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Is chess sexist?

(39 Posts)
tiggy114 Thu 25-Oct-12 17:53:23

My 9yo just surprised me. He was deliberatly trying to wind me up. But he said along the lines of: in chess, the king is themost important piece. If you lose it you die. The queens a girl and it don't matter if you lose her. Therefore boys are more important than girls! I am slowly realising that sexism is so ingrained in society, that even my son is picking it up in a simple game. My eyes are becoming more and more open every day.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Thu 25-Oct-12 17:58:21

I haven't played chess in decades, but imho the queen is a far more impressive piece, able to move wherever she wants, while the king can only move one space at a time.

tiggy114 Thu 25-Oct-12 18:20:53

I daid to him, yeah but the queens the strongest piece and the kings thw weakest! I guess what i'm saying though is how amazed i am the even a 9 yo boy is coming across these references at such a young age. He had interprered a simpke game as the male figure being the best piece. I was really shocked that he said it!

greenhill Thu 25-Oct-12 18:34:42

Surely the point of the game is that every piece has to protect the weak king. But the queen has the most options for moving. Even the bishop and a knight had have more manoeuvrability than the king.

lucyellenmum Thu 25-Oct-12 18:38:10

Now theres a sentence i'd never think i'd hear! You could of course interpret it as the queen is strong and powerful and willing to sacrifice herself for her country/family. The poor old king can't really do very much and has to be looked after and hide behind his minions grin

lucyellenmum Thu 25-Oct-12 18:39:09

So i think the answer is no, chess isn't sexist!

MMMarmite Thu 25-Oct-12 18:52:06

Every pawn wants to grow up to be a queen smile

namechangeguy Thu 25-Oct-12 19:00:24

If he thinks that losing his Queen doesn't matter, then he needs a different chess tutor. It is by far the most powerful and flexible piece on the board.

'I am slowly realising that sexism is so ingrained in society, that even my son is picking it up in a simple game.'

It's all too easy to jump to these conclusions if you take everything at face value though, rather than look into things even a little.

ConsiderCasey Thu 25-Oct-12 19:38:30

Hmmm....not so sure. I mean it's interesting that he took it that way. I mean if it were the opposite way round (king = powerful, queen = fragile) then he could claim it means that boys are better cos more powerful and having to save weedy little girls..... but...

this way he's taken the opposite situation and still reached the conclusion that boys = better.

That's the interesting bit, whichever way the wind blows, people interpret as they want to...

OTOH - you said he was winding you up - so that's a whole other story ......

SamuraiCindy Thu 25-Oct-12 21:06:57

I always saw the Queen as the best piece, which she is, and the King as pretty useless. I think your son must see that too, and just turned it around to have a laugh with you.

Frans1980 Thu 25-Oct-12 21:32:51

But don't forget a king commands his army, and the king tells the queen and the other pieces when and where to move :D

Frans1980 Thu 25-Oct-12 21:43:02

But on a serious note- why do you think chess players are dominantly male? Every chess champion to date has been male and there is currently only 1 female in the top 100 players in the world.

http://phys.org/news150954140.html

It's not like the game requires any physical strength or anything.

FraterculaArctica Thu 25-Oct-12 21:50:18

I think the argument that chess is inherently sexist is pretty ridiculous. The identities of the pieces were set way back in history, and for anyone who plays the game regularly they pretty soon become abstract entities defined by their powers, with no gender identity.

To answer the second question - how many MNers have DSs who play chess at school, or DHs/DPs who did? And how many of their DDs play chess, or how many play chess themselves? I bet most of the DCs who play are DSs. Explain why, and you'll explain why chess players at the highest level are dominantly male.

greenhill Thu 25-Oct-12 23:27:01

I have won every game of chess played against my DH. His much younger DSis was in a chess club as was my DB. Neither me or my DH were in a chess club. My DF used to play against his DB's (no sisters), my DH used to play chess with both of his parents.

Our children are too young to play yet. My DD can join the chess club next year when she is in Y2. I'll be interested to see the gender divide then.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 25-Oct-12 23:31:30

Seems to me that in general (there are of course many exceptions) girls are less into games as a whole - you don't seem to get the same level of computer game obsession. More into real stuff involving real people maybe?

LastMangoInParis Thu 25-Oct-12 23:32:47

Um... he's winding you up, tiggy. He's 9 years old, that's what 9 year olds do.
He knows there's a point to be made, he's making it. And he probably doesn't care how silly it is or whether he really believes it. Or whether you or anyone else does.
I think it's good to argue it out, but from what you say it doesn't sound to me as if he's absorbed dangerous misogynist ideas, it just sounds like he's being a typical 9 y o playing devil's advocate. grin

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 25-Oct-12 23:39:03

I think of the King as Henry VI, bit of a puppet king, and the Queen as Marguerite d'Anjou, his powerful wife who knew a fair bit about battle strategy. She needed to avoid the deposition of the King but she led the quest to do that.

SinisterSal Thu 25-Oct-12 23:41:48

Dunno mango, it's a definite trend of male being default the most important. If you add up all the subtle clues from everywhere around us

I was shocked today to hear my 3 yo playing at doctors 'I'll be the girl doctor'. At our GP practice she would've seen 50/50 male and female doctors, so where is it coming from?

(Not me!)

duchesse Thu 25-Oct-12 23:46:04

The queen is the most powerful piece on the board. The king is pathetic in strength, barely stronger than the pawns. I think that says quite a lot.

Redbindy Thu 25-Oct-12 23:50:14

You have to trap the male to win, but the queen is usually the piece that does the winning. You could conceivably claim that the rooks and pawns are also female.

greenhill Thu 25-Oct-12 23:52:23

sinistersal but she is a girl, that's possibly the only reason she is stressing it ie she is not a boy doctor. They are particularly interested in whether they are girls or boys at this age.

FWIW I bought my DD a medic kit and she always calls herself a doctor, whereas my friend is a nurse and her DD has a nurse's outfit as 'all the best nurses are girls'. See, its a minefield, you can never be right smile

HappyTurquoise Thu 25-Oct-12 23:58:49

Sorry to disappoint you, but the queen piece isn't female. He is the queen's champion, the top knight. ('It's a medieval battlefield, there's not going to be any women on it.' - Mr Turquoise.) There are few excellent female chess players.

SinisterSal Fri 26-Oct-12 00:05:11

oh i know Greenhill but she is never a girl nurse (can you tell this game gets played ^a lot^)
it is a minefield

greenhill Fri 26-Oct-12 00:07:19

For those of you who want to read more, here is a link to Wikipedia. The Queen is referred to as 'she' throughout the article. Apparently the position of Queen only became strong in the 15th Century.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_(chess)

Redbindy Fri 26-Oct-12 00:07:44

The queen isn't female? Fuck me, I learn something new every day.

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