Like Barbie dolls and G.I. Joe action figures, Easy-Bake ovens aren't just cultural icons. They also touch a societal nerve regarding gender roles.
Easy-Bake ovens hit retailers during an era when many simulation-style toys were targeted toward boys. For some people, the oven was a long-overdue opportunity for girls to emulate grown-up activities.
The television commercials and printed ads featured mothers using the oven with their daughters. There was no masking the message – a kitchen toy like the Easy-Bake oven was clearly meant for the girls in the family, not the boys.
In 2002, Hasbro hammered that message home when it created a Qu Easy-Bake oven and Mixerator that was targeted at boys. It seemed to be that boys weren't allowed to make cupcakes – instead, the kit encouraged young lads to make gross recipes like Mud & Crud Cakes and Larva Licious Cocoon Cookies. And girls, of course, were supposed to stick to regular cookies, even if they thought Crud Cakes were awesome.
In 2012, the popular pink-and-flowers version of the oven was enough to inspire a 13-year-old girl named McKenna Pope to petition Hasbro to make a different color. She wanted a more gender-neutral hue to please her younger brother, who wasn't so sure about the pink version. Hasbro responded by unveiling a glossy black model [source: Davis].
No matter the color, the toy itself has evolved tremendously in its 50 years. Its design began as a mini emulation of a full kitchen range and morphed to look like a petite microwave. In 2014, it looked like a weird toaster oven or perhaps a short, squat alien with a stubby arm on each side.
Even if you aren't particularly fond of the oven's design, you can't argue with its success. Generations of kids consider the Easy-Bake oven to be one of their favorite toys. The oven was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2006, and it continually garners pop culture references in TV shows and song lyrics.
And the oven's fame seems be self-perpetuating, demonstrating how a simple, small cooking device has ingrained itself into the minds of children everywhere.
Author's Note: How Easy-Bake Ovens Work
Growing up, my older sister had an Easy-Bake oven. I remember being a bit jealous of her bitty kitchen contraption, mostly because it seemed like a fascinating science experiment. Add a bit of water to the powdered mix, slap it into the oven, and just a few minutes later ... treats! The idea of eating the treats was typically more exciting than the actual consumption, primarily because the goodies that emerged from the Easy-Bake were lacking in, well, taste. Still, the fun of making stuff without mom had an appeal that few other toys could match.
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