• McSexism with Mario Kart and Beanie Babies

    I stopped at Mcdonald’s today specifically to get my first Happy Meal in many years, and I am not embarrassed to say so. I wanted to get a Mario Kart racer, which I had heard was the current toy because I enjoy Mario Kart. The meal proved to be less happy than the menu lead me to expect.

    The person taking my order asked, “girl’s or boy’s?” with regard to the Happy Meal. I said, er what’s the difference? “Boy’s comes with Mario Kart, girl’s with a Beanie Baby”.  I answered that I wanted Mario Kart, without calling it the “boy’s” one. I stopped to check my phone to confirm the year, and make sure I had not been transported to the 50’s to correct a historical wrong Quantum Leap-style; I hadn’t, that was last week.

    Current Happy Meal Toys
    Current Happy Meal toys.

    At the window, I asked the woman who had taken my order, isn’t this a bit sexist? Like girls can’t like Mario Kart? She said, “Yeah. I mean, I like Mario Kart! I’d want the collectible.”

    The manly testosterone-fueled racer that no girl could possibly enjoy.
    The manly testosterone-fueled racer that no girl could possibly enjoy. By the way, I love the hell out of the Prancer Kart, and I don’t care who knows it.

    In the case you think it was an employee’s error and not what McDonald’s intended, here are two advertisements for each of the toys.[Edited to add videos]

    And for Mario Kart:

    This also isn’t a one-off thing. Here’s the preview of the up-coming toys that follow the current set. Take a guess about which is going to be called the “boy’s” meal.

    Marketing insiders know the specific shades used here are "balls blue" and "Uterine Pink"
    Marketing insiders know the specific shades used here are “Balls Blue” and “Uterine Pink”

    I could understand why a corporation might like to offer two different sorts of toys, if market research had borne out the profitability of doing so. This would be self-interested but not exactly sexist. Psychology and anthropology research does show there are gender differences in toy preferences independent of cultural trappings. But even if that is true, why call choices the “boy’s” and “girl’s” versions? This makes it really hard a boy to ask for the Beanie Baby or doll and perhaps vice versa as well. Why communicate to children the idea that their preference socially brands them?

    If there are innate differences between boys and girls (and I think that there are), then there is no need for society to reinforce them. If there aren’t (as many believe), the roles have no purpose and should not even exist. Either way, this is just needless and outdated sexism. I will go back, so I can get Mario (they gave me Donkey Kong), but I won’t be Happy about it.

    Category: Critical ThinkingfeaturedFeatured Incmoralityskepticism

  • Article by: Edward Clint

    Ed Clint is an evolutionary psychologist, co-founder of Skeptic Ink, and USAF veteran.
    • Why would it be reinforcing the differences rather than just playing along by them? Would you say it is the same?

      Clothes are also marketed for boys and girls, but I don’t think they’re reinforcing the differences. They’re acknowledging them and selling their stuff accordingly.

      I’m free to buy -and wear- women’s clothes if I were into that and I can think of very few places where they won’t sell me what I’d like just because I have the *wrong* gender.

      • I think this one bothers me because I don’t see Mario Kart as a gendered product. It’s not NASCAR. It’s cute little karts in a cartoon world; the game is intentionally adorable, colorful, and pretty. You can play as a baby princess on a track made of candy, for Pete’s sake.

        But I think you raise an interesting point re: clothing. I do not think that gender roles are intrinsically harmful necessarily. When they are facultative, when they are something a person may freely choose to utilize, they may be benign or positive. But when they are imposed I have a problem. And I do have criticisms for fashion and how western societies shackle arbitrary arrangements of fabric to a gender role. I think it’s horrible a straight guy can’t comfortable wear colors that are too bright, for example.

        • I think you’re right: Mario Kart ain’t a gendered product. Maybe -and I’m not justifying, just trying to provide a hypothesis- it was marketed as gendered because Mario Kart was originally a video game and video games have been wrongfully gendered as a male product.

          Back to the clothes issue, this may be splitting hairs but I don’t think there are a lot of *imposed* trends. Some may cause cultural shock, but you wear it and no one will tell you a thing. Even down here, in Colombia, guys wear colors too bright and pink ties and shirts. I find it hard to believe it is a more of a taboo issue in the States than here.

          Skirts are a good example of an imposed fashion arrangement. You only get to wear them if you’re a woman. In these cases, I have a problem as well. But these cases don’t abound. I guess it al depends on your definition of “imposed”, right?

          By the way, I don’t like *anyone* using too bright clothes because I feel my eyes will start bleeding, but it’s not a gendered thing – it’s a chromatic one.

          • bluharmony

            The thing about girls’ and boys’ toys is that it’s been “cool” for a girl to ask for the boys’ toy ever since I can remember. Unfortunately, the opposite isn’t true.