My family loves board games. I grew up playing Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Clue, Life, and various card games (I know a lot of “old people” games, like Cribbage and Pinochle). We were always buying new board games, and I have a stack of themed versions of various games (Lord of the Rings Monopoly, Risk, and Trivial Pursuit, to name a few). So it should come as no surprise when we happen to own some kind of unusual games.
I found one such game this last weekend while searching through our game cupboard. I remember playing it when I was younger, but the game I remember is quite different from the one we own – for one, I don’t remember it being so utterly ridiculous.
The game is “Careers: For Girls.”
The game is a version of a 1956 game invented by the sociologist James Cooke Brown, who is only famous for inventing this game. It’s unclear as to what the purpose is, but presumably it is to teach children about the hard work that they have to go through to “be a success.” The game functions by each person having a “success formula” and gaining different points – happiness, money and fame – depending upon your career choice or experience. The first person to 60 success points wins!
The fact that Parker Brothers even felt the need to make a version of careers that are “just for girls” is problematic in itself, but just hear what those career options are. In order to get each of these careers, you have to go through an inner loop on the game of “experiences.” Below are just a few of the experiences considered vital for each of the careers.
Supermom – She has 8 children and is able to sell a chocolate chip recipe and burn it in the same turn.
An Animal Doctor – The skills apparently include knowing what your dream horse is like (because every little girl wants a pony, right?) and being able to bathe a huge dog.
A Fashion Designer – Skills include “dating your cutest model” and “pretending to model your new swimsuit line!” Vital for a career in the cutthroat fashion world!
Rock Star! – Includes such pitfalls as “try a movie career, and flop! – take a pay cut!” and your experience includes describing your stage costume.
School teacher – “Eat a wormy apple” will cost you a turn and a visit to the hospital, and getting promoted to principal is apparently possible when all you know how to do is count backward from 30 to 1.
And the loveliest of all is the generic “college” career. It’s unclear whether the makers of the game intended this to be a permanent student position, or a way for you to get the “liberal arts degree” that is one of the prerequisites for being “Supermom” (yes, that’s actually part of the game). But the college experience is so insane that I have to post each and every space here: “Date with an upper classman.” Four happiness hearts. “Lead us in a cheer.” Two stars (fame). “Describe your dreamy teacher.” Two hearts. “Tell us what you want to be when you graduate.” Two hearts. “Show us how you slow dance with your main squeeze.” Draw 1 Experience card. “Tell us why you were late to class.” Six fame stars (what?).
And your last college experience space? “Graduate with honors!” Draw 1 Experience card!
The college teacher in me says, “Honey, if your college experience consisted solely of dating and basically acting out Van Halen’s ‘Hot For Teacher,’ chances are you’re not graduating with honors.”
The feminist in me goes, “HOLY CRAP!” followed by a number of incoherent mumblings not suitable for mixed company.
Not only that, but the things that are rated to give you the highest “happiness” potential are 1950s era roles – i.e., the player who chooses a career as “Supermom” has a much higher potential “happiness” score than the career woman who chooses to be a school teacher.
When I brought the game upstairs and showed it to my best friend, the first thing she checked for is the copyright date.
It’s later than you would think. This version of the game was published in 1990, when I was four years old. It should be no surprise, then, when young girls grow up thinking they can’t do certain careers or can’t go into certain fields. This game is just one of the many examples of the subtle lessons that get taught to us every single day. I know a bunch of you are thinking, “Come on, it’s just a board game!”
And to some extent it is. No little girl is going to take life lessons about what she can be solely from a misogynistic board game. But when it is just one thing in a flood of media experiences a girl gets every single day of her life, one begins to wonder: Is it ever really “just” a board game? Is it ever really “just” a TV show? Is it ever really “just” a billboard, a movie, a video game, a commercial, a magazine, a book, a speech, or a piece of clothing?
We are, in many ways, products of that which we consume. Is it any wonder that girls grow up with massive self-esteem problems?