There are not many places to eat near where I work. There is a Subway, a Wendy’s, a Chinese restaurant, and a McDonald’s, and with the exception of the Chinese restaurant (which I can really only eat at when I have a few more dollars in my wallet), I usually eat at the McDonald’s. It’s an ideal lunchtime work place. The food is cheap, there is a wi-fi connection, and I get to leave the office for an hour, but every time I set foot into McDonald’s I’m confronted with the one thing feminists hate about McDonald’s—the Happy Meal toy display.
Now, I am not saying all toys specifically designed for a certain gender are inherently wrong. I will admit, McDonald’s really hooked me with the My Little Pony toys they were selling just a few weeks ago. I was desperate to collect all those stupid little plastic ponies. And yes, maybe statistically more girls wanted those toys. (However, because part of the whole deal with MLP’s popularity was that young boys and older guys were into the show, I really doubt that was the case.) Whatever; if McDonald’s wants to sell the more stereotypically feminine ponies next to the more stereotypically masculine Skylanders (whatever those are), I have no issue with that. I would settle for the employees to stop asking “girl or boy” when you order a Happy Meal. Seriously, is it too hard just to say: “Skylander or My Little Pony toy with your Happy Meal?” It just seems to be the polite thing to do to me. What if a little boy wants a MLP toy? By asking “boy or girl” you have basically just told a small child his choice in favorite children’s show is wrong, unnatural, and weird. Furthermore, there are many kids who do not fit into the gender binary and have to deal with their gender being questioned on a regular basis: they don’t want to have to deal with that bullshit when they get a Happy Meal too. The Happy Meal should make kids happy, not potentially cause a crisis of identity.
But while I don’t explicitly mind gender-specific toys, I do hate the blatant sexism displayed in some of these toys. This is not the first time McDonald’s has pulled bullshit like this and really screwed over girls. Not long ago, McDonald’s decided not to include any of the female characters in their Adventure Time toys, but though that was awful, the business with the Spider-Man toys is worse.
I was excited at first to hear that the Happy Meal toys were all Spider-Man toys. I thought it was great that McDonald’s was acknowledging that girls liked superheroes too… but then I saw the toys. There was not just one group of Spider-Man toys for all the kids: instead, there were “girl” Spider-Man toys and “boy” Spider-Man toys. The “girl” Spider-Man toys are all pink or purple, and while the boys receive action figures and race cars, the girls get bracelets, headbands, and journals. The boys receive active toys with which to go on adventures and fight in battles, and the girls receive things with which they can feel pretty and write about their feelings. But what really grinds my gears is the mask! The boys get a Spider-Man mask, but the girls don’t. They don’t even get a girly pink Spider-Man mask! That pisses me off more than anything, because by giving the boys a mask and not giving one to the girls, their message is pretty clear: boys can be superheroes and girls can be pretty.
The worst part is I know McDonald’s can do better. There have been numerous times when McDonald’s offered one gender-neutral set of toys for their Happy Meals. When the Epic movie came out, all the toys were just Epic toys, not “girl” Epic toys and “boy” Epic toys.