The Easy-Bake Oven of today is hardly the same machine as its bygone version. Gone is its inner lightbulb, its rickety tin pan, and even its iconic ’70s sunshine yellow. Kids these days get to enjoy fancy “safety standards,” and instead of the possibility of burning your fingers, Easy-Bake Ovens now come with the promise of evenly baked treats, delivered from a sleek little oven in either high-gloss pink or dazzling purple.
But 13-year-old McKenna Pope is still indignant about the toy. She insists Hasbro redesign its iconic Easy-Bake Oven once more, but in a gender-neutral version so her six-year-old brother feels comfortable playing with it. McKenna even started an online petition, and in the process, got the public support of Bobby Flay and a host of other big-name chefs who’ve rallied around her cause. This child is not messing around.
On Change.org, McKenna explains that Hasbro is promoting outmoded messages about cultural expectations of boys and girls that are unfair to both sexes. Namely, she objects to the toy’s marketing message that, “Girls cook. Boys 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 Ramsey, etc. Unfortunately, Hasbro has made going against the societal norm that girls are the ones in the kitchen even more difficult.
It's not just the packaging, it's the "pink-tastic princess explosion" in its marketing methods as well.
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And some of the biggest celebrity chefs agree with her. Bobby Flay was the first to throw his support at McKenna’s endeavor, and his PR company subsequently released a video of some of the culinary world’s toniest names also showing their support.
The petition and the enthusiasm behind it have made the endeavor about more than simply cooking; it’s the continuation of a toy trend that’s allowing boys and girls to explore territory previously off-limits to them. Up until McKenna’s effort, the focus of that trend had been on toys that teach crucial science skills to girls, but the same should be happening with toys that open up new avenues of exploration for boys. Eventually, this generation of children could presumably grow up as the nation's first to see subjects like science and baking as pursuits belonging to "people" instead of belonging to a specific gender.
And standing in the spotlight is 13-year-old McKenna, who's already made great strides in changing what she sees as a cultural bias. According to the Associated Press, her mother, Erica Boscio, reports that Hasbro has agreed to meet with the junior high student this Monday.
In the meantime, her petition is almost at its goal of 50,000 signatures. For those about to waive off the importance of a petition, look at it this way: This child got 50,000 people in our country to agree on something. If she's not yet considering activism as a life-long career, she probably should.
Would you encourage your little boys to explore nontraditional pursuits like baking? Let us know what you think in the Comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com