Helen Tobea – After being amazed by the fantastic idea of the board game «Who’s she», a game based on the idea of the classic game «Guess who» – with a focus on famous female pesonalities, we took the chance to contact the founder of the game, Mrs. Zuzanna Kozerska Girard.
The talented designer from Poland, who is currently living in Paris, France with her family, answers our questions about feminism, social stereotypes and discriminations but also about her business «Playeress» and her role as a mother of a girl.
The interview has a special meaning for us on socialpolicy.gr, as Zuzanna, a modern successful woman of our times, who draws the attention to the achievements of historic women, is the best person to inspire and carry the message of gender equality.
What was the main idea / purpose behind the creation of the game «Who’s she»?
Zuzanna Kozerska Girard: A few years ago I launched another project, Valek rolling pins, it was a huge success, but after that I wanted to do something more meaningful for me. I wanted to have a positive impact, not just make another gadget. I needed to talk of the way we raise our children and with what messages we educate them. I was so sick and tired of all the comments about my daughter, only on her appearances and almost never on her abilities. I tried to explain why it’s not good for her to other people but most of the time you can’t change their vision. So I needed to take it in my own hands and make an impact on how we motivate our children, especially girls. I created Playeress, because as soon as I got the idea of Who’s She I thought of plenty other editions and other projects which would have the same goal. So Playeress will dedicate to create inspiring, motivating and durable games, to bring into light those inspiring women we know and we don’t know.
Did you already know all these women that are included in your game or have you made research regarding the female personalities and their achievements?
I had to go through a very painful research phase…I tried to balance between playability of the game and a diverse set of professions, origins, time periods… This was incredibly difficult to do! I had this big whiteboard with all the women written on it, lots of post-its… like in the detective movies ! I couldn’t sleep I thought I was never gonna finish the selection phase! I tried to represent all domains, but I have intentionally tried to put more emphasis on less feminine professions. So you’ll find more scientists and discoveresses than artists or singeresses…. For example in sports I decided to include Lella Lombardi – first women to score points in F1 instead of Bobbi Gibbs – who made history running in the Boston marathon ( in my opinion women are more present now in running disciplines than in F1 so the idea was to move the limits a little bit further). Also I tried to include many women who never received any recognition in our society, I found it so shocking that almost no one knows of Hatshepsut! We all talk about Cleopatra because she was seductive and she had many defeats, but Hatshepsut… she did everything perfect! She was an amazing pharaoh for more than 20 years, she developed Egypt, she won battles and wars, so why nobody knows her? Because she was an incredibly successful women in a world dominated by men! And they tried to erase her from the history, destroying stories about her with hammers (literally)!
Do you think that the study of history can be the guide to a better future? And what can people gain via this board game?
I definitely hope so. I hope it will inspire girls to follow their interests even if someone will say oh it’s a boy thing! And inspire boys to have female IDOLS and heroines and see women as inspiring and powerful as men. Basically see them equal. For adults of course it’s the same but we tend to take less risks and change less than kids so it’s more difficult. For girls, you would expect things would have evolved and there would be much more positive role models in books, games, tv. But actually things are moving quite slowly. I mean in the real life we’re all more like WonderWoman and less like those helpless princesses waiting to be rescued by men. In Poland, we are unfortunately still in a very traditional view of women’s role…
What do you think about feminism?
Feminism is for me a definition that has been interpreted in so many ways, I think that we need to highlight the need for equality and however we call it, the time to bring this up and finally get equal pays, equal rights and equal possibilities is NOW!
Have you, as a woman or as a female designer, faced any discriminations?
Plenty of times, unfortunately it happens all the time, whether I receive a UV printer and the courier thinks I am only an assistant, whether I go to a producer to talk about prices and get lectures about how certain jobs can only be done by women and their ‘little hands’…. Well doing the unexpected does push further people’s prejudiced ideas.
What is the situation concerning equality in your country, Poland? Have you met any differences between Poland and France, where you are currently living?
As I said before the women’s role is much more traditional in Poland than France. From the idea that we need to take care of our kids until 3 years old by ourselves, yes we do have long maternity leave, but there is this idea that we have to be super Women, that we need to manage everything without asking for help. If you ask for help you seem weak and not a great mom…. That’s very sad view. Then there are some very clear differences between two countries in terms of a free choice about your body. Unfortunately the abortion is still illegal in Poland, which leads once again women to the same role that the patriarchal system has for us (stay home mum…) well I have so much more to say, from my experience on this matter, but this would be a very long monologue 🙂
The advertising industry is blamed for sexist pictures and messages as well as for the objectification of women. What is your opinion about this?
Just few days ago my 3 year old daughter opened a LEGO flyer when we were out for dinner and she told me so confident, ‘look Mom, these are toys for girls and those are for boys ‘ (showing two pages, clearly separated in this way). let me say that if a 3 year old already gets this we have a huge problem, and she is surrounded by all kinds of toys, and female role models. I of course started to talk about this with her and bring her examples how she loves her motorbike toy, how her younger brother loves to push the pink stroller with her doll inside etc etc. But somehow she has already this idea of separation stuck into her head… Those are only toys, and going further to the women’s image promoted and passed in the industry it is simply shocking! I personally fight this each day, and am so terrified seeing this everywhere and seeing that it gets by without being noticed by the majority of public…. There is so much to be done yet!
As a mother of a girl, what do you think is the most important message for her?
Let me bring up an example 🙂 One day my husband puts a t-shirt with a drawing of 5 astronauts on it (males), and so she asks ‘who are they Dad?’ He says ‘astronauts’ and she says ‘ Dad but girls are astronauts too’. I guess this explains everything 🙂
Tell us about your business «Playeress». Is there any specific goal behind it?
I created Playeress, because as soon as I got the idea of Who’s She I thought of plenty other editions and other projects which would have the same goal. So Playeress will dedicate to create inspiring, motivating and durable games, to bring into light those inspiring women we know and we don’t know.
You have used many female names of occupations in your game and you even named your business in a similar way. Is the use of language so important?
Οw. That is very interesting, as in Polish and French it is very important to use female gendered proffessions. Actually I’ve learnt on the way that in English the inclusive way is to avoid them. I was very intrigued by this, but after a vivid discussion with tons of my backers we decided to leave the -esses out of the English version. However in other languages it is still important and I think that it represent how much we are used to see certain jobs done by men, the changes made in language are supposed to make this more normal in every day.
And last but not least, is «Who’s she» a game only for women? And how important is it for men to be aware of female achievements, for the fight against stereotypes?
As I said, I hope it will inspire boys as well to have female idols. Men need to see women as inspiring and powerful as men. They need to see them equal.