[Image description: Side view of a blue game board with yellow windows. Faces of women can be seen in some of the windows.]
I recently came across the most beautiful crowd funded game. It’s a version of Guess Who? featuring 28 women called Who’s She?. You can see that campaign here, although it will be over by the time this post publishes. Oddly, I had come across something else about Guess Who? recently. Or maybe I played it recently and noticed a distinct lack of diversity? I don’t remember exactly. The game has improved in terms of gender and race since I owned a copy in the early 90s, but it still leaves something wanting.
Unfortunately the donation amount required to get a copy of the Who’s She? game is prohibitively high for us at $75.oo and I suspect would be out of reach for many families. With one day to go the campaign has raised over half a million dollars so I don’t feel too bad not being able to contribute. But it got me thinking. First, the use of all women is an interesting one and would really allow parents to talk about a variety of women who don’t normally get center stage in history classes. The women included aren’t all that surprising, nor are they unknown, but I don’t remember any except one or two coming up in any history class I took. This is great exposure for kids playing the game.
I also realized that when playing Guess Who? as a kid I never mentioned race when trying to determine which card my opponent had pulled. I know now that as a white person I was taught not to speak about race as a way to uphold and perpetuate white supremacy. We know that “ignoring” color does not, in fact, breed anti-racism, nor does it acknowledge that we all do see color and race as well as erasing the very real ways race impacts people’s lives. Guess Who? also focuses exclusively on appearance, something that can get toxic pretty quick, particularly with girls, whereas Who’s She? turns the focus onto the women’s accomplishments. And they’re all smart, remarkable, strong women.
I think if you have the game Guess Who? it would make a great jumping off point for getting comfortable saying “black” and “white” (and possibly “Latinx” but a number of the folks pictured in the game are kind of racially ambiguous) out loud. I know this can be a real hurdle for white people to jump, especially with children. I know I used to worry about offending people using the terms or worry about using the wrong term (black vs. African American; Hispanic vs. Latinx). I would also worry that if I used the terms, my kid might repeat it in front of someone and create a cringe-worthy faux pas. I had to get past that and it took some time, but having a place like a board game between my child and I would have helped get the ball rolling.
Wanting our own copy of the game, Cam and I came up with our own list of women to include in our version. Many of them are the same as in Who’s She? but quite a few are not. I bought a copy of Guess Who (which weirdly is not any of the versions I see on Amazon) at the thrift shop and created a board to insert into the game. I color coded the women according to general characteristics (activists, artists, scientist/mathematicians, and athletes). Many of the women fit into more than one category (did you know Mae Jemison did dance too?), but for simplicity sake I assigned them a color/category. We chose a range of women both living and dead, young and old. I also made a point to include women who have a children’s book written about them.
Which leads to the next piece of this project. For Advent we’re reading one book a day about these women. Guess Who? happens to have 24 slots and there are 24 days in December leading up to Christmas. We aren’t actually celebrating Christmas this year, but I can’t quite get rid of Advent calendars and Advent. I dunno. This gives us an opportunity to talk about these impressive women and about any of the issues that were/are a part of their lives.
I’m going to share the game cards that I made so others can print them out and use them. I suggest printing either on cardstock or laminating them so they hold up for longer. Also, the version of the game we got looks similar to this although I cannot find the exact version on Amazon. That being said, you can still use the cards I made if you have the normal version. Print them out, laminate them, and cut them out to slip into the traditional version of the boards. I am in the process of making cards for each woman that features her name, her picture, and a few sentences about her life and what she is known for. I will post those as soon as I have them, but in the meantime you can print a second copy of the first page and cut those up to make a deck of cards.
Click here to download the game boards for printing: Guess Who Women
purple = athlete
green = mathematician/scientist
pink = artist
orange/yellow = activist
Our Goodwills are full to the brim with board games, please go buy a used version if you don’t already have one. There is no reason to spend $10-$15 and create more waste with a new one when I suspect there will be at least two copies at your local thrift store for $5 or under. Remember, you only need the boards, not the cards so if the game isn’t complete it doesn’t much matter.
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