February 25th, 2021

big hairy deal

One potato, two potato

Hasbro has announced that it will change the name of its Mr. Potato Head toy to simply, “Potato Head.” In de-gendering its toy, it hopes to appeal to the diversity and inclusion crowd, I suppose, but I don’t see it.

I’m old enough to remember when you had to supply your own potato to play with this toy. The various parts had little spikes on the back that allowed you to stick them into the spud of your choice. Thus, you could use a russet potato, a red potato, or a yellow potato, which was already pretty inclusive. By the time I was grown up, the toymaker had switched to supplying hollow plastic “potatoes” with pre-set holes into which you could stick the noses, eyes, and other features. This somehow made the toy more limiting, but I suppose it was more sanitary.

Anyway, Mr. Potato Head already comes in two forms, Mr. and Mrs. You can make a male or female potato head, as you please. Is this not diverse and inclusive enough? Why strip the poor spud of all gender, simply to re-gender it by your choices?

For that matter, Mr. Potato Head would seem to be the perfect toy to celebrate gender fluidity; after all, the potato form itself is neither male nor female. It is left for you, the customer, to determine the sex of your potato. You can have a Mr. OR a Mrs. (or a Ms., if you prefer) Potato Head. There is no biological destiny to overcome: appearance IS reality, and it is entirely up to your personal choice. You could even – gasp! – mix and match the features to come up with an androgynous tuber (and assign it whatever pronouns you decree for it).

You may think I am merely offering snark here, but I have a very serious point. We are assaulted by angry people these days who insist that we strip away all gender from persons, from language, from social concepts, even toys, because gender is irrelevant. Then the same angry people insist that gender is SO important that they must be guaranteed the right to choose their own and all the rest of us have to employ whatever shibboleths they demand in order to acknowledge their chosen reality. Well, which IS it? Is gender an obstacle to be discarded, or the ultimate measure of your identity?

One day the mob howls one thing, the next it howls something else. If it weren’t so dangerous to offend it, nobody would pay any attention to the people howling. And once it becomes obvious that there is no way to stay on its good side, then toymakers and politicians and everybody else will wise up and cease to jump when the mob howls for them to jump. And then it won’t have any power anymore.

As for the taters, I’m tired of the few, angry agi-taters. There are far more sweet taters out there who better deserve our attention.