Petition to make gender-neutral Easy-Bake Ovens

Mckenna Pope of Garfield, NJ has started a petition -- with just over 23,000 signatures at time of writing (including mine) -- to Hasbro, asking them to produce a gender-neutral version of the Easy-Bake Oven, so that her cooking-crazed little brother won't feel excluded from his passions:

My little brother has always loved cooking. Being in the kitchen is his favorite out of school activity, and he yearns to have the opportunity to cook on his own, or at least with limited help.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into his room to find him "cooking" tortillas by placing them on top of his lamp's light bulb! Obviously, this is not a very safe way for him to be a chef, so when he asked Santa for his very own Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven, produced by the Hasbro company, for me to help him be the cook he's always wanted to be, my parents and I were immediately convinced it was the truly perfect present.

However, we soon found it quite appalling that boys are not featured in packaging or promotional materials for Easy Bake Ovens -- this toy my brother's always dreamed about. And the oven comes in gender-specific hues: purple and pink.

I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work.

Hasbro: Feature boys in the packaging of the Easy-Bake Oven (via ThinkProgress)


  1. Be the change you want to see in the world. Pink is only a “girls’” colour if you call it so. Yes, there are actual girls on the box and in the commercial, but it is still up to the parents to take the gender out of colours; or to at least try.

    My three year old son loves pink and I try to get him pink shirts when I can. It is not easy to find ones without princesses and butterflies on them or will frilly sleeves (although he likes butterflies).

    1. And this kid in the story seems like he wouldn’t give a darn and has parents strong enough to reinforce that.

      The moral of the story (no not a moral, but you get it) is the good possibility that children may not ask for a particular thing if deterred by gender specific marketing. 

      Fact is that Hasbro should drop that weak ass colouration anyway. Kids want to cook, they usually come by the desire from watching cooking by parents or others, they respond very well to shit that looks like that stuff the a-dolts use. 

      Some people may have stupid looking pink ovens that resemble low-grade microwaves, but I still bet that a stainless steel (or just the look) miniature oven would sell rings around that POS pictured to either gender.

      1. When I was a youngen’ I HATED toys that looked like toys. Those red and blue plastic calculators, teddy bears on hiking back-backs etc.

        Even before I knew what patronising meant I found it patronising.

        1.  I agree completely.  I don’t know why adults forget this but kids want to be taken seriously and take themselves seriously during playtime. Play is a creative and immersive activity where new realities and scenarios are populated, created, and re-imagined.  I hated bulbous cartoony looking cars and rocketships as a child.  I wanted realistic, business-looking scale-models to play with and onto which I could project imagined characters dealing with whatever problems and obstacles happened to come upon that day such as giant invading alien horde.

    2. And even if you do accept pink as a girls-only colour, certainly purple is gender neutral? I wear lots of purple, and so did my son before he decided that green was his favourite colour for clothes.

      But yeah, colours should not be considered gender-specific. Colours are for everybody.

      Still having a healthy mix of girls and boys in commercials for any kind of toy would be a good thing.

  2. As much as I’m all-for cooking toys being gender-neutral, the Easy Bake Oven is a piece of junk.

    Parents can help their kids cook in a real kitchen. And if the kid is dead-set on having a miniature oven, use a toaster oven. There are small baking pans that will fit inside. And in addition to making things from scratch being educational (measuring!) and better tasting, it’s a heckuva lot cheaper than the just-add-water packets made for the Easy Bake Oven.

    EDIT to add:
    Kind of straying from the topic, but thought it might be of use for holiday shopping for some Boingers–
    I got this book for my nephews a couple of years ago, and they love it. It’s a cookbook for kids, but instead of making dinosaur-shaped sandwiches and crap like that, it teaches how to make great Italian food that parents would actually enjoy eating.
    The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes

    1. That’s a very good point. As a little boy I very much liked cooking, but my sister’s easy bake annoyed me to no end. I remember getting into a fight with her after I told her she wasn’t making real cakes. I got way more out of making clam chowder with my grandfather. Get the kid small spoons, whisks, bowls and if he’s old enough knives. Then let him actually cook. The younger he is the more help he’ll need but you’d be surprised what even an 8 year old can handle on their own. And given the number of fires my sister started with the easy bake it’ll be a lot safer.

      1. One of my favourite little books from my youth was a book about a little boy baking cookies. The book was basically the recipe with the boy performing all the steps, occasionally a parent showing up to turn on the oven. It’s an absolutely brilliant idea, and we should have more books like that.

        Fortunately we do have that book now for my son. At 3, he’s still too young to bake cookies, but he’s practicing hard at scrambling my eggs.

        1. That sounds effing awesome – what’s the title of the book?  Holidays are coming up and we have friends with children…

    2. Here here. My mother started teaching me how to use the oven around the age of six making cookies and cakes.  In the process I learned to follow simple written instructions, basic measurements, and how to double a recipe.  My father did the same out in the shop, simple hand tools around 3-4 years old, power tools, a few years later.  And eventually allowed me to use the dread table saw.

      I always felt a little sad for other kids with their easy bake ovens and plastic tools sets.  Seriously, why? Whats the point of those?

      1. Christ we gave our son a wooden tool set at around 18 months, could have had it sooner. He may play with it (naw, his little brother will get it before then) when he is 3-4 but I wouldn’t introduce him to it at that late age. 

        Peeps underestimate kids in our hover-parent society.

    3. Very Montessori and I couldn’t agree more.  From their own FAQ, right after the revelation that “the timer that is on the EASY-BAKE Ultimate Oven is a sticker”:

      Question: Why wouldn’t I just use a real oven?
      Answer: The EASY-BAKE Ultimate Oven is a fashionable fun food brand that inspires tween girls to bake, share and show their creativity and expertise through an immersive brand experience.

      Wow.  It’s like something out of Demolition Man.

      1. How can someone write an answer like that to a perfectly legitimate question, and still live with themselves?

    4. My 6 yr old son can crack eggs better than my wife! He whips ’em up with an old-fashioned hand-cranked egg beater and climbs right up on a ladder to pour them in the skillet to make scrambled eggs. He does (or is heavily involved in) every step but actually serving them on the plate.

      Teaching kids to cook provides them with an additional creative outlet, builds confidence & independence, and preps them to be able to help with household duties. Don’t expect – or encourage – perfection and don’t freak out over messes.

      Forget the toys and get the kids involved in real cooking – and cleaning – in the actual kitchen. Give them some skills that will last their whole lives! I cooked for my wife on our 3rd date and still do most evenings 16 years later!

      Next step, get the kids involved in laundry & housekeeping too!

  3. Well, the lazy parent’s solution (read:mine) is that it’s not too much harder to convince my son that pink isn’t necessarily a “girly” color worthy of his disdain than it is to encourage him to bake yummy things in a lightbulb-powered toy oven.  Both goals are worthwhile, after all.  But yeah, point taken.  And few kids are so colorblind as to miss the fact that any toy designed for and marketed to and played with by girls much more than boys will be found in the Pepto-Bismol Pink aisle at Toys-R-Us.

    As the volume of protest swells against ridiculous and unnecessary gendering of kids’ merchandise, I wonder how long it’ll take for toy companies to actually do something about it?  My kindergarten-age daughter is finally starting to outgrow her passion for all things pink to the exclusion of everything else, but really: did sales of Easy-Bake ovens actually spike with every step they took away from looking like Grandma’s actual oven through looking like a hot rod from the 70s through the toaster oven 80s pastel aesthetic up until the weird-ass thing they sell today, which apparently doesn’t even use the incandescent bulb anymore? I find it hard to believe that any of these “improvements” resulted in actual increased sales, especially the latest one, which doesn’t look like anything so much as Judy Jetson’s clock radio.

    1. No, the incandescent light bulb has been outlawed now, thanks to Obama’s socialist War on Lightbulbs.  The new Easy-Bakes use ionizing radiation from a small sample of medical-grade polonium.  The cakes don’t exactly “bake” so much as congeal and polymerize.  But they are mostly non-toxic.  (Avoid the Red Velvet.)

      1. Yup, you and I are contemporaries.  That’s the one my sister had.  I tried to make a cake with it once.  The results were so discouraging, I blamed myself for being a terrible cook.  Only recently did I begin to suspect the product itself as being fundamentally unpalatable to begin with.

    1. Obviously what’s missing is co-branding. I see a black-leather Easy-Bake “Anthony Bourdain” model in the future.

      1. > “I can’t believe it’s not butter?”  I can!

        Still the greatest line in any cookery book I’ve read.

        1. Is that his?  I heard that line in somebody’s HBO standup show in the mid-90s.  Can’t remember who, but I remembered the line.  Personally, I really like ICBINB spray.  That stuff goes on rice, baked potatoes, all manner of stuff.  But I won’t use it for pancakes.

      1. Yeah. I thought there was something in Freud about purple being a gay colour but I can’t find anything.
        It also has royal and aristocratic connotations from the costly and labour intensive use of the murex to produce purple dyes. (Hence, also, its ecclesiastical use, I would have thought.)

        1. ‘Lavender’ was in use to mean gay as early as 1929 when Cole Porter used it in that sense.

    1. I’d be happier to sign a petition against people building and perpetuating the stereotypes that some sexes are now prohibited from using some colors. o_O
      Who decided that was a thing?

      Whoever is saying that “purple is only for girls” is part of – or at least a product of – a completely arbitrary societal convention. A convention with even less weight than any “girls like to emulate their mother” gender-role observation.

  4. This got me wondering what the design of a gender-neutral or masculine EZ-Bake oven might actually look like, and then it hit me; we could easily mock-up such a product with Think Geek’s PC EZ-Bake installed in an old external SCSI drive/CD-ROM enclosure. Find one in metal and it would look very Modernist and ‘adult’ in aesthetic. 

    1. I had an old Pentium 90 that could fry an egg and keep on trucking, not that I ever tested that theory, but it burned the shit out of my fingers a few times like it had never met its heatsink

        1. heat source muh man. 

          They using an old scsi drive for pop tarts n shit 

          Imma put a quartered chicken in an old beige box n watch that bird brown slow. Could use an old cdrom drive n a flywheel, make it rotatastery 

          that is, if I had the time. sux I dont

  5. It’s not necessarily true about “women do the cooking”. It is a stereotype but there’s also some sexism in the food culture where real chefs are men.

    1. When men cook, it’s real work. When women cook, it’s an instinctual expression of their female genetics, possibly triggered by their girly glands. It doesn’t count as real work.

      1. Cooking and cleaning is just something females like to do in their free time. Scientists have never been able to explain it, like ululation.

      2. It’s only okay for men to cook when it’s extreme in some way. Extremely good (professional chef), extremely easy (dad making some mac and cheese), open flame is always good of course (barbecue, and women need to stay far away!), or anything else that’s as far removed as possible from a normal family dinner. It certainly shouldn’t involve a regular kitchen, because that’s a woman’s place.

    2. And since when is cooking not work? There is latent class bias here, a hang over from the time when men worked outside the house and women managed the servants, which is obscured by all our shiny labour-saving gadgets.

    3. The funny thing is I (a male) got interested in cooking as a kid because of Julia Child. I watched her program regularly, and thought she was one of the coolest people in the world. My mother was a pretty good cook, but I don’t remember her ever cleaning a swordfish. I learned some things from my mother in the kitchen, but I really wanted to cook like Julia Child.

      This has me wondering how many of the current crop of male chefs, many of whom seem to be around my age, got into cooking for the same reason. If Julia Child really was an inspiration for many young men to become chefs it makes the sexism of the professional cooking world even more ironic.

      1. I used to watch Julia Child too as a small boy and her show was one of my favorites. In another timeline, she might have been an inspiration for me to become a pro-chef, but in this timeline, I am a competent amateur. 

        You’re right, Christopher, about the irony of the sexism among professional chefs. I read somewhere (forgot where) that mental and personality differences are more common among pro-chefs than the general population, so maybe this is a contributing factor. I dunno….glad this sexism crap is starting to change, albeit not quickly enough. 

        (I also would like to add that another favorite TV chef of mine is the late Keith Floyd. His show was the progenitor of the modern cooking-travelogue show. His work likely is still available on YouTube…and his books are available on places like Amazon….well worth reading and watching.  The WikiP article doesn’t do him justice IMHO, but it does provide a quick bio and  some references )

  6. Also i think it’d be a much more interesting project for parents to make a bulb oven with (and for) their kids. This would make the oven a personal expression of the child, regardless of gender. And really, how difficult could it be to build one?

    1. That’s probably the single most important attitude I hope to inspire in my kids: “How hard could it be?”

        1. Don’t drink, myself, but my 3-year-old son has mastered the kid’s version: “Hey Dad… watch this!”

  7. See, when I was a kid, they offered an EZ-Bake grill.  If I remember right, it looked a bit like a habachi and had a metal plate heated by a lightbulb.  You could make pancakes certainly, I can’t remember if it would do a small hamburger or not.  Sorry, I can’t find references or pictures at the moment.

    I’ll have to see if it still exists in someone’s basement when I go home for Christmas.

  8. Come on, every third article on here is about 3-D printing and tearing apart electronics, and you’re looking to Hasbro for answers?

    1. I make, but 2 kids and a full life keep me a consumer, if a relatively rational one.

      Plus, to my dismay, kids don’t want what you want them to want, they want what they want, the best you can do is influence, instruct and be a good role model. The last thing you want to do is tell them what they want, unless they ask, and then you have to listen hard.

      edit – upon closer inspection of your avatar I add that you can safely assume I’m talking to the internet, not necessarily you.

    2. i always think its funny when there are anti consumerism posts on boing boing because every third article is like ‘buy this 3-d printer, come on its only $5000, think of all the stuff you could make, don’t you want to have so much stuff?????”

      1. Neat stuff that you’ve designed and created yourself (with or without the aid of a 3-D printer) =/= Factory-made stuff that you bought because of advertising and societal pressure.

        1. buy this factory made 3d printer, everyone on boing boing has one, don’t you want to be cool like everyone else?

  9. While I applaud this girls enthusiasm and commitment, this is really just making a mountain out of a molehill.  This isn’t sexism, it’s just retail advertising in a capitalist world. The manufacturer/retailer must advertise to its specific target audience to make its profits, and  these kinds of toys are predominantly preferred and purchased by girls, and girls predominantly prefer (or admittedly are sometimes taught to like) the color pink.  It makes sense to target that market in that fashion.It’s the same reason power-tools are advertised towards men, and lingerie is advertised towards women.  It’s not sexism, it’s simply marketing to the largest target audience and acknowledging the real differences in the sexes.The only real problem I see here is simply the lack of available color options for that product, which has more to do with minimising the manufacturer’s expense than it has to do with sexism.If her brother wants to cook, he’s going to cook regardless of the colour of the appliance,  He might balk at it, but in the end it’s the love of cooking that’s important, not the colour of the applicance. In fact, he seems to be doing just fine the video.

    1. Hahahaha its not sexism because they only sought profits, not to shape society.

      Because girls like this stuff more than boys… = profit.

      Hey don’t blame me, I’m just a pragmatist trying to earn a buck, 

      Now make me a sandwich.

      1. “lingerie is advertised towards women”

        Only as the buyers, not as the consumers. Which ties neatly into this here – To buyers don’t market to children (or at least not exclusively). Children are merely consumers. In addition, they market to parents and casual gift givers, so when those people actually in your demographic say quite clearly to you “We would like this and we want to pay for it”, a good business?

        They listen.

        So maybe they aren’t sexist. They could just be idiots.

        1. When has profit-making been about making everyone happy or being politically correct?  They’re targeting the money, plain and simple.  Why do you think they even sell those ovens?  Nobody actually NEEDS them, but they do WANT them, and they want them in enough quantities that it’s worth the expense to design, build and market them.
          Sure, Hasbro would be smart to include additional options and include wider sections of the market but only if they can justify the expense of doing so and/or improve their reputation so they can profit further.But more often than not a buyer *is* a consumer and that’s who you target.  While marketers might take parents and casual gift buyers into account because they have the money, I’m quite confident the main target is that kid who may go shopping with their mother and take a stroll through the toy aisle, or the child who is watching their favourite kid’s show on TV, or browses through a catalog when mommy or daddy does.

          1. It gives even the most modest of minds someone to feel intellectually superior to…?

            Nope. I’ve got nothing.

  10. im not usually one to get on the gender neutral bandwagon, i think its fine for there to be gendered products, some people want that

    but i also wanted an easy bake oven when i was a boy, i don’t remember them being terribly gendered when i was a kid but they probably were, if i had a son and he wanted one he would have it, of course i would probably teach him how to use the real stuff first anyways, lol

    1.  It is when it’s clearly intended to be. It’s about what it communicates more than anything else (see how they combine it with a criticism of the general packaging/marketing/approach).

    2. That’s what my mother told me when I was four years old and I told her pink was my favorite color. She told me it couldn’t be my favorite color.

      I think that was the beginning of my suspicion of the world. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but I have a very vivid memory of that event, and I think there was a thought in the back of my mind that assigning genders to colors was idiotic.

  11. I agree with the suggestion of teaching him how to cook with real cooking tools. I was about 9 when I learned how to make omelets for myself when coming home for lunch from school. I felt like a world-class chef grating the cheese, putting in bits of ham and folding the thing into a neat half-circle. I would pretend I was on a cooking show and narrate every step while inserting a few irrelevant comments about Life here and there. Good times.

  12. I want to start a petition to bring out an Easy Bake Oven that is at least slightly dangerous.  The one we got our son a couple years ago was a sealed unit where you slid the food (let’s call it “precursor”) into a slot with a special tool.  When finished, you pushed it out a slot on the other side.  I believe it’s the same technology used to handle plutonium.

  13. Some years they do make neutral colors…in the 70’s of course (mine was red/orange) and about 15 years ago (bought one for my godson – maybe a mostly white microwave style? forget…) and 5 or 6 years ago I scoured the internets and got a hard to find version in blue and gray.

  14. ‘I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work.’

    Stay at home dad here who does the cooking; what does that mean?

  15. Forget the ridiculous and pandering colors. Why can’t they make it neutral in color and WELL STYLED- like a tiny version of a Viking or Sub Zero.  Good design as opposed to silly looking crap?

    1. they may have changed it to a microwave style “oven” to solidify their  overbearing message of safetysafetysafety for today’s “you can’t play outside it’s dangerous” parent.

      But it may also be because of the prominence of processed food & its marketing in their target demographic. Sure, you can microwave whole foods… sure you can. But not if you like food.

    1. The top comment on that video says:

      This commercial made my dick grow ten inches it was so fuckin’ manly. Fuckin Queasy Bake up in this shit.

  16. My nephew asked to have my Easy Bake Oven (which was green, btw) when I outgrew it back in the early ’70s. Now he’s grown up, married with two grown boys and is a food services manager.

    1. I remember this greenish EBO, laurl. 

      My friend Angie had this. She was my next door neighbor, two grades ahead, she was 3rd grade I think — this was about 1978. By then it was a display piece in her room, but she let me give it a spin. I remember thinking it looked pretty cool, but I was not impressed with its performance ’cause I had already been using the real stove and range.

      I had not really thought of this for quite a while. The oven itself was much less gender stereotyped than the one here. I wonder if the adverts were. Cheers!

  17. I remember wanting an Easy-Bake oven when I was about six. My mom said no, but she’d supervise me when I wanted to bake cookies and cakes whenever I wanted. 

    1. Your mom made a good call – better to learn how to use the real thing from the beginning. Plus, cookies whenever you wanted.

      (Kinda like how my parents refused to get me the Timex-Sinclair computer kit and instead agreed to get me a Commodore VIC-20 if I saved up half the cost.) 

  18. I got an easy-bake oven (early 90s version I guess), but at the time I also remember baking stuff in a real oven with my mom’s help.  Mostly I remember being happy that I had something that was “mine”.  However, I also remember using the easy-bake oven was a terrible experience.  Getting the food in and out was difficult and sometimes things like the cakes would raise up until they hit the top of the slot … usually made a big mess.  Honestly I think getting a toaster oven would be a better option.

  19. Unless they make an EZ-Bake oven that has a high wattage bulb and can actually cook something, they can keep ’em.

    My daughter (and if I had a son, he would too) cooks with a real stove and a real oven.  She has since she was three, and I don’t see the point of a crappy plastic one no matter the color or gender branding.

  20. I just found out from my parents (36 years later) that when I was three years old, I begged for a dollhouse for x-mas. And because dollhouses were so girly then (and still are probably) my engineer father built me one, which is pretty damn cool. Thanks, dad. 

    1. When I was talking to one of the few female engineers I knew about ways to keep my daughter interested and learning skills that might lead to an engineering career, she suggested building dollhouses. She said any building project that involves reading plans and following a lot of steps is good preparation for engineering. She and her engineer dad used to build dollhouses together. I think it’s great your dad did this for you, and I hope that people who have daughters and sons who enjoy dollhouses will recognize that this is an activity that teaches a lot of the same skills as building toys like Kinex, Legos, and model building.

  21. I don’t think I ever envied my sisters’ Easy-Bake Oven–it always seemed cheesy and cheap to me–but as early as my third year of college I wished that I’d taken Home Ec in junior high rather than shop class, in part for personal budgeting/accounting but also for things like cooking and simple sewing/clothes repair. For that matter, shop class could have had more of a home maintenance/simple repair emphasis rather than being centered around woodworking; Nick Offerman would probably disagree, but most of us would be much better served learning how to replace a wall outlet or fix a leaky faucet rather than spending hours sanding a cutting board.

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