McDonald’s finally does away with “girl” and “boy” toy question

by DaniGirl on April 21, 2014 · 5 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything, Mothering without a licence

I started to rant about this on Facebook, but the ensuing conversation in my kitchen inspired me to bring it back to the blog.

Waaaaaaaaay back in 2006, I ranted my displeasure at being offered the choice between a “boy” toy and a “girl” toy happy meal at McDonald’s. I’d asked for a Polly Pockets toy and a Hummer toy, and the cashier repeated back to me “one girl happy meal and one boy happy meal”. At the time, I was at the counter with my two boys standing there at my elbow watching me order. Infuriated, I pointedly re-ordered my meals with toys by type, not gender. In the intervening eight years, I have ordered more than a few happy meals, and each time I have been careful to correct the order taker, who invariably specifies boy or girl toy instead of the actual type of toy on offer.

Apparently I wasn’t the only person rankled by this distinction. In a article, high school junior Antonia Ayres-Brown tells the story of how she took her complaint about the boy/girl gender discrimination all the way to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and not one but two CEOs of McDonald’s. The current CEO finally listened (although her complaint to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities was dismissed as “absurd”) and Antonia received a letter back from McDonald’s with the following promise:

It is McDonald’s intention and goal that each customer who desires a Happy Meal toy be provided the toy of his or her choice, without any classification of the toy as a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ toy and without any reference to the customer’s gender. We have recently reexamined our internal guidelines, communications and practices and are making improvements to better ensure that our toys are distributed consistent with our policy.

It’s about bloody damn time, McDonald’s. But let’s go that final step down the road to righteousness, shall we? Why not simply offer one kind of happy meal toy at a time, and offer it to everyone? Some girls like Skylanders, some boys like Polly Pockets. Wendy’s and Harvey’s have been offering a single “flavour” of kid meal toys for years and there has been no anarchy, no fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, no rivers and seas boiling, no dogs and cats living together. I’m pretty sure they bypassed the mass hysteria, too, although the blogger hysteria is clearly still on the table.

You might ask why I think this is important. As I said, it’s the conversation in my very own kitchen that got me all worked up again. In seeing the reference to Antonia’s victory on Facebook, I mentioned it aloud to Beloved. My 12 year old mentioned that there have been “girl” toys through the years that he had liked, and I asked him if he would ever hesitate to order a happy meal with a toy he liked if it was labelled as a girl toy. “Not really,” he replied with a shrug, but that didn’t particularly surprise me. He’s not terribly concerned with rules and norms and what other people think on the best of days.

It was the six year old’s reaction that made me sad. “Would you order a happy meal with a girl toy if you thought the toy was really cool?” I asked him.

“No,” he replied with a tinge of regretful sigh. “I can’t play with toys that are for girls.”


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Galpod April 21, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Being strict on gender rules is a phase. Most kids in the preschool/early elementary school age range do not view gender rules as flexible. But children if families who have gender neutral toys/clothes/roles typically grow up to be think about gender more flexibly than children in families who have traditional gender roles. So there’s hope yet 🙂 Which makes me very happy because my 4.5 year old just told me the other day that his sister can’t cut her hair short because she is a girl, and girls have long hair. This from a kid whose dad has a pony-tail. Sigh.

2 DaniGirl April 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm

LOL Gal, that does make me feel better. Poor Guy! And I did figure it was a stage. The older two are relatively open-minded.

3 Peady April 21, 2014 at 9:05 pm

This drives me around the bend!! Grr! I honestly can’t believe it’s still even a thing. Ridiculous!

We haven’t been to Mickey D’s in a very, very long time, but one of the last promos before we stopped going was a Hot Wheels one and I recall telling the cashier that we wanted the cars… Thing 1’s hair was longer at the time and Thing 2 had her Rapunzel hair. Clearly, I blew the mind of the person behind the counter. There was actual stammering. Really?

I quipped, “Yeah, we are big on breaking stereotypes. Imagine a world where girls can (dramatic pause) drive.”

Great post!

4 Sasha April 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Funny, I was just working on a post about this -> but for Wendy’s. If they were offering one “flavour” of toy before, they aren’t now. And even after asking for the Tonka trucks instead of the Care Bears, we got our little pink bags… when I went back and asked to exchange the *Care Bears* for a *Truck*, I got a startled “oh, you want a boy-toy?” I decided to save my answer to *that* question for the blog…

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