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Why can't boys have an Easy-Bake Oven?
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Professor Locs, aka Charles Easley, is an educator who explores race, class, gender, sexuality, media and popular culture with humor and insight. His column is published here each Wednesday. Opinions expressed are solely his own. Click here to read his blog.

I grew up with three sisters, and most of my cousins were girls, so I had little choice in playing with girl toys around Christmas time. It was either sit in the corner alone with my Tonka truck or join the in-crowd. I guess that is why the story of how one girl challenged gender stereotypes on behalf of her little brother caught my attention.

McKenna Pope, who is 13, decided to start a petition on behalf of her 4-year-old brother who wanted an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. She found plenty of ovens but felt that boys might be put off by the pink and purple colors. (Hey, I can speak from experience; nothing screams “I like to be roughed up when there is no adult supervision around” like showing up with a pink oven for play dates.)

Side note: The Easy-Bake Oven is overrated. They give you only about four cake packets, which cost more than four real boxes of cake mix to replace, so you end up heating leftover spoonsful of cornbread mix you begged from your mother. Also, the entire contraption is built around a 40-watt light bulb, which means you could watch two seasons of “Basketball Wives” before your pizza is done.

Rant completed; back to McKenna.

McKenna started a petition on Change.org to urge Hasbro, which makes the Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven, to create more “non-gender-specific” colors that appealed to boys and girls. The petition was very successful, earning more than 40,000 signatures, including support from celebrity chefs.

The majority of chefs are men, so the thought of a little boy wanting to cook should not be far-fetched.

Maybe they should make an Easy-Make Grill for boys. It would come with grilling utensils, barbeque sauce packets, lighting fluid and fake eyebrows that kids could wear and remove after lighting the grill, just like their uncles.

Hasbro had a better idea. They invited McKenna and her family to their corporate offices to meet with the Easy-Bake creative team. McKenna was quoted as saying, "I'm thrilled that they not only recognize the importance of a gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven, but also, they've committed to launching one in 2013. Now, boys and girls can choose any color oven they want!"

Hey, where was all this forward thinking when I was a kid? Do you know how many beat downs I could have missed out on if I’d had that kind of support? lol.

It is amazing how early we begin to send messages of specific gender roles. Before kids are born, their rooms are painted either blue or pink. Are we frozen in some ’50s “Ozzie and Harriet” notion of male and female roles?

Our culture is evolving, and the historical roles for men and women are being blurred. More women are heads of households. More men choose to stay home with children. (Watch out, “Housewives of Atlanta,” there is even a reality show about househusbands.)

Maybe big sister McKenna and Hasbro are on to something here. I mean, how many Christmas pictures have you seen where a little girl half-heartedly poses with a doll while shamelessly eyeing her brothers catchers mitt?

The times are changing, so why shouldn’t toys? This could be the start of a whole new movement in non-gender-specific toys for kids.

I can see it now: Move over, big head Barbie, and make room for big head DaSean! DaSean comes with comb, scissors and clippers. You can give him a high-top fade, etch designs or twist his locks. Don’t worry if you mess up; just shake his head for more hair and start over, cause DaSean don’t tip anyway!

Christmas should be a magical time for kids to wish for anything their hearts desire, regardless of how it has historically been gender associated. So go ahead, bake a cake with your nephew or toss a ball with your niece. It’s all good in the name of holiday spirit. Merry Christmas!

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October 9, 2015
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