A week ago Saturday I was at one of my least favorite places. It need not go named, but you probably have one not too far from you. (Indeed, proximity to these super stores seems to be how many Americans measure how far they are from civilization). While there, my son and I, as e often do when we are there, wandered around a bit. Our wanderings took us to the aisle with board games. As someone who enjoys board games, I will often look to see what new games might be out. On this particular visit I did, in fact, find a new game. Or a new version of an old game, to be precise. It is called Ms. Monopoly.
This latest installment in the Monopoly franchise features the cartoon version of a young woman on the cover. She is wearing a shirt with the iconic Monopoly “Go” space on it and even supporting “M” earrings. She is holding a coffee cup with “Boss” on the cup’s holder. The caption on the cover reads, “The first game where women make more than men.”
Elsewhere on the box I discovered that Ms. Monopoly is Mr. Monopoly’s niece. She is a “self made investment guru” and she has arrived to “change a few things. (It’s about time).” That’s what the box says. “It’s about time.” About time for what, one might logically ask? Well, apparently time for women to be paid more than men, I guess.
The back of the box says, “Without women we wouldn’t have wi-fi! Or chocolate chip cookies!” Underneath it says, “Buy these and other essentials invented by women.” Let’s set aside the implications that (1) chocolate chip cookies are essentials, (2) that chocolate chip cookies are on the same level of importance as wi-fi, and (3) that neither chocolate cookies nor wi-fi would exist if women had not invented them. That third point is tantamount to saying that anything invented by men would not exist if men had not invented them, and that’s just silly. The Los Angeles Times, by the way, asserted in its headline that a woman invented the Monopoly game in the first place. I did not know that. Nice to know, maybe, but not really relevant.
In a statement on the release of the game, Hasbro said, “The Ms. Monopoly game marks the first time in the franchise’s history where a new character will grace the cover — and while Mr. Monopoly is a real estate mogul, Ms. Monopoly is an advocate whose mission is to invest in female entrepreneurs.” Investing in women entrepreneurs would be great. Is great. But that is not really the message the game presents. CNN said, “Ms. Monopoly is meant to celebrate women’s empowerment by giving women a head start in the game.” Interesting…. The game also, supposedly, addresses the pay gap between men and women. Again, interesting….
Why do I find this all interesting? Because creating a game in which empowerment is defined as a head start is to undermine exactly what empowerment is all about. Go to educategirls.org and read their page “What is Empowerment?” You will find that it reads, in part, that empowerment “is an act of building confidence and strength in others to enable them to obtain basic opportunities and maximize the quality of their lives.” In other words, giving someone a head start or an unfair advantage is the antithesis of empowerment.
Why do I find this interesting? Because the pay gap between women and men has always emphasized the problem of men being paid more than women simply because they are men. Go to the web site for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and you will find that, “In 2018, female full-time, year-round workers made only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 18 percent.” IWPR explains that there are a variety of reasons why women earn less than men—none of which are really legitimate reasons—and that explains that if the change in wage disparity continues to proceed as it has been that it will take until 2059 for there to be true wage parity. Check out the web site for the American Association of University Women and you will see that they proclaim, “No matter how you analyze it, the gender pay gap is real, persistent, and harmful to women’s economic security.” No one is suggesting that different jobs should have different wages. The suggestion is that men should not be paid more than women just because they are men.
I am not generally a proponent of these sites I have cited, nor do I by any means agree with everything that they promote or assert. I reference them here to point out that this game is a foolish concept. This is why Ms. Monopoly is a complete failure at doing what it allegedly is intended to do. It undermines the very arguments for empowerment and equality by creating a game in which women earn more just because they are women. In Ms. Monopoly, women get $240 when they pass go; men get the standard Monopoly pay day of $200.
The irony in all of this is that Monopoly in its original form was a perfect example of empowerment and equality. Everyone was able to “obtain basic opportunities” regardless of their gender. Everyone received the same level of pay regardless of their gender. The only advantages or disadvantages in Monopoly that are not based solely on skill and shrewd investing are literally the result of the roll of the dice. So Ms. Monopoly may mark a significant milestone by putting a female character on the cover of the game. But other than that, Ms. Monopoly is a complete miss.