Playing the Feminist Card

A cat token voted into the game of Monopoly is very cool—but Parker Bros. still got trumped, because the hottest deal in game design now is the newly minted Feminist Playing Cards. These decks are portable, playable art collections, encompassing both illustrative and musical adventures. A discussion of Missy Elliott’s efforts on behalf of strays, or her farewell song to Aaliyah, may break out during a shuffle and cut. A playlist itself might be shuffled, to “Diamonds and Rust”, while the topic is Joan Baez delivering mail to American Prisoners of War in Vietnam, and Rummy scores are tallied. An attempted run in Hearts could accompany talk of Tori Amos’s co-founding of RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) or the singular way she used to play the piano on The Tonight Show. And Liz Prince’s rendering of Miranda Taylor at drums is so exuberant you might just be provoked to break out in impromptu jam or enlightened activism yourself.

Fifty-two feminist musicians grace the deck, illustrated by fourteen feminist visual artists. The
project–directed by Lynn Caspar, founder and producer of music/mix tape/video/events website
Homoground—is a 2500 print run of playing cards that it can be reasonably posited are small,
superbly designed and drawn, pictorial feminist musical history (hypertext) books. Gorilla Girls
fans can relate to Caspar’s upload to HuffPost about the concept, in which she described how “A
Google search for ‘women playing cards’ brings up a link to purchase ‘Nude Women Playing Cards’
as the first result.” From concept (December 2011), to collaboration with visual artists, to fully
funded Kickstarter campaign by end of March 2012, the project segued to distribution of unique prints to backers, completion of the art, followed by printing and sales through years end. Decks (and correlating buttons) can be purchased at Feministcards (.com).

The cards are so beautiful, owners are apt to need two decks, as they’re likely to want to save them as pristine works of artistry, as much as have the fun and inspired conversation of playing with them. To start, the blue, red, white and black packaging draws the eye magnetically with arresting block graphics. You want to look inside this package. Once opened, a visual smorgasbord of dozens of portraits in a feast of drawing and painting styles are offered up. These decks are the kind of publication that owners will hang on their walls in personal configurations.

The illustrators, some of whom have bands of their own, were free to choose the musicians they
drew, with the caveat that said talent had to really mean something to them, either through their lyrics, an epiphany show, or their works. The musicians chosen represent diverse generations, races, and musical genres–and causes, too. Ani DiFranco, illustrated by Andrea Rae Georgas, has written her own book on forging a career in music, both figuratively, and soon, literally. Her Righteous Babe Foundation helps people donate to Katrina’s Piano Fund, a non-profit that gets instruments and equipment to New Orleans musicians who lost everything in the storm. Joan Baez, who introduced the music of Bob Dylan to the world, has worked so extensively for social justice that she now has her own award. Amnesty International, whose U.S. section Baez helped found in the 1970’s, held an event in her honor in March 2011 and presented her with the inaugural eponymous award. Future recipients of the Outstanding Inspirational Service in the Fight for Human Rights will be other artists working in film, sculpture, paint, music and other mediums—who have similarly advocated for human rights.

It’s easy to understand why Teagan and Sara gave the cards a shout out on their recent day in the
life photo blog on Rolling Stone’s site. Even solitaire is a whole new game. Looking at the cards
laid out side by side puts one in mind of tomes displayed in a bookstore, each one an invitation to
a different unexplored (or well loved familiar) story. One such literary tableau this week at Porter
Square Books, in tribute to Women’s History Month, showed the faces of “Art And Feminism” (edited by Helena Rickett), alongside “Why be happy when you can be normal?” (by Jeanette Winterson), and “35 Women Building Peace: Essential Voices for Justice and Hope” (by Kaitlin Barker Davis, Emiko Noma & Women PeaceMakers Program). Every play is a rabbit hole for musing on musical faves and unknowns, great art, and feminist history.

When was the last time you thought back to your first concert, Sinead O’ Connor’s protest against
the denouncing of contraceptives during the AIDS crisis, or wonder if “the L word” featured any music from Leisha Hailey’s band during Poker night?

The Feminist Playing Cards sees ‘If you let me play’, and raises.

—J. Marechal

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