Guess Who’s sexist? Classic board game’s gender bias leaves six-year-old fuming

 

It’s the hit guessing game which invites children to use their skills to solve a mystery. But a six-year-old girl left the games giant Hasbro struggling for an answer when she asked “why are there so many more boys than girls in Guess Who?”

An exchange posted on a blog between the US toy manufacturer and a girl who questioned the gender imbalance between the characters in her favourite game, spread virally across social media.

The Irish girl asked Hasbro to explain why her edition of Guess Who?, the game in which children try to identify the mystery person on an opponent’s card by asking simple questions, such as “are you wearing a hat”, contained cartoon images of 19 male characters but only five females.

Her email to Hasbro UK’s customer services team was posted by her mother, Jennifer O’Connell, a broadcaster and journalist, on her blog under the heading, “Hasbro knows all about selling to kids – and nothing much about talking to them.”

Her daughter wrote to ask Hasbro: “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.”

She continued: “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.”

Hasbro replied with “an explanation which I hope your mummy will be able to explain to you.” Its answer however left many adults scratching their heads, let alone a six-year-old. “Guess Who? is a guessing game based on a numerical equation,” the company said.  “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.”

Hasbro concluded: “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. We hope this information is of help to you.”

Replying on her daughter’s behalf, Mrs O’Connell said: “If anything, your response has left her more confused than before. She is a smart girl, but she is only six and still in senior infants at primary school, so she is a long way from being able to grasp concepts like numerical equations and weighting.”

Her mother asked: “Why is female gender regarded as a ‘characteristic’, while male gender is not?... She is now no clearer as to why there are only five female characters for her to choose from in her favourite board game, compared to the 19 male characters her brother can pick.”

Within hours of posting the exchange Mrs O’Connell received 30,000 views on her blog. Twitter users offered to complain to Hasbro over its “patronising, incomprehensible response.”

Guess Who?, a two-player game first manufactured in 1979 in the UK before being sold to the US, has previously received complaints over gender and ethnic bias in its choice of 24 images. Editions produced over the last decade have changed the faces and added more women.

Children can succeed in influencing a company’s products. Sainsbury’s renamed its “tiger bread” this year after a letter to the company from a  three-year-old girl, saying the bread looked more like a giraffe, went viral.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology used a version of Guess Who? to test prejudice among  a group of 100 undergraduates. Although the quickest way to eliminate characters would have been to employ race – by asking: “Is the character African American?” – only 10 percent of players were willing to do so.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable