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