Gender-Neutral Playing Cards: Field-Flattener or Philosophical Flop

A forensic psychology graduate in the Netherlands has proposed replacing the king, queen and jack in decks of playing cards to challenge gender inequality.

The king, queen and jack would be replaced by gold, silver and bronze.

Let the public outcry begin!

Gender-neutral playing cards

First Las Vegas casino that gets them wins.

We know a little something about outcries, as we have a long history of outcrying. (Shout-out to resort fees and paper straws.)

When we first heard about these gender-neutral playing cards, our reaction was a knee-jerk, “WTF? Somebody’s hammock doesn’t reach both trees! Playing cards have always had a king, queen and jack!”

Then, sadly, we spent a little more time pondering this. Damn it.

The inventor of the gender-neutral cards, Indy Mellink, says the fact a king is more valuable than a queen is a subtle inequality. It implies a man is of higher rank than a woman.

Which is usually the point where our outrage would kick in. Nonsense! Face cards are royalty. It’s history! Don’t mess with tradition!

This is political correctness run amok, right?

Four Queens

Who knew Four Queens was ahead of its time, equalitywise?

But then Mellink raised the fact these gold, silver and bronze cards are also race-neutral.

Aw, crap. It’s hard to get too mad at that one. The vast majority of playing cards are awfully, well, pasty.

Here’s Indy Mellink talking about her playing cards.

Just when you think you’ve got a solid case for indignation, Indy Mellink hits us with, “It’s a deck of cards for everyone.”

Wow.

We hate thinking about things in a new way!

Why shouldn’t people have choices when it comes to their playing cards?

Why are most face cards white?

Why should kings trump queens? Or for that matter, why should queens beat jacks?

Once this started sinking in, it turns out our knee-jerk reaction may have been more “jerk” than “knee.”

Honestly, we feel like a bit of a bronze-off.

Plaza loyalty club cards

Fun fact: About two years ago, Plaza Las Vegas revamped its loyalty club from card-based tiers to Bronze, Silver and Gold (bottom row, above). Mind blown.

Some of the greatest strides for equality have involved ending things that have “always been that way.” Often, biases are so entrenched in our culture (including in our casino games of chance), they’re invisible.

Interestingly, our reaction to these new cards says a lot about who we are. Where do these emotions come from, and why?

So, damn it, we’re probably going to buy one of these gender-neutral decks of cards. Here’s the official Web site.

Will you be seeing them at your casino’s blackjack tables anytime soon? Unlikely, but maybe you should.

They not only show us a new way of looking at playing cards, but also a new way of looking at ourselves.

Update (1/20/21): Following our story going live, Indy Mellink stopped in and left a comment. She’s shown herself to not only be smart and creative, she’s also a great marketer and clearly has a keen eye for talent.

Indy gender neutral cards

What’s not to love about Indy?

28 thoughts on “Gender-Neutral Playing Cards: Field-Flattener or Philosophical Flop

  1. Your daddy

    This cancel culture has got to stop. Read 1984 and it says it all. This is the path we are going down were you are basically erased if you disagree and don’t buy into the progressive line. Dangerous road we are going down…

    Reply
    1. Jackson

      Offering options is not cancel culture.

      Also, if you think “progressives” are the only people doing this, you must be living in an echo chamber. Prime Example: The NFL.

      Reply
    2. Chuck M

      Ugh. The totalitarian government described in 1984 is not “progressive”. No way. Not even close.
      There are certainly works of literature that would support your argument, but this aint it.
      Scott’s article is honest, and well thought out.

      Reply
  2. Mark A. Erichson

    Scott, I’ma hafta make more than one post here, but here’s the more important one…
    THANK YOU for your thoughtfulness and sensitivity and analysis on this issue. Your article is REALLY fair and ultimately non-judgmental — not to mention very well-written. Thank you again for reporting on this surprising news and the way in which you approached it.

    Reply
    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      Appreciate that. I definitely had a negative first reaction, then I sort of just sat with it and realized it’s an opportunity to examine why we tend to respond to things through existing filters. We jump right to outrage, rather than simply taking it in and asking questions. People are quick to call this PC or “cancel culture,” but ultimately, why would we resent it if someone wants a certain deck of cards, especially one that wants to address inequity? It’s a weird thing to rail against.

      Reply
  3. Jason Ghiselin

    My first reaction was “Why?” My second reaction was “Why not?” Then I dug a couple of decks of cards out of a drawer…and there’s a heck of a lot of gender ambiguity among most face cards…kings with flowing, golden hair, very austere queens, and jacks with tight curls and maybe, just maybe, a little eye make-up!?!
    I’m not sure any “wrong” message is being sent.
    Then there’s the environmental impact and terrible working conditions related to mining (gold/silver) and manufacturing (bronze) these metals she is suggesting we substitute…I can’t support glorifying that!
    Maybe we just need 11, 12 and 13 cards? (If someone has the time to develop a blackjack strategy for a game with 11, 12 and 13 cards I would love to see it!)

    Reply
  4. Mark A. Erichson

    As a gay man and as someone whose biggest passion in life is social justice, I LOVE Indy’s intent.
    And, YES, small things in life (like ranking royalty and making all faces on playing cards white) prob’ly do contribute in a small but meaningful to our holding onto white male patriarchy.
    But as a gambler… I’m just not on-board with the deck she’s come up with. For one thing, it’s too hard to distinguish one suit/denomination from another. As someone who loves to sit at first base and sometimes has trouble seeing across the table to third base, this would be even more problematic for me.
    How’s about instead… Make a couple of the kings African? Make a couple of the queens Asian? Make some jacks Arabic? or Hispanic? (Or — better yet — mix that all up.)

    Reply
  5. Tim Bassett

    They have the added benefit of removing the monarchical bias. Why should we defer to anyone by reason on birth.

    Initially thought that this was a bit silly but on thinking little.longer realized it is the thousands of tiny things that constitute a climate of discrimination and deference and we have to fix them one by one

    Cards have evolved through history, there is nothing sacred about the current deck

    Reply
    1. Mark

      As long as we still get a choice of our cards. But everyone has to admit, there has been a culture shift. We’re in uncharted waters. But the market will figure it out…until that option is taken away from us.

      Reply
  6. Indy

    Hi there,
    This is Indy, I just read your article and I really appreciate the way you did your research and how you put it on paper! And how you touched on certain nuances. I’d like to stress how I simply made this card pack as alternative and not as a replacement. So if people prefer their traditional packs then by all means keep enjoying them 🙂 I do not wish to polarize or blame people or take away something, rather include people and offer a choice!
    Anyway thanks again 🙂

    P.s if you’d like to order check out our webshop: gsb-playingcards.com

    Reply
    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      So great to hear your thoughts, Indy! I humbly admit I didn’t get it at first, but this has sparked some wonderful conversation, and I wish you all the best with your endeavor. I suspect you’re going to get a ton of orders as your story is told more widely, congratulations.

      Reply
  7. JP

    Why would anyone be up in arms about allowing people to have options? That would be like boycotting Monopoly because they have come out with so many different board variants based on movies and TV shows. If you want to use the traditional deck no one is saying you can’t, but if you want to use a deck like this then that is your option.

    Reply
  8. Mike

    I personally am very fond of anything Bronze. It had it’s own age, there are man, many statues made from it, and girls skin look good that color, so I am offended it will be the lowest value!

    Seriously, if you are offended by a deck of cards and think everything needs to be changed to something else, you have issues that will never be solved by this.

    Reply
  9. Mike Alexakis

    I have never looked at card rank as a gender issue, its at least interesting to do so, and the ace trumps all ranks… This won’t happen in poker rooms, people already misread hands as it is. Next up is chess, the King might be the ultimate target, but the Queen is the most important piece… Mongo pawn in game of life, I just like saying that…

    Reply
  10. Vanlingomungo

    Far from a modern world, it is taking a step backwards. The world does not need to be so gray with no one knowing who they are or what they are.

    Reply
  11. GregM

    I remember getting a mailer from Plaza shortly after they revamped their players club about 10 years ago. “You’re a Queen to us”. That struck me as odd. Being gay it’s not the first time someone called me a queen, but I can see how some guys might take offense. Just say’n.

    Reply
    1. Neonglowy

      Maybe they were just avoiding the usual King as highest rank, but Ace out-ranks all, so why not Ace? It *should* be non-gender… but does anyone call a female an “Ace”?

      Reply
  12. Jack Tarasar

    Political Correctness and the Change Culture is ruining this country.
    Vegas is behind the times by allowing SMOKING in the casinos. Most U.S. States BAN smoking.
    So, Scott might be better off getting behind changing that other than a piddling issue like changing playing cards.

    Reply
    1. Mark

      This angle always gets my attention. So, you are for a complete ban? Not even a central smoking lounge in the casino, where the bad air is lifted up to the ceiling vents, and out of the building?

      Reply
  13. Ian

    Read the headline, “Gender-Neutral Playing Cards: Field-Flattener or Philosophical Flop”, then saw the picture of the three cards, labeled “G”, “S”, B”.

    First thought that popped to mind:
    G-ay
    S-traight
    B-i-sexual

    Ia this not merely replacing a Gender bias with a Sexual bias?

    Reply
  14. Neonglowy

    I wonder if the gender-ranking might not be much noticed. England’s most famous monarchs include two Elizabeths and a Victoria, all very long-lived and prominent. I think that’s why I had to explain to a guy why Queens “don’t” make their husbands Kings the way Kings make their wives Queens. He, a well-read guy, didn’t know they’re not equal. On the other hand I checked my themed playing cards for gender-ranking. Star Trek (TOS), Star Wars (Villains), and Harry Potter (Deathly Hallows) cards match Kings and Jacks to male characters, Queens to female, but Aces are all male! I wouldn’t have done that, but I’m not a guy.

    Reply

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