I hate to keep bringing up the saddest story in the world, but xoJane is cheaper than therapy, so here we go. One of the things I remember wanting, before the great Santa Claus lie unraveled before my tiny eyes, was an Easy Bake Oven. Specifically, I wanted one so that I could bake cakes for Kyle, a little boy I had a crush on.
I remember wishing that Santa would bring me one, AND I GOT ONE. I do not know if this was the same Christmas that ended my childhood belief in the magic of Santa Claus, or maybe the one before. But I remember thinking that Santa must be real, because how could my mom have known that that’s what I wanted if I didn’t tell her? (I probably told her. Or told the Santa at the mall.)
Anyway, in my day (*shakes cane*) -- specifically in the early 80s -- the Easy Bake Oven was designed in contemporary kitchen colors of the time: white, brown, orange, and gold. Gender neutral colors! I mean, let’s be real: the Easy Bake Oven has always been marketed to girls. After all, baking is a “girl” activity. But at least the toy itself didn’t scream "GIRL!!!!"
One thing I’ve noticed, especially this year as I’ve been shopping for Christmas gifts for my 6-year-old niece, is that toys are so incredibly gendered these days. Everything for girls is pink. And while I think pink is a lovely color, does it ALL have to be pink?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a boy playing with pink toys (or wearing pink shoes, for that matter), and many boys, up to a certain age, probably don’t care about whether the thing they’re playing with is blue or pink. But after a while, things change.
For Oliver, it was first grade that did it. Suddenly, he did not want to draw with the pink marker anymore. His interest in toys that are specifically marketed to boys (cars, sports stuff, those annoying Bakugan things) increased. And knowing my kid, a big part of that is his innate aggressive energy -- he is the kind of kid who wants to smash things into other things, and so he prefers the same toys that his peers are using to smash into other things. Pretty much anything with “battle” or “extreme” in its name.
But you know, he also likes to help me cook. He would be ALL OVER the Easy Bake Oven, if it wasn’t so clear to him that it is a toy made specifically for girls.
Thirteen-year-old McKenna Pope found the gender-specificity of the Easy Bake Oven to be problematic, after her little brother (who loves to cook) expressed an interest in it. So problematic that she started a Change.org petition to get Hasbro to make both the Easy Bake Oven itself, and its advertising, gender-neutral.
McKenna's petition got so much attention that Hasbro invited her to visit its headquarters and preview its new silver-and-black, gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven, which will be unveiled in February 2013 at the New York Toy Fair. Not only that, but the marketing of the toy will include boys as well as girls.
I contacted Hasbro to find out if the company plans to introduce other colors in the Easy Bake line, and whether it will be introducing other gender-neutral toys, and I got a response that totally did not answer those questions. But hey, this is a start, right?
Somer is on Twitter: @somersherwood.