Thoughts on Hasbro and Ms. Monopoly

This week, toy giant Hasbro announced that they would be releasing a new edition of Monopoly, this time focusing on the inequalities of pay that exist between women and men in the workplace. Ms. Monopoly will be available for purchase in September 2019.

Ms. Monopoly introduces three main differences from the base version of the game. First, female players will begin the game with $1,900 and male players begin with $1,500. Second, every time a female player passes Go, they will receive $240 whereas a male player will pocket $200. Lastly, the property spaces have been replaced with inventions by female entrepreneurs.

From a strictly game play stance, Monopoly is already a game where players are vying to drive the other players into bankruptcy so adding more money to the game will only elongate the experience. For some people, that might be exactly what they’re looking for: more Monopoly. But I feel confident in saying that most people don’t end a game of Monopoly and wish that they could keep on playing.

The end game of this version of Monopoly looks like it can end in only one of two ways: Either the female player wins because they started at an obvious advantage or the male player wins and proves that the advantage is inconsequential. Either way, I don’t see anyone being pleased with the end of this game more so than they are after a regular game of Monopoly.

Games are supposed to be about having fun and for children, teaching them how we all play by the same rules. There’s also the lesson of being able to win or lose with humility. I am more than fine with games tackling difficult concepts and histories, but only when it’s done in a meaningful way. I’m not saying we shouldn’t teach, inform, and introduce social inequalities to children; I actually believe that the sooner we can be more honest and transparent with them, the better off they’ll be when they grow up but Ms. Monopoly seems to be going about that in a round about way.

I want to be perfectly clear though: this isn’t an article about the game play of Monopoly or what changes Ms. Monopoly is going to bring to the table. This is very much about the theme and whether or not Hasbro is supporting the feminist movement or mocking it. On the heels of the #MeToo movement, this is what Hasbro has decided to move forward with.

I find the idea of the game to be patronizing, as it suggests that a value of a woman is only meaningful if compared to a man. Not only just to a man, but in monetary value as well. Ms. Monopoly has been created with the premise of giving women a head start in the game and by allowing women to earn more than men do for performing the same actions. It feels like Hasbro are making a parody of the modern feminist movement. Where there should be talk about raising equality and equity, instead this game is promoting gender superiority.

Giving a player, regardless of gender, an extra $40 for passing Go doesn’t level the playing field, it simply tells the women playing that the only disparity between them and men is money. Is this the lesson that we want to teach our children? It feels like this edition of Monopoly is implying that money is what equates happiness and success to an entire gender of people. The handout that Ms. Monopoly offers in 2019 feels like the handout a husband would hand his wife as spending money in the 1930’s when she was tasked to “get herself something nice”.

I could see the counterpoint however where this is a game where men are supposed to see how the other half live, as they face the inequalities and inequities that have plagued women. If that’s what they intended, then it’s possible that they now have people talking about it but in their promotion of women, will they not also harm men? Will they turn a young boy off games forever as he plays a game clearly stacked against him, where the social connotations are not clear to him at a young age? Are they providing an experience where it provides details as to why this game is the way it is?

The gender pay gap is real. That’s not something I am trying to trivialize or ignore. There is tons of data to support this. Is Ms. Monopoly introducing gender to a genderless game to create a commentary and spread knowledge or is it trying to produce reverse sexism, which is just sexism, to make their point? I doubt Lizzie Magie, the women who created The Landlord’s would appreciate the marginalization of one group so another group could get slightly ahead.

I don’t know that it’s all doom and gloom however. As soon as I think Ms. Monopoly is trying to capture a current social media trend and capitalize off of it, it introduces an interesting take where instead of players purchasing property (like traditional Monopoly), players will instead be investing in inventions created by women. I think this is brilliant as it allows women inventors and entrepreneurs to stand on their own and not be compared to another gender. Hasbro has funded several entrepreneurs according to the press release and that right there is a good thing. They didn’t make everything pink to conform to outdated gender norms. They have united people in a front to have open and candid conversations about women, rights, feminism, and gender (albeit unintentionally, I presume).

That being said, I honestly don’t know what Hasbro is doing anymore with their Monopoly franchise. It used to be that they would just create Monopoly versions of popular shows, sports, and franchises to appeal to the audiences of those outlets and the collectors of all things Monopoly. Lately though, they’ve ventured out into some realms that seem counter intuitive of their brand, with the release of Ms. Monopoly this month and past releases such as Monopoly for Millennials and Monopoly Socialism. Basing my opinion of this release off the last two, it would seem that Hasbro cares less about the feminist movement and more about making fun of the very idea of feminism. This predatory practice appears to prey on those that

An argument could be made that these iterations of Monopoly are supposed to be satire. Monopoly itself was originally created as a critique of capitalism so maybe Ms. Monopoly is supposed to be a critique of the feminist movement? If that’s the case, this appears at best to be the type of humor that Boomer’s would pass along in email chains as opposed to some witty critique. If that’s not the case, shame on Hasbro for mocking an entire gender that has been systematically oppressed. I wish I could say it’s 2019 and a large corporation should know better but sadly, we all know that’s not the case.

I feel like it’s safe to assume that Hasbro is stuck in some alternate reality where it’s 2004 and trolling is the prevalent way of marketing oneself on social media, as this buzz and notoriety definitely has people talking but what happens if the game sits on the shelves, hitting clearance bins and discount stores if no one buys it? Is it Hasbro’s fault for trying to piggyback off a social movement it had no right to shoehorn itself into or is it the misogyny, for not wanting to support a game that “empowers women”? Or was the entire purpose to dominate clickbait headlines in a world where we consume media a mile a minute?

I also wonder how Hasbro is going to define women in this version of Monopoly. Will they tackle the social issue of gender and the world of trans, non binary, and more or will they instead save that for their next Monopoly release? It feels incredibly insensitive to these individuals, especially as we live in a time where it’s becoming increasingly common to ask how someone identifies or to feature your preferred pronouns in an email signature. Instead of embracing the current culture, Hasbro instead introduces their idea of gender norms into a game that previously didn’t feature any notion of the topic. It’s just funny that people can apply for a job or complete a survey in 2019 and not identify as a particular gender yet to play Monopoly, you’ll have to.

It’s safe to say that the idea of Ms. Monopoly irritates and offends me greatly. Rarely if ever does my professional life and my personal life intertwine but here, a multi-billion dollar company that has the potential to reach the homes of millions and influence children through play and they choose to do so with a farce of a take on the plight that non-male employees face in the workforce.

I think what antagonizes me the most is that Hasbro clearly sees this as a trend. This is no different than their Millennial edition or their Socialism version of their base game. They’re treating real people and real issues as a means to make money. Maybe it’s working. Monopoly Socialism is on the secondhand market for three times what a new copy of the base game goes for. I guess I was the fool for thinking that a toy company in 2019 wouldn’t be political.

For further reading on this topic, I would recommend any of the following:

The New Yorker has run a fabulous piece by Mary Pilon.

Vice explores the female creator of the Monopoly concept and how she had her intellectual property stolen, penned by Eric Thurm.

Author: Two off the Top

Just a guy that wants to talk about board games more than his future wife tolerates.

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