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Is the game Guess Who? sexist? This girl wants to know why

A six-year-old is creating a major stir after she posed a simple question about Guess Who?, a guessing game that's been around for more than 30 years: Why do the number of men far outnumber the women?

"I think it's not fair to only have five girls in Guess Who and 19 boys," the girl said in a message to toy giant Hasbro, which sells the game. "It is not only boys who are important, girls are important too."

The girl, who lives in Ireland, wrote the message with the help of her mother, freelance journalist Jennifer O'Connell, who typed as the girl dictated the message. O'Connell posted the entire exchange on her blog.

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But the response they got from the company wasn't exactly what they were hoping for. Hasbro wrote in its reply that Guess Who? is "based on a numerical question" and that each of the characters share five of any given characteristics. The company said the game "is not weighted in favour of any particular character, male or female" and added that the game should "draw attention away from using gender or ethnicity as the focal point, and to concentrate on those things that we all have in common, rather than focus on our differences."

Does that sound like a reasonable explanation for the imbalance in gender?

O'Connell didn't think so. She wrote her own reply to the company taking them to task for a vague response that didn't address the real issue.

She told Hasbro her daughter is "no clearer" as to why so few females are featured on Guess Who? and that its response has "left her more confused than before."

O'Connell said its explanation didn't even make sense to her and that it failed to answer the fundamental question of why the female gender is regarded as a " 'characteristic' while the male gender is not?' "

In a second reply that appears to be about as helpful as the first, Hasbro said that boys and girls have the "same chance of winning the game" regardless of what characters are featured in the game itself.

Perhaps that explanation would have come as a relief had O'Connell's daughter complained that game was designed to favour male winners. But all she wanted to know was why the company has produced a game that is unbalanced in its representation of men and women.

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It seems she and her mother may be waiting a while for an answer to that question.

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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