#McDonalds, Time to Stop with the Gendered Toy Thing

Last night after the “fall festival” at school, wherein we made spiders out of handprints and a spider’s web out of popsicle sticks and yarn and put google-eyes into slime made out of Borax, I asked the kids if they wanted to swing by McDonald’s for supper. I thought there would maybe be pizza for purchase at the festival or something, but there wasn’t, and so we were hungry, and tired.

“Wow, Mom!” my oldest said, “You know it’s a great night when you let us have McDonald’s and candy on the same night!” Yep. Yep. It sure is, kiddo. Exhaustion for me means junk food for you sometimes. Your lucky night indeed.

I pulled up to the loudspeaker “Hi, I’d like a Happy Meal with a hamburger, apples, and white milk, please. I’d also like –“

I was interrupted.

“Will that Happy Meal be for a boy or a girl?”

I sighed loudly. Paused briefly. I can’t stand this gendered Happy Meal thing, but I knew it wasn’t the policy of the woman making minimum wage behind the register.

“For a boy please.”

“Ok, go ahead.”

“I’d also like another Happy Meal with a plain cheesburger, go-gurt, and a white milk. That one is also for a boy. And another plain cheeseburger.”

We paid for the food. They gave it to us. We drove away.

“Mom, why did you say that the Happy Meal was for a boy?” my eldest asked. It seemed like a great opportunity to share with my children why I can’t stand this thing and to help form them into decent human beings. Well, because they believe some toys are for boys and some toys are for girls. I don’t like that, but since the boy toy was for Pokeman and the girl toy was for Hello Kitty I chose the Pokeman for you and your brother. Now that I think about it, I hope I was right! Boys, would you have preferred the Hello Kitty toy?”

“No. Pokeman please, mama. Good job. That’s what we want.”

The reason I can’t stand the gendered toy thing isn’t because I can’t be bothered to order it. It’s because, as a minister, I’ve walked alongside too many transgender human beings who have to fight for their space in this world. This week the Trump administration announced their terrible policy to erase transgender people. When they did, I immediately thought of a transgender member of my previous congregation who told horrific stories of being silenced, excluded and shut out of faith communities. His story is like so many stories.

As a minister in the PCUSA I know and believe that all of God’s people are made in the image of God just as they are. Man, woman, transgender, in between. Gender is not binary. You can’t say “boy” or “girl” to the Happy Meal toys. Even if my boys wanted the Hello Kitty purse because they wanted it, I would have been forced to say “Girl” in order to get it. It’s absurd. It’s not about Happy Meal toys, it’s about something much deeper.

But since we’re talking about the toys, let’s get back to our night last night. I haul the children in, get them situated at the table and start giving the toddler her cheeseburger. (Yep. Toddler gets a cheeseburger sometimes. I care about changing this horrible gendered toy policy more than I care about you knowing I give my toddler a cheeseburger. Bring on the judging. I don’t care.) All of a sudden I hear crying. Real crying. With tears.

What happened! “Look what S. got in his Happy Meal!”
Yep. A Hello Kitty purse.
“Oh, S. I’m sorry! I know that’s not what you wanted! But, look, it’s so cute! You could put things in there!”
“No! That’s not what I wanted!”
“Could you share the Pokemon with your brother?”

[Both brothers in unison] “NO!”

“Ok, well listen. It’s late, and I’m not going to have all four of us get back in the van to go back to change it, but I promise, papa and I will go back to McDonald’s tomorrow with our receipt and get it changed, ok?”


For the rest of the night I heard about it. I didn’t let the other brother play with his toy because it didn’t seem fair. I told him he could play with it when they both had one.

“But can’t I play with it for a second?”
“What if you forget to exchange it tomorrow? What if they’re out of Pokeman toys?”

Thanks, McDonald’s, for a real UnHappy Meal experience.

I sat down to write a tweet to McDonald’s which, (as of right now at least) has been ignored.

“What are you doing, Mama?”

“I’m writing a message to McDonald’s to ask them not to make boy toys and girl toys, but to make toys for everybody.”

“Well, I hope they take your advice.”

“I do, too.”

Help me get McDonald’s attention on this. Share this post with the hashtag #unHappyMeal and let’s see what they say.

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