Two weeks ago an eighth grader named McKenna Pope made waves when she created a Change.org petition to convince Hasbro to make a more gender neutral Easy-Bake Oven so that she could buy one for her four-year-old brother, who loves to cook but is a little small to work with a real oven on his own. The Easy-Bake Oven has a long history and has come in a number of colors including green, yellow, and orange over the years, but ever since 1993 the oven has come in shades of purple, pink, and teal and marketing has tended to exclusively feature girls using it.
Well, Pope’s petition got enough notice that Hasbro invited her and her family to its headquarters to look over their prototype for the next Easy-Bake Oven in black, silver, and blue, and say they’re even planning to return boys to the ads and packaging for the toy!
Hasbro has been working on the new color scheme and design for about 18 months, said John Frascotti, Hasbro’s chief marketing officer… “I think that they really met most or even all of what I wanted them to do, and they really amazed me,” McKenna said, adding that her brother thought the new design was “awesome.”
I think it’s easy to look at Hasbro’s move here and see motivations of femmephobia, the idea that the frilly, pink, and classically feminine is inherently bad, and not simply a set of should-be-innocuous characteristics that lose their neutrality when girls are boxed into them and boys are vehemently pushed away from them. But I think there is also tremendous value in, so long as our society has these incredibly rigid ideas of what is “feminine” and “masculine,” creating gender neutral options. After all, Hasbro’s new Easy-Bake Oven isn’t flipping to be marketed expressly to boys. Take a look at the last time they tried that, a decade ago, with the “Queasy Bake Cookerator,” which sets itself distinctly apart from “girl baking” to “gross cooking” just to make sure nobody is confused about what sort of kid should be playing with it.
The ability to cook at a basic level is something that we expect and associate of grown adults regardless of gender, even if it’s only for themselves. Casting it as “women’s work” to children is a harmful stereotype, to girls and boys, and it’s good to see Hasbro’s thinking about it. And, unlike certain companies I can think of, recognizing that their product appeals to more than just the demographic they’ve been pushing it towards.
(via The LA Times.)
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