Remember that precocious young lady, McKenna Pope, who petitioned Hasbro to change Easy Bake Ovens into a gender neutral toy because her lil bro wanted one? Well, she totally won and Hasbro is changing the Easy Bake Oven’s colors into black, silver and blue. This is great . . . sort of.
I am not going to poop on a 13-year-old girl’s feminist revolt against the toy industry’s all too obvious heteronormative agenda (re: pink is for girls, blue is for boys). It is an undeniable truth of marketing and the social gendering of colors. Nevertheless, I think the more important lesson or the more forward thinking lesson (we could have learned from this) is that colors are not inherently gendered.
Colors are how things look because of how they are reflected in light. Colors just are. A color just is. We simply assigned colors to the sexes the same way we assigned gender roles to them. What would actually be considered groundbreaking is if boys decided to play with pink toys and girls decided to play with blue toys in acknowledgement of those colors actual neutrality.
The fact that all you have to do is change the color of something to signify which gender it “belongs” to exposes how a) limited our thinking is and b) how nothing, short of ovaries and testicles, is actually gendered (which of course we know actually are not).
Let’s face it, what truly assigns a gender to a color or a kind of toy or a skirt or a trouser is marketing. It’s not the colors or the task or the clothing themselves. The boy didn’t want to play with a pink toy because pink is for girls, according to just about every toy ad or social stereotype, not because cooking wasn’t for boys – he wanted to cook. What Hasbro should do is market their pink toys and blue toys to both sexes. Girls love Spiderman too! Boys love Barbies too! Instead, by changing the color of one toy, they are merely suggesting that it’s OK for boys to cook now and of course, still shaming boys for liking pink or purple. Limiting color play is essentially limiting one’s most basic tool of self-expression and reinforcing archaic gender roles to the most vulnerable demographic: kids.
Nevertheless a step forward is a step forward, sometimes you’ve got to take what you can get and keep fighting the good fight.