When’s the last time you played a card game? Did you notice anything unusual with your card deck? Indy Mellink, from the Netherlands, certainly thought that something was strange. Last summer, the 23-year-old card fan realized that traditional playing cards were, in her opinion, sexist and racist, so she created a new deck of cards that would be fully inclusive by completely removing “gender hierarchy and race differences” altogether.

Indy, spurred on by her supportive dad, founded ‘GSB Playing Cards’ where, instead of Kings, Queens, and Jacks, the cards feature Gold, Silver, and Bronze. She had a lot of time on her hands because of the Covid-19 lockdown, so she put her graphic design skills to use.

“I would really like to stress that I do not wish to polarize people and take away something. I was raised by my mom to always consider my choices and look for alternatives outside of the box. That is why I wanted to design something more inclusive for those who think like me and want that and offer more choice!” Indy told Bored Panda.

The creator of the gender-neutral deck said that she completely agrees that there are better ways to fight inequality than focusing on playing cards. “There are bigger problems and better ways to tackle this demon, and we should focus on those. I just happened to stumble on this subtle inequality problem and happened to think of a solution as well and decided to spread it to those who want it. I do not identify myself as a strong activist and try to tackle sexism and racism with my simple cards, I just wanted to provide an alternative, a small solution to a small problem.” Scroll down for our full in-depth and candid interview with the creator about her goals and the criticism that she’s received so far.

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Indy Mellink, from the Netherlands, believes that traditional playing card decks are sexist and racist, so she came up with an alternative

Image credits: Indyozie

Indy told Bored Panda that everything started back in June, 2020. “We experienced another hard lockdown in the Netherlands so I had extra time on my hands. I always enjoy playing card games with my friends and family every summer so I was brainstorming a cardgame myself and as I was going through the standard explanation in my head I suddenly said, ‘Yeah, okay standard hierarchy, King above Queen above Jack.’ And then suddenly something clicked in my head like, woah, wait a minute why is the King worth more and the Queen worth more than the Jack?”

The 23-year-old created a gender and race-neutral card deck and founded GSB Playing Cards in October, 2020

Image credits: Indyozie

According to her, that moment of introspection started up a discussion with her parents who suggested that she should create an alternative. “To keep it more inclusive for everyone and not have such strong inequalities. And that is when my dad said, ‘Why not make one yourself?’ That is when my creative juices started flowing.”

Instead of Kings, Queens, and Jacks, the deck features Gold bars, Silver coins, and Bronze shield icons

Image credits: Indyozie

Bored Panda was interested to find out how Indy went about designing the new deck. She said that the first step was thinking up a brand new hierarchy that didn’t involve Kings, Queens, and Jacks. “Then I also noticed that all the cards are white royalty, which is also an inequality, not including any people of color. So I decided to step away from people in general. So I came up with Gold, Silver, Bronze, a hierarchy everybody is already familiar with due to sports.”

Here’s a closer look at the new card designs that Indy crafted

Image credits: gsbplayingcards

She continued: “Then I started designing on the computer and ordered just 4 packs for myself to play with. My friends and family loved them so much they also wanted a pair so I ordered a new shipment of about 50 just to sell to them but it started spreading immensely, so I ordered a batch of 500 and then the rest started snowballing from there.”

All of the other cards remain unchanged

Image credits: Indyozie

Indy was very open about the fact that her project has received a lot of negative comments. “The truth is, I have nothing but understanding and empathy for these people. They get the notion that they are being blamed and that something is being taken from them, so of course you will lash out then. Next to that, people do not understand the effect of subtle inequalities on people’s lives as they reply with ‘we are going too far, it’s just a game’ or ‘I never thought about and no one did so why does it matter?’ I’d like to show them studies and case examples of how subtle inequalities do affect people and that is why I designed this alternative for those who do not wish to play with the traditional cards.”

She believes the new icons are a better alternative and are more inclusive

Image credits: gsbplayingcards

So far, Indy plans to start up new projects to tackle inequalities using the profit made from selling her deck. “Maybe new games, or workshops, or look into working together with charities. All cards are still on the table and I am still working it out,” she said, adding that so far, the details are still too blurry to be specific.

“Even subtle inequalities like this do play a big role.”

Image credits: gsbplayingcards

Now, she aims to spread equality by changing how people perceive gender and race hierarchies in playing cards

Image credits: Indyozie

“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.’”

Image credits: Indyozie

She wants everyone to feel comfortable using cards, no matter what their gender, race, or background

Image credits: Indyozie

The orders are exceeding everyone’s expectations and Indy can barely keep up with the demand

Image credits: gsbplayingcards

The Dutch woman has already sent out around 1.5k decks to customers in Europe and the US

Image credits: Indyozie

Check out Indy’s full promo video right here

Image credits: Indyozie

“Why should the King have a higher position than the Queen? Why should the King, Queen, and Jack be white? However, rather than complicating the sex and race inequality debate even more, we decided to remove the gender and race factor as a whole and to introduce a common, universally known ranking system. All the other cards in the deck are the same as usual. This card pack was designed with the passion to fight for equality in gender as well as race. Our goal is for everyone to feel comfortable while playing cards,” Indy writes on the GSB website about her mission. Her project received both support and criticism.

“I was looking for something new; something easy that everyone already knows. Finally, I had a Eureka-moment: gold, silver, and bronze! Everyone already knows those three from sports like the Olympics medals,” she told Cardplayer Lifestyle.

Indy graduated from Erasmus University College in 2018 with a degree in forensic psychology. It was only in the summer of 2020, as she was explaining a card game to her cousins that she started thinking about how regular playing cards could do with an overhaul and a fresh new perspective that would be “neutral” so that everybody would feel “comfortable.” So in October, she launched her playing card site.

For the Dutch woman, equality is a core part of her character: she aims to spread equality as far and wide as she can in the world. Currently, her main way of doing this is through her own brand of playing cards. Or, in her own words, “Play for equality. Game on!”

Indy has already sent out around 1.5k card packs to customers in Belgium, Germany, France, as well as the US. Berit van Dobbenburgh, head of the Dutch Bridge Association, told Reuters that while it’s good to “reflect on gender neutrality,” making a formal switch would be difficult because it would require updating the rules.

The project wasn’t without its critics, though. Among them were well-known personalities like Piers Morgan who expressed his disbelief (though, ironically, the Daily Mail did a proper feature on the GSB cards, too) while the social commentary YouTube channel The Quartering that has 1 million subscribers also wondered why it was necessary to alter the deck.

However, Indy takes the criticism in stride. In her opinion, the fact that people are reacting to her project shows that the issue isn’t small at all. She also feels motivated by all of the attention and thinks that she’s onto something important. Among focusing on her equality deck, Indy is currently pursuing a Ph.D.

Here’s how people reacted to Indy’s project: some people thought her idea was brilliant while others believe that it was a step too far

What do you think of Indy’s project, dear Pandas? Do you think it’s high time to get rid of Kings, Queens, and Jacks from our decks? Would opting for Gold, Silver, and Bronze be the way to go? Do you think that this is the best way to spread equality? Share your thoughts in the comment section.