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Teenager Convinces McDonald’s to Drop Gender-Stereotyped Toys

mcdonalds-gayIf you’ve been to a McDonald’s at any point in the last few decades, you’re probably familiar with the toy distribution system: something pink and dainty for girls, something blue and rugged for boys. No need to specify which one you want; your perceived gender will determine the contents of your bag.

But no longer! The fast food chain is re-training its bored employees so that they will stop making assumptions based on gender. According to the company, they’ll be doing away with the “boy” and “girl” assumptions, and it’s all thanks to an irritated teenager from Connecticut.

All teens are annoyed about something, of course, but Antonia Ayres-Brown was irked by the assumption that she would have no interest in boy-toys. She was just 11 at the time, but she caused quite a fuss; yet complaining to the CEO and the state’s Human Rights Commission got her nowhere.

So she did a little research, and found that in nearly every single case, employees would distribute toys based on a kid’s perceived gender. And in almost half of the cases, they would refuse to swap it with the other toy even when asked.

After collecting data for six years (!) she sent her findings to the company, and they’ve finally responded. “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 classification of the toy as a ‘boy’ toy or a ‘girl’ toy and without any reference to the customer’s gender,” says Chief Diversity Officer Patricia Harris.

First of all, that is quite a job title. Second of all, that is amazing. How exactly are they going to refer to the separate toys from now on, though? Is it going to be like “toy one” and “toy two”? Or are they just going to encode the genders, like “do you want to frilly toy or the powerful toy?”

By:           matt baume
On:           Apr 25, 2014
Tagged: , ,

  • 18 Comments
    • hyhybt
      hyhybt

      The obvious and simple solution would be offering one toy at a time.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 3:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kieru
      Kieru

      An equally obvious and simple solution is to ask which toy they want by name. “Do you want the GI Joe or the My Little Pony toy?”

      Apr 25, 2014 at 4:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Throbert McGee
      Throbert McGee

      So she did a little research, and found that in nearly every single case, employees would distribute toys based on a kid’s perceived gender. And in almost half of the cases, they would refuse to swap it with the other toy even when asked.

      Having once worked myself in high-volume sales of greasy foodstuffs for minimum wage, I suspect that Antonia Ayres-Brown’s claim of McD employees “refusing” to give a young boy the Hello Kitty toy instead of the Transformers toy upon request (or vice versa for a young girl) is COMPLETE AND UTTER BULLSH*T invented by a would-be activist who aspires to a future career in grievance-mongering.

      It’s theoretically possible that out of all the Mickey D clerks in the entire country, there was ONE who cared more about enforcing heteronormative gender norms than about giving the customer the requested item in order to move on to the next customer as quickly as possible.

      But I really, really doubt that there was some sort of pervasive pattern at work.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 4:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Throbert McGee
      Throbert McGee

      I also suspect that her parents put her up to the whole idea, though I can’t prove it.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 4:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DuMaurier
      DuMaurier

      I worked at Burger King in the 90’s, and I actually can’t remember how we worked this issue; probably because I didn’t care then and I certainly don’t now. I do remember selling “Toy Story” figures and taking orders over the headphones and people saying “Do you have a Woody?” Depending on nervy I felt that night I might say, “Not right now, sir, but maybe when you come up to the window….”

      Apr 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Throbert McGee
      Throbert McGee

      @DuMaurier:

      I do remember selling “Toy Story” figures and taking orders over the headphones and people saying “Do you have a Woody?” Depending on how nervy I felt that night I might say, “Not right now, sir, but maybe when you come up to the window….”

      ROFL!

      Apr 25, 2014 at 5:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hyhybt
      hyhybt

      @Throbert McGee: Either that or they were opening the toys before trying to trade them. @Kieru: In theory, almost as simple. In practice, “boy or girl” is quick, while the other not only means not being able to ask by habit, but with the sets parents aren’t all that familiar with, it means either having to stop and explain what the toys are (only to get the answer, most of the time, “whichever is for a boy” anyway) or else waiting while the question is passed on to someone not placing the order. Hundreds of times a day, in a setting where you’re supposed to take only 20 or so seconds to take each order.

      So no, changing how the question is worded isn’t nearly as good as switching to truly non-gendered toys. It makes things worse instead.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 5:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Throbert McGee
      Throbert McGee

      @hyhybt:

      So no, changing how the question is worded isn’t nearly as good as switching to truly non-gendered toys.

      As a grown-up who thinks that GI Joe and Hello Kitty are equally awesome (although awesome in different ways), I would certainly object to any policy of “switching to non-gendered toys.”

      Admittedly, I don’t buy McD Happy Meals very often because (to quote a writer whose name I can’t remember), the food at McDonald’s tends to be “aggressively insipid”. Lots of tastier fast-food options out there.

      Still, I like being offered the choice between “macho toys” and “pink toys.” I also tend to agree with the French expression Vive la différence!, and have bottomless contempt for queer activists who’d rather replace this with À bas la différence! because they see androgynous hermaphroditism as some kind of utopian ideal.

      P.S. The thing that I personally adore about Hello Kitty is that she is a freakily deformed genetic mutant who has no mouth, yet she must scream — yet she’s cuddly at the same time.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 5:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hyhybt
      hyhybt

      @Throbert McGee: so have macho toys and pink toys, as you call them, but one at a time. Or come up with some other solution that, added up over at least one side of all transactions and preferably both, reduces the nuisance level instead of raising it. For reasons I already gave, calling the toys by name does not do that.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 6:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • stranded
      stranded

      this doesn’t fucking matter.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 7:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LAman
      LAman

      I never really had a problem growing up as a boy who wanted the girl’s toy. I always got the girl’s toy because my mom knew that’s what I wanted. However, I do believe it’s a good thing for kids not to feel uncomfortable if they want the toy that only “girls” can have and vice versa. I think it does matter.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 8:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Razmos
      Razmos

      It definitely matters to kids who don’t feel they are simply “boy” or “girl” or prefer to think of themselves as the other gender.

      They would feel disheartened and uncomfortable if they were told “You can’t have that, because you are –”

      It’s not the biggest issue in the world right now, but it’s one of those small things that matter to individual people who already have enough to deal with.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • coltonblack
      coltonblack

      I thought this story was kind of fun actually. progress in small steps:)

      Apr 25, 2014 at 9:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • aliengod
      aliengod

      This story is ridiculous. Could people be any more sensitive?!?!

      Apr 25, 2014 at 10:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hotshot70
      hotshot70

      Seriously, what kid really keeps these cheap ass toys? They are as bad as what you used to get in the gumball machines.

      Apr 25, 2014 at 11:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • GayQT
      GayQT

      @Throbert McGee: As a former shift manager if a grease pit, I can tell you that employees have refused to trade toys with kids. I once over heard an employee of mine refusing to give a little girl a “boy toy” once. The employee claimed that he was told that he wasn’t allowed to trade toys per store rules. However I had never been informed of that. Not sure if it was misinformation or bias in the employee, but I made sure to give the girl the toy she wanted.

      Apr 26, 2014 at 1:31 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Throbert McGee
      Throbert McGee

      @Razmos:

      It’s not the biggest issue in the world right now, but it’s one of those small things that matter to individual people who already have enough to deal with.

      Yes, Razmos, I appreciate the point that this is a small thing that matters to individual children who are actually Intersex or have some developing awareness of being Trans.

      But the pink/blue “gendered” toys issue is also a HUGE MAJOR thing with certain people who like to identify as “fluidly genderqueer” because it’s the 21st-century equivalent of claiming to be 1/16th Cherokee in order to magically transform oneself from a drab and boring str8 white suburbanite into a Sexy Activist Who Opposes The Man’s Heteronormative Patriarchic Hegemony.

      To those in the latter group, I say: “Suck the snot up and stop whining because hardly anyone believes that you are oppressed, Princess Snowflake. And P.S. Stop using children who were born with actual genital or hormonal abnormalities as human shields in your petty political proxy wars.”

      Apr 26, 2014 at 4:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • sportsguy1983
      sportsguy1983

      another person making up an issue that doesn’t exist. too many sensitive and easily offended people in the world and too many people allowing them to believe they can’t be offended.

      Apr 27, 2014 at 5:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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