Woke Culture Comes to Poker: Gender Neutral Cards Stir Up a Storm

4 min read

First, it was gender-neutral restrooms. Now, playing cards have been given a 21st-century makeover thanks to forensic psychology graduate, Indy Mellink.

Genderless cards
Has woke culture gone too far, or is Indy Mellink on to something with her gender-neutral playing cards? (Image: Reuters)

In step with the zeitgeist, Mellink has designed, made, and distributed more than 1,500 packs of gender-neutral cards.

Her epiphany came whilst playing games with her family last summer. For Mellink, “subtle inequalities,” such as kings outranking queens, are problematic for society.

Gender-Neutral Cards Represent Real Issues

Mellink’s deck tackles one fundamental point: kings being worth more than queens. Although playing cards were invented long before the recent move toward genderless products, the Dutch graduate believes it’s time for a change.

Genderless cards
Indy Mellink has swapped kings, queens, and jacks for precious metals. (Image: Reuters)

“If we have this hierarchy that the king is worth more than the queen, then this subtle inequality influences people in their daily life because it’s just another way of saying hey, you’re less important,” Mellink told Reuters.

The genderless deck only dismantles the patriarchy with the cards themselves. It doesn’t change the fundamental hierarchy.

What are Gender-Neutral Playing Cards?

After what she described as “a lot of trial and error,” Mellink found the best way to signify gender equality was to replace kings, queens, and jacks. In their place, she created three new symbols:

  • Gold Bars = Replace kings
  • Silver Coins = Replace queens
  • Bronze Shields = Replace jacks

The new cards have been used to name the deck, which is known as GSB playing cards. There are two types of decks — red and black — and each one costs $11.90.

Gender Can be Problematic in Poker

Gender can be an issue in poker. The inaugural Women’s Poker Summit in 2018 was set up to discuss issues facing females at the felt.

A survey carried out in the UK also discovered that certain aspects of the industry are dominated by men. The research carried out by 888Poker found that 45% of women feel intimidated by men at the table.

Therefore, the issue of gender inequality is one that’s pertinent and far from trivial. However, the question is whether or not genderless decks are the answer.

Do general-neutral playing cards highlight the issue of inequality or do they trivialize an important topic?

The majority of views expressed online favor the latter. In fact, many of the comments from poker players and Twitter trolls have been less than favorable.

However, Mellink has found support for her invention. Her family and friends bought 50 decks.

She’s also sold more than 1,500 decks to people in the US, Germany, Belgium, and France. Mellink told Reuters that there’s been interest from game shops in Europe.

Multiple Ways to Play Genderless Poker

For all the current interest, it seems that there was already a market for genderless playing cards. Mayan Segal came up with a similar idea in 2017 (video below features an actress playing Segal).

She asked her dad a “very simple question: why is the queen worth less than the king?” Her father, the CEO of a media company, didn’t have an answer because “there isn’t one.”

Segal’s mission to dismantle the patriarchy of playing cards led her to create Queeng. Instead of replacing kings, queens, and jacks, she rebranded them.

  • Monarch Cards = King Cards – We called it Monarch, as a Monarch can be male or female
  • Duchess or Duke Cards = Queen Cards – We called it Duchess or Duke so we could have both a man and a woman
  • Prince or Princess Cards = Jack Cards – Jacks are now Princes and Princesses

Queeng has generated a huge amount of interest. At the last count, the project has received more than $400,000 in donations. That’s enabled Segal to print 5,000 new decks, which are now being sold for $45 each.

Are gender neutral playing cards a crude attempt to cash-in on a serious issue? Or are they a good thing for card games like poker and society as a whole?

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