Four-year-old Gavin Pope of Garfield, New Jersey, loves to cook. But when his family decided to buy him an Easy-Bake Oven, they found that the colour and packaging made it look like a “girls only” toy.
The Easy-Bake Oven and its box are purple. The packaging and advertising show only girls baking with it.
So McKenna Pope, Gavin’s 13-year-old sister, started an Internet campaign for a gender-neutral oven. (Gender-neutral means that something is not meant specifically for girls or boys, but can be used by both.)
McKenna posted a video on YouTube and started an online petition on a website called Change.org. In them, she asked Hasbro – the company that makes Easy-Bake Ovens – to include pictures of boys on the packaging and to make the ovens in other colours.
McKenna said the packaging sends kids the message: “Women cook, men work.”
More than 54,000 people signed the petition, including Bobby Flay, a TV chef. Flay said he had an Easy-Bake Oven when he was a boy.
Hasbro executives met with McKenna and told her they planned to introduce a black, silver and blue oven next fall.
Hasbro’s new design was being developed before McKenna started her petition, but her campaign helped draw attention to the question of whether there are – or should be – different toys for girls and boys.
For example, construction toys like Lego or Mega Bloks have traditionally been considered “boys’ toys.” But more parents are now buying these toys for their daughters too. About 20 per cent of construction sets are now bought for girls.
Research shows that playing with building toys, blocks and puzzles helps children develop “spatial” skills. That means it improves their ability to think about three-dimensional objects, how they fit together, or what they might look like from a different angle. These skills are useful for jobs in engineering, science and technology.
Many parents want to encourage their daughters to play with toys that will help develop their math and science skills, so toy makers have introduced construction sets specially designed to appeal to girls.
Lego now makes a line of building sets called “Friends.” The sets include a fashion studio and a beauty shop. They come in purple boxes and contain pastel-coloured blocks and female dolls.
Mega Bloks makes construction sets that come in a pink tub and contain mostly pink and purple blocks, a girl figure, and flowers. They also make “Build ’n Style” sets that include mini-Barbie dolls and let girls build a mostly pink mansion or beach house.
Some people complain that these sets still assume that girls are only interested in things like shopping, baking and beauty salons. They would like to see more girl figures included in all building sets, and sets for girls with more adventurous themes.
However, the toy makers say that if the building sets are “girly,” girls are more likely to play with them.
McKenna Pope’s petition to Hasbro
By Kathleen Tilly
Why do you think specific colours are associated with certain genders? For example, pink and purple are thought to be ‘girly’ colours. What do you think about this?
What do you think about toy companies changing the colours of their toys to appeal to all genders?
In your opinion, what is a “girl toy” and a “boy toy”? Is there a difference between the two? Why or why not?
Express personal opinions about ideas presented in texts (OME, Reading: 1.8).
Evaluate the effectiveness of both simple and complex texts based on evidence from the texts (OME, Reading: 1.8).
Grammar Feature: Quotation Marks
Quotations marks are used in a variety of ways in this article. Read the article carefully and identify the different ways that they are used.