While efforts to attract more women into poker have produced positive results over the past few years, the game is still very much dominated by men. A recent survey carried out by 888 Holdings in the UK shows that a lot of female players feel intimidated by their male counterparts at the poker tables.
A significant 32 percent of the respondents also revealed they’re less encouraged to play poker because of their gender. With the recent statistics, gender parity in poker seems like an impossible thing to achieve. But can “gender-neutral” cards help it become a reality?
Genderless Cards
A forensic psychology graduate from the Netherlands created her own unique card design that aims to remove the patriarchal element in traditional cards.
Indy Mellink thought about the idea while playing card games with her family back in June 2020. As she was explaining the card games to her younger cousins, she realized that the cards followed a “hierarchy”, such as kings outranking queens, and queens outranking jacks.
Mellink also noticed a race factor, with the king, queen, and jack being white. The 23 year old believes these represent “subtle inequalities” that could have significant impacts on people’s lives.
So she came up with a new design that would eliminate the gender and race element, replacing the kings, queens, and jacks, with something that’s “more inclusive”. And the best thing about it was that she was fully supported by her parents, family, and loved ones.
In Mellink’s genderless cards, Gold Bars take the place of kings, while queens and jacks are replaced by Silver Coins and Bronze Shields respectively. All the other cards in the deck remain as they are.
Mellink named the cards after these new icons. Her “GSB” playing cards come in two types of decks, red and black, each costing $11.90. Since launching the cards in October of last year, Mellink has sold 1,500 decks across the US and Europe.
Mixed Reaction
On the GSB website, Mellink shared her mission of promoting gender equality and helping everyone feel comfortable while playing cards. She said the new design does not intend to fan the flames and make the debate even more complicated. Rather, it offers a more inclusive alternative for people who are also passionate about gender equality.
Mellink does have some great points, but not everyone agrees with her. In fact, many fans of card games, including female poker players, think the 23-year-old was simply making a big deal out of small things.
Rather than address the problem, the gender-neutral cards only trivialize a relevant subject, as suggested by some commenters. It even attracted negative reaction from famous personalities such as Piers Morgan. A popular YouTube channel called “The Quartering” also criticized Mellink’s design, saying there’s no sense altering the deck. Some think people like Mellink might just be oversensitive and that her idea was a step too far.
Mellink refuses to be affected by the criticisms though, saying the attention that her project is currently attracting proves that this isn’t a small issue after all. She’d rather focus on the support she’s getting from some people. Orders still kept coming and she’s now struggling to keep up with the demand.
So, can genderless cards really help solve the gender inequality issue, or is it just another way of gaining profits at the expense of a critical subject?
Similar Idea Also Came Up in 2017
This is not the first time that genderless cards are being offered as an alternative to the traditional cards.
In 2017, Mayan Segal also came up with the same idea. She also tried to eliminate the patriarchy in cards by introducing new icons to rebrand the kings, queens, and jacks: Monarch instead of kings, Duchess or Duke instead of queens, and Prince or Princess instead of jacks.
Segal’s project was named “Queeng” and so far, it managed to attract over $400,000 in donations. This allowed her to print 5,000 new decks, each sold for $45.

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