Gender roles at McDonald’s

I’ve never considered myself a hard-core feminist.  I am pretty conservative, but at the same time, I don’t adhere to or appreciate the idea that women aren’t as smart as men or are less valuable than men.  I once got angry with a man on the radio station I listen to who was ranting on about how American families are falling apart because women are working outside the home.  He was talking about how he encouraged his granddaughter to be a wife and mother only.  My opinion is that if a woman needs to work outside the home or wants to work outside the home, more power to her.  If a woman can work from home as I have done or not have a paying job at all, then more power to her.  There is no right or wrong formula for this in my head.  As long as at the end of the day, her faith and her family are a priority, then all is well.  And I firmly believe that God has a will and plan for each life. As a Christian, who am I to argue with His plan if that means He wants me to work outside the home or stay home?  You can’t dictate that for every woman.  This is how I think.

I grew up in a family where we often had stereotypical gender roles, but at the same time it wasn’t unusual to find my dad doing laundry or cooking or my mom taking out the trash.  When it came to toys we were allowed to play with, I never remember gender defining them much.  I loved playing with my brother’s Matchbox cars, however, I did feel embarrassed enough about that to hide them under my bed when my friends came over.  It seems silly now.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have become a favorite of my daughter's, and I have no problem with it for her, even though McDonald's designates them as a "boy toy."

Because of all of this, I now try to make sure that I encourage my daughter in whatever she’s interested in and will do the same with my son.  On her pink Christmas tree, for example, she picked out a frilly tiara ornament and a Spider-man ornament. I applauded both decisions.  Her Christmas gifts included a set of Disney princess Barbie dolls, a Cabbage Patch doll, a Green Lantern play set and some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  She loves all of them.  I avoid using labels like “boy toys” and “girl toys.”  She’s 3.  If she thinks Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are cool and watches the cartoon with her daddy, then I’m not complaining.  Our extended family has been good about this, too. Even my conservative, traditional grandma bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Lexiana because she knew that’s what my child wanted.

My biggest issue has come with McDonald’s.  Different parents have different issues with the fast food empire.  My issue comes in the form of Happy Meal toys.  I don’t feel too bad about my daughter eating chicken nuggets or a cheeseburger with apples and white 1 percent milk once or twice a month.  I do feel bad about having to designate when we order whether we want a girl or boy toy.  The current toys at the restaurant are categorized as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the boys and something else for the girls.  I don’t even know what the girl toy is, to be honest, and neither does my daughter.  She wants the Ninja Turtles.  When I order and she’s not around (like she’s sitting down with my husband), I just resign myself to saying, “boy toy,” when asked.  If she is around, then I just say we want a Ninja Turtle toy.

I don’t want my child to think that what she likes is something only boys like and there’s something wrong with her liking it since she’s a girl.  I know there are inherent differences in the way boys and girls play many times, but at the same time if one has an interest in something traditionally thought to be more for the other gender, is that so wrong?  Of course not.  I don’t have trouble with my daughter playing with superheroes, Ninja Turtles or cars.  I won’t have trouble with my son playing with her dolls, kitchen or stuffed animals.  I don’t know why McDonald’s has this issue.  In many ways, the restaurant has been more forward thinking by taking responsibility for educating consumers about caloric and fat content of its food in recent years.  It’s listened to parents who don’t want their kids eating french fries and drinking soda and are looking for healthier options like apples and milk.  However, in the way of gender roles and Happy Meal toys, McDonald’s is still stuck in the past.

I’d like to see the restaurant either offer one toy all the time as it sometimes does, offer books in Happy Meals like I hear Chick-Fil-A regularly does (I’ve only gotten one or two kids’ meals there since we don’t have one where we live) or find another way to designate toys.  I don’t want my daughter to be ashamed of what she likes.  She’s 3.  She’s picking up on these things, and I know she’ll only get more and more aware as she gets older.  If this continues, at some point I can completely see her picking a girl toy because she feels like she should even if the boy one is what she actually wants.

I know I can’t change society.  And I don’t want to be like the family who is raising their child as gender neutral. I want my daughter to embrace her femininity and my son to embrace his masculinity.  At the same time, I also want them to enjoy life and enjoy the toys they like whether they are gender traditional or not.  I’m disappointed that McDonald’s can’t get more on board with this message for children.

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