What Shall I Be?

This post was written in response to a prompt on the red dress club:
Growing up, my sisters and I loved to play What shall I be?  First appearing in 1966 and categorized as educational, it was proclaimed The Exciting Game of Career Girls.  Based upon the roll of the dice and the acquisition of cards, players would race be the first to line up a job.
The box’s cover featured a dorky-looking girl, herculean pink bow in her hair, index finger on her cheek, looking as if as if couldn’t decide between all those career exciting opportunities.  To her left were six women, one of whom would be this girl’s future self.
To be an airline hostess, the girl would attend airline training school; if she wanted to be an actress, she’d to go drama school.  The nurse went through nursing school.  The model went to charm school.  And that gorgeous ballet dancer with the pink tutu?  She went to ballet school.  Only the teacher went to college, and she probably had to, poor thing.  While all of the other women featured on the box were reasonably attractive, the teacher—with those ugly glasses and her helmet head hair—was downright dowdy.
The message was clear: Only ugly women went to college. 
Two years after the introduction of this game, a boys’ version came out, with career and school choices a tad more interesting: Boys wanting to become statesmen attended law school; future scientists went to graduate school; college was for future athletes; doctors faced med school; engineers attended technical school and astronauts went to flight school.
Girls and boys were handed the expectations of their culture through that game.  And to this day, games continue to teach children the values of the culture in which they live.
* * *
When she was two, Filibuster’s absolute favorite game was Candy Land.  This game, presumably straight from hell, featured plastic figures that had to navigate an interminably long board by means of color-coded cards in order to reach the Candy Castle.  There were other cards, too—Mr. Mint, Gramma Nutt, Queen Frostine—that could work to your advantage by sending you forward in the game, sometimes almost to the end.  But there was a risk inherent in the cards as well: Just three spaces from the Candy Castle, you could draw the nefarious Lord Licorice and be sent to back to the game’s beginning.
My husband and I quickly tired of Candy Land.  We frequently buried it deep within the bowels of the toy closet, preferring anything—even a glittery art project—to the game.  But Filibuster found it every time, dug it out and persuaded us to play.  As soon as someone reached the Candy Castle, however, she would begin to cry.  Even if we fixed it so she would be guaranteed to win, she would cry.  We tried to extend the game:  Not only would one person have to reach the Candy Castle, everyone did.
But still, Filibuster cried.
She enjoyed moving her little yellow figure around the board, sometimes even up the Rainbow Pass.  She enjoyed the suspense of drawing the color cards—hoping she would be the one to get Queen Frostine.  She enjoyed the process of playing the game. 
We did not. 
We tried a new tactic: As soon as someone reached the Castle, usually Filibuster, due to a bit of trickery with the cards, my husband and I would clap wildly and cheer, even jump up and down, if we had to, until Filibuster rewarded us with a big grin.
Finally, Filibuster understood what my husband and I were trying to teach her: Playing the game wasn’t what mattered.
Winning was.     


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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: What Shall I Be?

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Shall I Be?

This post was written in response to a prompt on the red dress club:
Growing up, my sisters and I loved to play What shall I be?  First appearing in 1966 and categorized as educational, it was proclaimed The Exciting Game of Career Girls.  Based upon the roll of the dice and the acquisition of cards, players would race be the first to line up a job.
The box’s cover featured a dorky-looking girl, herculean pink bow in her hair, index finger on her cheek, looking as if as if couldn’t decide between all those career exciting opportunities.  To her left were six women, one of whom would be this girl’s future self.
To be an airline hostess, the girl would attend airline training school; if she wanted to be an actress, she’d to go drama school.  The nurse went through nursing school.  The model went to charm school.  And that gorgeous ballet dancer with the pink tutu?  She went to ballet school.  Only the teacher went to college, and she probably had to, poor thing.  While all of the other women featured on the box were reasonably attractive, the teacher—with those ugly glasses and her helmet head hair—was downright dowdy.
The message was clear: Only ugly women went to college. 
Two years after the introduction of this game, a boys’ version came out, with career and school choices a tad more interesting: Boys wanting to become statesmen attended law school; future scientists went to graduate school; college was for future athletes; doctors faced med school; engineers attended technical school and astronauts went to flight school.
Girls and boys were handed the expectations of their culture through that game.  And to this day, games continue to teach children the values of the culture in which they live.
* * *
When she was two, Filibuster’s absolute favorite game was Candy Land.  This game, presumably straight from hell, featured plastic figures that had to navigate an interminably long board by means of color-coded cards in order to reach the Candy Castle.  There were other cards, too—Mr. Mint, Gramma Nutt, Queen Frostine—that could work to your advantage by sending you forward in the game, sometimes almost to the end.  But there was a risk inherent in the cards as well: Just three spaces from the Candy Castle, you could draw the nefarious Lord Licorice and be sent to back to the game’s beginning.
My husband and I quickly tired of Candy Land.  We frequently buried it deep within the bowels of the toy closet, preferring anything—even a glittery art project—to the game.  But Filibuster found it every time, dug it out and persuaded us to play.  As soon as someone reached the Candy Castle, however, she would begin to cry.  Even if we fixed it so she would be guaranteed to win, she would cry.  We tried to extend the game:  Not only would one person have to reach the Candy Castle, everyone did.
But still, Filibuster cried.
She enjoyed moving her little yellow figure around the board, sometimes even up the Rainbow Pass.  She enjoyed the suspense of drawing the color cards—hoping she would be the one to get Queen Frostine.  She enjoyed the process of playing the game. 
We did not. 
We tried a new tactic: As soon as someone reached the Castle, usually Filibuster, due to a bit of trickery with the cards, my husband and I would clap wildly and cheer, even jump up and down, if we had to, until Filibuster rewarded us with a big grin.
Finally, Filibuster understood what my husband and I were trying to teach her: Playing the game wasn’t what mattered.
Winning was.     


Labels: , , , , , , , ,

9 Comments:

At May 24, 2011 at 6:36 AM , Anonymous Elisa said...

It is amazing that only a few decades ago, girls were assigned these roles and the images that go with them. Nowadays, that company would have been out of business. Very interesting memory. Thanks for sharing.

 
At May 24, 2011 at 6:54 AM , Anonymous Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Elisa,
Thanks for reading. I'm hoping my brother and/or sister in law chime in on this and their experiences with Life...

 
At May 24, 2011 at 8:36 AM , Anonymous Leslie Collins said...

I'm don't think we can put a load of blame on Milton Bradley and the like for shaping our cultural expectations as children. Their selection of roles for both men and women was undoubtedly the result of studies re: what society viewed (at that time) as acceptable and desirable roles for the sexes. In a market driven economy, you wouldn't expect them to "roll the dice" and include a woman CEO in a decade where men dominated the business world. I remember enjoying this game, but thankfully we girls were expected to haul our weight in building fences, clearing trees and harvesting hay along with the traditional roles of that day's housewife. We also were killer kickball and spud players as I recall and could take everything the boys dished out in statue maker and crack the whip. I think the key is to give your kids exposure across the board and they'll find the courage and self-esteem to doing anything. I do agree that the teacher certainly was no "looker", but would we be criticizing the makers for making beauty a prerequisite for the career woman if they had?

 
At May 24, 2011 at 9:15 AM , Anonymous Kelly Garriott Waite said...

I think that these games didn't shape our cultural expectations, rather were a reflection of current cultural norms. I also think that I cannot criticize this game without criticizing myself (again) for pushing for the end of the game.

 
At May 24, 2011 at 9:19 AM , Anonymous Leslie Collins said...

Sorry, I did get your point, but ran out of room on my soap box.... great post!

 
At May 24, 2011 at 4:07 PM , Anonymous Cheryl P. said...

I am not sure but I think Candy land has changed. I play it sometimes with my Grandson and the cards are just colors and a few things like a lollipop, a candy cane and other pictures of items. Was there at one time a Queen Frostine?

I do think gender identification is changing somewhat in marketing. I recently was on the hunt for a kitchen set (kiddy furniture size) for my 3 year old grandson. He likes to bake with me so I thought he needed a little kid sized oven/stove. All the ones I looked at featured both a little boy and a little girl on the box. I was relieved as I wasn't sure how "daddy" would like me buying a stove for grandson. Turns out daddy is fine and little grandson is baking up lots of pretend cookies.

 
At May 24, 2011 at 6:21 PM , Anonymous Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Not sure if it's changed - we haven't played in some time, thank goodness. But, yeah, there was a Queen Frostine, my daughter's favorite.

 
At May 25, 2011 at 8:31 PM , Anonymous Galit Breen said...

This right here is a little slice of history! I love the way that you wove your personal stories with your analyses of games. I also really appreciated the way that you ended the post. Poignant.

 
At May 25, 2011 at 8:51 PM , Anonymous Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks so much for reading. Love your site!

 

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