APPLETON - Looking down the aisles at a toy store, it's easy to tell which are aimed at boys and which at girls-- often just based on color, but a girl from New Jersey is trying to change that, starting with the Easy Bake Oven.
13-year-old McKenna Pope is lobbying toy maker Hasbro to make its now 49-year-old oven more gender neutral. It began turquoise. Right now the toy only comes in pink and purple and Pope's says her younger brother would like one that looks more suitable for boys.
But Pope's campaign raises questions about toys and how they shape children's ideas of gender roles.
Scott Halbach has loved to cook ever since he was a little boy.
"As kids we did a lot of baking with my grandma in her kitchen," Halbach told FOX 11.
Today Halbach's a chef at Kensington Grille in Appleton. He said as children we're often told women cook and men don't, but he wanted to be a chef anyway.
"I don't believe in that kind of gender role. I think you find what you're passionate about whether you're a boy or a girl, you find something you're passionate about and you pursue it," said Halbach.
But some people do believe in those "gender roles." Geneva Murray is the Director for the Women's Center at UW-Oshkosh. She told FOX 11 children learn what it means to be a boy or a girl at about two years old.
"It's shaped by what we and the media and toys and all these other influences are telling themm" said Murray.
Murray said toys like the Easy Bake Oven, which are marketed mainly to girls in purple and pink tell girls they should like baking and boys should not. She saod that is a limiting way of looking at gender identity and children should be encouraged to play with whatever toys they like. Murray told us liking a typical "girl" toy doesn't make you less of a boy and vice versa.
"The best thing you can do is open up a dialogue that doesn't condemn the child," said Murray.
According to Murray a recent effort to get toy company Hasbro to make a more gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven is a first step.
"We're looking at, really, a consumer call for change," said Murray.
And Halbach told us girls and boys should be able to do whatever makes them happy and said toys like the Easy Bake Oven should reflect that.
"So you don't make a kid feel out of place by having a pick box or a pink oven, then a young boy can feel like it's a gift for him and he can pursue baking," said Halbach.
Hasbro has agreed to meet with McKenna Pope and her family Monday at its Rhode Island headquarters to discuss possible changes to the Easy Bake Oven.
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