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Winning Gender Equality: How Our Childhood Toys Play a Huge Role

One big sister took on the toy industry to fight for gender equality, because her brother Gavin was embarrassed to play with an Easy-Bake Oven.

Four-year-old Gavin loved cooking, and honestly I think that’s why this talk resonated with me so much. I can not wait until my baby boy is big enough to cook with me. We already have a Learning Tower at the ready, so that when he’s standing more stably he can tear up pieces of kale for supper or help me pour ingredients for the breakfast muffins that I make him. I’m a big believer in getting kids into the kitchen, and until hearing this talk by 14-year-old McKenna Pope, I hadn’t really considered how that could play into gender roles later on.

Related Reading: 5 Kids Who Are Changing the World

As McKenna describes in her five minute talk above, Gavin was discouraged from cooking by how Hasbro marketed this toy. It was pink and purple and covered in flowers and swirly fonts. The box had only girls on it. McKenna hated seeing her brother backing away from his love of cooking just because the Easy Bake Oven was targeting only girls.

She started a Change.org petition asking Hasbro for gender equality in the Easy-Bake Oven marketing campaign. Here’s the video that went with her petition:

Her petition got over 45,000 signatures, and Hasbro started producing a black and silver version of the Easy Bake Oven. In addition to her victory for aspiring male cooks everywhere, McKenna discovered her inner activist, despite some pretty nasty backlash from Internet commenters.

It might seem silly to get offended by a pink and purple toy oven only featuring girls on the box, but as a new mom I can definitely relate to the way toy companies segment their marketing between boys and girls. They Easy Bake Oven wasn’t really on my radar, but I’ve definitely noticed that baby toys are divided by gender.

My son is encouraged to play with cards, trucks, and tractors, and his female friends are the ones with baby dolls and toy houses. Choosing a toy that crosses those gender barriers raises eyebrows sometimes, and it’s frustrating to think that my kid might shy away from something he loves because society thinks it’s for girls.

Gender Equality, Feminism, and the Easy Bake Oven

The gender-specific marketing isn’t limited to toys, of course, but how kids play is such a big part of shaping how they interact with the world later on. If there were more gender equality in our toys, could we raise a generation more open to gender equality in the home and the work place?

Feminism might seem like something that’s outlived its usefulness, right? Women are not expected to be housewives anymore. We’ve definitely come a long way, baby, but we also have a long way to go. There is still a huge wage gap between men and women, and women who are career-oriented don’t tend to advance as high as men in certain fields. What if we could start to change that just by changing the toys that we give our children?

I’d love to hear from other parents out there! Do your boys play with baby dolls and Easy Bake Ovens? Do your girls have toy dump trucks and Legos? I’d love to hear how you’re handling the issue of gender equality when it comes to the toy chest!

[Image Credits: Frosting on the Beater photo via Thinkstock, Easy Bake Oven photo by mia3mom on Flickr]

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!

104 comments

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3:16AM PST on Feb 18, 2014

Just let kids be kids!

7:56AM PST on Feb 12, 2014

Yes, my girls have Legos, just like I had Legos growing up. Except, back when I was a kid, Legos weren't marketed to one gender in particular; they were toys that one used to create toys of your choice, would it be trains, houses, planes, or really high towers (my passion, as a kid). I was appalled when Lego company got the "Friends" line out, marketed toward girls. That less creative line was a huge step backward. My girls didn't need pink bricks to encourage them to be creative!!! The only things they really needed are little people figures that looked like girls: my five-year old was thrilled when she got an Adventure in Wilderness Lego set featuring a girl figurine, with a blouse and pony tail (Creator line). She liked to be able to identify herself with the figure more easily.
I guess that's what the little boy who likes to bake with the Easy Bake also wanted: to be able to identify himself more readily with the settings of his activity.

2:28AM PST on Feb 12, 2014

What about a toy anteater?

2:13AM PST on Feb 12, 2014

Dale is right.

12:51AM PST on Feb 12, 2014

Love that he got his easy bake oven! Way to go!

8:44PM PST on Feb 11, 2014

Very true Mary D, diversity and sharing in various roles instead of boys can only do this or girls should only do that is stereotypical in this day and age.

9:39AM PST on Feb 11, 2014

ty

5:05PM PST on Feb 10, 2014

ty

6:26AM PST on Feb 10, 2014

Thanks for the article.

3:18AM PST on Feb 10, 2014

good article! ty! great comments

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