The Tarot Deck of Heroes and Its Blatant Sexism

[Note: Some images might not be safe for work (depends on how tolerant your work is regarding clothed male buttocks) discretion is advised, trigger warning for sexism (including a metric ton of mansplaining).]

or “How Not to Market to Women”….

My previous post on the Book of Shadows Tarot Vol. 1 “As Above” and the ensuing comments brought this deck to mind (thank you, agathiweaver!). Normally, I don’t like to review things that I haven’t bought/watched/read/consumed (hence why I insisted on buying and reading Fifty Shades of Grey) but in this case, I really don’t want to spend $18 on this deck. I would say I would review it if someone sent me a copy, but I don’t want anyone to waste their money on it either.

You’ll see why in a moment, provided you hit the jump.

The Tarot Deck of Heroes was originally titled “Tarot and the Art of Romance”. Its creator, Richard ShadowFox’s (who also created the eponymous ShadowFox Tarot) intent was to create a deck that would appeal to women. And by “women”, he means straight women, and by “appeal” he means “show lots of beefcake”.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from the author (note: the interview that had this quote in it has mysteriously disappeared, so I salvaged this quote from this AT thread:

I thought it was time for the ever present scantily clad women to step aside and truly make a deck for the ladies. It has been important to me to remain true to the meaning of the card as best that I can, and I feel confident that I did that. Notice that in the Empress her dress matches her chaise, which was purely by design because although you need to know that she is there, I do not want her to become the overall focus of the card. That was the same point of the Knight of Wands. The woman are only there to make the card, not to become the point of emphasis; not in this deck [where barely-clad men are the central focus].

In case you need a visual, here’s the Empress card:

The Empress is the one in green, merged with the couch.

This Empress has the right idea, IMHO. Grapes of Luxury has always been a fantasy of mine.

Erm, I mean, yeah, the entire deck is like this. (The point of the deck was to have at least one beefcake man in every card.) So, to appeal to women, you want to….turn them into background objects? I’m sure women will find that very appealing. Oh wait, I’m a lesbian, I forget sometimes that all heterosexual women need for a deck to be appealing to them is a lot of male ass to ogle.

That means we get lovely cards like this one:

Uh huh….

Who is this scantily clad belly dancer lady and what has she done with the High Priestess? More importantly, why is there a man pawing her? This isn’t the mysterious, unapproachable, font of all spiritual wisdom. This is….I don’t know what this is! (Note: I don’t really have anything against belly dancers, I’d love to learn how to dance like that, but my hips don’t like to move in ways that I want them to move,)

Here are some quotes from the deck creator on the High Priestess:

“[The High Priestess] represents intimate and personal counseling, and would advise you to meditate and find within yourself that which poses the questions of your daily life. She will make you aware that there is something to be learned, but she will not provide the answer for you, she will insist that you find it yourself. What it is to be a woman, judged by sexuality and sometimes at the mercy of the unrelenting demands made by men? She advises you to f*** that and obligate yourself to that which matters most to you, and furthermore your secrets are yours to discover and yours to keep.”

Um, Mr. ShadowFox? The High Priestess in this deck looks pretty sexual to me (at least, what we can see of her) and how is the man in front of her not being aggressive? He’s right in her face! Are we talking about the same deck or did this interview get switched with one for another deck?

“The High Priestess is the second most powerful card in the deck. Second only to the Magician, and that the Magician is a man is an injustice; it to me is an androgynous entity.” 

You know, call me crazy, but this High Priestess doesn’t look very powerful, and why is the Magician the most powerful card in the deck? Why not the Tower or the World? I guess ShadowFox has never seen a tarot where the Magician is female (a bunch, though that last one probably doesn’t count because all the figures in the deck are female or possibly androgynous) and the High Priestess is male (the Gay Tarot being the only example I can think of), the majors don’t represent specific genders, they represent near-universal energies.

Then there are the cards that just don’t make any sense, take the Devil card, for instance:

Why is he leading her down the stairs, and not the other way around? Also, dude, could those cuffs be any looser? Let me guess, it’s time for a throwdown in your Red Room of Pain (TM)? This woman hardly looks like someone who is “chained” to her passions, and is it just me, or does this image look kind of racist? It might be the “lighting” in the card, but yeah, dark-skinned man leading a captive white woman (in a white dress, no less!) down stairs of ominousness, and….no, no, I must be reading too much into this?

More pictures from this deck are here and here (at the top), I haven’t got time to unpack them all, but prepare to see a lot of males facing away from the camera (and apparently wearing spandex).

But what really disturbs me is the apparent intended audience for this deck. I’ll just let the deck creator explain:

[After Janet Boyer asks about the target audience for the deck, since she’s been asked to write the foreword to it.]

You hit the nail right on the head, as it is intended exactly for the next generation of Tarot enthusiasts, young girls. Please, can you tell me a better way to expand the Tarot community into the future and ensure the potential for the survival of that which we have devoted so much of our lives to, other than to push those hormonal buttons within the young women of the 21st century that will ensure the growth of our efforts by discovering something that might have been totally ignored and unexplored? This isn’t your Grandmother’s Tarot deck kind of thinking. As far as superficial thing, that kind of tweaks me a little because every single card is right on the money, and I will put it up against every fairy, vampire, or any other deck on the market, including my mistress Pixie’s deck, and she has been right here with me the entire way making sure I get it right. Less you forget the woman on the Five of Wands.  But don’t profusely apologize if you are inclined to do so, you being a couple of years past your teens you might have missed the point inadvertently. [Note: Richard considered Pamela Colman Smith his spiritual “mistress”, claiming to have a special relationship with her, as well as insight into the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.] 

The note at the end is Janet’s, not mine.

This deck might as well be named “Mansplaining: The Deck” or “Still the Same Sexist, Patronizing Bullshit: The Deck”. Ladies, Richard ShadowFox knows what you want better than you do! It all makes perfect sense! Also, what? Young girls? Maybe it’s just me, but the thought of this deck being marketed to tweens and teens (I’m assuming ShadowFox isn’t talking about young children) seems a tad inappropriate. If anything, I’d expect a deck like this would be marketed to people who devour romance novels with beefcakes like the ones in the cards on the cover (women in their 20s and up, possibly late teens). Then again, maybe I’m the one stereotyping here. I certainly can’t think of anyone who would be willing to tolerate the craptastic CGI I see in the cards.

Also, did I read that right, or did he just compare himself to Pamela Coleman Smith (she’s the ‘S’ in RWS)? Now, many deck creators like to claim that their deck is the Best. Deck. Ever., I prefer to call them idiots with vastly inflated egos. NO DECK will ever appeal to everyone. No, not even the RWS (I don’t like the RWS, I much prefer a clone deck like Barbara Moore’s Steampunk Tarot), anyone who says otherwise is probably not worth your time and money.

The bottom line: If you’re looking to make a deck that’s appealing to women, you could do much better than this sexist tripe.

I think I should do a proper review some of my fluffier decks. They’re still tripe, but at least they aren’t usually as offensive as something like this.

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4 thoughts on “The Tarot Deck of Heroes and Its Blatant Sexism

  1. This one is in the top 5 of my “Worst Decks EVAH” – it’s just UGH on every level. I think the true target market for this one are the same women who consider 50 Shades to be great erotic literature (puked in my mouth a little, typing those words all together like that) ie. the same desperate housewives who watched Twilight in the theatre 4 times. A JB endoresement only rams – pun intended – the point home further 😉

    1. I confess JB has actually sold me on a couple decks (mostly because of the card previews) but I read her latest scathing review of the Ghosts and Spirits Tarot (including the use of a racist term)) and was like “Wow, JB, you must REALLY hate this deck!”

      P.S. I love your blog! 🙂 You’ve sold me on a few decks, too!

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