Easy Bake Ovens Go Gender-Neutral

A teenage girl in New Jersey named Mckenna Pope created and won a campaign to gender neutralize the Easy-Bake Oven. The typically pink and purple colored oven, which originated in the 1960s, will now also be manufactured in black, blue, and silver shades.

The petition was inspired by Pope’s 4-year-old brother, Gavyn, who when attempting to cook a tortilla was embarrassed to use an appliance sold only to girls. Pope’s petition included the fact that boys are not featured on the packaging or in promotions for the materials. Several past models of the Easy-Bake Oven that Hasbro has produced in previous years include a “male version” depicting a boy creating recipes such as Bugs ‘n’ Worms Mix. Pope argued that this model stereotyped boys.

The petition gained the attention of famous male top chefs as well as 45,000 signatures. Hasbro confirmed that a new gender-neutral oven is in the process of being produced in non gender-specific hues and will go on sale fall 2013. This issue highlights the common behavior of toy companies manufacturing products geared towards specific genders without consideration of the opposite gender as possible customers.

Hasbro’s Easy-Bake Oven product portrays the common stereotype—and possibly misogynistic view—that only the female gender cooks. Eighth grader Pope observed, “Boys are not featured in packaging or promotional materials.” The situation highlights the consequence of a typical gender stereotype. “The oven comes in gender-specific hues: purple and pink. I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work,” Pope added in defense of her younger culinary-curious brother. Joshua Whigham, a male chef in Los Angeles, sympathized with Pope’s brother, admitting, “I can understand not wanting to cook on a pink oven.”

Recently there have been many campaigns similar to Pope’s for gender-neutral toys. A major Swedish toy maker makes a point of “…busting stereotypes, showing boys playing with dolls and girls toting toy guns.” Several other online campaigns exist that call on toy stores to display toys by theme rather than gender. Researchers state that designating products specifically for boys or girls creates problems that can last into adulthood. These differences perpetuate the disparities still seen in the job market. This explains how young girls and boys have career misperceptions as a consequence of stereotypes promoted through toy companies. Hasbro historically promoted their Easy-Bake Oven product specifically to females, resulting in a modern movement to break the common stereotype that males don’t cook. “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,” said Pope.

After inspiring more than 40,000 signatures on her online petition at Change.org, Pope and her family met with Hasbro employees at the company’s headquarters in Rhode Island. There, they were told of the company’s plans to gender-neutralize the oven: silver and black Easy-Bake Ovens featuring both boys and girls in the marketing and packaging will be sold alongside the current purple version of the toy.

The new version will debut at the New York Toy Fair in February.

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