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article imageOp-Ed: Gender neutral Potato Head – Oh, give it a rest!

By Paul Wallis     Feb 26, 2021 in Lifestyle
Sydney - Mr Potato Head is now just Potato Head. Hallelujah, to quote Leonard Cohen. That’ll make up for all the inequities and other issues associated with this dinosaur-like terminology, won’t it?
Hasbro announced from some apparently compulsory monastery for descriptors that Mr Potato Head is no longer “Mr.” While any even microscopic level of corporate sensitivity is welcome, the questions remains – How long is the world to be afflicted with this “terminology creep” situation?
The whole idea of gender neutrality is based on the quite reasonable idea that nobody should be forced into a gender identity. It’s often stressful, and can be the basis of bullying and other childhood traumas, some very significant.
That aside – Inflicting categorical non-specifics on the world as a whole turns out to be pretty inefficient, and sometimes even insulting. The whole theory of political correctness was supposedly based on respect. This is theoretically Everyone Is Equal by other means, but it hasn’t turned out that way.
Thanks to obsessive terminology, it is now possible to completely ignore anyone’s heritage, culture, ancestry, gender, personal respect, and simply come up with a “Hey anonymous!” level of description.
In effect, it’s a non-description. Try this for a basic person-finding description:
• Male, female, or otherwise: No information.
• Ancestry: Not saying.
• Cultural background: Refuse to say.
How is this ongoing descriptive atrocity in any way respectful? It equates at best to not being abusive, intentionally or otherwise, but it also negates or writes off people’s individuality and cultural identity.
It’s absurd. Most languages have gender-specific pronouns and nouns. People have a right to be referred to by their preferred descriptors, but a blanket ban on principle?
How do you prefer to be referred to in terms of your identity? Male, female, nationality, culture, whatever? Well, at this rate, that’s not going to happen. Potato Head’s feelings may not be hurt, but other people’s can be, and are.
Let’s try looking at it this way – You’re a person. You know that. I know that. There’s no reason to mention this obvious fact, let alone put a tonnage of terminology on top of it. This is instantly anonymizing people. It’s a demotion, in many ways.
Some people are quite proud of their heritage. Others insist on not being some sort of terminological recycling excuse as a personal descriptor. Also very much to the point – How are others supposed to describe you? Never mind gender neutrality as a sort of football for the fatuous; this is about personal identity on a much more fundamental level. Ironically, it’s a type of generic invasion of privacy; categorizing everyone as sexless, culture-less, individuality-less.
On this basis, you lose the right to any clear personal identity. That’s not how it’s intended, but that’s the net effect. There can be no individual descriptors, on the basis of protecting individual identity? You could refer to your family as “those people I’m related to”, for example.
You could wind up with “That human-thing over there” or maybe not. As a group, you could be “they critters yonder”, or something equally helpful. Maybe being species-specific is equally insulting? (It would be to me. I moved to another species for aesthetic reasons decades ago, but I’d still find that description a lot less than meaningful. )
So – Can we kindly shut up on this highly unproductive subject and allow people to decide their own personal descriptors?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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