Happy Meal With a Side of Gender Issues To Go Please

C.J. doesn’t want a Tonka Garage Truck, he wants a My Little Pony.

C.J. doesn’t want a Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 Fused car, he wants a Barbie: A Fairy Secret doll.

C.J. doesn’t want a Young Justice action figure, he wants a Littlest Pet Shop pet.

What C.J. wants totally confuses McDonald’s.

January 21: We walk into McDonald’s and order a Happy Meal. 

“For a boy, right?,” the cashier asks looking at C.J.

“It’s for a boy, but we would like the girl toy,” I explain, as I have to on most trips to C.J.’s favorite dining establishment.

C.J. always looks back and forth between me and the cashier with eyes that tell me that he is fearful his request for a girl toy might be rejected because he is – obviously — a boy.  He isn’t concerned with what the cashier thinks; he just wants – like every four year old – to get what he wants.  He breathes a sigh of relief when his wish is granted. An anxiety attack and tears are averted.

You can't blame C.J. I mean, which toy would you rather have?

February 22:

We walk into McDonald’s and order a Happy Meal.

“Would you like a boy toy or girl toy?” the manager asks before seeing C.J. and saying “Oh, sorry, you want a boy toy.”

“No, no, we want the girl toy,” I said, pretending to be really pleasant.

“Oh, I just thought that since he’s a….”

“Yes, but we’ll take the girl toy,” I say loudly and firmly with a saccharin smile that says “give me the damn girl toy and don’t cause a scene.”

(Awkward moment goes here.)

Again, the choice is so obvious.

March 7: We drive up to McDonald’s and order a Happy Meal.

“For a boy or a girl?” the bored voice mumbles out of the metal drive-through box.

“It’s for a girl,” C.J.’s Dad says, upset that gender identity issues are now being served with his Big Mac.

As wonderful as C.J.’s Dad is about raising a slightly effeminate, fabulous son, it does bother him to call him a girl.

I told him that he didn’t have to refer to C.J. as a girl, he could have selected his words differently and suddenly we are Mr. and Mrs. Bickerson.  C.J.’s Dad’s face turns red and he grips the steering wheel a little tighter.  I start to giggle.

We aren’t the only family dealing with such McProblems.

The very next day, my college friend C posted this on her Facebook:

“I don’t like that when ordering a Happy Meal I’m asked if it is for a boy or a girl, when the question should actually be “do you want a car or a Barbie?”

Amen sister! 

A handful of other moms agreed on C’s Facebook page.  C’s little guy isn’t slightly effeminate, like C.J., but she explains that “other than the obvious obnoxiousness of the gender stereotyping going on, sometimes the “opposite gender” toy is the better choice for my son. He knows what a stuffed bear is, not so much a Bakugan whosie-whatsit. “

C.J.’s Brother noticed that there is a Happy Meal website with fun games and activities.  We pull up the site and start to register to play.  McDonald’s, again, wants to know if we are a boy or a girl.  I can’t explain to the computer that we have one boy who likes to play with boy toys and one boy who likes to play with girl toys.  We log off.

 If McDonald’s keeps this up, I’ll have to make lunch more often.  Tears.

About raisingmyrainbow

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38 Responses to Happy Meal With a Side of Gender Issues To Go Please

  1. Someone brought home Happy Meals for my children and their cousin.

    My daughter got a Strawberry Shortcake while her brother and cousin got lightsabers.
    She had no idea who Strawberry Shortcake was and was very sad she didn’t get a sword.

    I had to go back and order a new toy.

  2. Rena Pearson says:

    I just don’t understand why toys should determine our sex? My girls now teens loved the boys toys at McDs, matchbox cars, and still like Legos. It did not determine their gender anymore than wearing jeans and a baseball cap. I think we are less concerned about girls choosing toys and outfits than boys. Girls can wear what they want. Boys are locked into blue, green, and khaki….how boring!

  3. Ashton says:

    I work at Macca’s, and I always give them the option rather than assuming. And I typically try to say “Do you want the doll or the car?” rather than using gendered terms.
    But that’s only because of my personal experiences (being transgender FtM/genderqueer). I try and get my coworkers to do it but it’s not that successful.
    When I was little I always got the car or whatever it was anyway 😛

  4. Lone Kristensen says:

    For me McDonald’s stands for poor quality food (no wonder they have to sell there plastic food with the aid of a plastic toy!) and the corporation is one of the worst offenders regarding employees’ rights and pay. That they in addition to this force our kids into gender straight jackets, just make me think: vote with your feet! Just don’t go there! Make your kids a nice (and healthy) home cooked meal instead or find somewhere else to go. McDonald’s don’t deserve your kids’ business!

  5. Melainie says:

    CJ’s mother, I agree 100% with the comment in your entry, that the question should be, “Do you want a car or a Barbie?” I have a 4 year old daughter who is somewhat gender nonconforming. She has always preferred ball, cars and guns to dolls and most traditional girl toys. My husband and I agree that she can play with any toy she chooses, much to the discomfort of my father.

    I told the ordertaker at McDonald’s this evening that my daughter would prefer the Hot Wheels. I am thinking of sending an email to corporate headquarters, just to make my opinion heard.

    She is who she is, I love her individuality and hope she can hold onto it as she grows. I just discovered your blog a few days ago and am now in the process of reading through it from the beginining. Horray for you, your family and CJ.

    I just spoke to a mother a couple of days ago, who has a young son who loved to play with girl toys, been made to feel that it was wrong (not by his mother, she thinks she is raising a rainbow), has hidden his true feelings and attempted to take his own life, all before the age of 13. Life is hard enough without the extra pressures and stress of conforming. Keep doing what you are doing, as I will for my girl.

  6. dxslove says:

    I always wanted the ‘boy’ toys when I was little, I had Barbies too, but the plastic dragons and spiders and swords were more fun. I was always the more aggressive and physical out of me and my close guyfriend, who had always wanted to be a soldier.

    It’s so much easier for a girl to be nonconforming of gender stereotypes, and there is still so much going on in the media, I love this attitude to raising children, to let them decide whether they are masculine/feminine/androgynous, it’s so much healthier for everyone.

  7. Susan says:

    This practice is actually against McDonalds corporate policy. I would consider a call to your local store explaining the situation. Years ago “boy or girl toy?” was removed as an appropriate ordering question. Instead we are to know which toys are available and to offer one or the other. Gender bias is not acceptable terminology for our stores and having worked in multiple facilities under different francises I can with confidence say the store you are working with is in the wrong not only ethically but according to policy as well. Good luck.

  8. Jessica says:

    I completely agree. When I was younger I always got the “boy’s” toy. It especially infuriated me when they didn’t ask and I ended up with a Barbie or something of the sort just because I appeared female and they wrongly assumed that’s what I would want…

    Another thing I find deeply gender-segregated is BICYCLES of all things. Try finding a “girl’s” bike that doesn’t come in some light pastel shade of pink, purple, blue, or yellow. Believe me, when I say I have.

    • Lenka says:

      I was annoyed when I found out (at the age of about 18) that there were “girls’ bicycles” and “boys’ bicycles”, after having ridden assorted bikes for years.

  9. tlh-in-tlh says:

    Just went to McD’s “Social Responsibility” webpage (http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/contact_us/social_responsibility/social_responsibility.html) and asked them to make the “Car or Barbie?” version the standard, instead of the “Girl toy or boy toy?” question. Y’all can too!

  10. Mel Green says:

    I’m a 52-year-old woman who had no McDonald’s in her home-town when she was a kid. But I can tell you that as a girl — I woulda wanted the so-called “boy” toys.

    Just discovered your blog today. And am reading back through all the entries. And am so… what…? impressed…? grateful…? happy…? — all of the above — to find a family & parents permitting their child to grow into who he is, instead of coercing him into being what he is not. Which would serve in any case only to distort him. I love what C.J.’s dad says in a later post, about it not it being his job to fight C.J.’s battles, but to help shape C.J. into someone courageous & strong for himself.

    This should not impress me so much. This kind of parenting should be par for the course.

    But of course it’s not. Thank you for doing for your children — both of them — what so many parents fail to do for any of theirs.

  11. Carissa Zuniga says:

    Oh how I agree. I have a 5 year old girl and 2 year old boy girl twins. Sometimes it’s just easier to get all 3 kids the same thing. Sometimes the boy toy is not of my 2 year old’s milieu, and he’d really rather have a pony than a monster. Some times the girl toys are really lame, while the boy toy is awfully cool. And sometimes, when it’s Madame Alexander time, Mommy gets to choose, and asks very nicely if there is any chance of getting 3 different toys 😉

  12. As a person who has never been much of a gender-conformer (born female, identified as male from 4 to 12, thought I was male until 14 but looked like a girl so I could fit in and make my mom happy, now somewhere in between) I definitely struggled with the boy/girl toy labeling as a child. Oddly enough, my major struggle was that I wanted the Barbie toy even though I was a boy! The McDonald’s workers were always putting the boy toys in my Happy Meal despite my request, but it all worked out. They usually just became props for my real Barbies anyway.

    Thank you for accepting your son for who he is.

  13. Brooke Lange says:


    I am a college student working towards a degree in law and public advocacy, and I would first of all just like to say that I really enjoy this blog. I love following you, your son, and your family’s growth in a world that isn’t entirely accepting yet.

    I am about to give a speech about how the first step to helping make the world more friendly for gays and transgender/gender nonconformists is getting rid of silly labels such as this in the media. Thank you for providing such an excellent example of what stereotyping can do to leave people out and tell them who or what to be.

    I attend a very wonderfully open-minded college, Indiana University, and wouldn’t want to go to college anywhere else. Just this year or last, I believe, a gay fraternity opened on campus. I know many other students who love your blog. Thank you for continually posting and trying to make a difference. I’ll try to. 🙂

  14. JK says:

    More than once when I was younger, I’d ask for the Batman/Matchbox toy. Upon actually seeing me, however, the person giving the meal would say ‘oh, I thought you said you wanted the boy-toy, sorry, won’t be a minute’ – and would then take out the toy I’d wanted and attempt to replace it with some piece of junk for ‘girls only’.

    I did get my Batman toy in the end; my father felt justified in being angry on my behalf. The Matchbox, however, was replaced by some ridiculous ‘Cabbage Patch’ doll – the employee said she’d get fired if she gave a girl a boy’s toy. If I’d been old enough to know the word, I’d’ve called bullshit on that sentence.

  15. Kyle says:

    I was very gender-non-conforming as a child and I am sure my parents went through the same frustrations.
    But when I was sixteen and working at a McDonald’s my manager told us we need to ask which toy they wanted by the toy not by gender. So I would ask would you like a pony or transformer.
    But my manager I believe identified as a lesbian and probably went through the same problem as a child.
    But sadly I know not all McDonald’s has such understanding people working for them.
    I am 22 now and last year they Hello Kitty watches, they were pretty awesome. So I proudly asked for the hello kitty watch when they asked if I wanted a boy or girl toy.

  16. Pingback: Ronald McDonald Needs to Have a Word With His Peeps | Raising My Rainbow

  17. Jacob says:

    I have to agree with what a couple of others have posted here. You should just make a point of preempting the question of what toy C.J. wants.

    “And one chicken nugget happy meal with apple slices, a milk, and the Barbie toy please”

  18. Denise says:

    I think it sucks that they have labels at all for these things. When I was younger, I loved the ‘boy toys” and just last week my son wanted the Rango necklace instead of the rattlesnake toy. Luckily, our Burger King got it right – they showed my kids both toys and asked them which one they wanted. My son asked if the necklace was for girls only and I let him know he could wear it if he wanted to and it was no big deal.

    I was the weird girl growing up that loved Star Wars and science fiction and except for the one asshole boy in 3rd grade that wanted to beat me up for being a fan of Star Wars (which according to him was ONLY for boys), things seemed much simpler then. You didn’t have to choose your identity based on your crappy burger toy.

  19. geekymummy says:

    My little boy prefers the “girl” toys too. I always give him a choice.
    Love your blog. I linked to you in my post today

  20. TJ says:

    Who would think going to get fast food could be so traumatic?

  21. John says:

    I worked at a McDonald’s in South Orange County almost 20 years ago and I still remember being instructed to always leave gender out of the question and just refer to the product by name. “Would you like the Hot Wheels or Barbie toy in your Happy Meal?” So much easier that way. And this was in Mission Viejo. The Frisbee family owned quite a few McDonald’s locations in Southern CA (including the busiest one next to Disneyland) and had this policy at all of their stores. Sad to see things regress 20 years later.

  22. Kristy Heath says:

    How I can totally identify with you, but lucky for me, my husband has finally come to the point where I have finally got the point across that we just want our little guy to be happy, no matter which toy he wants! My little guy was throughly dissappointed the other day when Dad messed up and he didn’t get the My Little Pony on the box…he refused to eat his dinner and promptly chucked his car on the floor and went and pouted on the couch. After much coaxing by me I was able to get him to eat, but Dad is much more careful about getting the “right” toy. Now he pays close attention to what the toy of the week is…well he pays attention to which toys our little ones would like to have to keep peace while we eat! ;D

    A SIDE NOTE FOR YOU! I do have a solution to your little problem, when we order our happy meals, and yes we have to get 2 cars and a “farbie”, that is exactly how we order it. I don’t care what the voice coming out of the little box or the screen says!

    I want one 4 peice chicken nugget happy meal with a juice and a car/truck/ect; one cheeseburger happy meal with a juice and a My little pony/Barbie/ect and one Mighty kids meal with a double cheeseburger with a Sprite and a car/truck/ect. That way gender isn’t even an issue, except to the screen you check your order on! We let the kids have take out only once a week, and I am not going to let “gender labeling” ruin it for my little ones, you don’t have to either! 😉

  23. easypeasykids says:

    My 6 year old son is exactly the same. He asked for a hamster toy thing for his birthday and on the box was a big sticker saying it had won the best girl toy of the year awards. Why are we categorising toys??? A toy is something to play with regardless of gender.

  24. Marty says:

    This story kind of surprises me. In high school I worked at McDonalds (a pretty decent job for HS kid) and I remember it being policy not ask Boy/Girl toys. We always stated “would you like a Hot Wheel/Barbie?” or “which toy would you like?” I know I’m from the uber liberal state of Vermont, so this may only be the case here and we had plenty of people that asked for the non-traditional toy. But the point is even though the toys are clearly gendered, there is no reason they have to push the gender binary on children’s toy choice.

  25. Alistair L. says:

    When I was young we had wind up toys shaped like the Hamburgler and friends. Minature beanie babies and furbies and all sorts of other things that were never gender specific but always fun for whomever got them. Gender stereotypes were always a major bone of contention in my family (my parents were worse than the bullies at school)so having to choose between what was expected and what I actually enjoyed was standard. Things like McDonalds toys were always a treat because I never had to do that. Having the toys set up the way they are now would have been just another way to make me miserable. I am glad there are people out there who are willing to try and resist this dangerously prevalent trend even in public spaces. Never thought I would think fondly of the past. Best of luck to all of you.

  26. maddox says:

    McDonald’s toy gender segregation is only, in my view, but a small sample of what has in recent years permeated the kid’s toy section.

    I remember when I was growing up, just 20 years ago, toys were not so genderfied. My brother and I had a little kitchenette which was all solid primary colors (try finding one of those today). We had blocks and puzzles which were neutral; we had arts and crafts stuff which was also neutral (today considered a ‘girl’ toy). We had crayon boxes which were not pink (yes, even choosing the exact same set of crayons now depends on your gender). Moreover, I could always walk into a girl’s clothing store and find non-pink, non-girly clothes. Impossible to do that today (kids OR adult section).

    As someone who abhorred pink (and in general anything girly), my childhood years would have been filled with trauma had every one of my possessions been pink, as they seem to be now, and my brother would have been doubly stigmatized for playing with not only ‘girl’ toys but pink girl toys. Blame it on marketing, consumerism, what have you – it’s a sad state of affairs.

    • Denise says:

      I hear you. It took me a long while to find a kitchen set for my boys that was not all pink and frilly. And forget about stocking the play kitchen. All the little blenders and plate sets we found were pink. I think that even if I had girls, this would bug me. I’m a girl and I hate pink. Not all of us a friily little things who like to wear sparkles.

  27. Nicki says:

    My younger sister LOVED He-Man and Star Wars growing up…She had the sheets, posters, toys, EVERYTHING! I don’t ever remember any family member saying a word about it, although maybe they did so out of ear shot of the youngin’s, but it was what she liked….My mom, God Bless her, encouraged us to do the things that made us happy, regardless of gender “stereotypes”. I thank her for that. Not everyone is so open minded though & that is where people like you, CJ’s mom, come in….

  28. Abby says:

    Instead of answering “we would like a girl toy” and going trhough the explanation, why not just say “we would like the barbie?” or whatever toy it is that CJ wants. Or, if you must “My son would like the barbie toy.” That way you (or CJ’s dad) isn’t having to put that label on it and “call” your son a girl. That might make CJ’s dad feel a little more comfortable and have a slightly less awkward moment? Good luck!

  29. Colleen says:

    I worked the drive-thru at McD’s for many years in high school. Even at 16, and despite what the “script” said, I always asked “Hot Wheels or Barbie?” rather than “boy or girl.” The knuckle-dragging owner of the establishment used to mock me for this “feminazi stuff,” but I continued and influenced a few other employees to do the same. You see, as a kid, I would’ve MUCH prefered the Hot Wheels to the Barbie (though the My Little Pony/Tonka choice would’ve been tough). I hate that toys are so gender divided. It bugs me to no end that I walk into Target and all the dishes/housekeeping/baby care items are pink. Not because I won’t let my son play with pink stuff, but because there is a message there that these activities fall solely in the realm of “girl,” when in reality they’re just tasks that occur in a household. I’d like to raise a son who knows that it is okay to be nurturing and who doesn’t think that caring for the home is “woman’s work.”
    How ’bout we let our kids be kids and play with what they want WITHOUT cramming gender stereotypes down their throats??

  30. carla banuelos says:

    cj’s mom i to have a son whom is now 10 years old that is the same way as your son. i embrace him. i don’t encourage him but i do not deny him of choices he makes. he has always picked the girl happy meal for as long as i remember, and still at 10 years old. he still picks Barbie’s over any other toy to play with. even asking my advice what shoes go best with the outfit that he dresses them in. he talks about how beautiful women are and he always treats me , his grandma, any girl with love. he loves dancing to Brittney spears, lady gaga and other artist. he gets teased and called names sometimes but i have taught him to just ignore them and go speak with the principal and if i hear someone calling him a girl or any other name i defend him. i have even went so far to getting kids suspended from school for sexual harassment. to call another kid gay, girl, giovanna and not giovanni is a form of sexual harassment. i don’t know why these parents don’t teach there kids better manners and that bullying is wrong. giovanni is giovanni, nothing will change him or who he will become. i have a 15 year old that teases him sometimes and i take away his cell phone, ipod, xbox, everytime i hear him be mean to him. i also have told my nephew and bother if thay cant treat giovanni with respect in his own house then they dont need to be there. i believe his girlish ways does not make him gay. if he is gay then he is gay no matter what. the toys he plays with does not define who he is.

  31. Karyn @ kloppenmum says:

    It would be good if they could ask if we wanted a car or a doll… so much easier.

  32. Coccinelle says:

    First of all I want to say that I love your blog and I hope to read you for a long time in the future.

    For the matters at hand, I have not step a foot in a McDonald’s in over 20 years so I can’t say for sure what are the politics where I live but I clearly remember that they didn’t ask me my gender when I was eating happy meals as a kid. In fact, I clearly remember that what we got was totally random and that we were alyays wondering if we will get the cool stuff or the boring stuff or the same stuff as last week. I daresay that the toys were more gender neutral than what I see in the pictures you posted though.

    I am completely appalled to hear that kind of gender stereotypes being enforced like that in 2011. Why can’t they think of ideas for gender neutral toys?? I’m sure it’s still feasible even in 2011! Why don’t they let the children (or the parents) choose the toy instead of stating a gender? I really don’t undertand.

    I now have another reason to keep my children away from McDonald’s!

  33. Mikayla says:

    That is one of the reasons I dont like eating at McDonald’s. The only good thing bout it is the McFlurries and the PlayPlace. Though Im too big to go in the Playplace..

  34. Jennifer says:

    I completely agree! I have a similar issue in reverse (my girl wants all things boy). Admittedly, my issue is easier to deal with in public, but I am tired of having to explain to young guests in my car why I just called my daughter a boy. I try to speak up BEFORE we are asked (“Happy Meal with Apple Juice and a Transformers toy please!”)

  35. realanonymousgirl2011 says:

    Awww. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s true some of these boy toys are kind of meant for older boys, where a pony or kitty is more desirable. I wonder if my daughter will follow in her mothers footsteps….I played with GI Joes.

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