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TEDYouth 2013

McKenna Pope: Want to be an activist? Start with your toys

November 23, 2013

McKenna Pope's younger brother loved to cook, but he worried about using an Easy-Bake Oven -- because it was a toy for girls. So at age 13, Pope started an online petition for the American toy company Hasbro to change the pink-and-purple color scheme on the classic toy and incorporate boys into its TV marketing. In a heartening talk, Pope makes the case for gender-neutral toys and gives a rousing call to action to all kids who feel powerless.

McKenna Pope - Teen activist
When McKenna Pope was 13 she petitioned Hasbro to market its Easy-Bake Oven to boys as well as girls, and to make it available in gender-neutral colors. It worked. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I'm McKenna Pope. I'm 14 years old,
00:12
and when I was 13, I convinced
00:14
one of the largest toy companies,
00:16
toymakers, in the world, Hasbro,
00:18
to change the way that they marketed
00:21
one of their most best-selling products.
00:23
So allow me to tell you about it.
00:25
So I have a brother, Gavin.
00:26
When this whole shebang happened, he was four.
00:28
He loved to cook.
00:30
He was always getting ingredients out of the fridge
00:32
and mixing them into these, needless to say,
00:34
uneatable concoctions,
00:36
or making invisible macaroni and cheese.
00:37
He wanted to be a chef really badly.
00:40
And so what better gift for a kid
who wanted to be a chef
00:44
than an Easy-Bake Oven. Right?
00:47
I mean, we all had those when we were little.
00:49
And he wanted one so badly.
00:51
But then he started to realize something.
00:53
In the commercials, and on the
boxes for the Easy-Bake Ovens,
00:56
Hasbro marketed them specifically to girls.
00:59
And the way that they did this
01:03
was they would only feature girls
on the boxes or in the commercials,
01:04
and there would be flowery prints all over the ovens
01:07
and it would be in bright pink and purple,
01:10
very gender-specific colors to females, right?
01:13
So it kind of was sending a message
01:16
that only girls are supposed to cook; boys aren't.
01:19
And this discouraged my brother a lot.
01:21
He thought that he wasn't
supposed to want to be a chef,
01:23
because that was something that girls did.
01:27
Girls cooked; boys didn't,
01:28
or so was the message that Hasbro was sending.
01:30
And this got me thinking,
01:32
God, I wish there was a way that I could change this,
01:34
that could I have my voice heard by Hasbro
01:37
so I could ask them and tell them
01:40
what they were doing wrong
01:41
and ask them to change it.
01:43
And that got me thinking about a website
01:44
that I had learned about a few months prior
01:46
called Change.org.
01:47
Change.org is an online petition-sharing platform
01:49
where you can create a petition and share it
01:52
across all of these social media networks,
01:55
through Facebook, through Twitter,
01:57
through YouTube, through Reddit, through Tumblr,
01:59
through whatever you can think of.
02:00
And so I created a petition
02:02
along with the YouTube video
that I added to the petition
02:04
basically asking Hasbro
02:07
to change the way that they marketed it,
02:09
in featuring boys in the commercials, on the boxes,
02:11
and most of all creating them
02:14
in less gender-specific colors.
02:16
So this petition started to take off --
02:19
humongously fast, you have no idea.
02:22
I was getting interviewed by
all these national news outlets
02:26
and press outlets, and it was amazing.
02:29
In three weeks, maybe three and a half,
02:33
I had 46,000 signatures on this petition.
02:35
(Applause)
02:40
Thank you.
02:42
So, needless to say, it was crazy.
02:44
Eventually, Hasbro themselves
invited me to their headquarters
02:46
so they could go and unveil
02:51
their new Easy-Bake Oven product to me
02:53
in black, silver and blue.
02:55
It was literally one of the best moments of my life.
02:57
It was like "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
03:00
That thing was amazing.
03:02
What I didn't realize at the time, however,
03:04
was that I had become an activist,
03:05
I could change something,
03:07
that even as a kid, or maybe
even especially as a kid,
03:09
my voice mattered, and your voice matters too.
03:12
I want to let you know it's not going to be easy,
03:15
and it wasn't easy for me,
03:16
because I faced a lot of obstacles.
03:18
People online, and sometimes even in real life,
03:21
were disrespectful to me and my family,
03:24
and talked about how the whole
thing was a waste of time,
03:27
and it really discouraged me.
03:30
And actually, I have some examples,
because what's better revenge
03:31
than displaying their idiocy?
03:35
So, let's see.
03:37
From user name Liquidsore29 --
03:39
interesting user names we have here—
03:42
"Disgusting liberal moms making their sons gay."
03:44
Liquidsore29, really? Really? Okay.
03:49
How about from Whiteboy77AGS:
03:52
"People always need something
to (female dog) about."
03:56
From Jeffrey Gutierrez:
04:00
"OMG, shut up. You just want money and attention."
04:02
So it was comments like these
04:05
that really discouraged me from
wanting to make change in the future
04:08
because I thought, people don't care,
04:10
people think it's a waste of time,
04:13
and people are going to be disrespectful
to me and my family.
04:15
It hurt me, and it made me think,
04:19
what's the point of making change in the future?
04:22
But then I started to realize something.
04:24
Haters gonna hate.
04:27
Come on, say it with me. One, two, three:
04:29
Haters gonna hate.
04:31
So let your haters hate,
04:33
you know what, and make your change,
04:35
because I know you can.
04:37
I look out into this crowd,
04:39
and I see 400 people
04:40
who came out because they wanted to know
how they could make a change,
04:43
and I know that you can, and all
of you watching at home can too
04:46
because you have so much that you
can do and that you believe in,
04:48
and you can trade it across all these social media,
04:52
through Facebook, through Twitter, through
YouTube, through Reddit, through Tumblr,
04:55
through whatever else you can think of.
04:58
And you can make that change.
05:00
You can take what you believe in
05:01
and turn it into a cause and change it.
05:02
And that spark that you've been
hearing about all day today,
05:05
you can use that spark that you have within you
05:08
and turn it into a fire.
05:11
Thank you.
05:12
(Applause)
05:14

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McKenna Pope - Teen activist
When McKenna Pope was 13 she petitioned Hasbro to market its Easy-Bake Oven to boys as well as girls, and to make it available in gender-neutral colors. It worked.

Why you should listen

If anyone's still worried about today's teenagers melting their brains on the Internet, there's at least one who stands out against the crowd: teen activist McKenna Pope. In 2012 Pope's four-year-old brother, who had a passion for cooking, was beyond excited to ask for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. But, confused by the pink and purple colors and the television ads that only featured girls using the toy, he became discouraged.

Pope, thirteen at the time, was indignant that her brother should think any less of himself as a boy who liked to cook. Naturally Pope turned to the Internet. She posted a video and written petition urging the CEO of Hasbro to change its marketing and packaging around the Easy-Bake Oven to make it appealing to boys as well as girls. Pope could hardly anticipate what came next: She received 45,000 signatures and a call from Hasbro, inviting her to their headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to show her their new unisex designs.

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