13 Year Old Girl is My New Hero

This is an awesome video put out by a 13 year old girl who has started a petition to get Hasbro to use boys in commercials for their Easy Bake Oven as well as girls because her little brother loves to cook but thinks that it’s a toy only for girls because of the ads. As a guy who loves to cook, I could not agree more. It’s time for these absurd stereotypes to end.

Interestingly, there has long been another side to this coin. Though we have long taught girls and boys that cooking is for girls, that only holds true at home. At the same time, the world of restaurant chefs has long been a place where men ruled and women were kept out. That has begun to change, especially in the age of the celebrity chef, but the dichotomy is curious — women are supposed to cook in the home, but only men can be great chefs. Both sides of that coin are sexist and absurd.

36 comments on this post.
  1. richardelguru:

    Guy are better at bulk!

  2. cjcolucci:

    The favorite toy of my two grand-nephews is an easy-bake oven, or some other version of the same thing. (I’m not very brand-conscious.)

  3. matty1:

    My parents always shared the cooking fairly evenly, although at Christmas it is definitely Dad who is head chef.

  4. leftwingfox:

    This is actually one of those areas that has gotten worse over time. The 80′s easy bake oven was marketed towards girls in the commercials, but the oven design itself was pretty much gender neutral. In the 90′s, the gross-out trend resulted in a version marketed towards boys called the “Queasy-bake” oven, while the mainstream line became increasingly pink.

    My younger brother got a “Mini-Wave Oven” years ago, but it didn’t last long after the initial novelty. The simple truth is that both my parents cooked and taught us how to cook as well. By the time we got got the easy bake oven, we were perfectly capable of baking from scratch, and home-made chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies beat the hell out of light-bulb baked snacks.

  5. badgersdaughter:

    Oddly, I have found a gender imbalance to be true in the sphere of needlework. I used to work in a craft store years ago, and noted at that time that the most innovative thinkers in knitting, crochet, cross stitch, and quilting, the ones who published books and invented new stitches and techniques, tended to be disproportionately men. (Disproportionate, that is, in terms of the relative numbers of men and women who do each craft.) Kaffe Fassett, the great color knitting expert, is an excellent example.

    This is different from the instances worldwide where in certain cultures men traditionally do certain types of needlework, for example patterned crochet bags and hats and other items being an exclusive male product in the Andes.

    I have used this example in classroom training for engineers, who are not used to being thought of as creative. The women usually nod as they see how all design crafts tie into engineering design, and the men usually look either shocked or elated, depending on whether they resent being lumped in with women, or whether their artistic side has finally been shown to be a reason why they are good engineers.

  6. Ben P:

    What I find moderately more interesting than the original sexist stereotypes is the way its been somewhat altered today.

    I love to cook and take it pretty seriously. (If I fail at being a lawyer I might try to open a restaurant, probably a BBQ place). The cooking tradition in my family is also more from my dad than from my mom. (Dad’s family has a very international background, with grandpa having been born in Russia, and grown up in China, coming to the US after WWII, and spending time in India and Sri Lanka for work.)

    Since college, most of the young people I know who actually liked to cook were men. Whereas it was often girls who seemed to overly rely on freezer food or even having parents cook large meals and subdivide them into freezer bags for reheating.

  7. AsqJames:

    Chefs get paid, home-cooks don’t. Suddenly the dichotomy makes sense.

  8. Ben P:

    By the time we got got the easy bake oven, we were perfectly capable of baking from scratch, and home-made chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies beat the hell out of light-bulb baked snacks.

    This as well. I don’t think anyone in my family ever had something like an Easy Bake oven, but it seems to me like kind of an odd toy. you don’t let children under 5 do certain things, but you’ll turn a child onto cooking and good food a lot quicker with really good homemade stuff rather than heated up cookies or cupcakes.

  9. busterggi:

    Cooking is a skill that everyone should learn – both my kids did, we even had ‘salad night’ once a week for the joy of fresh veggies & such.

  10. Ben P:

    Chefs get paid, home-cooks don’t. Suddenly the dichotomy makes sense.

    I think there’s also a cultural element here. A substantial part of modern cooking tradition evolved in France. France is a very food conscious society and does place professional cooks at a slightly higher station than many other societies do. Directly related to this, whereas in many cultures cooking is derided as “woman’s work” that wasn’t really true in France. If not highly respected, cooking was at least an honorable trade.

    But by the same token, traditional french culture was more than a little chauvinistic and I think that’s where you find the source of all the old school great chefs being men. It wasn’t specific to cooking, men just dominated all aspects of working life, so cooking was the same.

  11. hunter:

    My mom and dad split the cooking, and frankly, dad was a better cook.m (Mom was from the South — everything was either boiled or fried.) And my sister and I learned to cook when my mom went back to work, out of self-defense. And both my parents encouraged both of us.

    That said, the whole idea of “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys” frosts me no end.

  12. hunter:

    Oh, and cheers for the girl — she’s got her head on straight, and obviously thinks highly of her little brother.

  13. Sastra:

    I think one of the most important points this young woman makes is how small children are very, very influenced by what they’re told is “right” — and they pick up these cues from the media and incorporate them into “rules.” Despite the fact that the boy loves to bake cookies and wants an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas, he still repeats, by rote, the lesson he has learned from watching the commercial: they only show girls because only girls do what they show.

    That’s the rule.

    IN a child development class I once took long ago, I recall learning how the 2-year-old to 5-year-old growth period was roughly focused on mentally fitting everything into rigid categories. You need to figure out how things work and where you fit in. People in marketing ought to be aware of the danger of convincing a whole bunch of potential consumers that “you’re not the kind of person who would want this.” It’s not just ethically suspect — it’s against their own economic interest.

  14. robertfaber:

    This goes back much farther in time than simply home cooking versus professional cooking. If you look at tribal societies, the women do the day to day cooking, but the “important” cooking (i.e. feasts) is usually done by the men . This has always been the case, and that tradition even carries on in the home, particularly with regard to 4th of July barbecues, where men have traditionally been charged with grilling the meats.

  15. bobaho:

    …the world of restaurant chefs has long been a place where men ruled and women were kept out.

    Correlation != Cause. Fact: Women were and still are not present in large numbers in established restaurants. However, assigning the cause to discrimination or barring makes a leap of faith that ignores another plausible reason – the work is physically demanding. There are not many women in the timber industry, few take up jobs in masonry and stone-cutting, and you rarely see women working as blacksmiths. Carrying a 20 liter pot of boiling water across the kitchen is among the duties of the apprentice, and it only gets worse from there, think sacks of raw material. I also put forward that the coarse edged workplace is a result of men being physically able to perform the work and so selected. The men did not exclude the women, the tasks did. Then the all male workplace degrades into one that appears to have excluded women.
    And yes, I cook. I have not worked in a commercial kitchen but have seen a few as a visitor. I agree, everyone should learn to cook, and that it should not be a gender specific task. I also do the laundry for the same practical reason; we live in a third floor walk-up and the laundry is in the basement of another building.

  16. Ben P:

    I also put forward that the coarse edged workplace is a result of men being physically able to perform the work and so selected. The men did not exclude the women, the tasks did. Then the all male workplace degrades into one that appears to have excluded women.

    I think you exaggerate a little. Working in a commercial kitchen requires stamina (its hot and you work long hours on your feet) but only a few tasks require the kind of raw physical strength that being a mason or a lumberjack would. (Although there is a youtube video of Gordon Ramsey telling an anecdote about Marco Pierre White throwing a 50 lb. sack of potatoes at him)

    There may be some truth to what you say in some self selection due to the physical nature of the work, but realistically I think that’s just another thing in the mix. As with any sort of societal bias there’s rarely one single root cause, but a mix of causes.

    That did also trigger another thought related to what I posted above. While the modern meaning is that Chef = one who cooks, in French, Chef is a cognate to the English word “Chief” and was used to denote only those in charge of a kitchen, i.e. the boss. The french word for an ordinary cook is Cuisinere (or specific words based on what they’re doing), from the same root as Cuisine.

  17. jnorris:

    First, how will the boy cook the dinosaur?

    Second, to badgersdaughter in #5, Rosey Grier does needlepoint and authored Rosey Grier’s Needlepoint for Men in 1973.

  18. tuxedocartman:

    Between the popularity of this young woman’s video, and the unexpected number of “Bronies” (boys who are fans of the new My Little Pony show), Hasbro has a real opportunity to affect some positive change in what we teach children about gender roles. I really hope somebody at the company steps up and seizes this opportunity to do some good.

  19. Ed Brayton:

    hunter wrote:

    And my sister and I learned to cook when my mom went back to work, out of self-defense. And both my parents encouraged both of us.

    That’s funny, I use that line as well. I often say that I learned to cook out of self defense because, when my parents divorced, I lived with my dad. He’s a wonderful man, but he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a kitchen. His idea of cooking was to open some cans and boxes, then take all the leftovers in a few days and throw them all into one pot — spaghetti-os, chicken noodle soup, cut up hot dogs, whatever was there. He even had a name for it — slumgullion. Then my stepmother took over the cooking. She’s very good when she’s cooking her native German food, but when she cooks meat it appears that her goal is to make sure there’s no moisture left anywhere in the neighborhood. She incinerates it.

    My mother had four boys and two girls and she was very proud of the fact that all of her boys could cook (the two oldest ones both worked as professional chefs at one point).

  20. davem:

    I have some difficulty imagining that there’s any market for pretend ovens for little boys. Little boys want to cook, lick the bowl (v. important), and much more importantly, eat the end product. At least, that was my motivation when I was a little lad.

    In my opinion, the reason that there are more male chefs at the top is probably due to the fact that women follow recipes, and men see them as a challenge.

  21. frog:

    Re: the “you need to be strong” argument.

    Many years ago I drove a transit bus. A 35-foot long, 12-ton transit bus. With no power steering.

    Who was my instructor? A tiny little woman, barely 5′ tall and maybe 100 lbs sopping wet.

    No power steering.

    Raw strength is rarely as important as learning how to correctly apply what strength you have.

  22. frog:

    More relevant to the chef concept: I have heard it said (by a friend who went to culinary school, but also from others) that men in culinary school are encouraged to become chefs, while women in culinary school are encouraged (subtly) to become pastry chefs.

    Guess which position pays more?

  23. Gretchen:

    I don’t recall where I read about this originally, but the article included a reader poll question which read something like: “Should Hasbro change its marketing of this toy?” And the two answers were “Yes; this oven is not just for girls,” and “Hasbro can market its toys however it wants.” It was not possible to choose both, so I didn’t vote.

  24. Ichthyic:

    @Ben:

    If I fail at being a lawyer I might try to open a restaurant, probably a BBQ place

    There’s room for it here in NZ.

    currently, we only have ONE official american-style BBQ place in the WHOLE COUNTRY.

    it just happens to be a few blocks away from me:

    http://www.unclemikesbbq.co.nz/

    He just recently (after 3 years) finally got a residency license to continue operating the business, and I see a great future ahead. he plans to expand to more cities in the near future, and he’s already turning a profit (remarkable given the level of competition for restaurants around here).

    better hurry!

    :)

  25. Sastra:

    davem#20 wrote:

    In my opinion, the reason that there are more male chefs at the top is probably due to the fact that women follow recipes, and men see them as a challenge.

    Huh?
    I know this is just your opinion, but I don’t see where the male/female difference would come in here. Plenty of women change recipes, trying to come up with something new or better. I have a sister-in-law who regularly enters contests.

    If there’s a category which divides into the “follow recipe” vs. “challenge yourself” distinctions, it wouldn’t be sex. I’d think it would involve people who are just in a hurry to get something on the table vs. people who aren’t. Men and women could be in either.

  26. Sastra:

    Gretchen #23 wrote:

    And the two answers were “Yes; this oven is not just for girls,” and “Hasbro can market its toys however it wants.” It was not possible to choose both, so I didn’t vote.

    Yes, the wording on those two options pisses me off, too. Talk about poisoning the well …

    Feminism leads to totalitarianism. Obviously.

  27. Ben P:

    If there’s a category which divides into the “follow recipe” vs. “challenge yourself” distinctions, it wouldn’t be sex. I’d think it would involve people who are just in a hurry to get something on the table vs. people who aren’t. Men and women could be in either.

    I’ve used the phrase “you cook like an engineer” before. I think it’s a personality thing.

    Some people prefer rigid instructions and specific measurements, others are far more comfortable winging it.

    One of the important things you learn studying cooking on a more formal level is the quasi-chemistry aspects of when a recipe can be played with and when the proportions are important to the final result.

  28. Bjarni:

    One of the (many) things I’ll always be thankful to my Mum for was teaching me to cook. I see it as an important part of being self-reliant, and what ‘blokey’ guy doesn’t want to be self-reliant?

    I’ll admit though that when encouraging my little brother, or other younger guys to learn to cook, the easiest argument to make is that ‘when you’re older, you’ll be able to really impress a girl by cooking a nice meal for her’ ;)

  29. billdaniels:

    I was one of five children, three boys and two girls. When we were younger and my mother didn’t work, she did all the cooking. My father wouldn’t let her work. When she finally got a job outside the house the rule was the oldest child around at dinnertime did the cooking. My sister learned by watching her, I learned from watching my sister, and so on down the line.
    On the rare occasions that my father cooked, we would desperately call friends begging for dinner invitations. But he actively encouraged us to learn to fend for ourselves. We all knew how to cook, clean, manage money, and sew.
    My own son always watched my mother-in-law cook and when she died, when he was 11, he said that he would take over the cooking.

  30. dingojack:

    The whole ‘women can’t lift a pot of water’ argument doesn’t really work.
    My grandmother ran a boarding house in Southend. Every Monday she’d strip the beds, go to the house’s laundry, put all the washing in a copper, stir the bubbling brew, extract the hot washing, run them through the hand-mangle, place them into a basket, carry the washing to the line, hang them up, do the general cleaning until the washing was dry, take the washing off the line, re-make the beds and return the clothes to the rooms. This was in a three-storey house with the laundry in the cellar (below the level of the street and garden). Eight or so flights of stairs, the washing, beating out carpets and blankets, scrubbing, dusting, cleaning out and re-making the fires, washing and scouring.
    She wasn’t even remarkable, many women did the same or similar work.
    Nope, women are just too weak for commercial kitchens.
    Dingo

  31. Nemo:

    @Sastra #13:

    IN a child development class I once took long ago, I recall learning how the 2-year-old to 5-year-old growth period was roughly focused on mentally fitting everything into rigid categories.

    Some people never outgrow this stage.

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  33. valhar2000:

    At the risk of being excommunicated:

    The Pink Menace

    The girl’s aisles in stores really are scary.

  34. mildlymagnificent:

    Carrying a 20 liter pot of boiling water across the kitchen is among the duties of the apprentice, and it only gets worse from there, think sacks of raw material.

    Might I reinforce dingo’s comment here. I’ve lifted ‘pot-sticks’ loaded with bedsheets dripping with boiling water – and then put the damn thing back in the boiling water to get more boiling hot linen out.

    bobaho, at the time you’re thinking of commercial kitchens being established, the table linens were washed by women doing far harder work than the kitchen hands. If you want hot, heavy, dangerous work, try laundry.

  35. hunter:

    To second Dingo, my grandmother was a farm woman in the North Carolina hills, separated from my grandfather. When she needed water in the kitchen, well, there was a cistern in the front with water piped in from a spring up the hill, and she had a big bucket. When she needed firewood for the stove, the woodlot was just across the road. And for a while she had cows; the barn was just down the road, and we’d see Mama striding up the road to the house with a full bucket of milk in each hand.

    Oh, and a third option on following recipes: they’re the lesson plan for learning to make a dish. When you’ve got the basics, then you start playing around with it.

  36. Area Man:

    “Cooking is a skill that everyone should learn…”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really regard cooking as a “skill” that one needs to put specific effort into learning. It’s mostly just following a set of instructions, which as it turns out are extremely easy to find (the pre-internet versions were called “cook books”). Experience helps, but anyone who can read and isn’t physically disabled can cook good food.

    Not that it’s a big deal, but I get annoyed when I hear, “I don’t know how to cook.” Yes you do. You’ve just never done it.

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