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Gender bias and the iconic oven page 2


 McKenna Pope, 13 (right), is petitioning for a more boy-friendly Easy-Bake Oven for her brother Gavyn Boscio, 4.
Julio Cortez/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 12/8/2012

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The debate over whether toy companies are reinforcing gender stereotypes--pinks and princesses for girls, guns and gross things for boys--seems to flare every year, particularly at Christmas, and has involved such things as Legos, toy microscopes and Barbie dolls. Now, it has extended to another one of the most beloved baby boomer toys, introduced in the 1960s.

Flay, 47, said he asked for an Easy-Bake for Christmas when he was about 5. He remembers it as a "putrid green" and recalls baking cakes with his mother from mixes. (The Easy-Bake Oven back then used a light bulb as a heating element; now it operates more like a real oven.) At the time, he said, the stereotype was that only women cooked, but a lot has changed since then.

"I cannot tell you how many young boys are my fans. And they want to grow up, and they want to cook," the Food Network star said.

Jim Silver, a toy expert and editor-in-chief of Timeto playmag.com, played with an Easy-Bake himself when as a kid and said boys still play with it, just as girls play with Hot Wheels cars. He said Hasbro is simply marketing to the audience most likely to buy the oven and there's nothing wrong with that.

About seven years ago, Hasbro had a cooking product aimed at boys, the Queasy Bake Cookerator, which included recipes for gross-sounding treats such as Dip n' Drool Dog Bones and Mud n' Crud Cake. "Sales failed miserably," Silver said.

Flay said he is not surprised it failed because Hasbro was trying to appeal to boys in a stereotypical way. Instead, he urged the toymaker to think about widening the market for the Easy-Bake.

"Why not actually create something that everybody knows the name, but also it comes in different colors so that boys, girls, doesn't matter, they can pick what color they want and it will make them a little more comfortable to buy it?" he said.

In the meantime, he said, Gavyn's family should buy him an Easy-Bake Oven anyway.

"Absolutely. If that's what he wants, why not get it for him? I mean, who cares what color it is?" he said.


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