Blogger Antonia Ayres-Brown, writing yesterday in Slate, describes her experiences with McDonald’s and Happy Meals toys.
In 2009, Ms Ayres-Brown (as of 2014 a high-school junior in New Haven, CT), was disturbed to find that counter staff at a local McDonald’s asked whether the Happy Meals ordered by the family at the drive-through window should be accompanied by “boy toys” or “girl toys”. Her initial letter to the then-CEO of the company, expressing dismay at this gender stereotyping, received what could only be described as a casual brush-off, but she did not give up.
Through a research experiment and letters to the higher-ups at McDonald’s, Ayres-Brown was finally able to extract a statement from a corporate executive promising that “(i)t 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 any classification of the toy as a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ toy and without any reference to the customer’s gender. We have recently reexamined our internal guidelines, communications and practices and are making improvements to better ensure that our toys are distributed consistent with our policy.”
As she states in her Slate article, “The problem with Happy Meal toys may seem trivial to some, but consider this: McDonald’s is estimated to sell more than 1 billion Happy Meals each year. When it poses this question—“Do you want a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy?”—McDonald’s pressures innumerable children to conform to gender stereotypes. Retailers don’t need to use girl’s and boy’s categories when they can just describe the toys that are available and let kids choose the ones that appeal to them most.”
Huzzah for Antonia Ayres-Brown!