Last week (March 30th, 2023) our class traveled back in time to the Victorian era with the game Ladies and Gentlemen. There were two roles from which we could pick from – along with an extra role that was only used due to our uneven number of players. The first role was the Gentleman: By playing this role you commit to going to work everyday and making money by fulfilling contracts and selling items. The gentlemen should make as much money as they can to then satisfy their ladies’ wishes at the end of the day. The next role is the Lady: By playing this role you are given a number of shopping choices throughout the day. Your objective is to strategically find the best items and choose the dress and accessories that will make you look the best at the ball (at the end of the game – after six rounds). Once your choices have been made you are to showcase them to your husband (with little to no communication) in the hopes that he will use the money he earned to gift them to you. The extra role is the Courtesan: By playing this role you are a Lady who does not have a husband. Your objective is the same as the other ladies, but you must ask any of the gentlemen for gifts. If you are the best dressed of the ball, the gentleman that gave you the most elegance points (included in the item cards) wins with you. If you are the worst dressed, the gentleman that gave you the least amount of elegance points and his lady lose the game with you.
The hardest part about playing this game (especially as one of the ladies) was the restriction of communication between partners. Even though the Ladies and the Gentlemen had to work together to win, it was not possible to share our individual strategies, and it seemed like we were playing two completely different games at the same time. In my case, I was looking to buy cheaper items, but to gain elegance points through my servant cards – since I didn’t want to miss the chance of getting items in case my gentleman wasn’t making enough money. Meanwhile, my gentleman was trying to accumulate as much money as he could to spend on the very last round, which I did not know about. Although it was a complex game to play, it was really interesting and fun to figure out. The satirical reference to the Victorian era was clever and done in a way that exposed many gender roles and expectations that have shaped our society. This game can definitely teach some lessons about gender disparity and gender roles, which are important topics to be aware of, especially when it comes to leadership. A good leader can be inclusive and empathetic, and putting yourself in a position that you are normally not in can help you understand someone’s context better. Being able to look at things from different perspectives and adapt accordingly can go a long way.
In my opinion, I believe that my classmates from WGS courses would enjoy playing this game and discussing its context afterwards. This game can be a good conversation starter about gender roles then and now, and about gender inequality.