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6 Toys That Could Make a Progressive's Head Explode

A "McJob" play set? Makeup for babies?

If you, your siblings, or your close friends have children, you know that the holidays often involve toy shopping. And if you’re a progressive, you know that a trip to the toy store can be very depressing indeed.

It’s not that toys plastered with corporate logos, or gender-essentialist toys, or toys made from toxic chemicals are a new phenomenon. But with the holiday season becoming more and more consumer-driven each year, and awareness of these issues increasing, the “problem toys” seem to stick out more than ever. (At least for this writer, whose friends are all starting to have kids.)

What’s a truly ethical toy that kids will love to play with? A cardboard box comes pretty close to meeting that criteria, though it makes a pretty lame gift. It might be more useful to look at the characteristics you don’t want in a toy, and then you can narrow the field from there. Here are some prime examples of toys that might make your head explode.

1. McDonald’s “McJob” Play Set

What better way for a small child to escape into an innocent fantasy land than to...pretend to be a cashier at McDonald’s?

Indeed, for just $24.99 a child near to your heart can become the owner of a Just Like Home McDonald’s Cash Register 10 Piece Playset, which comes complete with a cash register with built-in credit card machine, a drive-through headset, fake money and food, and more.

This toy isn’t offensive because children should be taught to “aim higher.” On the contrary, it’s offensive because low-wage McJobs, like ringing up customers at McDonald’s, are becoming some of the few options available for American workers. As the recent fast food workers’ strike reminded us, these jobs are terrible for workers. Writing at the Atlantic last week, Sarah Jaffe noted that fast food workers across the nation are being paid less than what they need to live on while the corporations they work for reap big profits. And it’s not just kids who are doing the burger-flipping; plenty of older Americans have become trapped in these low-wage jobs too, with historically few opportunities for organizing. At the same time, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that seven out of 10 growth occupations over the next decade will be low-wage fields.”

What exactly is so cute about a toy that represents worker oppression? (Not to mention it beats kids over the head with corporate branding?)

2. Easy-Bake Oven

Thirteen-year-old Mckenna Pope has a very good question for Hasbro: Why is your Easy-Bake Oven marketed only to girls?

In a petition featured on, Pope writes that she and her parents looked into buying an Easy-Bake Oven for her little brother, who loves to cook. It was then that they realized how gender essentialist the toy really is:

[W]e soon found it quite appalling that boys are not featured in packaging or promotional materials for Easy Bake Ovens -- this toy my brother's always dreamed about. And the oven comes in gender-specific hues: purple and pink.

I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work.

If you go to the Easy-Bake Oven product page, you’ll see what Pope means. Everything is pink or purple, the desserts are topped with bows and hearts, and a prominently featured video shows a little girl making pink-iced confections. It might as well say “no boys allowed.”

This is a perfect example of how our society harms boys as well as girls; no one should be discouraged or encouraged to bake because of their gender. Sugar and flour are gender-neutral, and there are plenty of great pastry chefs of all genders in this world. Hasbro should take a cue from Sweden when it comes to marketing toys to boys and girls.