My sister had an Easy-Bake Oven when we were kids. I recall it having a lot of pink, but not much else about it. I remember vividly the commercials for the one that looked like an oven, but I don’t think that was it. The model my sister had could very likely be this one, based on the timing:
I also strongly recall spending my allowance for the cake mixes so I could make up a batch of cupcakes myself on at least two occasions. Yes, it was regular old cake mix, and yes you cooked it by putting it next to a light bulb in a tiny enclosed plastic
fire hazard box, but there was something magical and alchemy-like about turning powder and water into cake. It probably had something to do with my latent interest in science, why cooking seemed like chemistry; or it might have also been my latent desire to stuff my craw with sugar. Either way, I think with my two forays into cooking with my sister’s Easy-Bake, I outstripped her own interest.
It’s for this reason that I believe Hasbro already makes a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven, despite this recent (successful) campaign.
The problem with gender and Easy-Bake Ovens stems not from the color or design of the oven. The original ovens were relatively gender-neutral colors like green and yellow. The gender-specificity of the Easy-Bake Oven as a toy came originally from the prevailing gender norm that WOMEN did all the cooking. That, and as televisions gained ubiquity and television commercials started advertising to kids instead of adults, they always showed girls playing with it.
Then the marketing started pinkifying and making “pretty” the design of the oven, around the 1990s.
Why? Because it wasn’t gender-specific ENOUGH, I guess.
And yet, prior to the 1990s remodels, none of them were pink; all of them were oven-shaped until the advent of the microwave. (A kitchen appliance so dead-simple even a STUPID MALE WHO ISN’T THE HOUSEWIFE could use it, hur dur.) So what exactly is 13-year-old McKenna Pope asking for — and getting, now that the campaign was successful? There’s nothing about the Easy-Bake that’s inherently for girls. They MADE gender-neutral Easy-Bakes at one point, then stopped.
So, obviously, Hasbro’s acquiescence to this request is, ultimately, an admission that the toy itself is not inherently gendered. Making it chrome and putting boys in the ads is just changing how you’re MARKETING it. This is just a way to give boys an “out” from all the gender-policing they’ll get because they have a “girls’ toy.” And that gender-policing is probably going to happen anyway.
And beyond all that, it’s entrenching the idea that certain shapes or colors are too frilly for boys — that the newest model is too abstract or has too many floral patterns on it; that it only comes in pink or purple and those aren’t boy colors. That idea has no truck with me. The toy itself is not made gender-neutral by making it black and chrome and angular. You could market it to boys even if it was pink and fluffy. You just wouldn’t be marketing it to the boys’ PARENTS.