Gender-Neutral Easy-Bake Oven: Good PR Move?

During the holiday season, people expect toy giant Hasbro to make headlines. But this usually happens when the company releases a new game or a limited special edition product — not because children are calling out the brand for sexism in familiar toys like the Easy-Bake Oven and Guess Who?

A few months ago, a 6-year-old girl wrote a letter to Hasbro, arguing that Guess Who? is sexist because only five of the 24 characters in the game are female. This inequality makes the choice of a female character less than desireable for kids because it increases their chances of losing the game. The moment a child’s opponent asks, “Is it a girl?” and the answer is “yes”, 19 cards are automatically eliminated and the game is pretty much over.

The little girl, her mother, and their supporters were less than impressed by Hasbro’s response (which basically amounted to “we’ll keep your suggestions in mind for the future.”) So when a second party lobbed a similar complaint against the toy company, they decided to take tangible action.

We’ll explain, but first you need to watch this clip of an adorable young boy/aspiring chef who tells the world once and for all that “boys like to cook too!”

McKenna Pope, 13, of Garfield, N.J., decided to buy an Easy-Bake Oven for her little brother, but was disturbed to find the toy was only available in pink and purple — sending the clear message that baking (along with other kitchen activities) is strictly for girls. Her petition on racked up more than 40,000 signatures, including those of celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay. Rather than face still more bad press for ignoring another child’s cries of gender bias, Hasbro acquiesced.

Enter the gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven: available in black, silver, and blue, it’s slated to appear in commercials with boys instead of girls. Hasbro even invited McKenna and her family to its Pawtucket, R.I., headquarters to meet with its Easy-Bake team. So what does McKenna’s little brother think of the new prototype? He says it’s “awesome”. We imagine Hasbro is hoping many other boys — like enough to offset the cost of creating and promoting the equal opportunity Easy-Bake — will echo that sentiment.

Publish date: December 20, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT