December 7, 2012

Controversy over Easy-Bake Oven for boys heats up

More than 30,000 people have signed a petition asking Hasbro to make the popular toy in colors other than pink and purple.

The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Four-year-old Gavyn Boscio loves to cook and asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. But when his big sister went to buy one, she discovered to her disappointment that it comes only in girly pink and purple, with girls - and only girls - on the box and in the commercials.

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This Sept. 8, 2011 file photo shows Hasbro's newest version of their famous "Easy Bake Oven" in Pawtucket, R.I. An eighth-grade girl from Garfield, N.J., has started an online petition asking Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro to make the toy ovens in gender-neutral colors and feature boys on the package after she went to buy one for her little brother and discovered that it comes only in girly pink and purple, with girls and only girls on the box and in the commercials. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

AP

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McKenna Pope, 13, left, plays with her brother Gavyn Boscio, 4, in their home in Garfield, N.J. on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Pope started a petition demanding the toy company Hasbro make its Easy-Bake Oven more boy friendly. She was inspired to do so when Gavyn put the oven on his Christmas wish list and she and their mother, Erica Boscio, found the toy only available with girls on the packaging and in pink or purple colors. The petition garnered more than 30,000 signatures in a little more than a week. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

So the eighth-grader from Garfield, N.J., started an online petition asking Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro to make the toy ovens in gender-neutral colors and feature boys on the package.

By Friday, 13-year-old McKenna Pope's petition had garnered more than 30,000 signatures in a little more than a week.

And celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who owned an Easy-Bake Oven as a boy, is among those weighing in on her side.

In a video McKenna made to accompany her petition on Change.org, Gavyn whips up a batch of cookies and tells his sister he wants a dinosaur and an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. When she asks why there are no boys in the commercial for Easy-Bake Ovens, he says: "Because only girls play with it."

"Obviously, the way they're marketing this product is influencing what he thinks and the way that he acts," McKenna said in an interview. She said her little brother would probably be OK playing with a purple-and-pink oven by himself but would be too embarrassed to use it in front of his friends.

In a letter McKenna received Monday, a Hasbro representative told her the company has featured boys on the packaging over the years and said a brother and sister were finalists for the Easy-Bake "Baker of the Year" award in 2009. Hasbro also pointed to Flay as an example of a chef who traced his career to an early experience with the Easy-Bake.

McKenna found the response disappointing.

"All they really told me is that boys play with their products. I already know boys do play with your products, so why are you only marketing them to girls?" she said. "I don't want them to make a boys' Easy-Bake Oven and girls' Easy-Bake Oven. I want them to make an Easy-Bake Oven for kids."

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 things such 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 recalls baking cakes with his mother from mixes. 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," he said.

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