Columnist

Dave Molter is a freelance writer and Golden Quill and Keystone Press Awards winner. He also is a freelance musician in the Pittsburgh area.

Last week was a typical one in the recently stormed U.S. Capitol building.

Wednesday afternoon, Illinois Rep. Marie Newman, a Democrat whose daughter is transgender, posted a video on Twitter of the congresswoman hanging the pink and blue transgender pride flag outside her office – which is directly across the hall from U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Earlier that day, Greene had unsuccessfully tried to block debate about the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination against LGTBQ Americans. Newman supports the act; Greene does not, saying the legislation would protect pedophiles, cut women’s rights and go against “God’s creation.” On Thursday, the Georgia Republican stuck a sign to a wall outside her office: “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE Trust The Science!”

Normally I wouldn’t pay attention to grandstanding from either side of the political aisle. But this particular story carries a delicious irony. For on the same day news of Greene’s signposting appeared online, so did this headline: “Mr. Potato Head can now marry another Mr. Potato Head.” Here’s more on this shocking news from Elizabeth Segren, a staff writer for the American business magazine, “Fast Company”:

“The toy giant Hasbro is rebranding its iconic Mr. Potato Head toy by dropping the ‘Mr.’ from the name. On the surface, it may seem like a subtle shift, but it is designed to break away from traditional gender norms, particularly when it comes to creating Potato Head families – how toddlers frequently play with the toy, according to Hasbro’s research.”

Segren quotes Kimberly Boyd, a Hasbro senior vice president and general manager, about the reasons for the new branding: “Kids like dressing up the toy, then playing out scenarios from their life. This often takes the form of creating little potato families, because they’re learning what it means to be in a family.”

Well, I can relate to that. I fondly recall a weekend family barbecue in the fifties where we wrapped Uncle Clarence in tin foil and tossed him into the campfire. We then reenacted the scene with Mr. Potato Head, which at that time required that we use a real potato. It helped that Uncle Clarence smoked a pipe and had a mustache – two of the accessories included with the Mr. Potato Head kit. What fun! Uncle Clarence was OK with the prank and even laughed while picking bits of charred foil out of his singed mustache. But he made it a point at subsequent family barbecues to sit with his back against a tree, the better to avoid being turned into a side dish. My mother, however, was not amused and banned potatoes of any kind from my toy chest. So my friends and I resorted to playing with Mr. Tomato Head and – until our neighbors the Broccolis complained – various cruciferous vegetables.

In her article, Segren makes a cogent point about Hasbro’s decision to drop gender assignment of America’s favorite tater twosome a scant eight years after it celebrated their “60th wedding anniversary” with a special boxed set.

“This mean toys don’t impose a fixed notion of gender identity or expression,” she writes, “freeing kids to do whatever feels most natural to them: A girl potato might want to wear pants and a boy potato might wear earrings.” And why not? I grew up in an age when there were three sexes – male, female, and extramarital – so gender identity talk doesn’t bother me. And I don’t see how allowing equal rights for all genders somehow steals those same rights away from those who already have them, or how your choice of gender harms me.

But after Rep. Greene hears about the Potato Head switch, I imagine she’ll add another sign to her wall:

“There are TWO Potato Heads: MISTER & MISSUS Trust The Recipe!”

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