In 1966, Selchow & Righter Company, the game makers best known for Parcheesi and Scrabble, released an “educational” board game for girls (ages 6 and up) called What Shall I Be? The Exciting Game of Career Girls. The object was to be the first player to become a Career Girl in 1 of 6 featured professions (model, airline hostess, ballet dancer, actress, nurse, teacher)… while getting insulted along the way!?!?
As game play ensued, 2-4 players would move around the board collecting School Cards, Subject Cards (round-shaped) and Personality Cards (heart-shaped). The game ended when one of the players collected 4 School Cards of one profession, along with 2 Subject Cards and 2 Personality Cards that were a good fit for that specific career.
individual Career Girl game images from boardgamegeek.com
Here’s the kicker… many of the Subject and Personality Cards were ripe with nasty putdowns that targeted everything from weight to mental ability. They called out seemingly negative characteristics and noted the careers they would be “bad for.”
For example, one Subject Card reads, “Your make-up is too sloppy,” which indicated that you were “Bad for: airline hostess or model.” Then a girl might be lucky enough to pick a “You are overweight” Personality Card (um… weight = personality?!?!), which was a NO GO for 50% of the career choices the game offered, as that particular body type was deemed, “Bad for: airline hostess, ballet dancer, and model.” That could be followed up with a number of other heart-shaped affronts like “You are not considerate” or “You get too excited” and the careers those traits would doom a girl from pursuing.
So just imagine playing a game that delivered this kind of confidence deflating message, “You are a slow thinker, Suzy. Sorry (sigh)… that means airline hostess and nurse are simply out of reach for your feeble mind.”
Wow! And experts claim that “Barbie is bad for little girls” when it comes to imagining their future professions?!?! (sidebar: we kind of proved them wrong with our informal WYSK reader poll, by the way). Perhaps none of said experts were familiar with this gem of a body shaming, soul crushing, career aspiration limiting/destroying board game.
Thankfully, the one-two punch jabs were balanced with more complimentary cards that dictated which of the 6 Career Girls you COULD be if you were say, “pretty,” “neat,” “friendly,” “graceful” or had “a nice smile.” Within this mix of vacuous positives, we’re simply amazed (and relieved) that they actually thought to include “strong,” “quick thinker,” and “hard working.” Didn’t think the S&R game makers had it in ’em to consider women in such empowering terms.
A second edition of What Shall I Be? was apparently released in 1976, and the professions surprisingly evolved with the times to include some much more progressive choices – Surgeon, Jockey, Astronaut, News Commentator, Theater Director, and Lawyer – as well as a more diverse group of Career Girls pictured in the game. Sadly, we weren’t able to track down any of that edition’s cards to see if the insults were still the same.
We are DYING to speak to someone who played this board game as a kid, so let us know if you did.