Archives for posts with tag: food

Toys can often tell more about a culture and its values than they initially let on. We control what we market, and more specifically who we market to. In stores, it is not difficult to separate the toys meant for boys from those meant for girls. There distinct and subtle indicators that alert the customer to items that are gender specific. The Easy-Bake Oven is a popular toy that has appeared in different forms throughout the years.[1] Due to imagery associated with its advertising, as well as a gender specific color scheme, this item is obviously intended for girls rather than boys. Closer examination of the Easy-Bake Oven gives insight into modern gender equality issues that the Women’s Rights Movement have been combating for years. Although women gained the right to vote in New York in 1917, they continue to battle misguided beliefs and traditional gender stereotypes in their pursuit of true equality. The belief that an oven, and by extension domestic life, is best suited for women is a sign that we have not made as many strides in our search for equality as we might think.

Easy-Bake Oven 2009

(Fig.1) Easy-Bake Oven, 2009, plastic, 14″ x 7″ x 8″. (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Cooperstown, New York, T2013.078.1a.

This 2009 example of an Easy-Bake Oven (Fig.1) features many similar design choices to a previous model from 1963 (Fig.2). While the shape of the oven has changed, there are certain visual traits that have remained in both the object itself and its packaging. One of the most notable features are the colors used in both models of the Easy-Bake Oven. Viewers can immediately note that the colors are lighter in shade. Turquoise blues appear on the body of both ovens, and pink features on the box of the 2009 model. These colors, especially pink, would indicate that these items are intended for girls only. Pink is considered a feminine color, and would therefore classify the Easy-Bake Oven as a “girl toy”.[2]  In addition, the visual materials of the 2009 Easy-Bake Oven, such as the box (Fig.3), exclusively depict girls playing with the toy. If it was not clear before, this would undoubtedly confirm who was playing with an Easy-Bake Oven.

Easy-Bake Oven 1963

(Fig.2) Easy-Bake Oven, circa 1963, plastic, 21″ x 16″ x 8.25″. (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Cooperstown, New York, T2013.079.1.


Easy-Bake Oven Box 2009.jpg

(Fig.3) Easy-Bake Oven, 2009, cardboard, 16″ x 8″ x 9″. (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Cooperstown, New York, T2013.078.3.

While we like to think that we have made advances in our search for universal equality between 1963 and 2009, we continue to tell girls they belong at home by tailoring toys that perpetuate and condition them to this stereotype. The prominence of toys geared towards young girls that promote domestic life indicate that we still believe those should be the spheres they inhabit. We continue to force our children into outdated gender roles, and enforce these beliefs with the toys we market and purchase for them. They lack of change in our mentality towards the Easy-Bake Oven and what it represents illustrates the work still required regarding gender equality.

By: Michael Barone

[1] “Easy-Bake Oven,” The Strong National Museum of Play: National Toy Hall of Fame,

[2] Erica S. Weisgram, Megan Fulcher, Lisa M. Dinella, “Pink gives girls permission: Exploring the roles of explicit gender labels and gender-typed colors on preschool children’s toy preferences,” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 35(2014): 402.


Each new school year presented a fresh opportunity; a fresh opportunity to have the coolest lunch box in my class. In third grade I thought I finally got it right. My lunch box was bright purple with orange flowers splashed across the front. The interior was insulated with room for a matching thermos and ice pack. While lunch boxes may be more a fun accessory today, they are actually an important part of the history of our midday meal.


Lunch Box, Tin, 6″ x 8″ The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Bernard Carr, F0055.1949. Photograph by Alex Sniffen.


Following the industrial revolution, men were increasingly working in factories that were much further from their home than their self-owned or family-run trade shops were just twenty years before. With not enough time to both travel home for lunch and make it back to work, men began taking their noontime meal with them. [1] Most lunch pails, such as the one pictured, were made of metal or tin in order to protect a man’s lunch from the many hazards of the workplace. [2] This particular pail is actually stackable so its owner could keep each dish from mixing together in travel. The tin pail was also a symbol of class; if you were carting a lunch box to work every day, you were alerting the world that you could not afford to buy lunch. The status of one’s lunch continued to be related to their economic class for the next forty years. [3] As more and more women entered the workforce at the beginning of the twentieth century, going home for lunch was no longer an option for many children. If both of a child’s parents were working to make ends meet, there was not much of a chance that they could buy a hot lunch each day or even bring


“The Beatles” by Aladdin Industries, 1965. Photo courtesy of Harold Dorwin and

something from home. Charitable organizations such as the Starr Center Organization in Philadelphia and the Children’s Aid Society in New York began selling penny lunches or bringing lunches to local schools until their respective School Boards took responsibility. This began the process of shifting the duty of the midday meal from the home kitchen to the school kitchen. [4]


So if lunches were served at school, how did children start toting around novelty lunch boxes adorned with their favorite comic book or television show characters? With the rise of housewives in the late 1930s, children again had the option of bringing a homemade lunch. [5] Young children saw their fathers leaving the house everyday with their lunch all packed up and they began creating their own lunchboxes out of old cookie or cigar tins. [6] A Nashville ad agency Aladdin saw an opportunity and forever turned the lunch box into a public statement by adorning their product with images of popular culture. [7] Our midday meal may have migrated in and out of the home over the years, but the lunch box has maintained a prominent role in this history.

Sammy Smithson, Class of 2016

[1] Debra Ronca, “The History of the Lunch Box,” How Stuff Works, Accessed November 15, 2015,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Gordon W. Gunderson, “National School Lunch Programs: Early Programs by States,” United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Last Modified June 17, 2014,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Lisa Bramen, “The History of the Lunch Box,”, Last Modified Aug. 31, 2012,

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.