After getting national attention for her gender-neutral toys campaign, 13-year-old McKenna Pope and her family were invited to the Hasbro factory this week, where they learned that their petition would become a reality: a black and silver Easy Bake Oven is shipping in early 2013. She spoke with BuzzFeed Shift about the whole experience.
BuzzFeed: Your petition was signed by over 44,000 people in a matter of days. Why do you think it resonated so strongly with tens of thousands of people?
MP: I think a lot of these people really wanted Easy Bake Ovens but were scared it was a girls' toy. There are a lot of boys who are scared to get them. And females feel strongly too, because Hasbro is basically telling us that girls are the ones who cook and that girls are the ones who belong in the kitchen. I think everyone really has something they can relate to with this, whether it was because they wanted one but didn't get one because they thought they'd be ridiculed for getting a girls' toy, or because they feel that Hasbro is saying only girls cook.
BF: Did you relate personally? Were there "toys for boys" that you felt you couldn't play with as a kid?
MP: I loved Nerf guns when I was little. It was always like, I felt like I shouldn't want them. There were only boys in the commercials. But at the same time, I think girls who play with boys' toys get a lot more slack than boys who play with girls' toys — or you know, what society has made to be boys' and girls' toys.
BF: Were you surprised when Hasbro responded and told you they were actually already working on a line of gender-neutral Easy Bake Ovens?
MP: I was extremely surprised! I thought I'd most likely get a generic response, but I had this glimmer of hope that they'd really do something about it. The fact that they actually did shocked me so much, and it was amazing.
BF: So then you went to Hasbro, and met with them. What was that like?
MP: They were really nice and understanding. We basically talked about how they plan on marketing it. They do plan on marketing it in a gender-neutral fashion. They also gave us a tour around the factory and the headquarters. That was really cool.
BF: What did your brother think?
MP: When he saw the new gender-neutral Easy Bake that they're coming out with next year, he was ecstatic. He thinks it's the most amazing thing he's ever seen.
BF: There are definitely boys who will be thrilled with the black Easy Bake oven. But I'd think a lot of girls will be excited about it too.
MP: Oh yeah, a lot of girls will be excited. They're now not being told they have to play with pink. And also, now that they have it in black and silver and blue, it looks more like a realistic kitchen appliance, which I think is cool. Kids who want to cook like mom and dad can finally cook like mom and dad. It looks like the stuff they have in their actual kitchens at home.
BF: What other toys do you think need to get the gender-neutral treatment soon?
MP: Maybe baby dolls. Boys need to learn to be fathers as much as girls need to learn to be mothers. On the opposite end, things like Nerf guns, as I mentioned previously. I don't really understand why they most often market stuff to a specific gender. They could really improve their products if they marketed them to the other half of the world.
BF: Did you see the Swedish toy catalog where they swapped the kids' genders?
MP: Yeah! I thought that was really cool.
BF: You're a pretty impressive activist. What's next on the agenda?
MP: A lot of people have been asking me that. I know that I've won one battle, but there are a thousand more battles that can be fought. I definitely will be pursuing a new cause sometime soon, but first I have to figure out what relates to me and what else I can help change.