All this talk about the gender of the Potato Head family has me thinking about a scarring memory of mine involving the gendering of children’s toys.
It’s probably not what you’re thinking.
Picture this: it was third grade. Our homework was some kind of essay. My essay had something to do with toys. I had to read my essay aloud for some reason. (Did everyone? I don’t remember, because what happened was so scarring that it erased everything else.)
There I was in front of the class, opus in hand.
Now, here’s something you should understand about me: I’m not a good self-editor. In high school when we had to provide a rough and final draft of an essay to show how well we’d understood the lessons about revision, I went ahead and wrote the final draft first—then had the actual hubris to make a worse version of my essay to staple on as the fake rough draft.
My point being, of course I didn’t notice before I was standing up there at the white board, ready to speak, that there was an important point missing from my essay. I needed to clarify (for some reason that is lost to history) that the children’s toys I was talking about in that moment were for boys. The paper in front of me said only “toys,” but—extemporaneously—I had to improve it.
I had to make clear that they were boys’ toys.
When it came time for me to say those words, though, what came out was “boy toys.” The entire classroom erupted in laughter. Raucous, unrelenting, at me. Boy toys! And I had no way of clarifying what I’d meant without making them laugh harder.
That’s how it goes when you’ve already stepped in it.
I had to just get through the essay, flustered as anything, and then sit down.
Honestly, it was somehow worse than the other time that year when I farted so loud that everyone around me turned and looked.
And that’s why I support the un-gendering of the Potato Heads.