When McKenna Pope was 12 years old she convinced major US toy company Hasbro to market their Easy-Bake Oven in gender neutral colours. That experience has proved to Mckenna that we are all capable of making a positive change, regardless of age. She shares this message with her peers at TedYouth 2013.
When McKenna’s little brother was four he wanted to be a chef. He would raid the fridge and mix ingredients into “uneatable concoctions” At first he badly wanted an Easy-Bake Oven, but then even at the young age of four he picked up on something, Hasbro weren’t marketing their Easy-Bake Ovens to boys. The commercials only featured little girls and the product packaging and the oven itself was pink – everything about the product was gender specific to girls.
McKenna was on a mission. She launched a petition on change.org directed as Hasbro asking them to consider having a more gender neutral approach to their product and include males on the box. Almost 46 thousand signatures later Hasbro agreed and launched a gender neutral Easy-Bake Oven.
Your voice matters
The whole experience made McKenna realise something – she had a voice and it mattered. Not only did her voice matter it could be the catalyst for positive change. McKenna urges her peers to use social media to get their message across. “You can take what you believe in and turn it into a cause and change it.”
Hearing McKenna talk about it, it sounds like it was all smooth sailing but McKenna admits it wasn’t easy. She had to endure her fair share of nasty internet comments but she learnt to brush it off. She couldn’t control the comments she received but she could control her own action and the changes she could make.
What I thought of McKenna’s talk
Watching this talk made me really realise what an important and integral role that toy makers actually have in the development of kids and their ideas about gender roles. Kids role-play with their toys and companies such as Hasbro basically market to our kids what they think it’s acceptable for kids to play with based on gender. The problem with this is, that if boys or girls gravitate towards a toy that is marketed to the opposite gender they could be made to feel shame for wanting it. I think Hasbro and other toy makers should be less rigid in their gender specific marketing of toys and let kids be kids.
The true message of McKenna’s talk really has nothing to do with gender issues though – the Hasbro petition was just the vehicle to drive the message. The talk was more about the ability that we all have regardless of age and gender to make our voices heard when we think that there is an injustice in the world. When I was 12 I am sure that there were things that I wanted to change in the world, but I did nothing about it, I didn’t start any only petitions or film any videos. I think it is a brave thing for a 12 year old to do – to let themselves be vulnerable on social media in order to support a cause.
As an adult I look at McKenna’s video and ask myself when was the last time I really stood up for my beliefs. Sure I might donate money to causes I support but I want to do more, make a bigger change. I don’t know what that is it. I am not sure how I will achieve that – but McKenna’s Ted talk “Want to be an activist? Start with your toys” has kicked off that that inner dialogue I need.