Women in the World

11.30.12

Eighth Grader Tells Hasbro: Man Up the Easy-Bake Oven

Born in the 1960s, the Easy-Bake Oven needs to modernize—and get a little more masculine, says young activist McKenna Pope.

It’s time to macho up the Easy-Bake Oven, says an eighth-grade girl in Garfield, N.J. McKenna Pope has launched a petition on Change.org asking toymaker Hasbro to produce an oven manly enough for her 4-year-old brother, a budding chef.

When Pope saw her little brother, Gavyn, trying to cook a tortilla on top of a light bulb in a lamp, she decided he needed an oven of his own. ("I honestly do not know where he got that idea," she says of the lightbulb-cooking.) But the Easy-Bake, she says, is too cutesy. “Boys are not featured in packaging or promotional materials,” she says in her petition. “And the oven comes in gender-specific hues: purple and pink. I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work ... I want my brother to know that it's not ‘wrong’ for him to want to be a chef.”

Video screenshot

McKenna Pope’s little brother wants an oven.

Her petition has gathered more than 15,000 signatures since its start on Thursday. In a (somewhat punctuation-challenged) letter she sent to Hasbro president Brian D. Goldner in launching the campaign, she says, “Your packaging for the product and it’s promotional materials advertise baking and cooking as a solely girls hobby. Also, it’s ‘girls’ coloration of purple and pink make it seem as though cooking is “girly”, which it is not by any means.”

Indeed, packaging on Easy-Bake products tends to be pink and to feature giggling girls. To make her point, Pope posted a video of her brother—mixing cookie dough in the kitchen—along with the petition.

Hasbro didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.

Pope's mother, Erica Boscio, says her daughter got the idea for the campaign after a recent visit to Target, where the mother-daughter duo had planned to buy an oven for Gavyn following his tortilla incident. When they saw the packaging, they didn't think it would fly. Boscio says her daughter went home and "did her homework," researching to see if there was a more gender-neutral version. She didn't find one.

The Easy-Bake Oven has been around since the 1960s, helping kids produce cookies and cakes. The original toy looked like a small version of a conventional oven and used 100-watt incandescent light bulbs to do the cooking. After a redesign last year, the toy now heats like a traditional oven and looks more like a microwave.

About a decade ago, Hasbro introduced a “male” version of sorts, the Queasy Bake Cookerator, with a boy on the box surrounded by a ghoulish glow and featuring recipes like Chocolate Crud Cake Mix and Bugs 'n' Worms Mix. The toy doesn’t appear to be for sale anymore, except on eBay. Says the eighth-grade activist, "That one conforms to all boys' stereotypes."

Video screenshot

An ad for the attempted “male” oven, the Queasy Bake Cookerator.