CNA Staff, Mar 1, 2021 / 14:48 pm
The Hasbro toy company is now marketing a gender-neutral Potato Head family set showing same-sex couples and a baby, alongside a traditional family portrayal.
While the company has rejected reports that it would no longer sell individual sex-specific Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head dolls, a company executive has told a progressive business leaders' magazine that the tradition of the brand is "limiting" because of how it presents gender identity and family structure.
"Culture has evolved," Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice president and general manager at Hasbro, told Fast Company magazine Feb. 25. "Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists-with the 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.'-is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure."
"The sweet spot for the toy is two to three years old," Boyd said. "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."
A box for the gender-neutral family set shows pictures of a baby potato head in three different images: one where the potato head parents appear as a man and a woman, another where they appear as a woman and a woman, and a third where they appear as a man and a man.
Hasbro has also produced an animated image of two potato head dolls and a baby potato head. One of the dolls changes male characteristics, while the other doll changes between male and female characteristics and accessories.
The toy company did counter claims that Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head would change their names.
In a Feb. 25 Twitter post with several potato-related puns, the toy company Hasbro said: "your main spud, Mr. Potato Head isn't going anywhere! While it was announced today that the Potato Head brand name & logo are dropping the 'Mr.' I yam proud to confirm that Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head aren't going anywhere and will remain Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head."
The Fast Company report on the new developments for the classic doll contended that dropping "Mr." and Mrs." is a change that means "the toys don't impose a fixed notion of gender identity or expression, freeing kids to do whatever feels most natural to them."
The avoidance of a "normative family structure" in the boxed sets, the article said, is an approach that is "clever because it allows kids to project their own ideas about gender, sexuality, and family onto the toy, without necessarily offending parents that have more conservative notions about family."
Fast Company magazine's target audiences include self-described progressive business leaders. Its story about the potato head toy contended that traditional toys and storylines about relationships and families "can be confusing to kids who live in progressive milieus, where they are exposed to many different family structures."
According to Census Bureau estimates, there are about 980,000 same-sex coupled households in the U.S. About 58% of these households are considered married. Same-sex married couples' households are about half as likely as married men and women's households to have children. Overall, about 180,000 same-sex coupled houses have children under age 18.
Same-sex couple households make up 1.5% of all coupled households, with 11 states and the District of Columbia above this average. Washington, D.C. has the highest percentage of these same-sex households, 7.1%.
Broken down by metropolitan statistical area, same-sex coupled households are most prevalent in the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley area, where about 2.8% of coupled households were same-sex.
By comparison, there are some 57.8 million households of married men and women, and some 7.6 million households of unmarried men and women. The Census Bureau on Feb. 24 released these numbers in a new report analyzing its 2019 American Community Survey.
Previous census inquiries wrongly classified many couples as same-sex because of recording errors, including men or women who mistakenly indicated they were the same sex as their spouse. The Census Bureau has claimed to have improved the error rate.