Courtney Bender explores the criss-crossing lines of gender, power, and spirituality in the controversy surrounding Hasbro’s release of a hot pink ouija board, marketed for young girls, explaining the centuries old link between spiritual mediums, their devices, and gendered spirituality:
Talking boards were born in the late 19th century, when Spiritualists hoped to both speed up the process of dictating messages from spirit mediums as well as democratize the practice. Spiritualism centered around mediums, many of them young women and girls, who had started to receive messages from ghosts in the 1840′s. (The Fox sisters, ages 6 and 8, are generally considered to have been the founding “mediums” of the movement.) Ouija boards have been produced and sold since the 1890′s, quickly crossing over into the realm of “novelty” as the Spiritualist denomination dwindled in size. As a game and an object in popular film and television, the talking board remains a popular device through which Americans continue to pose serious and semi-serious questions.
She goes on to suggest that at the heart of this controversy is not just a fear of demonic power, but a fear of the power afforded to the young girls who might tap into it:
Which brings us to the fact that Hasbro’s pink Ouija board encapsulates and expands the tensions that continue to center on gendered and spiritual power in American culture. All gussied up for its slumber party, the new Ouija board packs a powerful mnemonic punch, reminding us of the Fox sisters, of the possessed girl in “The Exorcist” and the various other images that invest both girls and inanimate objects with serious power. These images reproduce old questions: How can they (spirits or girls) be controlled? Who can control them?
Read the entire story at Trans/Missions.