Make Cakes, Not War!

The holidays are upon us, and even though I’m a bit of a humbug when it comes to the holidays, there is one thing that still excites me about this time of year: TOYS! I’m a big fan of toys (mainly giant robots), and during this time of year I like to stroll down the toy aisles at department stores to see the new items that kids will be bugging their parents non-stop over the next few weeks.  I also like to check out any new editions to toy lines with which I am already familiar, especially new giant robots. What I also become a bit nostalgic for are toy commercials. Lately, I’ve been spending a good deal of time watching old toy commercials on YouTube (no worries, I won’t be linking to any giant robot commercials; although, it is honestly taking lots of self-restraint).

When watching some commercials from the 1970s, I came across this 1972 commercial for the Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven. Check this out: 

What gets me about this commercial is the part where the little girl says, “It’s the most beautiful oven I’ve ever seen.” I kept thinking of how many young girls might have been potentially horrified by the thought of being tethered to an oven the rest of their lives, as if it was every young girl’s dream to bake cakes. I then got to thinking about how, aside from giant robots, one of my favorite toys was actually the Easy Bake Oven. Unfortunately, I didn’t have one, but I grew up in a very large family where most of the others around my age were female…there was always an Easy Bake Oven around (which actually went great with my Snoopy Snow Cone Machine). In fact, most of my male cousins also loved the Easy Bake Oven. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so much the oven, but that we all loved cake. So, why haven’t we seen boys in Easy Bake commercials? I guess we can ask similar questions about most toys, and we know the answer.

I’ve been keeping up with Transformers commercials for over 20 years (yes, very sad indeed), and have never once seen a girl in one of those commercials. Of course, if Transformers baked cakes (I actually love that idea!), that may have all been different.

One recent article on a Social Images Blog comments on a toy website that shows girls playing with “boy” toys, and then asks the pertinent question: Why don’t they also have images showing boys playing with “girl” toys? One commenter, I feel, gave a great answer: “Unfortunately, we don’t see boys as being treated as unfairly when they don’t get to do ‘girl things’ because girl things are considered inferior. It seems natural to people that girls and women want to do boy/men things because we see these activities as worthwhile. But a boy or man doing girl/women things is seen as somehow deviant because they are seen as wasting their time doing something useless.”

It’s eerily ironic that some might consider it questionable for a boy to play with Barbie because he is fascinated by, and wants to act out, domestic scenes, but yet it is considered completely “normal” for a boy to spend untold hours engaging his G.I. Joe dolls (or even giant robots) in scenes of violence. In fact, it’s very twisted: young boys are encouraged to romanticize acts violence, but are taught to treat domesticity as feminine and inferior. What?!?! Make cakes, not war!

And just to show that for every step forward we take on this issue, we take a few steps back, check out this blog post from Miriam at Feministing.  It’s basically the 1972 Easy Bake Oven commercial all over again, except this time it’s from “Girls Only” and it’s called “My Cleaning Trolley.” I’m still waiting for a “Boys Only” version…maybe it could be called “My Janitor Cart”.

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One Comment

  1. Jessica
    Posted December 22, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink | Reply

    That is so true. I was thinking the other day about easy bake ovens. I always wanted one, but never had one. My friend, however, had one of those toys where you could mold little plastic bugs and worms and things. What were those called? The commercials always showed boys making the bugs and using them to scare their sisters. Maybe Easy Bake Oven should come out with a line of bug-shaped cakes!

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