"Connecticut teen Antonia Ayres-Brown is on her way to becoming a feminist hero this week for standing up to a billion dollar corporation — McDonald’s — over its alleged tendency to box kids in by gender when doling out Happy Meal toys.
“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,” Ayres-Brown, now a high-school junior and talented musician, wrote in a Slate essay that’s gone viral since being published on Monday. “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?’”
"But, as Ayres-Brown notes in her piece, “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.”
And that’s not just teenage conjecture, according to Christia Spears Brown, author of the new “Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Child Free of Gender Stereotypes” and a University of Kentucky associate professor of psychology.
“It is important for two reasons,” Spears Brown tells Yahoo Shine in an email regarding Ayres-Brown’s efforts. “First, research has clearly shown that simply labeling a toy as a boy toy or a girl toy will determine what children are interested in. … So instead of asking children which toy they would like and letting it be based on actual preferences for play, by labeling it for one gender or the other, we are shaping what children will play with. Second, and more importantly,” she adds, labeling toys with “boy” or “girl” actually teaches kids “that gender is such an important part of who they are that it should determine their type of play. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
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