(For those of you joining me from Reddit, welcome! I don’t post my child’s real name on the internet for obvious reasons. Owl is clearly a pseudonym – a blog nickname chosen by my readers. In case you read any of my other posts, my daughter’s name is also not really “Fritter”.)
Dear Fast Food Industry,
Tell your employees to stop using my child’s genitals to define his toy choices.
Let me tell you a story. Actually, let me tell you a series of stories about how my son has been reduced to a set of genitals by your employees.
McDonald’s recently had a line of Nerf brand toys on display. They had a line of blue toys and some of their pink/purple Rebelle line (because apparently girls can only play with pink weapons).
My 4 year old’s favourite colour is pink, so he decides that he wants a pink one. He loves things that throw and shoot so he’s very excited.
I get to the cash and order his happy meal and ask for a pink weapon.
“He wants a girl one?” says the cashier.
“He wants a PINK one,” I said firmly.
He got a pink throwing star type thing and he was happy.
The next time we went to that McDonald’s he decided he wanted the cannon toy, which he had seen at a friend’s house.
The cannon toy is also part of the Rebelle line.
So I order his Happy Meal, and the cashier (a different one from before), “for a boy, right?”
“Actually, do you have that pink cannon that shoots a ball? He has his heart set on that one.”
“He wants a girl one?” asks the cashier incredulously.
“He wants the PINK CANNON THAT SHOOTS,” I said. “Do you have it in?”
“Uh, I’ll check,” she says, and marks his happy meal as “girl” on the cash register.
They had it in stock and he was overjoyed. He was playing with it in the Play Place (sans ball, because I didn’t want him to shoot another kid) and an older boy kept asking him “why do you have a girl toy?”
Owl ignored this questioning completely, perhaps not even realising that it was aimed at him. He’s not a girl. He’s a boy. He’s a big, loud, messy, active boy who loves to shoot things but also happens to love pink.
“Uh, why does he have a girl toy?” the older boy finally asked me.
“Why is it a girl toy?” I asked with a note of exasperation. “It doesn’t say “girl” on it.”
The boy looked stumped.
“Because it’s pink?” I asked him. He nodded slowly.
“Does that seem fair, to tell boys that they can’t play with anything pink? Girls can play with blue,” I pointed out. The boy wandered off and I tried not to be afraid.
Owl is going into kindergarten soon. He will be told that pink is for girls, that he can’t enjoy it or wear it or play with it. I wish I could tell him that this is silly childish nonsense, but in the end, where are kids getting it from?
From the amazed ADULTS who insist, in a BUSINESS ATMOSPHERE, on calling pink toys “girl toys”.
From the BUSINESSES who actually have separate toy lines for boys and girls, as if genitalia should be relevant when it comes to choosing playthings.
I’m sorry, but even sex toy shops don’t divide toys based on the genitals of the purchaser. Dildos are for everybody.
When we go to McDonald’s drive through, I have no idea what to say when they ask if my happy meal should be “boy” or “girl”.
How do I know which my son would prefer? If they said “Skylander or Barbie?” I would say “Skylander”. If they said “Blue or pink?” I would say “pink”.
My son has often wanted a toy from the supposed “girl” selection, and while that’s easy enough (though annoying) to deal with when we are inside, at the drive through we are denied even the opportunity of knowing what the choices are.
So it’s a crap shoot.
“Boy or girl?” we were asked recently at the McDonald’s drive through.
“It doesn’t matter,” said my husband. “Whichever.”
“…Sorry, was that boy or girl?” asked the voice on the other end.
“Whichever!” said PH loudly. “Just pick one.”
“I still don’t… is it for a boy or a girl?”
“BOY!” I said loudly over PH’s shoulder, just to end the exchange. I felt like saying “HE HAS A PENIS, DOES THAT REALLY TELL YOU ANYTHING ABOUT HIS TOY CHOICES?”
They might as well say “penis or vagina?” when I order a Happy Meal at the drive through.
ASK ME WHAT MY CHILD WANTS, NOT WHAT IS IN HIS PANTS.
He has a penis, but sometimes he likes My Little Pony. He has a penis and sometimes wants the Skylanders toy. The two are not especially related.
But don’t worry, McDonald’s, you aren’t the only company I am pissed at.
Subway, I’m looking at you.
Owl LOVES Subway. He likes McDonald’s for the toys and the Play Place, but he loves Subway for the FOOD. He always gets a kid’s tuna sandwich and piles six different vegetables on top.
The kids meals at Subway are a good deal.
You don’t get a toy but you do get a drink and apple slices along with the sandwich and they put it in a reusable shoulder bag featuring characters from whatever animated movie is playing in theatres right now.
Inside Out is playing in theatres right now.
Owl liked the green one, featuring the Mindy Kaling “Disgust” character.
Who is female.
“Oh, but that one is for girls,” said the lady behind the counter, hesitating and looking at my husband in dismay.
He glared at her. “THAT’S FINE,” he said with gritted teeth.
Seriously? You’re going to tell a little boy that he can’t have a particular bag because it is “for girls”? Why? Because it has a female character on it?
Listen, Fast Food. You need to stop. If you insist on carrying different toy lines for different markets, then you need to train your employees. This has been going on for a long time.
It isn’t enough to say you don’t train your employees to say girl or boy, because that’s how your frigging machines register the difference. Of course your employees will ask “girl or boy” because that’s the button they need to press.
Besides, they are part of our global culture which general recognizes that pink is for girls and boys can’t touch it.
So it’s not enough to say that you don’t TRAIN them to be sexist. You need to make efforts to train them NOT to be sexist.
Don’t mark certain toy lines as “boy” and “girl” in your cash registers.
Change your POLICIES.
Train your employees in what to say.
Teach them to say “what colour of bag do you want?”
Teach them to say “Do you want a blue weapon or a pink one?”
Teach them to ask at the drive through “standard Nerf toy or Rebelle line?”
And when a boy asks for a pink toy, tell them to say “sure!” and deliver it with a smile because feminism starts here. Freedom from gender restriction starts here.
Otherwise you are a purveyor of sexism, and I’m not buying that.
Right now, the only way we have of protesting is with our wallets. But I hope you won’t do it because you want my money. I hope you’ll do it because it is RIGHT.
A Pissed Off Consumer