The Joy of Easy Cooking: Easy Bake Oven is finally targeting boys, which is a good thing, and a bad thing

“For some reason a boy can’t enjoy cooking delicious desserts out of a fabulous pink and purple machine of culinary magic.”
January 02, 2013

(Easy Bake Oven)

Along with fudge, tree-shaped cookies and consumerism, one of my favorite Christmas traditions every year is looking back on holidays past. In many ways, every Christmas is like another episode in an ongoing sitcom about pajama bottoms and disappointing gift cards. The joke is usually on you. Along with a lot of other gays, I have especially fond memories of those early, brightly wrapped prophecies that arrived on December 25 every year, foretelling my current gay existence. The N Sync tickets, the Nancy Drew novels, the live recordings of ’80s musicals and, most importantly, the Easy-Bake Oven.
I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I desperately wanted an Easy-Bake Oven but I think the period roughly stretched from five years old to right now. For a fat gay kid an Easy-Bake oven is like an artifact in an Indiana Jones movie. You want it desperately, but you’re also a little frightened and overwhelmed by its power. Why would anyone want an action figure or a stupid gun when they could have a giant pink machine that produces cookies, brownies and everything else you could ever want? I traded a summer of swimming lessons for that Easy-Bake Oven and I regret nothing.
Because of my early experiences and hazy memories of Christmas joy surrounding my Easy-Bake, it was with mixed feelings that I read the news this week that Hasbro, responding to a petition, is planning on releasing a “gender neutral” version of the device. Mainly, because I didn’t realize the small metal rectangle I had been pulling soggy brownies out of my entire childhood had a vagina. But also, because it’s sad to me that for some reason a boy can’t enjoy cooking delicious desserts out of a fabulous pink and purple machine of culinary magic.
The petition, which was started by a very convincing New Jersey 12-year-old who’s hitting all her marks in the accompanying video, was really asking Hasbro to do two things. The first was to include boys in the packaging and promotional materials for the product. That’s obviously a brilliant and salient idea. Second, she asked the company to offer more hues of the machine than the “gender-specific purple and pink.” That’s where I have to differ with McKenna Pope, as much as I admire her camera skills.
I don’t think that either one of these goals are necessarily bad, but it’s too bad that they have to go hand in hand. Elizabeth Sweet, a researcher at UC Davis, recently announced that after a brief period of less-defined marketing in the mid '70s, we're now back to 1952 levels of gender segregation in our toys. With all the other progress we've made in our culture that's pretty astounding. So as we dwell on our childhoods this Christmas, let’s also think about what we can do to make it more acceptable for everyone to easy bake in style.