My Sons’ Easy-Bake Oven Shame

Joanna Schroeder wonders why, as traditional gender roles are starting to fade, the Easy-Bake Oven is now more girly than ever.

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For three weeks I’ve been barraged with requests from my sons for one single toy. And for the first time in years, the toy is not Lego-related.

The toy they’re lusting over has been causing a bit of inner turmoil within my boys, too. Because although they really wanted it, they seem to sense that there was something wrong with wanting it.

Ladies and gentlemen, my sons are obsessed with the Easy-Bake Oven.

It makes perfect sense, actually. First, these boys have taken after their mother in their unrelenting obsession with sweets. As much as we try to be a hippie-granola family, we’re all a bit enamored of dessert. Second, they love projects. They love to help us cook, organize, and work in the garden. Basically, they’re totally normal kids. And for kids, the only thing better than helping with projects is to feel like they have complete autonomy in doing something that heretofore they’d always been dependent upon a parent for.

♦◊♦

Because we wanted them to save up to buy it, it took a few weeks before we were finally able to purchase said appliance. During that time, there were many discussions among them about whether it would be a good purchase. They both wanted it, but… well… they  also kept hearing that the Easy-Bake was for girls.

Izac got into the car after school one day and said, “Mom, I don’t know about the Easy-Bake. Justin says it’s for girls.”

“Do you think it’s for girls?” I asked.

“Well, it’s purple,” he said.

“So?”

“And it has flowers on the outside, too. And girls on the box. And girls in the commercial.”

“Yeah, that does make it seem like it’s for girls… But really, who cares? You want it, it makes you treats. That’s cool.”

They thought about that for a while. I decided to explain to them about marketing—that companies decide who might want to buy what they’re selling and they design it and make commercials to appeal to that group. For instance, Lego makes Ninjago very boy-ish so they can sell it to boys with lots of dark colors and dragons and tons of weapons. The commercials for the Ninjago line of building sets feature boys exclusively.

“Do you guys think Ninjago is only for boys? Or can girls play it?”

Izac’s eyes lit up. “My friend Bebe loves Ninjago.”

“So see? Even though Ninjago is marketed at boys, it’s super cool that Bebe likes it, right? Well, I think it’s super cool that you guys like the Easy-Bake.”

They thought about that for a while, but the more I sat on it, the more it bothered me. Thing is, even though Ninjago is mainly aimed at boys, they do have a few strong female characters. On top of that, Lego makes a lot of gender-neutral sets and recently launched Lego Friends featuring girl dolls in very girlie scenarios. But the Lego Friends thing didn’t exactly go off without a hitch. Many concerned parents asked why the Lego Friends figurines were different than regular Lego minifigures and why the Friends’ initial play sets were so vapid. The girls had a cafe and a hair salon and a boutique. Regular Lego sets contain everything from homes to trucks to ships to science labs to dinosaurs.

Since then, Lego has added some cool stuff to Lego Friends—among other things a camper, a veterinarian’s office, and an invention lab complete with a robot and beakers. Lego had heard the parental outcry and they responded. And while the girlie figurines still look nothing like traditional minifigures, they are far enough away from Bratz dolls that most parents think they’re fine.

So, given our awareness of how gendered toys can affect our kids, what’s up with the Easy Bake Oven? When I had an Easy Bake, it looked like this:

This is what it looks like now:

That’s a pretty dramatic difference. It’s almost as if Hasbro is saying, Hey boys, just in case you thought the home might be a great place for you to feel comfortable working, we want to make it clear that you simply don’t belong here.

Since its launch in the 1960s, Easy-Bake has undergone 11 major revamps. As Salon.com’s Sara Breselor explains in a 2011 article called Hot Young Thing: Why We Love the Easy-Bake Oven, gender has always been a huge issue when it came to Easy-Bake culture:

Despite such basic toy appeal, the ovens were almost always marketed as a girl’s toy with what Peril calls “hideous gender stereotypes” in the ads (cooking + baking = femininity). Hogan notes that there were early attempts to make the original Easy-Bake Oven more boy-friendly by toning down the aspects that looked like traditional cooking. “Even back in the ’60s, they made an add-on popcorn popper,” Hogan says. “I think the intention was to make the toy more acceptable, probably not just to boys but to their parents too. You’ve got to remember that back in the ’60s gender roles were more rigid than they are today.” But in 2002, Hasbro released a boy-targeted oven lamely called the “Queasy Bake Cookerator” with mixes for “mud n’ crud cake” and “dip n’ drool dog bones.” Even in the age of the foodie, we are still going to great lengths to convince boys that cooking doesn’t make you girly.

And while my boys may have chosen the Queasy Bake had they been side-by-side at Target, where we found the Easy-Bake on sale yesterday, I can tell you that the Queasy Bake wouldn’t really be what they wanted. They make great mud n’ crud cakes outside, in the actual mud n’ crud. If they’re going to bake, they want to make yummy-looking realistic cakes and cookies. With sprinkles.

And that’s nothing new. Boys have wanted in on the Easy-Bake fun for decades, but most of the time were too embarrassed or gender-shamed to partake. An article on KomoNews.com tells the story so many of us girls who grew up with brothers relate to:

Jenn Romig, 31, of Denver, got an Easy-Bake for Christmas in the 1980s and loved it. Her favorite was the heart-shaped pan, which she used to make little cakes that she served to her two brothers.

“I think they wanted to” use the oven themselves, she said, “but it seemed girly. So they just would eat whatever I made.”

Yes, my own Dungeons & Dragons-playing brother looked longingly at my Easy-Bake oven, but to my recollection never so much as touched it. Even in our hippie feminist household.

I think we can all agree that gender roles have softened considerably since the 1960s, and even since the 1980s. So what’s with the current design? If you look through retrospective photos of the Easy-Bake Oven, the current one is about as girly as they’ve come, with the exception of one front-load model about a decade ago that looked like it was straight out of Barbie’s Dream Mansion. It’s 2012. Women are moving into the workplace faster than ever before, and more and more dads are finding great joy as primary caregivers to their children. In a time when we’re up in arms about Lego Friends’ girls being preoccupied with beauty, why aren’t we up in arms over the exclusion of boys from an entire toy phenomenon?

♦◊♦

As we walked out of Target yesterday, giant purple box featuring the airbrushed faces of 3 caucasian tween girls in our our youngest son’s arms, our 7 year-old told his little brother, “Just because it’s purple doesn’t make it a girl’s toy.”

His brother said, “I know!”

Ivan and I looked at one another. We were prepared for this, after all, we are among those 21st Century urbanite parents who have always been committed to accepting our kids’ gender expression and sexuality as it comes. But as I’ve written before, we somehow ended up with boys who like the most hyper-masculine stuff, so this is the first time we’ve butted up against the, “you must be a girl!” type of bullying that still happens on playgrounds.

Finally I told them, “Guys, I think it’s cool we bought the Easy-Bake oven, but if you want to say your mom bought it, you can.”

My husband interrupted, “Or you can say your dad bought it. I love it. I can’t wait to use it.”

“Nah,” our oldest said, “I think the Easy-Bake is for boys and girls. I just think the people who made it don’t know that yet.”

He’s right, Hasbro… You’re a little behind.

Original 1969 Easy Bake Oven

 

Also read: So What if Your 7 Year-Old Is Gay? by Joanna Schroeder

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About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane, hlntv.com, and The Huffington Post. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Nice article. Everyone should learn how to cook. Easy bake seems like good exposure for kids who are too young for stove tops and ovens.

  2. Love this Joanna–you are preaching to the choir here! Gender stereotyping of this nature sets children off on very limited paths and forces them to make decisions about what it means to be a boy or a girl from very early ages. Kids are literal beings–they most often believe what they see. Advertising and marketing for toys rarely show girls and boys playing together. I’ve had quite an issue with this as my daughter likes all “boy” things. I also wrote a post similar in theme to yours called “Girls Can Battle and Boys Can Bake” in which I included an Easy Bake Oven commercial–when you watch it, you’ll understand why any boy would be hesitant to play with one. http://www.princessfreezone.com/pfz-blog/2011/12/29/girls-can-battle-and-boys-can-bake.html Thanks for your piece.

  3. I am dealing with the same issue my son loves to help cook more than his twin sister & she is asking for a easy bake oven for Christmas & I have searched & searched for a boy version with no luck.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I say just buy the purple. It’s an important lesson.

      I didn’t include it here, but I also asked my boys, “If Dad used a purple Easy Bake or had a pink surfboard, would that make him less of a man?” and they agreed it wouldn’t.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I know some parents who have had almost the opposite experience with their children. These particular parents have been totally conscious of letting their children decide for themselves what kinds of toys they like regardless of gender, and these parenting couples don’t really follow traditional gender roles in the marriages, either. They even encourage their children to play with a wide range of things.

        But, to their shock, their little girls want to be princesses (even when mom herself didn’t play princess as a little girl and rarely wears dresses as an adult!) while the little boy wants to play with fire trucks (even though the dad is completely un-mechanical). Some parents today are shaking their heads, thinking, “where did they get that from? We didn’t encourage that sort of thing.” Sometimes the traditional boy/girl thing comes back with a vengeance.

        • It’s quite obvious where they get “that” from. Parents don’t need to encourage behavior for it to exist. It’s all about peers and the larger culture. That’s why children of immigrants to America can speak perfect American English with no accent. No one inherits an accent from her parents… not unless you’re never allowed to interact with others or watch television.

          What’s really annoying is gender essentialists and biological predeterminists who use the limits of parental influence on gender roles to say “A ha! Boys and girls are hard-wired to be masculine and feminine, respectively.”

  4. It odd that it’s gotten that bad at a time where in the real world Quite a large and growing group of men are the primary household cooks. I’ve been that for almost 30 years…..many years ago when my MIL lived with us for a bit…I still cooked, I was much better at it. My wife is finally learning to cook some of our family’s classics at the advice of her Therapist…..

  5. Love this article! I had the original Easy Bake Oven. Yes, I know that dates me. It was my gift and lived in my room, but my brothers loved it too! I remember the three of us baked a strawberry birthday for my grandmother one year and presented it to her together! This hardly ever happens today, now that toys are gendered. This toy…and countless others…come in pink or purple for girls, with “girlie” designs, labels that say “for girls,” and a full compliment of gender police, young and old, reinforcing the messages to boys that these ovens (and pink vacuum cleaners, and pink Legos, and pink Jenga sets, and pink fill-in-the-blanks) are for girls.This makes the retailers and marketers a LOT of money! Boys and girls need SEPARATE toys! But it also keeps boys and girls from playing together. I worked in a preschool in the 80’s, again in the 90’s, and again recently. The gender segregation of both toys and play is stunning when I look at it across the decades. It is easy to write off anything as a one-off. One toy. One game. But the reality is the aisles and stores are so segregated, boys and girls now often don;t feel comfortable playing with toys that marketers have suddenly color-coded or labeled as “for” the opposite gender! This oven is a great example. Yes, boys and girls can be encouraged to play with these coded toys, but wouldn’t it be easier if adults just stopped doing this so they could make more $$??!!

  6. Funny thing about men and cooking. It like there is this weird dichotomy where a man’s cooking ability is either so high that he should have his own show (a la Emeril Legasse or Bobby Flay) or so low that he should never be allowed in the kitchen for his desire to cook makes him a threat to all that he loves (and I find it funny that the folks that complain about how cooking is delegated as “women’s work” seem to miss the latter and act like the former stands alone).

    I think part of the reason these gendered divisions happen is because people are still caught up in this idea that a man and woman are supposed to compliment each other (as in each one brings something to the table that the other supposedly can’t). Well if the offerings become blurred by each gender doing what is assigned to the other then that just makes finding a partner too hard doesn’t it?

  7. This is a tremendous article! I tweeted the link to Hasbro (@HasbroNews), but I don’t expect it will make a huge difference. (Because I am cynical with little faith in marketing professionals.) But who knows, maybe if enough of us call them (Hasbro and all the rest of them) on this crap, they will start listening.

  8. It is strange the Easy Bake oven would look like this when you consider what a couple of other posters have pointed out with regard to men and cooking. I would think that in the majority of middle class households where both members are college educated that the men do most, if not all, of the cooking.

    Also as Danny pointed out the majority of the most highly praised and well-known chefs are men. I think the popularity of Top Chef is changing that, but I would say going on a sliding time line of the past five years the split is probably close to 80-20 for men.

  9. wellokaythen says:

    I wonder what focus group or market research Hasbro did about the Easy Bake oven that led them to make it more girly?

    I’m thinking that there are very few girls, if any, who wouldn’t buy an oven because it’s “not girlie enough,” but once you put flowers on it then they have to have it. I’m guessing girls would want an oven or not somewhat independently of how it’s colored or decorated.

    So, the flowers and frills don’t help get more girls to want it, and it makes a barrier to boys buying it, so how is this a helpful business model?

    Unless…there are little girls out there who don’t think of ovens as particularly feminine. They may not associate kitchen toys with femininity, because on so many of the TV shows there are men and women both cooking in the kitchen. Perhaps there’s a silver lining here, and the feminization of the Easy-Bake may be a sign of progress after all?

    Besides, there’s no reason an oven can’t be stereotypically masculine — how can you melt your plastic army men without a heat source? : – )

    • Wellokaythen, I think that’s a great question about why they made the oven more girly, and the only answer I’ve got goes something like this: Have you walked down any toy aisles lately? The “Girl Aisle” is totally, nauseatingly, Pepto Bismol pink from end to end. Pretty much ALL toys for girls are now pink and/or purple. You have to see it for yourself, it’s so hard to believe otherwise. These toy companies feed girls a steady diet of pink and purple, and then do their own focus groups that show that–surprise!!!–girls “naturally” are drawn to pink and purple. And so, they keep giving it to them. Girls now have pink legos, pink Lincoln Logs, pink Jenga sets, pink chess sets, and on and on. If it’s pink it sells, because the marketers have created a world of pink for girls and girls now only think a toys is “for them” if it’s the right color. Yeah, I’m a little annoyed. Girls need some sort of springboard out of the pink ghetto, badly!

      • wellokaythen says:

        You’re right, and it seems to be getting more extreme over the past decade or so, instead of less extreme.

        If I had to guess, I’d say it’s as much adults’ expectations as kids’ expectations. If you have a niece or nephew or godchild or grandchild, and it’s been a while since you were a kid, then when you go to the toy store, everything is nicely color-coded for your convenience. So, even if you don’t really know the child very well, you can eliminate half the toy selection right there. “I don’t know what girls play with nowadays, but I’m sure if I just buy something pink and overpriced she’ll be happy. Can I get out of this store now?”

        The middle sibling part of me thinks maybe the gender segregation is to make some clear boundaries in a multi-child household, in order to head off conflict. Jill doesn’t have to worry about Jack messing with her stuff and vice versa, because they are clearly delineated by color. Jack is obviously just trying to bug his sister by playing with her dolls and oven, and she’s clearly trying to annoy him by playing with his tonka trucks. I can see a girl thinking that a “girly” toy will be more unequivocally hers and not for her brother to play with. Just a theory. I’m not saying this is justified or healthy, but maybe that’s part of it.

        • I’ve definitely heard the bit about how it’s easier to buy gifts, especially for grandparents, uncles, etc. Not sure about the rest. I think it’s true, but more correlational than causal. “Follow the money” usually gets you your best answer. In this case it leads straight to the retailers. I have a friend who bought her boy a navy blue backpack for school. When he was done with it, she wanted to hand down to her daughter. The girl refused…”blue is for boys!” She only wanted a pink one–“like all the girls have.” So, mom had to buy another backpack. Ding ding ding goes the cash register at the store!

          • wellokaythen says:

            Good point. I hadn’t thought about the “no-hand-me-downs” effect. The color creates instant obsolescence when there’s a boy and a girl as siblings.

            • wello, actually i remember you writing a few months ago that things were colour-coded so parents had to spend money again on the same clothing and toys

  10. wellokaythen says:

    I didn’t have an Easy Bake Oven, but I was a latchkey kid expected to make his own snacks when he got home from school. My oven was the microwave. (Did you know there are some things that aren’t supposed to go in the microwave?)

    Teach a little kid to feed himself or herself, and watch these gender distinctions start to disappear.

  11. Alternate says:

    Strange, baking has been a ‘male’ profession in many cultures especially in old days. When you heard a person is a baker, that person is very likely a he.

    Well, I had interest in many ‘girly’ things too, like my love for crocheting and sewing. I’m a bit proud of it too. There is just that fulfillment in creating stuff that can’t be achieved in other ways.

    I believe that skills are gender neutral. Sure, some skills are more suited to certain gender but that does not mean the other gender can’t learn that skill or use it.

  12. Lisa Hickey says:

    In another bit of toy trivia — remember “Creepy Crawlers”? It’s the exact same Easy Bake oven hardware, but you make bugs instead of cookies. Marketed to boys.

    For the record, I got my parents to buy me Creepy Crawlers instead of the Easy Bake Oven. Might explain what I’m doing as a job right about now.

  13. What a waste. It doesn’t much matter how they design Easy Bake Ovens, very few boys care. They didn’t care 30 years ago, and they don’t care now. So, they may as well try to make it appeal to the kids who are most interested in them, little girls.

    • If it were really only little girls that are interested, they wouldn’t have to market them in such a girly fashion, Eric.

      I agree with the author that In some ways gender roles are less rigid now than when I was a kid (the 60s), but there also seems to be a large number of marketing people working overtime to maintain a permanent divide between the sexes. What are they afraid will happen if people (kids and adults alike) just choose what they like?

      • “If it were really only little girls that are interested, they wouldn’t have to market them in such a girly fashion, Eric.”

        They don’t HAVE TO “market them in such a girly fashion.” Like any other company, Hasbro does market research and conducts focus groups to guide their product design. They also study demographic buying patterns. Their goal is to maximize sales, not minimize them.

        Your assertion that Hasbro intentionally designed this product so as to be unappealing to half of its potential buyers (boys) defies the reality of business. Any company that intentionally tries to make their products unappealing to half of their potential customers would have long since gone out of business.

        Hasbro is not doing social gender-role engineering. This is not a Women’s Studies social experiment in gender. Hasbro is a publicly traded, for-profit business trying to sell as many toys as possible.

  14. I think that the deeper issue here is what we assume makes the easy bake oven “girly” or not (“boy-y??”). The problem is that the two sons in this story associate purple and flowers with girls. Even though parents these days are encouraging their children to play with toys manufactured for girls or boys regardless of gender, it does not get to the deeper issue: our associations/definitions of femininity and masculinity as fixed and expressed through colors/clothing/toys/actions/etc. Instead of saying that the toy is purple and girly, but still OK to play with, shouldn’t we avoid assigning any type of label to it in the first place so that the attributes of the oven are not associated with either socially-constructed sex? Then we avoid this issue in the first place.
    In other news, this article (and comments) made me nostalgic, and a little peckish, for some mini-cupcakes and creepy crawlers. Sexism aside, they were delicious (though not nutritious).

  15. I just wanted to suggest that maybe it is the more flexible gender roles that lead to a greater “need” to assign the oven to a male or a female child. When it was created, the Easy-bake oven was probably targetted at girls implicitly enough that it did not required to be gender assigned through colours.
    I personally have nothing against traditionally assigned gender roles, but I feel it is important each individual has the freedom to give and take from the stereotypes, and understand where they come from.

  16. Stupid question –
    Why an easy bake oven? I don’t mean why would a boy have an interest in cooking, but why get an easy bake oven? Is the intention to foster an interest in cooking, to foster an interest that is safe, or to foster an interest you wouldn’t have to be involved with?

    If he has an interest in cooking I can think of many recpies that are simple and reasonably safe…
    Mug cake – needs ingrediants for a chocolate cake a mug, a spoon, and a microwave
    freezer jellie/jams – pectin, fruit, freezer
    ice cream – milk, egg, flavouring, and one of those cheap hand crank ice cream makers and a freezer

    I’m sure if i looked I could find more. Aren’t there cookbooks for kids that would be more fun and educational? Of course you woud have to get involved but isn’t even an easy bake oven supposed to have parental supervison?

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      The idea is that it’s a gadget, and we know kids love gadgets. Especially since it is a gadget that makes it possible for kids to create something they SO desire 99% independently. That’s a huge thing for them.

      The micro cake is a great idea, but I think the gadgety element of having something that’s truly their own is a big part of it.

  17. nice article; i assume you have seen the other ‘girl’ ‘toys’ near the easy bake oven: vaccuum cleaner, ironing board…terrible. 2 boys in the house, 1 is 12 and the other is 3; constantly reminding the 12 year old and dad that they think pink is for girls because marketing/advertising told them so; that they have been taught that pink is for girls until you are grown and they try to sell you a pastel pink dress shirt; and that the 3 year old only recognizes pink as one of the colors he is learning – that it wouldnt occur to him that a pink sippy cup is for girls.

    • No, it’s because that’s who mainly wears pink. But pink is an awkward color anyway. It’s not even seen in nature that often compared to blues, greens, reds, blacks, earth tones, etc. It’s not a color that boys and men are naturally attracted to. For that matter, women don’t even wear it that often. No idea why feminists want to force it on boys.

      Regardless, Considering all the problems in the world, this is truly a non-issue.

  18. I, too, broke convention in the early 70s by getting not one – but two – toy ovens! Great to see there is some discussion out there about this – was happy to stumble across your blog! What is it with Hasbro and their outdated design of the Easy-Bake oven? If anything, I think it should look like a commercial Viking or Wolf range – with girls AND boys pictured on the box!

  19. wellokaythen says:

    If I had a son, I’d want him to learn how to feed himself, and cook for himself, as soon as is age appropriate. I’d want to prepare him to be an independent person who can bake his own cookies if he wants some. If someone makes fun of him because of the color of his oven, then that person doesn’t get any cookies. There’s an aspect of traditional masculinity that emphasizes self-sufficiency, so in that way an oven for a boy can be a “masculine” kind of toy.

    While we’re at it, he can also learn another lesson about cleaning up after himself and putting all the tools back in the right place.

    Besides, maybe my boy would grow up to create a huge cookie empire and then support me in my luxurious retirement. That oven could be a cheap investment in a very successful future.

    • Learning about cleaning up after himself and putting tools away — hey, doesn’t that sound like a non-masculine activity? A purple oven is one thing but cleaning up after myself? That’s asking a lot!

  20. Many if not most of what you find in the easy bake oven recipes can be made in the microwave. I would say that the better idea may be to write letters to the company and not buy it rather buy a small low-wattage microwave that the children can use when supervised. You can make the same things this way and continue to make them in larger batches as they get older. It’s actually a good skill to be able to make a microwave cake. Otherwise you’re buying from the company and letting them continue marketing to only one group.

  21. Jonathan G says:

    Joanna, I think it’s causation, not just correlation: They Easy-Bake Oven turned more girly than ever because gender roles are starting to fade. I’ll keep this brief:

    Postulate 1: Culture determines virtually all of what we think of as personal identity, what we think of when we think of “who I am.” Strip away all the cultural identity markers, e.g. you’re a lawyer, you’re a knitter, you’re a nerd, you like Thai cuisine, you’re blue collar, you’re feminine, inter alia, and what’s left? I’d argue “not much,” but whatever the case, the cultural identity markers form a critical part of our self-concept.

    Postulate 2: The roles of feminine and masculine make up a very large portion of our self-concept in Western thought. (Not that everybody fits neatly and comfortably in one or the other, of course.) We find it so important, in fact, that some people will go to great lengths to modify their bodies if they feel that their physical body does not match their self-concept of their gender.

    Hypothesis: The process of traditional gender roles breaking down threatens people’s self-concept, their personal identity. They like feeling masculine or feminine; it gives order to the world. Thus, people facing this ontological crisis latch on more firmly than ever to the cultural indicators of femininity or masculinity that remain.

    Men can now stay home with the kids while women go earn the money. Men worry about moisturizers and use eyeliner. Women drive trucks and fly fighter jets. Men open up about their emotions. Women keep moving more and more into public office and the corporate boardroom. What’s left for to a person who wants to exclaim unequivocally, “I am male,” or, “I am female”?

    For women: High-heeled shoes, diminutive physical size, and pink objects apparently. (I have noticed an incredible proliferation of references to the first two in dating site profiles; so many women feel the need to point out their love of high-heeled shoes, either independently or in conjunction with their requirement of dating tall men so they can “feel small and feminine.”)

    For men: Uhh… Actually, I’m not even sure what’s left. Suits and preternatural self-confidence?

    • QuantumInc says:

      Ah, thank you for putting my thoughts into words.

      Of course not every quality one might describe yourself with requires a social construction, but a lot of them do, at least the ones that allow you to connect with certain subcultures do. “Nerd” is a meaningful identity marker because of both the mainstream social narratives and the flourishing subculture that exists.

      Traditionally one’s gender forms a huge part of one’s self concept. Even in this supposedly “post-feminist” era people attach heavy meaning to their gender. Gender identity itself quite possibly goes beyond social construction, hormones, and anatomy, as evidenced by the experiences of the transgendered. So one can explain part of the emphasis on a instinctual response to identify with one body type or another. However I think the traditional gender roles play a big part too. A lot of people feel nostalgia for the days when being a MAN or a WOMAN meant something, though it can influence thinking in more subtle ways.

      I’m also imagining a woman asking herself, “If High-Heels have nothing to do with being female, then why oh god why have I been wearing these things all these years?!” People’s rationalizations often depend on social construction, and rationalizations can be surprisingly important.

      But just to repeat the point, when somebody is reduced to only a few identity markers it results in a sort of screaming existential angst. People NEED to have an understanding of themselves. It’s bad enough when you can’t explain some other person, but when you don’t have some way of understanding your own motivations…well…that could send anyone into a panic.

  22. Joanna Schroeder wonders why, as traditional gender roles are starting to fade, the Easy-Bake Oven is now more girly than ever.

    Precisely because!

    When we were little boys and girls, we played fairy-tale, loosely-based-on-history versions of knights and princesses. Today’s male and female preadolescents play fairy-tale, loosely-based-on-history versions of boys and girls.

  23. And btw. what is this purple Lovecraftian monstrosity? It has no two dimensions the same, and… by Nyarlathotep! Old Cthulhu at least used angles, even if he couldn’t add them up correctly to 180° in a triangle… but this thing doesn’t even *have* angles!

  24. My female cousins had one of these things. I never had any interest. My parents taught me how to bake using the real thing, just as I did for my son. This is a plastic contraption made by 10-yo in some chinese sweatshop.

  25. “Oven Envy” … when I was growing up, us little guys envied the neighbor girls for having that cool oven. We had our sports stuff, guns and tools but they (the girls) had something that made treats like cakes. How cool was that!?!? Whereas my dad one Christmas bought me a wood work bench and working tools, I know I remember seeing commercials showing the oven and thought that it would be cool to have one.

    That being said, although my own son through the years received the traditional male oriented items and my daughter got the female items, both were taught how to cook. The kitchen is and always has been the focal point of our home. Whereas we used the oils stained recipe cards passed down from my mom to my wife, my son pulls out his fancy phone and pulls up recipes.

    Not sure why Easy Bake caters to females. Last Christmas my grandson was given a toy kitchen (wood) and a year later still plays with it. A picture of changing times, my grandson with his fire trucks and cars cluttered around his play kitchen.

    A quick plug for these kitchens …. Accessories you can buy is everything from pretend baked cookies, cooked food and ice cream.

    Having finished baking double batches of 14 different cookies (have run out of cookie tins) I can say that baking is not just for women. Just yesterday I was in and out of the house while a friend of mine and I were replacing the heater motor on my truck, I had cookies in the oven. It’s called multitasking that men are not supposed to be able to do? And at 5:30pm, headed to my daughters house to babysit my two grandsons. Life is good!

  26. Animedude5555 says:

    I’m thinking they were TRYING to make a girls toy. In the past when gender biases and sexism were stronger, it was obvious that an oven toy was “for girls” because it was a kitchen toy. Anything about a kitchen was simply understood by the masses to be a girl’s toy. But now with stereotypes breaking down, and kids beginning to realize it’s ok to play with toys that didn’t fit the old stereotype for their gender, it became imperitive for any toy company that was TRYING to make something that was specifically either a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy (a gender targeted toy), to heap on every stereotype for the intended gender that they could think of, and apply these stereotypes to the toy’s physical design/layout.

    I think Hasbro does NOT WANT the Easybake Oven to be gender neutral. They made it with the SOLE PURPOSE that it would be a “girl’s toy”. So to limit it so that ONLY GIRLS will want to buy it, despite the fact that boys are more likely than before to want it now that stereotypes are breaking down, Hasbro is making it VERY GIRLY to make sure that even in our less stereotyped society it will be obvious that it is meant for girls ONLY, thus once again deterring boys from wanting to buy it. It is basically the product design equivalent of getting in a boy’s face and shouting “THIS IS NOT FOR YOU! THIS IS FOR GIRLS ONLY!”.

  27. Luke Davis says:

    I used to cook cookies and cakes with my mum all the time when I was 10. If your boys are worried download all the Jamie Oliver tv series for them. Cooks can be male or female so the actual job isn’t ladened with stereotypes, just the oven.

  28. Debi Lesko says:

    This is all much ado about nothing. The *exact* oven you are complaining about comes in two color options. The purple color mentioned in the article and a black one with blue. I saw them with my own eyes while shopping at Target at Christmastime. Both color options are also available online at Wal-Mart; I just checked. I tried to copy and paste a picture, but it didn’t work. So there is no conspiracy by Hasbro or anyone else. Personally, I have 4 children, 2 who are boys, and one of those boys would have picked the purple one and said he wished it had been pink. He’s not a girly boy (not that there is anything wrong with that), he is a hard-core-plays-tons-of-sports-boy’s-boy who happens to love pink. So go exchange your purple oven for the black one so your son will no longer have any more “Easy Bake Oven Shame”

  29. pissedfemale says:

    It comes in black now folks, as a specific response to boys wanting them. Times, they are a changin’. http://www.toysrus.com/buy/small-appliances/easy-bake-ultimate-oven-black-a5326-20876366

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  1. [...] originally appeared on The Good Men Project. Republished here with [...]

  2. [...] they seek similar liberation for their own kids. The gendering of toys is being opposed, both for boys and for girls. And that’s as it should be. With time, let pink become merely part of a full [...]

  3. [...] This is a comment by Jonathan G on the post “My Sons’ Easy-Bake Oven Shame“. [...]

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