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Girl Misguided on 'Gendered' McDonald's Toys

Meet high school junior Antonia Ayres-Brown. She's from CT. She is on a campaign against McDonald's: not for their unhealthy food, but for their unhealthy toys in their Happy Meals.

Writing for Slate.com, Antonia seeks to "end gendered Happy Meal toys" by retelling a campaign she began to express frustration over employees asking customers to choose a "boy toy" or "girl toy" when ordering Happy Meals.

She writes, "In the fall of 2008, when I was 11 years old, I wrote to the CEO of McDonald's and asked him to change the way his stores sold Happy Meals. I expressed my frustration that McDonald's always asked if my family preferred a "girl toy" or a "boy toy" when we ordered a Happy Meal at the drive-through. My letter asked if it would be legal for McDonald's "to ask at a job interview whether someone wanted a man's job or a woman's job?"

Antonia's column claims that McDonald's employees asking customers about toy preferences "pressures innumerable children to conform to gender stereotypes."

"I began visiting more than a dozen local McDonald's locations with my father to collect data. Ultimately, we brought a complaint to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities against McDonald's for discriminating on the basis of sex. Despite our evidence showing that, in our test, McDonald's employees described the toys in gendered terms more than 79 percent of the time, the commission dismissed our allegations as "absurd" and solely for the purposes of "titilation [sic] and sociological experimentation." All in all, this was a pretty humiliating defeat."

But that didn't end her mission. In 2013, she changed the experiment by sending young boys and girls into McDonald's restaurants in her area to order Happy Meals. The results were what you think they'd be: boys were given a toy for boys and girls a toy for girls, nearly every time.

Antonia again contacted the CEO. Unlike the first time, she received a letter back from McDonald's Chief Diversity Officer who stated that McDonald's "goal" is to provide Happy Meal customers with the toy of their choice "without any reference to the customer's gender" as well as a promise to "reexamine" their policies.

Here's my take:

Girls and boys are different. I know this is hard for some folks to understand or accept, but that doesn't mean we have to shy away from a truth: boys and girls are different. This isn't a myth that's borne out of sexism; this is a fact.

It is okay to acknowledge that there are, in fact, "boy toys" and "girl toys" -- that boys naturally gravitate towards some toys and girls others. (I gravitated towards toy soldiers; my parents didn't complain about my 'gendered' choice for holding back all boys.)

It's certainly wrong to force it when the kid doesn't want to play with certain toys (including to force a boy to play with a doll because you think it makes him more of a well-rounded kid), but the very nature of boys and girls are different. You can argue some of this is caused by the environment they live in (there's obvious truth to that) but the fact is, you ask any mom or dad and 9 out of 10 times they'll tell you their sons and daughters gravitate towards a certain type of toy.

Boys mostly like trucks and GI Joes. Girls mostly like dolls and Easy-Bake Oven. And if they don't, that's okay. And if they do, that's okay too.

There is an extremist wing in the feminist movement that doesn't want to acknowledge differences between boys and girls because, they fear, it will be used to justify disparate treatment amongst the sexes. But you can be a feminist and push for equality while acknowledging boys and girls are different. I'm a Feminist (though not by the standards of the extremists) and do just that.

What do you think?

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