THEY are a centuries old creation that in contemporary form are instantly recognisable for their multiple kings and queens, but one Dutch woman believes traditional playing cards to be sexist and has made her own gender neutral packs.



Indy Mellink, a 23-year-old Dutch forensic psychology graduate, said she has long believed decks of cards promote sexual inequality by ranking the king above the queen. She said: “If we have this hierarchy that the king is worth more than the queen, then this subtle inequality influences people in their daily life because it's just another way of saying, ‘Hey, you're less important.’ Even subtle inequalities like this do play a big role.”


Now she has created her own cards?

Ms Mellink set about designing what she describes as a “gender neutral deck”, replacing the images of a king, queen and jack so recognised around the world with gold bars, silver coins and bronze shields. Her family and friends purchased the first 50 packs of GSB (Gold, Silver, Bronze) cards and the entrepreneur has now started selling them online.


Playing cards are historic?

China lays claim to inventing them during the Tang dynasty, around the 9th century AD, although the exact origins are unknown for sure. Cards began to appear in Europe in the late 1300s and early 1400s, with the suits in the 14th century European decks known to be coins, cups, swords and clubs.


The kings, queens and jacks are historic too, though?

Cards from the late 14th century decks in Italy included a mounted king, a seated and crowned queen and a knave - a royal servant, later renamed a jack to avoid any confusion with the king. Meanwhile, Spanish cards initially had only kings, knights and knaves and in Germany, queen face cards were divided into kings, upper men and lower men.


Famous names?

British and French decks of the 1500s are said to have often depicted kings as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, King David and Charlemagne to represent the four great empires of Greece, Rome, the Jews and the Franks. The queen cards sometimes included the goddess Athena and Rachel, the wife of the biblical Jacob, amongst others. However, veteran BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame told the howstuffworks website: “Historically, the artwork for court cards never had any official standardisation and was not based on real people. Originally, court cards simply reflected some of the clothing and accessories commonly seen in the royal courts in Europe.”



Through the centuries, jacks have represented knights, military heroes and mythological characters. As an example, two of the designated jacks from the 16th-century French decks were Lancelot, from King Arthur's court and Hector, famed mythological hero of Troy.


Will gender neutral cards take on?

Head of the Dutch Bridge Association, Berit van Dobbenburgh, gave them a whirl. She said: “It is good that we reflect on gender neutrality, pointing out that it would be complicated to make a formal switch because that would require updating the rules. She added: ”I wonder if it's worth it. But gender neutrality, I am all for it! It's great that someone of this age has noticed this. It's the new generation."