Woke Potatoes and Trans Acceptance Cookies

Stew Milne

Hasbro announced yesterday that they would be taking part in an effort to be more “gender neutral” by taking the “Mr.” out of the “Mr. Potato Head” brand.

Notice the AP’s tweet, as the original press release was not extremely clear. Hasbro’s original announcement appeared to signal that your child would just be able to get a “Potato Head” instead of a “Mr. Potato Head” (and, I’m assuming, Mrs. Potato Head). They eventually had to clarify because there was so much confusion.

The most charitable translation of this is “We, a not-very-diverse group of company suits figured we’d hop in on the frequent public political discussions and controversy surrounding trans issues.” There was a lot of confusion online as people left, right, and center asked “Uh… why?”

I, for one, think they really missed an opportunity by not rebranding as “Potatx” as a shoutout to the progressive use of “Latinx” to describe Hispanic-Americans — a term, by the way, that Hispanic-Americans don’t actually seem to get behind.

Clearly, though, this is part of a larger wave of “We’re so woke!” branding on Twitter, as Oreo was kind enough to put the issue of trans acceptance in black and white.

I’m not going to boycott Hasbro or Oreo over this stuff, as some on the right will call for, but we are once again seeing the Extremely Online nature of society trying to solve problems that no one is seeking a solution to — as if there were people pushing a petition to change Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head to just “Potato Head” so that trans kids could feel like their toys better reflected them. In fact, the typical age range of kids who play with Potato Head toys are completely unaware of what gender identity even is, and they are far more likely to be engaged in imaginative play 95% of their day than be trapped in a state of soul-crushing gender dysmorphia.

I typically choose not to get into the debate over trans issues, because I have plenty of friends, acquaintances, and students who have come out as trans over the years. It is something that I’ve talked with them about on numerous occasions, and I don’t think preaching to or about them actually helps them in any way.

But Hasbro’s move, as minor as it ends up being as opposed to what we were led to believe, isn’t targeting kids to make them feel better. It’s a move to appease adults who think that children as young as 2 or 3 years old are capable of deciding they are transgender, which is simply not the case. They don’t have the capacity to understand it, and I think that Senator Rand Paul is right to question the use of puberty blockers on children.

Regardless of how you feel about the issue, however, it is an issue that we as a society will have to have more open discussions about. A new report shows 1 in 6 Gen Z adults identify as LGBT, establishing its growth as a subset of Americans that can’t simply be ignored by major political parties. While I think Democrats tend to overplay on LGBT issues, Republicans have got to find some way to make in-roads without just straight-up pandering.

Corporations, however, are still far too quick to jump in and say they’re woke without actually thinking it through. It’s pretty clear Hasbro and Oreo are reacting and not planning this stuff out, and it really just looks kind of silly. On the face of it, Oreo is stating something that is really obvious: Yes, trans people do exist. That’s not a real statement of acceptance. It’s just pointing trans people out. Hasbro is giving lip service to the idea of gender neutrality, but they still have “binary” choices in a “Mr.” or “Mrs.” Potato Head.

Both may have just opened themselves up to more criticism by reacting to current events.