An Open Letter to McDonald’s Regarding Gendered Happy Meal Toys

Dear McDonald’s,

I’m sure the last thing you want to hear is some random person complaining about you. From your food to the way you treat your employees, everyone has an axe to grind on the Golden Arches.

Me, I have a request.

No less than ten minutes ago, I walked into your recently renovated restaurant on the far West Side of Cleveland. I found the establishment clean, the staff friendly, and the service prompt. I was over the moon to discover that the McRib had returned, placed my order, and stepped back to wait.

The door opened, and in walked a mother and her young son. He was probably about 8 or 9 years of age, wearing an Angry Birds cap and carrying a Nintendo DS, . They stopped in the walkway to study the Happy Meal Toy Display.

At the moment, you’re offering two options to customers, what’s commonly known as the Boy Toy and the Girl Toy. The two choices now are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Moshi Monsters, colorful characters from an online game for kids.


Mom asked her son if he wanted a Ninja Turtle and, being an obvious Gamer Boy, he immediately showed enthusiasm for the second choice on the bottom shelf (“girl” toys are always on the bottom shelf for some damn reason), and told her he wanted a Moshi Monster.

I was delighted. Gamer Boy rejected the “boy” toy and picked the option that best suited his tastes. You go, boy.

So Mom and Son approached the counter and placed their order. Mom specified that she wanted a Moshi Happy Meal.

The cashier was confused. “You want the boy toy?”

“We want those, the Moshi Pets.”

“Oh. You want the girl toy.”

That’s when I died a little.

McDonald’s, your employee had a little boy standing right in front of her. It was obvious the Happy Meal was for him. Yet she said in front of him that the toy he wanted was for girls.

To his credit, he didn’t seem ruffled by this, and I struck up a conversation with them about his Nintendo DS. My food arrived and I left, still irked over what the cashier had said.

Look, guys, I have zero problem with your offering two options to kids when it comes to Happy Meal Toys. In fact, I encourage it. But here’s my suggestion: train your employees not to call them “girls toys” and “boy toys.” Tell them to be aware of what the choices are, and call them what they are, in this case a “Turtle toy” or a “Moshi toy.”

Don’t subtly tell a young boy his choice is wrong, that option B is “for girls,” and that his preferences should always match his sex. Because it’s not just about the toy. It’s what all these gendered toys say. It’s about telling boys to solve problems through aggression, and telling girls to be passive. It’s about boys not getting into teaching and nursing, it’s about girls not getting into science and engineering. It’s reinforcing the gender roles and stereotypes that we really should be past at this point.

Come on, McDonald’s. You’re pretty huge and influential. You can really have an impact on our culture, just by including a new page in your company policy.


Rebecca Veverka
Word of the Nerd

This post first appeared on the Feminine Miss Geek.

About the author

Rebecca Veverka

A lifelong Cleveland, Ohio native, Rebecca is the second member of Word of the Nerd that likes to be called Bex. What are the chances? An Anglophile, science and history buff, and avid gamer (both video and tabletop), Bex also spends her free time crafting, illustrating, reading, and getting into amicable arguments with strangers on the internet. She has entirely too much free time. One of her greatest accomplishments is that she's only suffered one minor head injury in her lifetime.

1 Comment

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  • Great letter! I agree with you completely. My daughter is often a fan of the “boy toy,” especially on our most recent trip when she saw the ninja turtles. She’s 3 and doesn’t much care if it’s called a “boy toy” or “girl toy” and I hope she never changes. 🙂

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