Revisiting the horrifically sexist Battleship game cover from 1967


With my user name, I simply can’t stay silent on how many years ago January 2014 was.


It’s fun to imagine what else they might have been doing. My vote is for a Puerto Rican knife fight.


This would be a perfect cartoon for Ward Sutton’s nom de satirique Stan Kelly!


There’s nothing so terrible about one box cover being like this. The issue is not the roles illustrated on this this particular box cover; the issue is that of course those are the roles illustrated on the box cover. Of course Dad’s not washing the dishes.

The original blog post shows some context, shows that this is part of a larger pattern. No one’s saying it’s wrong for the men to have recreation while the women are working or are otherwise not included - sometimes. But if you look at the overall landscape of marketing and advertising images from the day, that’s the way it was just about every time. All the time. For a long time.

Marketing presents us with sanitized, idealized images of ourselves, and the idealized image of women, as imagined mostly by men in the 20th century Western world, was: Pretty, white, domestic, harmless, nonthreatening, dependent and happy to be dependent. It was a very limiting sort of ideal, and it was never reflective of most people’s day-to-day reality anyway.

If you’re familiar with that history, that background, you may more readily see the box cover as one particularly strong example of a class of imagery, rather than in isolation. And it’s that overall class of imagery and the assumptions that support it - a culture - that critics are reacting to.

Those assumptions included limits on men’s roles and ways of living in the world too, by the way.


What the … ?


Hence the “revisiting” in the title of this one?


Shhh!! It’s very, very important to point out that it’s (somehow) a problem when the BBers repost something!


Yeah, or do you want this place to turn into Reddit!? /s


I hereby blame it all on the evil-doings of the recalcitrant left!


Plenty of us grew up quite happily in families that looked like that then. The Mom in that picture could have been mine. But nobody forced her into that role. She got a good education, got a job in local broadcasting, moved west and worked as a TV news personality in San Diego for several years, then decided to marry my Dad and settle down. It was important for her to be there for her kids, and she was proud of her life. She and the girls did the washing up, but I had stuff that was expected of me that they never had to do. My sisters are very well educated and have careers in the physical sciences.
The images on advertisements like the Battleship game are meant to be aspirational. Many people, then and now, would like to be in a family like that. They seem happy, attractive, well dressed, and the kids are interacting with their parents. I think the parental interaction was a big part of the ad. It is a two player game, so they had to work with one kid and one parent playing. Doing the washing up implies that they just had dinner together, which implies more family interaction. In retrospect, it would have been nice if the playing parent had been playing with the child of the opposite gender, or if the non playing family members had been doing something fun as well. But MB probably did not want to advertise alternatives to their games.
Overall, the criticism here is that the ad image does not appeal to 21st century consumers. That certainly was not their intention in 1967. Then, the image was uncontroversial and fairly typical. They sold a lot of games, including to us. I certainly don’t remember having the idea that it was a “boys” game.
I think it will be interesting to look at more ads from MB at around that time and later, to see what sort of progression was made in the message.

Edit- thinking more on this, my family did not look like this for most of 1967, as my Dad was one of the 49,000 American fathers in Vietnam at the time. So that ad might have had an extra appeal to us then.


I think the leap made there is that she’s using a vacuum, therefore gaining experience at doing - ahem - medical vacuum procedures.


Battleship can be played with pen and paper. It’s probably a lot cheaper to do so. The success of a mass market game depends, in large part, on its marketing-- and this is particularly true for a plastic remake. MB was making a militarized skin–and since women weren’t generally associated with the military-- well…

A better critique of game marketing would be to consider the entire 1967 MB catalog, including the duds.



More blushing, to satisfy character minimum


That’s how my siblings and I played it when we were growing up. I wasn’t even aware that there was a plastic game of it you could buy, until I saw Rob’s post about it 5 years ago.


which is precisely the point people are making. That is what was being held up as aspirational.

That is not the criticism. The criticism is that adverts and other materials (dating guides are mentioned) presented very limited and mostly passive roles for women and girls.

You can agree with that criticism or not, please don’t try to rewrite it.

As you say the adverts however you choose to characterise them represent what society in general wanted to present as aspirational at the time.

And yes, no doubt in 2045 the societal consensus will have neatly shifted to be outraged at some aspect of our current lives.

Hopefully it will be disgust at the continuing load of crap we currently continue to pile on women and non-white people while telling them that they are equal (honest) rather than amazement at how lax we were with our wimminfolk but you never can tell.


Perhaps the women are washing dishes because that’s more interesting than playing Battleship.

How many times was calling out “I-1” funny, even to kids? Zero, yet we did it every game. Because it was so dumb.

Other ways to make Battleship more interesting: Stacking ships, secretly moving ships, placing ships on diagonals, and chewing on the pegs.



Say anything, as long as it brushes away revelations about the patriarchy.

I mean, sure, they were just as likely to portray a girl like this on that box, know what I’m sayin?


I was making a joke, not brushing anything away. There are plenty of comments here about the patriarchy, which still stand. I’m sorry if I strayed too far off topic.


Ah, okee dokee.

It gets hard to read sarcasm sometimes amidst actual instances of denial.


You should obviously include a trigger warning.