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Meet the Tel Aviv teen bringing gender equality to playing cards

Here’s a magic trick: Imagine a standard deck of cards. Now visualize the highest value face card.

I don’t need to be David Copperfield to know you’ve pictured a king. But why should that be? After all, queens have been some of the most successful, beloved and longest-serving monarchs. Why are they worth less than their male counterparts?

16-and-a-half-year-old Maayan Segal has a plan to disrupt the world of cards as we know it, making their paper realm a more equitable place. With her project, Queeng — a portmanteau of “King” and “Queen” — she is giving the timeworn suits a makeover. In a Queeng deck, Kings are now “Monarch,” evenly split among male and female rulers in a deck of 52 (you can tell they’re worth the most because they brandish swords). What about the erstwhile Queen cards? They get feudal with Duke or Duchess variations. Jacks? They give the next generation some love in the form of Prince and Princess cards. Harley Quinn can rejoice; there is a female Joker card included in the pack too.

Since launching an IndieGogocampaign three months ago, Segal and her father, Uri Segal, a media CEO have nearly 6,700 backers and smashed their funding goal of $10,000 — at press time their money’s sitting pretty at over $230,000. Their orders exceed 13,000 decks worldwide.

Segal, who just returned home to Tel Aviv from a trip helping farmers in Ashkelon, spoke with me over the phone. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

PJ Grisar: How did you come up with this idea?

Maayan Segal: It was a few years ago, actually. We were on a family vacation and we were playing cards and I asked my dad, “In a modern world like ours, how does it make sense that cards, that are in almost every household, aren’t equal and the King beats the Queen every time?” It just didn’t make sense to me. We were talking about it for a few years, and we didn’t really do anything with it and then a few months ago we really started working on it and it became a real thing.

You’re learning some business skills through this process. What has that been like for you?

I feel very accomplished, first of all, because I feel like I’m doing something I really believe in but also learning skills that I might need to use when I’m a real grownup, in my 30s and 40s really out there in the world working. It’s nice knowing that at this age I can learn skills that can help me in my far future.

A “Monarch” card from the Queeng deck. This guy’s worth just as much as a standard king, and just as much as his female counterparts. Image by Courtesy of Queeng

I heard you are now something of an expert on paper quality. You had to figure out how to commission artwork. What part of the project do you like most?

I learned a lot about advertising on YouTube and on Facebook — obviously that’s something I would need more help with. I sat with my dad and he really taught me how to work with that and how to use it. It’s really interesting and I feel like it’s something that can really help me.

You’re still a ways from thinking about this, but do you think you’d want to maybe pursue a career in marketing?

I don’t know! I feel like I’m a little too young to say. But it’s definitely interesting to see, and maybe one day I’ll look back and I’ll be like, “I really did something here that if I wouldn’t have done I wouldn’t be where I am right now.” I really think that it will affect my future in a positive way.

The female “Monarch” card, worth as much as a regular King. Image by Courtesy of Queeng

You more than met your goal. How did it feel to reach that point?

It’s really exciting to see that people can connect to the concept of gender equality all over the world and know it’s not something that I’m just feeling here in my small home. It’s amazing and it’s nice to see that people are willing to take part in my journey and really spread it all over the world

I know you were originally planning to roll this out last month. I imagine the COVID pandemic has affected that.

We had to [delay shipping] due to the coronavirus, but we’ve overcome this recently. Printing is done so we hope to start shipping in the next two weeks.

People are also looking for ways to pass the time with their families, and cards are a good way to do that. What kind of conversations do you hope the cards might start over a game of Spit or Go Fish?

I don’t want to push the conversation. I want it to come in a more natural way, but I hope that when the cards do arrive kids who are used to playing with certain types of cards ask their parents questions this topic will be talked about more. But my goal is that at some point this won’t even have to be a question ‘cause it will be so obvious for everyone.

The male Joker card in the “Queeng” deck. Image by Courtesy of Queeng

The female Joker in the “Queeng” deck. Image by Courtesy of Queeng

You’re starting something here, but do you hope other companies will start making decks like this?

Yeah. In general I feel that everything in this world should go in that direction. That everything will be more equal.

What’s your favorite card game?

I like Speed.

Do you win a lot?

It depends who I’m playing against!

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at [email protected].

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