Dec 18, 2012

Easy Bake Ovens and Gay Identity

In response to a 13-year old boy's video that went viral, Hasbro has just announced that it will begin selling Easy-Bake Ovens in neutral colors, with ads showing boys as well as girls.  This is a victory against sexism, of course, but it is also a victory against heterosexism.

When I was a kid, boys weren't allowed anywhere near the kitchen (this book was published in 2006).  Girls were carefully instructed in the art of boiling, baking, sauteeing, and simmering, in order to prepare them for their futures as housewives, but boys were expected to have no use for such skills, since they would all have wives to cook for them.

On the tests of adequate masculinity that they kept forcing us to take in school, one of the questions was: "What does fricassee mean?" If a boy knew, he got a visit from the school nurse.

The only boy you ever saw cooking was Jughead in the Archie comics, and he was a "woman hater" (that is, gay).

Thus, any interest in or aptitude for cooking in boys was viewed as a rebellion against our heterosexual destiny: "If you learn to cook, you won't need a wife, so you'll never get married."

Or: "If you enjoy cooking, you must want to become a wife! "

The Easy-Bake oven was the most rebellious of toys you could put on your Christmas list: all pink and pastel, with only girls in the commercials, and the print ads talking about how much "she" will enjoy practicing for her future as someone's wife.

At Christmas 1969, when I was nine years old, I asked for one,  and caused my parents a lot of anxious conversations behind closed doors.  When they emerged, they smiled fearfully like the parents of the demonic kid on The Twilight Zone, and asked "Um...Jeff, do you think you might like to play pee-wee football next spring?"

Santa brought me a football.

In the fall of 1970, I asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for my birthday.  More anxious conversations, and afterwards my parents signed me up for Judo.