Between the Easy-Bake and Top Chef

What happens between the Easy-Bake Oven and the professional kitchen? Think Progress wants to know:

Thirteen year old Mckenna Pope’s little brother loves to cook. But when he watches the commercials for a product he’s hoping to get for Christmas — the Easy Bake Oven — he only sees girls playing with the toy. Because of that, he believes that “only girls play with it.”

Pope is hoping to change that perception with a video and a petition. She is asking Hasboro — maker of the Easy Bake Oven — to start putting boys in their commercials, so that her little brother sees it’s okay for boys to cook.

Okay, so the story so far: it’s a classic left-wing cliche about “gender norms.” Girls are told to bake and clean; boys are told to fight and earn. (And yes, this still is 2012. We haven’t gone back to 1974, when “Free to Be You and Me” was on every record player.)  

But here’s what I’d say to young McKenna Pope, who seems so exercised about her brother’s disinclination to cook: Relax, little girl. When it comes to professional chefs, that industry is, like, totally male dominated.

And liberals are mad about that, too. From New York Magazine:

We live in a golden age of chefs. Between your Batalis and Bouluds, your Vongerichtens and Riperts, your Masas and Morimotos, New York is bubbling over with cooking legends who not only practice world-class gastronomy but also manage to turn themselves into global gajillion-dollar megabrands. So here’s a question: Where are all the women? Despite the fact that women make up the vast majority of home cooks, and despite four-plus decades of modern feminism, women still run just a small percentage of top kitchens in New York and elsewhere. Never mind the Rachael Rays and Nigella Lawsons of the world. They’re TV personalities, not chefs. They don’t turn out hundreds of meals a night on a hot, high-stress line at one of the country’s most esteemed and critically scrutinized restaurants.

But how do those guys even know they want to cook if Hasbro, the maker of the Easy-Bake Oven, tells them it’s something that only girls do? 

Unless — brace yourselves — all of this talk about which toys promote which behavior is just a lot of archaic liberal nonsense. Can’t be that, right?

  1. Goldgeller

    Thanks for the post. The most telling example of the hypocrisy involved is in the second extended quote: “Never mind the Rachael Rays and Nigella Lawsons of the world. They’re TV personalities, not chefs. They don’t turn out hundreds of meals a night on a hot, high-stress line at one of the country’s most esteemed and critically scrutinized restaurants.” Forget the contrary anecdotal evidence that mounts against our case– for the purposes of whining we will diminish real female accomplishments!

    I’m no foodie… but I don’t think the fancy chef is out there cooking hundreds of meals a night either. Thank your short order cooks for that. Also, “cooking” is different than “starting a restaurant.” 

    The issue is this for some people way too fixated on sexuality– everything is a patriarchal trap. Toys probably don’t promote behavior, but marketing does affect people. I won’t deny that. But maybe many kids lucky enough to have two parents see mom cooking more than dad? Maybe mom even teaches the daughter how to cook?

    With that said… I wish I knew how to cook!

  2. Becky53

    Is there a correlation between using easy-bake oven and future vocation?  Nope. 

    Is there a correlation between using non-pink legos and becoming a future architect or engineer?  Nope.

  3. Rachel Lu
    C

    My husband and I absolutely do not go in for that gender-suppression-through-toy nonsense (giving our boys dolls and all that) but we did get our 3-year-old son a play kitchen set. It’s right next to his play workbench. It’s a close call which he loves most: the kitchen or his toy trains.

    The kitchen isn’t pink or anything, and we didn’t get him a tea set to go with it. But there’s no reason at all why he’d think that cooking was girly because his dad is a great cook, and we also like to watch Food Network competitions that feature (as you observe) predominantly male chefs. Perhaps Pope just needs to watch more Food Network with her little bro. 

  4. Barkha Herman

    Why is it that a parent / kid has to look at the picture on the box or an ad to decide what they should do?  Why can’t a boy just use an easy bake oven?  (Are there kids who don’t because there are pictures of girls on them?)

    My first degree was in Hotel Management and I was the first female chef in the Hotel I worked at (in India).  Yes, there was some resistance initially (cleaning a heap of cow tongue / chopping a bucket of onions) but after the initial “trial” everyone in the kitchen loved and “protected” me.  

    I discovered, to my surprise, that one hardly ever uses a penis while cooking professionally.

    Similarly a vagina is completely useless while playing with an easy bake oven.

    Am I just an exception?  Should I be following pictures / ads / labels?  The more important question is why are these parents and the so called “experts”?

  5. James Of England

    I didn’t really have the money for it when I was in the States, so I don’t know if it’s true there, but Mrs. of England and I have found that the top women chefs in the UK, Europe, and South Africa, have generally seemed somewhat overrated (not “not great chefs” but “not quite as great as they’re billed as”).

    Our amazing chef friend was a sort of counter example, but has now transitioned to publicly identifying as male. It’s one of my favorite examples of the correct application of “the exception that proves the rule”.

  6. Barkha Herman

    I remember this one time when I was painting my nails.  My daughter, then about 4, wanted me to do her nails as well.  Following that, my son, then 2, wanted in.  So, I obliged.  

    It so happened that one of the older female relatives from the hubby’s side was visiting, and she got quite upset that I was painting the boy’s nails.   “Boys should not paint their nails”.  (this was a 2 year old, mind you).  So I told her that I will stop painting his mails as soon as she stopped wearing trousers.

    That was the end of that.

  7. Percival

    Didn’t Hasbro do away with the Easy-Bake Oven?  It utilized incandescent lightbulbs as heat elements, and therefore constitutes a crime against Mother Gaia.

    Vance Richards: I ended up in my career because my parents bought me the “Sit-In-A-Cubicle-And-Stare-At-Your-Computer Elmo” doll when I was a kid. · 0 minutes ago

    If my folks had gotten me that Lil Hacker Logic Analyzer™ set, this stuff would be a lot easier.

  8. SParker

    I was wondering why anyone would buy one of these things for boy, girl, or household pet.  Instead of letting them use the toaster oven. Hasbro provided the answer in the FAQ (the Ultimate FAQ). Or close enough.

    Q: Why wouldn’t I just use a real oven?

    A: The EASY-BAKE brand is a fashionable fun food brand that inspires tween girls to bake, share and show their creativity and expertise through an immersive brand experience.

    I translate that as: because I’m an idiot, easily dazzled by language.

    And wouldn’t “tween girls” be something an incompetent Lothario is?

  9. AUMom

    Easy Bake Ovens are toys. To learn to cook, get in the kitchen. This may be why the best chefs are men — they skipped the toys and went straight to a working oven.

  10. ConservativeWanderer
    AUMom: Easy Bake Ovens are toys. To learn to cook, get in the kitchen. This may be why the best chefs are men — they skipped the toys and went straight to a working oven. · 2 minutes ago

    That’s where I learned to cook… first with my late mother, then when she married a guy in the restaurant industry, I learned right there in a professional kitchen.

    Still love to cook, and I still say that my time cooking for a living (in the family restaurant, natch) was both the most fun I’ve ever had working and the hardest I’ve ever worked — anyone that thinks professional cooking is easy has never done it.

  11. Misthiocracy
    Rob Long: 

    Thirteen year old Mckenna Pope’s little brother loves to cook. But when he watches the commercials for a product he’s hoping to get for Christmas — the Easy Bake Oven — he only sees girls playing with the toy. Because of that, he believes that “only girls play with it.”

    Pope is hoping to change that perception with a video and a petition. She is asking Hasboro — maker of the Easy Bake Oven — to start putting boys in their commercials, so that her little brother sees it’s okay for boys to cook.

    I think it’s a fair criticism.  After all, I’ve seen plenty of statistics that indicate that young men learn to cook in much greater numbers than young women nowadays, and that the man is more often the primary food-preparer in relationships.

    I played with an Easy-Bake Oven when I was a kid.  It was a hand-me-down from my sisters.  Also, it was not pink.  It was one of the old-style ones that looked more like a real oven, rather than a pink microwave.

    I never would have played with it if it had been pink, is my point.

  12. Joseph Paquette

    I built model rockets and watched “Star Trek” but never made it to space, so much for toys as destiny. 

  13. Nick Stuart

    All my boys learned how to cook (and clean, and do their laundry) as those are flat-out just life skills everyone needs to have.

    Both my girls learned how to cook, fish, start campfires, &tc as those t0o are life skills everyone needs to have.

    Maybe we’re overthinking this a little.

  14. Valiuth
    Rob Long: 

    Unless — brace yourselves — all of this talk about which toys promote which behavior is just a lot of archaic liberal nonsense. Can’t be that, right? · · 2 hours ago

    I don’t know. As a child I played with my Batman action figures a lot and now every night I prowl the streets of Chicago fighting crime. So what do you have to say to that Mr. Knowitall? 

  15. DrewInWisconsin
    Dave Roy:

    I’ve always thought that the outrage over gender-based marketing like this was pretty silly, and they don’t reflect reality anyway. When boys play with Barbie, they are making Ken get beat up by their GI Joe action figures anyway.

    Pretty much. The country’s going to hell in a handbasket, and I’m supposed to be upset because they now have Pink Legos?

    (My two daughters prefer the non-girly Legos anyway.)

  16. Misthiocracy
    DrewInWisconsin

    Dave Roy:

    I’ve always thought that the outrage over gender-based marketing like this was pretty silly, and they don’t reflect reality anyway. When boys play with Barbie, they are making Ken get beat up by their GI Joe action figures anyway.

    Pretty much. The country’s going to hell in a handbasket, and I’m supposed to be upset because they now have Pink Legos?

    (My two daughters prefer the non-girly Legos anyway.) · 0 minutes ago

    My niece is way into Star Wars.

    As well she should be!

    Except for Jar-Jar.

  17. Valiuth
    Misthiocracy

    DrewInWisconsin

    Dave Roy:

    I’ve always thought that the outrage over gender-based marketing like this was pretty silly, and they don’t reflect reality anyway. When boys play with Barbie, they are making Ken get beat up by their GI Joe action figures anyway.

    Pretty much. The country’s going to hell in a handbasket, and I’m supposed to be upset because they now have Pink Legos?

    (My two daughters prefer the non-girly Legos anyway.) · 0 minutes ago

    My niece is way into Star Wars.

    As well she should be!

    Except for Jar-Jar. · 3 minutes ago

    Remember Jedi are trained to be ferocious religious warriors from childhood, so I hope you are training her to feel no lover or fear and how to chop people up in a civilized manner as apposed to crudely shooting them. 

  18. Nicegrizzly

    I find nothing troubling about this girl’s petition. She’s a private citizen appealing to a private company about something she has observed as a problem, i.e., her brother wanting an Easy Bake Oven but fearing it would appear too girly. It’s not like the federal government is forcing Hasbro to change their marketing.

    Just two weeks ago, my brother-in-law (a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris) told me that as a boy, he wanted an Easy Bake Oven, but was afraid of what his father, a Marine, would think. If Hasbro wants to increase sales, gender neutral marketing may do it.

  19. John Walker

    One of my friends had two children, a son and a daughter, and did everything he could to let them discover their own place in life without being shaped by gender-normed toys chosen by parents.  (This may make him seem weirder than he was—he loves his kids and simply didn’t want to force them into stereotypes.  He figured, “Get them reading by age 4 and watch them take off”.)

    What he observed was surprising to him, and enlightening in a way.  His daughter would find a rag, or a washcloth and turn it into a doll.  His son would find a forked branch in the backyard and play with it as a gun.

    They had, and have no television, so that can be ruled out, but contact with other children may have something to do with this.

    Still, it caused me to reconsider my view of how innate gender rôles may be.

  20. Misthiocracy
    Valiuth

    Misthiocracy

    DrewInWisconsin

    Dave Roy:

    I’ve always thought that the outrage over gender-based marketing like this was pretty silly, and they don’t reflect reality anyway. When boys play with Barbie, they are making Ken get beat up by their GI Joe action figures anyway.

    Pretty much. The country’s going to hell in a handbasket, and I’m supposed to be upset because they now have Pink Legos?

    (My two daughters prefer the non-girly Legos anyway.) · 0 minutes ago

    My niece is way into Star Wars.

    As well she should be!

    Except for Jar-Jar. · 3 minutes ago

    Remember Jedi are trained to be ferocious religious warriors from childhood, so I hope you are training her to feel no lover or fear and how to chop people up in a civilized manner as apposed to crudely shooting them.

    Oh, you’d better believe it. Once I’m through with her, she’ll be the leader of the Sith … um … Jedi.  I meant to write Jedi.

    (insert innocent whistling…)

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