[pictured above: current pink and purple floral print Easy Bake Oven and new gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven]
This isn’t exactly a new development as Hasbro revealed last December that they would have a gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven on the market in Fall 2013, but I stumbled upon it again recently and found that my ambivalence towards it had only increased. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s brilliant that Hasbro is making a “boy-friendly,” as ABC News called it, Easy Bake Oven. But that’s just the thing. Why wasn’t the Easy Bake Oven that is currently on the market “boy-friendly”?
When Hasbro originally released the Easy Bake Oven in 1963, you could purchase it in a wide range of colors including teal, yellow, silver, and blue. Today, it only comes in one variety: pink and purple floral print. Clearly it’s marketed specifically towards girls. But what happens when a little boy decides he wants to bake? This is actually what prompted Hasbro to start producing a gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven. A 4-year-old boy named Gavin wanted an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas, but seeing the pink and purple floral design, he complained “Only girls play with it.” So his older sister started a petition for Hasbro to start making an Easy Bake Oven that boys could play with. Now, within the year, the “boy-friendly” Easy Bake Oven will be released.
It’s brilliant, isn’t it? After decades of a strict divide between the boys’ and girls’ toy aisles, we finally have something to bridge the gap. But I still want to know why Gavin wouldn’t accept the Easy Bake Oven “for girls” if he wanted one so badly. Yes, this new Easy Bake Oven will be more accessible to boys, making a traditionally girl toy gender-neutral, but I also think it strengthens the boundaries between girls and boys in a way.
Pink is for girls; blue is for boys. We have this forced upon us literally since birth. If you have two otherwise identical shirts, one pink and one blue, just about everyone would say the pink shirt is for a girl and the blue shirt is for a boy. Now compare the two Easy Bake Ovens. One is pink and purple floral; one is black, blue, and silver. Just looking at them, most people would classify the first as for girls and the second as for boys. But surely they’re just colors, right? If that were the case, Gavin would have been satisfied with the pink and purple floral Easy Bake Oven. Instead, a whole other design was made for young boys who may want an Easy Bake Oven. No more embarrassment over playing with the Easy Bake Oven “for girls.” But why should this be embarrassing in the first place?
Perhaps instead of creating a whole new version that we deem “acceptable for boys to play with,” we should be breaking down the stereotypes that seem to persist in society. Currently, the box that the pink and purple Easy Bake Oven come in only shows girls playing with it as do advertisements for it. Why is this? Because only girls can like pink? Isn’t that what society teaches us? Yet it’s OK for girls to like blue and red, and it will be OK if girls want to play with the black, blue, and silver Easy Bake Oven. But it still won’t be OK for boys to play with the pink and purple version.
Do I think the release of a gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven is a step in the right direction? Yes, of course, but I think it’s just covering up the more deep-rooted stereotypes held by society. If this is what progress looks like, it’s clear that we still have a long way to go.