 8 year old kind of way. I'm more than a little sorry it's not as much of a breath of fresh air as I remembered.

Yes, sexism is deeply embedded in these games

Thanks for the post!

For what it's worth the only version of Clue cards that I've ever seen are the ones from the 1963 US version (I played this game as a kid in the late 60s and early 70s):

It's all cartoon art which, for me, helped keep a game about solving a murder firmly in the realm of fantasy/fiction. Anyway, while the images do reinforce gender stereotypes at least there is no "plunging neckline" or "dragon lady" depiction of Miss Scarlet.

The game from my childhood that horrifies me when I look back at it is the one called Mystery Date. I hope they don't make that one any more. It's just as heternormative and sexist as that awful phone game you mentioned.

Thanks for the post - link to 1963 version of Clue

Thanks for the post. I keep trying to comment but for some reason the site thinks I'm a spammer. I'm really not....

I've never seen all those other versions of Miss Scarlet since the only version of Clue I'd ever played had cartoon art (1963 US version - I played this as a kid in the 1960s and 1970s). I was trying to post a link that showed the art but maybe that makes this look like spam? I'll try again:

The game that really horrified me, looking back at it as an adult, was Mystery Date. Search on You Tube to see some of the old 1960s commercials. Do they still make that game? I hope not.

Cartoon art on 1963 Clue version

Thanks for the post. I keep trying to comment but for some reason the site thinks I'm a spammer. I'm really not....This is my last try (hope I'm not filling up your queue with duplicates -- if so, please delete)

I've never seen all those other versions of Miss Scarlet. The only version of Clue I'd ever played had cartoon art (1963 US version - I played this as a kid in the 1960s and 1970s). I was trying to post a link that showed the art but maybe that makes my comment look like spam?

Here's the link with dashes instead of slashes - table - clueboardgames - us1963- us1963.html

The game that really horrified me, looking back at it as an adult, was Mystery Date. Search on You Tube to see some of the old 1960s commercials. Do they still make that game? I hope not.

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{I wanted|I needed|I want to|I need to} to thank you for this {great|excellent|fantastic|wonderful|good|very good} read!! I {definitely|certainly|absolutely} {enjoyed|loved} every {little bit of|bit of} it. {I have|I've got|I have got} you {bookmarked|book marked|book-marked|saved as a favorite} {to check out|to look at} new {stuff you|things you} post…|
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I {{leave|drop|{write|create}} a {comment|leave a response}|drop a {comment|leave a response}|{comment|leave a response}} {each time|when|whenever} I {appreciate|like|especially enjoy} a {post|article} on a {site|{blog|website}|site|website} or {I have|if I have} something to {add|contribute|valuable to contribute} {to the discussion|to the conversation}. {It is|Usually it is|Usually it's|It's} {a result of|triggered by|caused by} the {passion|fire|sincerness} {communicated|displayed} in the {post|article} I {read|looked at|browsed}. And {on|after} this {post|article} Save vs Sexism: Ruining My Childhood | Bitch Media. I {{was|was actually} moved|{was|was actually} excited} enough to {drop|{leave|drop|{write|create}}|post} a {thought|{comment|{comment|leave a response}a response}} {:-P|:)|;)|;-)|:-)} I {do have|actually do have} {{some|a few} questions|a couple of questions|2 questions} for you {if you {don't|do not|usually do not|tend not to} mind|if it's {allright|okay}}. {Is it|Could it be} {just|only|simply} me or {do|does it {seem|appear|give the impression|look|look as if|look like} like} {some|a few} of {the|these} {comments|responses|remarks} {look|appear|come across} {like they are|as if they are|like} {coming from|written by|left by} brain dead {people|visitors|folks|individuals}? :-P And, if you are {posting|writing} {on|at} {other|additional} {sites|social sites|online sites|online social sites|places}, {I'd|I would} like to {follow|keep up with} {you|{anything|everything} {new|fresh} you have to post}. {Could|Would} you {list|make a list} {all|every one|the complete urls} of {your|all your} {social|communal|community|public|shared} {pages|sites} like your {twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile|linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed|Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile}?|
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I {always|constantly|every time} spent my half an hour to read this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}'s {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content} {everyday|daily|every day|all the time} along with a {cup|mug} of coffee.|
I {always|for all time|all the time|constantly|every time} emailed this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site} post page to all my {friends|associates|contacts}, {because|since|as|for the reason that} if like to read it {then|after that|next|afterward} my {friends|links|contacts} will too.|
My {coder|programmer|developer} is trying to {persuade|convince} me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the {expenses|costs}. But he's tryiong none the less. I've been using {Movable-type|WordPress} on {a number of|a variety of|numerous|several|various} websites for about a year and am {nervous|anxious|worried|concerned} about switching to another platform. I have heard {fantastic|very good|excellent|great|good} things about Is there a way I can {transfer|import} all my wordpress {content|posts} into it? {Any kind of|Any} help would be {really|greatly} appreciated!|
{Hello|Hi|Hello there|Hi there|Howdy|Good day}! I could have sworn I've {been to|visited} {this blog|this web site|this website|this site|your blog} before but after {browsing through|going through|looking at} {some of the|a few of the|many of the} {posts|articles} I realized it's new to me. {Anyways|Anyhow|Nonetheless|Regardless}, I'm {definitely|certainly} {happy|pleased|delighted} {I found|I discovered|I came across|I stumbled upon} it and I'll be {bookmarking|book-marking} it and checking back {frequently|regularly|often}!|
{Terrific|Great|Wonderful} {article|work}! {This is|That is} {the type of|the kind of} {information|info} {that are meant to|that are supposed to|that should} be shared {around the|across the} {web|internet|net}. {Disgrace|Shame} on {the {seek|search} engines|Google} for {now not|not|no longer} positioning this {post|submit|publish|put up} {upper|higher}! Come on over and {talk over with|discuss with|seek advice from|visit|consult with} my {site|web site|website} . {Thank you|Thanks} =)|
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{Hi|Hello|Hi there|Hello there|Howdy|Greetings}, {I think|I believe|I do believe|I do think|There's no doubt that} {your site|your website|your web site|your blog} {might be|may be|could be|could possibly be} having {browser|internet browser|web browser} compatibility {issues|problems}. {When I|Whenever I} {look at your|take a look at your} {website|web site|site|blog} in Safari, it looks fine {but when|however when|however, if|however, when} opening in {Internet Explorer|IE|I.E.}, {it has|it's got} some overlapping issues. {I just|I simply|I merely} wanted to {give you a|provide you with a} quick heads up! {Other than that|Apart from that|Besides that|Aside from that}, {fantastic|wonderful|great|excellent} {blog|website|site}!|
{A person|Someone|Somebody} {necessarily|essentially} {lend a hand|help|assist} to make {seriously|critically|significantly|severely} {articles|posts} {I would|I might|I'd} state. {This is|That is} the {first|very first} time I frequented your {web page|website page} and {to this point|so far|thus far|up to now}? I {amazed|surprised} with the {research|analysis} you made to {create|make} {this actual|this particular} {post|submit|publish|put up} {incredible|amazing|extraordinary}. {Great|Wonderful|Fantastic|Magnificent|Excellent} {task|process|activity|job}!|
Heya {i'm|i am} for {the primary|the first} time here. I {came across|found} this board and I {in finding|find|to find} It {truly|really} {useful|helpful} & it helped me out {a lot|much}. {I am hoping|I hope|I'm hoping} {to give|to offer|to provide|to present} {something|one thing} {back|again} and {help|aid} others {like you|such as you} {helped|aided} me.|
{Hello|Hi|Hello there|Hi there|Howdy|Good day|Hey there}! {I just|I simply} {would like to|want to|wish to} {give you a|offer you a} {huge|big} thumbs up {for the|for your} {great|excellent} {info|information} {you have|you've got|you have got} {here|right here} on this post. {I will be|I'll be|I am} {coming back to|returning to} {your blog|your site|your website|your web site} for more soon.|
I {always|all the time|every time} used to {read|study} {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} in news papers but now as I am a user of {internet|web|net} {so|thus|therefore} from now I am using net for {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content}, thanks to web.|
Your {way|method|means|mode} of {describing|explaining|telling} {everything|all|the whole thing} in this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} is {really|actually|in fact|truly|genuinely} {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious}, {all|every one} {can|be able to|be capable of} {easily|without difficulty|effortlessly|simply} {understand|know|be aware of} it, Thanks a lot.|
{Hi|Hello} there, {I found|I discovered} your {blog|website|web site|site} {by means of|via|by the use of|by way of} Google {at the same time as|whilst|even as|while} {searching for|looking for} a {similar|comparable|related} {topic|matter|subject}, your {site|web site|website} {got here|came} up, it {looks|appears|seems|seems to be|appears to be like} {good|great}. {I have|I've} bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
{Hello|Hi} there, {simply|just} {turned into|became|was|become|changed into} {aware of|alert to} your {blog|weblog} {thru|through|via} Google, {and found|and located} that {it is|it's} {really|truly} informative. {I'm|I am} {gonna|going to} {watch out|be careful} for brussels. {I will|I'll} {appreciate|be grateful} {if you|should you|when you|in the event you|in case you|for those who|if you happen to} {continue|proceed} this {in future}. {A lot of|Lots of|Many|Numerous} {other folks|folks|other people|people} {will be|shall be|might be|will probably be|can be|will likely be} benefited {from your|out of your} writing. Cheers!|
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{I am|I'm} {extremely|really} impressed with your writing skills {and also|as well as} with the layout on your {blog|weblog}. Is this a paid theme or did you {customize|modify} it yourself? {Either way|Anyway} keep up the {nice|excellent} quality writing, {it's|it is} rare to see a {nice|great} blog like this one {these days|nowadays|today}.|
{I am|I'm} {extremely|really} {inspired|impressed} {with your|together with your|along with your} writing {talents|skills|abilities} {and also|as {smartly|well|neatly} as} with the {layout|format|structure} {for your|on your|in your|to your} {blog|weblog}. {Is this|Is that this} a paid {subject|topic|subject matter|theme} or did you {customize|modify} it {yourself|your self}? {Either way|Anyway} {stay|keep} up the {nice|excellent} {quality|high quality} writing, {it's|it is} {rare|uncommon} {to peer|to see|to look} a {nice|great} {blog|weblog} like this one {these days|nowadays|today}..|
{Hi|Hello}, Neat post. {There is|There's} {a problem|an issue} {with your|together with your|along with your} {site|web site|website} in {internet|web} explorer, {may|might|could|would} {check|test} this? IE {still|nonetheless} is the {marketplace|market} {leader|chief} and {a large|a good|a big|a huge} {part of|section of|component to|portion of|component of|element of} {other folks|folks|other people|people} will {leave out|omit|miss|pass over} your {great|wonderful|fantastic|magnificent|excellent} writing {due to|because of} this problem.|
{I'm|I am} not sure where {you are|you're} getting your {info|information}, but {good|great} topic. I needs to spend some time learning {more|much more} or understanding more. Thanks for {great|wonderful|fantastic|magnificent|excellent} {information|info} I was looking for this {information|info} for my mission.|
{Hi|Hello}, i think that i saw you visited my {blog|weblog|website|web site|site} {so|thus} i came to “return the favor”.{I am|I'm} {trying to|attempting to} find things to {improve|enhance} my {website|site|web site}!I suppose its ok to use {some of|a few of} your ideas!!\

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