Stereotyping and Fats Against Humanity Cards

Flying Rhino Argyle
It’s Me! As drawn by the fabulous!

This is a story of using a problematic framework to do kick-ass activism.  There is a popular card game called Cards Against Humanity. The description from its own website is:

Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people. Unlike most of the party games you’ve played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.

The game is simple. Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card.

It can be funny, it can also be really uncomfortable as some of the cards invite “jokes” that can be racist, misogynist, and transphobic for starters. The brilliant Stacy Bias recently created an expansion pack that I’ll tell you about in just a minute.

First I’ll tell you that one of the things I love about the expansion pack is that it doesn’t back down or apologize for the stereotypes that fat people face. That’s something that can sometimes make even fat activists uncomfortable, and I think it’s important to talk about.

One way to deal with stereotypes is to challenge them by pointing out that they don’t apply to all members of a community. While it can be an effective way to change people’s minds, it can also be oppressive to those members of a group who happen to embody the stereotype. So with this type of activism I think it’s important to take care to be clear that the problem is stereotyping people – not that some people in any group are likely to embodying the stereotype that never should have happened.

Another way to deal with stereotypes is to refuse to be embarrassed by them or to care at all – to avoid talking about ourselves in ways that try to make us seem better than “those other fatties.” I think that Stacy’s Rad Fatty Merit Badges were a great example of this with badges like “Broke chair don’t care” and “Concern trolled didn’t fold,” and her Fats Against Humanity Expansion Pack is another.

According to Stacy:

I played Cards Against Humanity the other day with some friends and — whew. If y’all have played it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, well — let’s just say it makes your inner feminist killjoy REEEEEAAAALLLY uncomfortable. So I thought I’d whip up a little expansion pack to throw into the game for some momentary relief.

You can download the whole set for free here!

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13 thoughts on “Stereotyping and Fats Against Humanity Cards

  1. “Cards Against Humanity” is something of the politically-incorrect-voted-most-likely-to-offend-everyone answer to the game, “Apples to Apples.” My kids have played Cards Against Humanity, but I’ve only played the tamer Apples to Apples. It’s a fun card game that is both very easy to learn, and can be played for as much or as little time as desired.

    Anyway. The trouble with stereotypes is that, if you look, you will find people within the demographic that fit the stereotype. For those that love to employ stereotypes, this becomes justification for lumping everyone within that demographic under the stereotype. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking racial stereotypes, gender stereotypes, ethnic, age, sexual orientation, religious, height, weight, IQ, hair color, marital status, whatever. Stereotypes are a means by which a person can avoid dealing with people as individuals and simply dismiss them all as a group. Regardless of what anyone might like to say, they are a form of bigotry, prejudging a person based on some superficial trait rather than on who the person really is.

    What the people employing the stereotypes have to overlook is the inverse. If you look, you will find plenty of examples of people within the demographic that do NOT fit the stereotype. Since those anti-stereotypes do not fit into the bigots’ worldview, however, they will be summarily ignored and dismissed.

    1. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  2. On that link about the transphobic card, Temkin backpeddles. He says that criticizing the power structures has more cultural power (and is actually satirical, as satire challenges the status quo) and yet, aren’t many of these cards supposedly racist and sexist? (I’ve never played this game and probably never will.)

    1. In essence, it’s a card game where you try to come up with the funniest/darkest/most depraved/insane/offensive/bizarre – and occasionally bitingly realistic – answer to a fairly innocuous question/statement. If you play it and laugh yet cringe at the results (i.e. have a functioning moral compass), you’re probably a reasonably well-adjusted person, albeit with a twisted sense of humour. Like you say, it’s satire. Answering questions with deathly seriousness where you stand by offensive ideas (instead of, y’know, making fun of them because they are horrifying ideas) then you’re a horrible person most like. That’s kind of how it works.

      I find some cards a bit too crude to be funny, but I do love the game. Then again I do have a very dark sense of humour, as do the friends I’ve played it with. 🙂

      1. I see what you’re saying. I’ve seen TV/movies making fun of stereotypes that were extremely funny, but I do wonder whether people actually use this game that way, or if it functions that way (the examples I’ve seen just struck me as sexist, stupid, and totally unoriginal). Personally, if it makes me laugh it has succeeded in making fun of stereotypes, but if it makes me cringe, then it’s probably just reinforcing them.

        1. It probably depends on who you’re playing with as well. Play with the wrong crowd and it can probably get really awkward. The people I’ve played with are a good bunch. But then our roleplaying sessions can seem really horrible to outsiders too, but we tend to play with stereotypes a lot, poking fun at prejudices.

          1. Unfortunately, I saw several examples from commenters online that were racist and unfunny, and I wonder if any of those people actually belong to those marginalized groups or are white people just trying to be ‘edgy’. But I’m sure it can be done in a clever way. It definitely depends on who is playing!

  3. I feel about this game the same way I feel about “Truth or Dare.” It’s dangerous. Sure, it CAN be a lot of fun, when played by people with the proper attitude, without malice and with a good sense of empathy. However, too often, it’s played by people who view it as an excuse to unleash their darker side.

    Some the questions in Truth or Dare are obviously designed by the player to be hurtful, either to cause pain to the person asked the question, or knowing that the answer would be painful to someone else in the audience. Likewise with the dares.

    Most of the time, the game starts out well enough, but after a few rounds, somebody always seems to think it’s going to be really fun to get really hurtful, and then make fun of the hurt parties by saying, “Can’t you take a joke? You have no sense of humor! Lighten up!”

    And if the truths don’t get them, the dares do. They start out silly, and then become more and more dangerous and/or designed to hurt, emotionally or even physically. I’ve seen some heinous dares in my youth.

    Meanwhile, anyone who tries to keep the game safe and unhurtful is accused of being a boring old kill-joy. I’ll admit, I was on occasion the party-pooper who went and alerted the parents at the slumber party that maybe they should suggest some alternate form of entertainment for us kids.
    *** Off topic, but true – kids get conflicting messages: 1) Nobody likes a tattle tale, and 2) You witnessed WHAT?! Why didn’t you tell an adult?! What a pain. And then we wonder why kids, who are still learning how to read and do long-division, are confused about how to behave in dangerous social situations, such as bullying.

    I swore off “Truth or Dare” about 15 years ago, and have never tried Cards Against Humanity for the same reason. I could probably have a blast with it, if I played it with my own siblings, because I know my own siblings share my ideals of not purposely hurting other people. So, our games would be warped and twisted, yet safe. But I wouldn’t dare to play it with anyone else.

    I have a similar issue with the game “Full Disclosure.” I’m all for honesty, but I don’t think that we have to tell everyone EVERYTHING about ourselves. It’s perfectly OK to keep some things to ourselves. Keeping your innermost thoughts inner is not dishonest. It’s tactful.

    Yeah, I have baggage and trust issues, and I’m a boring old kill-joy. Yet, I have a lot of fun with friends, who trust me.

    TL;DR: I see the creator’s point with the game, and if you have the right group (like my lovely, safe siblings) it would be a fun example of dark humor, and maybe even educational. But most of the time, in a party setting, there’s always at least one person who uses it as an excuse to turn hurtful and hateful, and downright dangerous, and so I don’t play that kind of game. IMO, it’s a magnet for bullies.

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