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Bad Dad: Boys, girls and gender neutrality

December 22, 2012|By Matt Murray

Recently, I heard about a girl in New Jersey trying to petition toymaker Hasbro into making a gender-neutral version of the Easy-Bake Oven for her 4-year-old brother.

You see, Hasbro has been marketing the kitchen set, which kids use to bake cookies and cakes using a light bulb as a heating element, primarily to girls for years. All the packaging and promotional materials featured girls, and the ovens were only made in pink and purple.

McKenna Pope has collected more than 45,000 signatures on her petition on change.org since Dec. 3, and has the support of celebrity chefs Graham Elliot and Kevin Gillespie. An impressive feat in just a couple weeks. All I did was put up Christmas lights on the house in that time. (Yes, it took me that long to do.)

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Her crusade reminded me of me and The Wife's push to raise our first-born in a gender-neutral fashion. When our daughter was born in 2003, we made a concerted effort to avoid splashing pink all over the place. We both didn't want to impose any gender stereotypes.

Instead of painting her new bedroom in soft pastels, I opted to paint a huge rain forest mural. We rarely dressed her in bows and frills, as we usually shopped in the boys section for her.

Let me be clear: We didn't avoid doing girlie things with her. With her cute little ringlets, she reminded us of a modern-day Shirley Temple.

But her favorite doll wasn't Barbie, it was Buzz Lightyear. Her grandma even made her a Buzz Lightyear dress for her third birthday. She was a space ranger for Halloween two years running. She also inherited all my old Hot Wheels, and we used to play "Little Town," where we made buildings and garages out of blocks.

It wasn't until she was 4 or 5 before she started to show signs of being a little girl. She started dressing less like a tomboy and more like a little lady. After a while, she was a full-blown little girl. She eventually struck her own fashion balance. Last time I checked, she's a hippie goth chick. A unique blend to say the least; she certainly rocks her own style.

When we found out we were going to have a boy, there was another discussion about providing the same type of gender neutrality for him that we had for our oldest.

But that discussion lasted for about five seconds.

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