Our Foot Soldier this week is 13-year-old McKenna Pope, who successfully petitioned Hasbro to stop gender stereotyping in the promotion and design of their Easy-Bake Oven. We wrote last week about McKenna’s petition on Change.org asking Hasbro CEO Brian D. Goldner to design a gender-neutral version of the product and feature boys in their advertisements. On Monday, McKenna and her family were invited to the Hasbro headquarters, where they found out the company is responding to all of McKenna’s requests. We had a chance to talk with McKenna about her activism and the success of her campaign.
Lorena Ruiz: Please tell me your story in your own words.
McKenna Pope: My little brother Gavyn is four, and he loves to cook. He had wanted an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. When we were going to get him one–me, my mom, and my dad–we found it a little disappointing that basically it was only available in pink and purple, and it only had girls on the box and in the commercials. I found that a little disappointing, and started a petition on Change.org asking Hasbro to make their product in less gender-specific colors. Make it in not just pink and purple, but also in colors like black, silver, and blue, and to feature boys and girls in their packaging and promotional materials. I got close to 45,000 signatures (on the petition), and Hasbro invited me on Monday to Hasbro headquarters. They showed me a prototype of a new Easy-Bake oven that is black, silver, and blue.
LR: How did you get the idea to start a petition and to write to Hasbro?
MP: I always felt like I…If there’s an injustice in society then I should change it, you know, help to better society. When I found out that this was an injustice, I thought about Change.org, which I had signed petitions on recently, and I thought it would be the perfect outlet to make this change.
LR: Did you expect that Hasbro would reach out to you? Were you surprised?
MP: I was surprised, I really was. I had a slight glimmer of hope that maybe they’d respond to what I’d asked them to. I mostly thought that they would probably say no, but there was that small glimmer of hope that they would say yes. When they did, it was just the most amazing thing in the world. It was the validation that all I had done had actually changed something.
LR: What do your friends and brother think about what you did?
MP: Well, all my friends think it’s the coolest thing in the world; I’ve become a school celebrity in a way, I guess. And my little brother thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world. He thinks it’s really awesome, especially since he’s seen the new Easy-Bake Oven that Hasbro is going to put out. He’s seen it, and he was ecstatic when he saw it. He thought it was the coolest thing ever.
LR: What advice would you give to other kids who want to combat injustice and make change?
MP: Well I would say to them, then do it! Don’t just sit there and think about what you could have done, and what might happen. If you ever want to make change, you have to go out there and try. Sure, it might not work out, but at least you could say that you tried, and who knows, it might actually work out for you. If I hadn’t decided to stand up, then I wouldn’t have been in Hasbro on Monday talking about how they could change the Easy-Bake Oven to make it more gender-neutral. But I did, and you have to go with what you think is right.
LR: What’s next for you? Are there other toys you have an issue with, are there any other campaigns that you want to get involved in?
MP: I’m not sure. I definitely see the toy industry, as a whole, dominated by gender inequalities. Currently there aren’t any other causes or campaigns that I’m interested in, but I definitely know that there will be in the future. I’ll always keep making change in society, always. For the rest of my life, like I always have. And I always will.
LR: What do you want for Christmas?
MP: Mostly lots of books (laughs).
See McKenna’s YouTube in full below.