Equals in the Kitchen

April 18th, 2013

Four-year-old Gavyn Boscio asked Santa for an Easy-Bake oven last Christmas. He was in good company. Since its 1963 debut, children from three generations have used the Easy-Bake to prepare (with varying degrees of success) small cakes from prepackaged mixes under the heat of tiny, 100-watt incandescent bulbs (at least until 2011, when new energy standards led to design changes).

But when Gavyn’s 13-year-old sister, McKenna Pope, went shopping for an Easy-Bake, she found only pink and purple units, packaged in boxes depicting girls. Discouraged, McKenna decided to speak up. She launched an online petition calling on Hasbro, the Easy-Bake’s manufacturer, “to feature males on the packaging and in promotional materials . . . as well as [to offer] the product in different, non-gender specific colors.” McKenna argued that the current design and marketing “sends a clear message: women cook, men work . . . I want my brother to know that it’s not ‘wrong’ for him to want to be a chef . . . [and] to go against what society believes to be appropriate.” McKenna also cited male professional and celebrity chefs in her petition. Within days, several such chefs, including Manuel Trevino (from Top Chef) and Bobby Flay (of Iron Chef America and other series) were among the 45,000-plus people signing and supporting McKenna’s petition. Ultimately Hasbro unveiled an already-in-development “unisex” black, silver, and blue Easy-Bake that is headed for stores this summer.

Stuck With Stereotypes?

Since both males and females eat and, since most everyone enjoys it, the fact that cooking is arguably still mostly considered “women’s work” says much about the persistence of gender stereotypes. Consider a 2012 YouGov survey in which 42 percent of respondents said “men and women are equally suited to any job”; but when asked what jobs were more suitable for women, “midwife comes out top (44 percent).” Firefighter and army general were the most popular jobs for men (37 percent and 25 percent, respectively). Or, think about the fact that McDonald’s classifies Happy Meals as for boys or girls based on the enclosed toy, even though both girls and boys can enjoy playing with cars or toy animals. Christian companies also have been known to cater to gender stereotypes. Parents can buy a Bible with a sequined pink cover that fits into its own small purse for their daughter, or one bound in denim or army-style camo for their son.

Sanctified, Not Stereotyped

The apostle Paul might be surprised by “boys” Bibles and “girls” Bibles, because he wrote one of Scripture’s most powerful affirmations of women and men’s equality in God’s sight: Among God’s children, there is no “male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28c). We believe what God says about us matters far more than what our culture says. God created both men and women in God’s image; God calls and works through both women and men; and, in Christian baptism, God joins us to the body of Christ, giving us an identity that radically relativizes gender and other distinctions. While Scripture reflects the understanding of gender roles of the cultures in which it was written, its greater emphasis is on the freedom that Jesus brings.

Because we know ourselves to be God’s unique, beloved children, we should strive to view and treat others without any limiting lens of gender stereotypes. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church declare: “We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened” (¶ 162). You can help youth to claim and act on the good news that our gender, while an important part of who we are, does not define us. Only Jesus defines us.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

comments powered by Disqus