An “old-fashioned” game, reserved for a certain “elite”…: so many clichés which, for years, have stuck to the cards of the discipline. And the men? Do they really happen to be better than the women? Champions such as Sylvie Willard, Mihaela Balint, Jill Meyers, Marion Michielsen and Sabine Auken have all the trumps in their hands to finally put an end to this stereotype.
Compared to other forms of leisure, “the traditional card game is a category that is fairly well apportioned in terms of genders and ages,” says Vincent Berry, lecturer at Sorbonne Paris Nord University, specializing in the sociology of leisure and games. With a few exceptions, such as poker, you will find more men. According to its latest figures, the French Bridge Federation comprises 1,500,000 bridge players in France, including 91,000 who are members of the Federation. Of the latter, 55% are women.
A story of clichés
More numerous on the bridge market… but not more competent? According to Omar Sharif who said in an INA video in 1978, women were at the time “much worse than men in bridge” because “the bridge player must have a killer mentality” and, according to him, women do not have “the same power of concentration on a game but above all […] they lack aggressiveness.”The Egyptian bridge player and actor would have been astonished to learn that in 2016, during the Yeh Online Bridge World Cup, the European team, including France’s Sylvie Willard and Bénédicte Cronier, had beaten the American team… of which Bill Gates was a member.
More than forty years later, Mathilde Thuillez, twenty-three years young, world U26 champion in pairs in 2017, also demonstrates that these words are firmly a thing of the past: “I am able to play for hours for several days in a row in a Chamionship without seeing the time go by… Conversely, I can lose concentration after fifteen minutes of studying my courses: it’s all a question of passion!” For this young fifth-year medical student, who learned to play at the age of eight, bridge is a family affair since her parents, Pascale and Laurent Thuillez, are both champions themselves.
Embodying a new generation much more open-minded, the young woman confides all the same that bridge remains a very misogynistic environment: “It is always said that women can do several things at the same time! Strangely, in bridge, this becomes a so-called weakness!” Men on the other hand are considered 100% concentrated… although they are privately considered “monotask people”.
These are stereotypes closely linked with tradition: it should be remembered that in the discipline of bridge, there are Women, Seniors, Open and Mixed categories, but none of them is exclusively dedicated to men. This is a well established organization which, ultimately, offers an advantage to men.