creativity, my favorite things, politics

Cards Against Patriarchy

I grew up playing Go Fish with The Authors card deck. Adult survivors of a 1970s American childhood will surely remember it: the deck celebrated the white boy canon — Shakespeare, Twain, Hawthorne, Dickens, et cetera et cetera. Oh, and Louisa May Alcott, the lone female. Grrrr. That ugly phallocentric deck taught me all about the relationship between patriarchy and creativity. Hard lessons for a girl who decided in second grade that she would be a writer.

Luckily, those lessons didn’t take. I grew up to be a writer. And a women’s historian. And a feminist, an activist, and all sorts of things that required unlearning all the racist, sexist bullshit the Authors deck represented.

So, imagine my joy when my women’s history prof friend April and her fabulous “the future is female” daughter Rowen introduced me to the Little Feminist playing cards!

I fell in love with this deck over a hand or two of Go Fish, during which Rowen regaled me with stories about each of the women represented in the deck — that lovely, diverse group of creative, brave, pathbreaking women pictured at top. The future is female, for sure.

Rowen’s Little Feminist cards inspired me, and instilled a kind of longing for some Big Feminist cards…. and lo, the Universe delivered — the Our Tarot deck by historian-artist-entrepreneur Sarah Shipman.

So excited was I that I placed my order while the cards were still in the design/pre-production stage, and I waited MONTHS for my deck to be delivered. At one point, Shipman hit a snag and it looked like the deck might not make it out into the world. I got an email apologizing for the delay and offering a refund if I didn’t want to wait. Apparently enough of us wanted to stay the course with her, and she was able to complete the project and deliver the goods. #NeverthelessShePersisted!

And when the cards finally arrived, they did not disappoint. Each card features a gorgeous full color collage and the accompanying guidebook includes biographies of each historical figure that connects their life’s experience to the card’s meaning or invitation within the Tarot tradition. And let me tell you, Shipman’s choices are so very interesting — from the perspective of both women’s history and magical mystery….

From the website: “Each card in Our Tarot is inspired by the traditional meanings of the mystic Tarot and is represented by a woman (or group of women) who has influenced the world. These diverse women come from all eras in history, from 1300 BCE to the late twentieth century, and represent many ethnicities, creeds, socioeconomic classes, sexualities, ages, and abilities. Some of the women honored include Jane Addams, Benazir Bhutto, Lucrezia Borgia, Anne Frank, Frida Kahlo, Beatrix Potter, Florence Nightingale, Nefertari, Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, Marie Curie, Zora Neale Hurston, Sophie Scholl, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Ida B. Wells.”

And those are just the names you might recognize. I have discovered dozens of women whose names and histories I had never heard of before — and I have a master’s degree in women’s history!

I’ve used this deck off and on for a few years now, and in January, I started pulling a card a day for the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration — a sort of magical activism for our collective liberation.

This March, to celebrate Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to share a daily card on Instagram. Here’s the first card — and it’s a doozy!

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