Family Matters

One Girl’s Quest to Make the Easy-Bake Oven More Boy-Friendly

Cooking isn't just for girls, so culinary-inspired toys shouldn't be either, says McKenna Pope

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Fototrove / Tom Gautier Photography / Getty Images

Pink and purple are not 4-year-old Gavyn Boscio’s favorite colors. But cooking is, and he really, really wants an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas.

Easy-Bake Ovens, however, come in nothing but pink and light purple, as his parents and his 13-year-old sister, McKenna Pope, found out when they went shopping for one last week near their home in Garfield, N.J. Not only did they not find any Easy-Bake Ovens in any primary colors, but the products were displayed in boxes with smiling girls on the packaging. No boys. Not even one.

McKenna, who is in eighth grade, was outraged. Her mother, Erica Boscio, recalls her saying the packaging of the mini-ovens was “detrimental to society.”

“She really talks like that,” says Boscio.

You might think that in the enlightened, gender-neutral era in which we live — where boys are encouraged to cry and girls hurtle into space — that boys would be included in advertising for a toy oven. Males, after all, still outnumber women as professional chefs in restaurant kitchens. “This perpetuates that whole situation where girls cook and boys don’t,” says McKenna, who thoroughly researched the oven’s apparent antipathy to boys by watching every ad she could find online (all girls as far as she could tell) and perusing Hasbro’s Easy-Bake FAQs, which describe the product as a “fashionable fun food brand that inspires tween girls to bake, share and show their creativity.”

Tween girls? “That put her over the top,” says Boscio. “She said, Mom, I have to do something about this. I’m going to film a video.”

(MORE: Why Are Parents Less Likely to Take Little Girls Outside to Play?)

On Wednesday, she uploaded to YouTube the short clip featuring young Gavyn unfortunately buying into traditional gender stereotypes and slapped a petition on Change.org. She’s not a newcomer to the site; earlier this year, McKenna got her introduction to how social-media can trigger change when she added her signature to a petition about Trayvon Martin. In her Easy-Bake statement, she provided evidence for her brother’s zest for the culinary arts by describing a recent episode in which he’d heated up tortillas using the light bulb in his lamp.”

Obviously, this is not a very safe way for him to be a chef, so when he asked Santa for his very own Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven, produced by the Hasbro company, for me to help him be the cook he’s always wanted to be, my parents and I were immediately convinced it was the truly perfect present.

However, we soon found it quite appalling that boys are not featured in packaging or promotional materials for Easy Bake Ovens — this toy my brother’s always dreamed about.

…I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work.

…I want my brother to know that it’s not “wrong” for him to want to be a chef, that it’s okay to go against what society believes to be appropriate. There are, as a matter of fact, a multitude of very talented and successful male culinary geniuses, i.e. Emeril, Gordon Ramsay, etc. Unfortunately, Hasbro has made going against the societal norm that girls are the ones in the kitchen even more difficult.

McKenna wants Hasbro to include boys in its promotional materials and offer the Easy Bake in primary colors. Hasbro did not have an official reaction as of Sunday.

(MORE: Kids Who Don’t Gender Conform Are at Higher Risk of Abuse)

It turns out that gender equality in toys is not such a radical idea. If she lived in Sweden, for example, she could consider it done. The country’s Top-Toy Group, affiliated with Toys “R” Us, has turned a gender-blind eye toward the holiday season, publishing a toy catalog that shows girls with (toy) guns and boys blowdrying hair and cozying up with dolls. And last year in England, British toy store Hamley’s discontinued its practice of grouping “girl” toys on pink floors and “boy” playthings on blue floors.

Sweden’s gender-neutral approach comes after an advertising watchdog criticized Top-Toy for pigeonholing children, with its traditional ads that featured boys wielding guns and girls playing house. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The Swedish government has been on the front line of efforts to engineer equality between men and women, with generous paternity benefits and plans to spend the equivalent of some $340 million through 2014 on boosting gender equality in the workplace.

…State-funded child care structures put in place after World War II have enabled women to return to work after having children, and four different government entities are devoted to the issue.

The U.S. is a long way from devoting those kinds of resources to ensuring equity between the sexes. But if McKenna keeps pushing, she just might encourage a major American toy manufacturer to — as she says in her petition — “help the children of today become what they’re destined to be tomorrow,” hopefully paying no attention to outdated gender stereotypes.

(MORE: Boy or Girl? Why Dads Want Sons, but Moms Want Daughters)

9 comments
PadenWicks
PadenWicks

You are right Hasbro should make a boys easy bake oven. I think it is a great idea. i have always wanted an Easy Bake oven but my friends said its to girly so having a male Easy Bake oven would be great.

FaustoFernós
FaustoFernós

@NikkiR It's important to allow children to explore their interests without having the stigma that the toys they want to play with are "innapropriate." That's why the response to this pettition has been so strong. People have a innate sense of equality and when they see something so obvious like this, they react to it.  

Some toys are marketed successfully towards all kids, like Play-Doh. I see this iconic toy the same way. I was one of those boys who didn't want to play with trucks or guns, but loved all things about cooking and the kitchen. I would have been crushed had I not had the joy to play with an Easy Bake Oven with my brothers and sisters when i was a kid. 

Packaging and marketing have impacts, and Hasbro has made a mistake here in limiting their toy to just girls these days. It wasn't always like that.  

For a long time, Hasbro marketed the Easy Bake Oven to all children, regardless of their gender identity. This girly version is just a recent thing, which I have no doubt will be quickly discarded and go back to the yellow version of the toy I fondly remember playing with as a kid. 

What kid doesn't like cakes and cookies? 

NikkiR
NikkiR

So it isn't ok for a toy to be a "gril's toy" but it is ok for a color to be a "girl's color"? What is wrong with this picture? I applaud the girl for being so considerate of her brother and being so determined as well as fighting for a change that she believes in. However, her views I do not agree with. I am all for women being treated equally, but the whole "gender neutral" stuff does not need to be forced onto everything in our world. Man and Women are different, not better than one another, but different non the less. It's natural. There is a difference between gender equality and gender neutrality. And though I do not like to stereotype anybody or anything, some things just are. Of course I wouldn't say that a boy or a man cannot cook, but I would definitely say that typically more girls or women do cook or want to cook. Who care's if there is only a girl on the packaging? That doesn't mean anything. It's just called marketing. Easy Bake Ovens are appealing to Girls, occasionally Boys. FACT. I'm not saying anyone should force boys to play with guns and girls to play with dolls, but that's natural. If they choose otherwise, that's fine. But do we really want society to start sending the message that boys should be curling up with dolls and playing with the makeup? And vise versa. This is why we have so many confused now a days. If everything is the same, everything is equal, and everything just blends together, how do we learn who we really are?Plus, is it really a bad thing to encourage boys to grow up to be a tough guy? Think about Ladies, when you think of the kind of guy you want to sweep you off your feet, be by your side through good and bad, or start a family with, what kind of guy do think of?  Strong. Tough. Protector. Soldier. Gentleman. Any of these?

volauvent
volauvent

Okay, that does it.  I've found my reason to live to 100: I'm voting for McKenna Boscio for President, even if she says she's not running.

LynnP
LynnP

Last year my three year old wanted cars so she got a ton of cars for Christmas and her fourth birthday party was trains. she also into bugs and snakes she got at least 3 stuff snakes and at least100 or more small spiders, snakes and other bugs as well. yeah she is a girl but so what they express their self by playing what they like and this year she just wants girl toys but that is her decision on what she wants.

mmurraymd
mmurraymd like.author.displayName 1 Like

We had an Easy Bake oven when we were all kids.  4 boys and 1 girl in my family.  I don't remember anyone caring about the color of if there were only girls on the box or the ads.  Why would anyone?  Seems like we bought product for what we could do with not because of the advertising.  Were we that unique?

georgiasparkles
georgiasparkles like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

What outrages me here is that by trying to bring about "gender neutral colours" this little girl is perpetuating the cycle of pink being a GIRL ONLY colour. Pink is for everybody. If she wants gender neutral, she should also be fighting for pink, like I do. 

commentonitall
commentonitall

@georgiasparkles 

Exactly and well said.  People become so offended that THEIR views are not adopted by the world so they set out to constrict everyone to only think like they do, which is exactly why they made a stink in the first place.  It is so hypocritical.

repeet95060
repeet95060

AND Toys R Us is divided entirely into Boys section and Girls section. One side is all blacks, browns, reds and camouflage. The other pink and purple. I have an 11 year old girl who is really into remote control vehicles but she must venture into the boy section to find the toys she wants.

This is a marketing change that would be beneficial, most likely. By freeing kids to go for the toys they like rather than the toys that are prescribed by their gender kids would probably buy more toys. It makes sense because they would have a broader selection of toys to choose from.