The answer is: pretty much in the way you’d expect. Only, somehow, worse. The game, one of the many spin-offs of Monopoly that Hasbro has dreamed up in recent years, is centered on the character of Ms. Monopoly, the niece of Mr. Monopoly, the game’s top-hatted and mustachioed avatar. The idea is that she’s a Silicon Valley–style investor who is focused on the inventions of women. (An explanatory note informed us, with no evident mordancy, that the niece of Mr. Monopoly—himself a character who is also known as “Rich Uncle Pennybags”—is “a self-made investment guru.” This was a hint of what was to come.)
The board mimics the layout of the original Monopoly. Along its perimeter, in place of the standard “properties,” are goods and services that were invented—or partially invented—by women: windshield wipers, bulletproof vests, round-edged makeup applicators, and so on. Cards list the products on one side (“Fire Escape”) and, on the other, a brief explanation (“1887: Before Anna Connelly’s fire escape bridge, people had to parachute or rappel from burning buildings!”). The goal is to buy up those products—so that, ostensibly, as you learn about women’s achievements, you can also profit from them. (In Ms. Monopoly, it is possible to own, and then charge rent on, “modern shapewear.”) At the center of it all, on the board, is Ms. Monopoly herself: Clad in a blazer, heels, and skinny jeans, one of her hands is on her hip and the other clutches a portable coffee cup. It is printed with the word BOSS.
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Ms. Monopoly, turn by turn, echoes the logic of the original: Move around the board, buy properties, pay rent on other players’ properties, get money for passing “GO.” It is all fairly familiar. Still, the most consistent emotion Andrew and I experience while playing the game is confusion. One of Ms. Monopoly’s primary gimmicks is that it is “the first game where women make more money than men”; its instructions stipulate that the lady players should start off with more money ($400 more) than the guys, and also get $240 for passing “GO,” while men get the traditional $200. We dutifully follow the directions: Roll the dice, move forward, buy, pay, repeat. Andrew lands on Community Chest. This is what his card says: “You see the newest superhero movie with a female lead, and it’s awesome! COLLECT $50. If you’re a man, COLLECT $100.”
We understand that this is a board game intended for ages 8 and up and probably shouldn’t be overthought. We get that it’s probably meant to be played by women, and that there might be something quietly powerful in the way its instructions and assertions default, correctively, to the women’s perspective. But still we are confused: Is the idea that women start with more money but then, over the course of the game, watch that readjustment swing back in favor of men? Is it simply that men should be rewarded extra for seeing a film that stars a woman? Why $400 more for the women at the outset? Why $40 more with each rounding of the board? How is the Hasbro corporation defining “woman”?