So Long, Mister
One sign of progress in our society is what seems to be a growing awareness of the need for inclusion. For too long, entire groups have been pushed out of the mainstream and underrepresented in the media. But in recent years, the subject of inclusion has been far more prominent in our public discourse. Concurrently, we’ve begun to see organizations, business, and individuals shifting their thinking in small but significant ways.
And yet until very recently one group that’s been all but completely ignored has been the non-cis-gendered potato community. But last month came an important breakthrough when Hasbro, the makers of the Mr. Potato Head line, announced that they would, at long last, be dropping the offensive word “Mr.” from its name. Being the only potato toy on the market places considerable pressure on what will now be known simply as Potato Head, and mounting controversy and debate over the name had been growing in intensity for some time. The overdue change means that potatoes of all gender identities will finally have a toy that represents them. It’s a move that has inspired celebration not only among potatoes, but also among potato advocates.
Some skeptics have suggested this change is no more than Hasbro’s transparent and desperate attempt to rejuvenate sales of their plastic potatoes with detachable human features—a toy no one has played with since 1978. I'm not saying that, but some people are. Nevertheless, it's been well-recieved by those who see prior generations’ understanding of potato gender identity as ignorant, archaic, and even tuberphobic.
The hope, of course, is that similarly narrow-minded, noninclusive toys that offensively indicate specific genders will follow Hasbro’s lead. The time has come to ban Mr. Potato Head's outdated friends, like American Girl, Batman, Wonder Woman, and of course, anything with ladybugs.
Eventually, other insensitively named products are expected to follow suit, with the heteronormative Mr. Peanut becoming the more appropriate “Peanut Person,” Mrs. Butterworth syrup changing its name to “Butterworth” (whose new pronouns will be they/them), and the makers of Mrs. Dash adopting the gender-neutral “Dash!” as the name for its inclusive seasoning mix. But change comes slowly. The makers of the Mr. Coffee Coffeemaker have already rejected the suggestion that their product be called simply “Coffeemaker” so as to avoid exclusion, and the makers of Mr. Clean have simply declined to comment. Lifebuoy Soap, however, is working on rebranding.
It’s a new world.
Fortunately, anyone, regardless of how they identify, can be a curmudgeon.