AGL creates gender-neutral coal.

Energy company AGL has been applauded for creating the world’s first gender-neutral coal as a source of energy for commercial and residential use throughout Australia.

“AGL is a leader in corporate diversity and inclusion, and gender-neutral coal is just another exciting initiative in our quest to embrace the LGBTQ+ community,” announced the company, on the same day thousands of school students across the country protested against AGL and other fossil fuel companies.

“Gender-neutral coal does not identify as male, female or any other gender. It was developed by our outstanding research and development team, in close consultation with our marketing department, and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Every Aussie should be enormously proud of this, and the fact that Australia has the largest per-capita carbon footprint of any country on earth.”

AGL then explained that gender-neutral coal damages the planet as much as gender-specific coal, and helps the company to debunk myths that the mining industry is male-dominated and not welcoming of other genders. It also looks like ‘normal’ coal

“…but we transport it in rainbow-coloured containers.”

It is not the first accolade AGL has received in this sphere. The company was recently awarded Gold Employer status for LGBTQ+ inclusion at the AWEI Awards while simultaneously earning the title of Australia’s biggest domestic contributor to climate change by Greenpeace. Greenpeace argues that AGL emitted 42.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2019-2020. Greenpeace data confirms that the energy company creates,

“…24.6% of electricity sector emissions and 8% of Australia’s total emissions, which primarily comes from the coal burned at the energy giant’s three coal-burning power stations: Liddell, Bayswater, and Loy Yang A. AGL’s own data confirms that 85% of energy generated by the gentailer comes from burning coal.”

At the same time, AGL boasts publicly that:

“This is the third year we have been awarded Gold Employer status, and the fifth year that we have participated in the AWEI. Our employee-driven LGBTQ+ network, AGL Shine, was created in 2014. The network focuses on providing a safe and inclusive environment for all our employees – while also advocating internally and externally for gender inclusion beyond the heteronormative binary.”

The announcement provoked a mixed reaction.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Environment Minister Sussan Ley welcomed the news, despite being famously conservative and reluctant to embrace non-heteronormative agendas. The three leaders applauded AGL for using the LGBTQ+ community to distract Australians from their environmental destruction, and thanked the company for giving the Australian delegation something tangible to take to COP26 in Glasgow later this month.

Critics argue that gender-neutral coal is not real, and never will be. They claim that coal is an inanimate object with no gender, and thus cannot be declared gender-neutral. Many suspect the announcement is yet another attempt to win public favour while the rest of the world appears to be transitioning to renewable energy.

AGL rejected assertions that gender-neutral coal is not a real thing, stating;

“It’s as real as Clean Coal”

The hidden danger of Mr Potato Head’s gender neutrality.

Mr Potato Head will now be known as Potato Head. The popular toy is no longer male according to Hasbro and the decision set social media alight as people reacted to the gender labelling of a plastic toy. People wanted to know why the decision was made, why it was made now, and the wider social implications of the decision.

At any time, did Hasbro consider the hidden danger of declaring Potato Head gender neutral; the danger that the decision trivialises the issue of gender neutrality in humans?

Potato Head is not a person. Potato Head is a plastic toy. It has no emotions, no intelligence, no feelings and no personality. It is not a sentient being. A toy cannot decide its own gender and a toy has never suffered the personal or public trauma of grappling with gender identity. A toy will never be teased. A toy has never been cast out or shunned by its peers, colleagues, friends or family.

A toy does not have to live in a body it despises due to societal, familial, cultural or religious pressure. A toy does not have to decide whether to identify as gender neutral, or to go further and undergo a physical transition from its gender of birth.

A toy is just pieces of moulded plastic.

The danger of declaring a plastic toy gender neutral is that people who label themselves gender neutral can now be compared to a plastic toy.

“So you’re gender neutral, just like Mr Potato Head,” others will say.

Furthermore, the toy will still exist as Mr Potato Head – just the branding on the box will change. What’s the point?

This further trivialises the issue of gender neutrality -as if Hasbro is saying,

“We will make a stand on a social issue, but not if it means we sell fewer toys…”

If toys become gender neutral, can other inanimate objects be declared gender neutral?

Let’s not beat around the bush, Hasbro made this decision with a purely commercial motivation and accompanied it with all the right corporate euphemisms. Hasbro claims the change aims to ‘promote gender equality and inclusion’, but clearly the move also posited Hasbro as a socially responsible company which is set to gain considerable PR benefit.

Potato Head is also an ageing ‘brand’. The Toy Story franchise is now old, and children have moved on to other toys and other cartoons. Declaring the toy gender neutral earns the company international publicity which is likely to increase sales.

Is this why Mrs Potato Head is still female?

Will Hasbro wait for her husband’s publicity to die down before declaring her neutrality?

Perhaps gender neutrality also allows Hasbro to sell more individual pieces, belonging to both genders, to stick onto the base shape of the Potato. This mix and match technique made Potato Head, and Mrs Potato Head, somewhat unique as a toy, but also created a marketing opportunity:

“Now that Potato Head is gender neutral,” Hasbro can say “you can add even more pieces to its ‘body’ – and you can buy them all right here…”

Is it only a matter of time before Woody, Buzz and the remaining Toy Story characters are declared gender neutral, and when this happens, how much damage will have been done to actual human beings who identify as gender neutral?

Image: http://www.theguardian.com

Peter Dutton declares themself gender neutral in time for Mardi Gras.

Peter Dutton has shocked voters and conservative colleagues with the news that they is gender neutral. Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs declared that their alter ego, Potato Head, has come out as gender neutral in the midst of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Mr Dutton will now be known as Dutton, or Potato Head, and has asked the media and party speechwriters to refer to them in gender neutral terms.

“I am declaring myself gender neutral,” announced Dutton at a press conference.

“Every year I feel like less of a man, especially after entering politics and overseeing the policies of Home Affairs. For that reason, myself and my alter ego, Potato Head, will now be known as gender neutral.”

“I have deliberated over this decision for a long time, but with Mardi Gras around the corner, and various political scandals involving my name, I decided it was a good idea to circulate this story in the media.”

It is not yet known whether Kirilly Dutton will retain her title of Mrs Potato Head, or also come out as gender neutral.

The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has also shocked Australians with his public support for Potato Head. He was expected to denounce the move on religious grounds, but said he consulted his wife Jenny before embracing the change.

“Now that Peter is no longer a man, they is better able to empathise with women, especially the four who have accused one of our party members of sexual assault just 50 metres from my office.”

Mardi Gras organisers rushed to congratulate Dutton and to invite participants to create a new ‘Potato Head’ float for the famous parade.

“We are overjoyed at the news that one of our most senior politicians has found the confidence and courage to declare themselves gender neutral. Being true to oneself and being proud of one’s identity are central to the founding philosophy of Mardi Gras, and we welcome Peter into our family. It would be wonderful to see Peter dancing on top of a float, beside a life-size model of the newly-outed Potato Head”

Mardi Gras organisers have extended an invitation to the minister to attend part of the weeks-long festival, including the street parade on the evening of Saturday, March 6.

“Obviously Dutton is a very busy person, but hopefully they can find time to party among friends. Maybe they could fly to Sydney for a day or two – we know they can affords the flights.”

Many Australians wondered how gender neutrality could be claimed at all by a creature that is not human, while cynics have pointed out that the decision was simply an attempt to revive interest in an increasingly unpopular, irrelevant and outdated character.

Dutton rejected those claims.

“That is an outrageous and offensive slander,” they replied.

“Myself and my party have a proven record of progressive social policies, especially in regards to gender and sexuality. One only needs to examine our response to the same-sex marriage debate and the treatment of women in parliament and society in general, to see that the LNP is and always has been a proud supporter of gender equality and inclusion.”

They then added,

“The LNP does not do cheap publicity stunts.”

Image: http://www.smh.com.au

Is this bathroom gender neutral or gender specific?

I walked into the bathroom and I was confused. The signs on the walls confounded me.

Male. Female. Male and Female.

I just wanted to take a shower after another day of sweltering heat and humidity in Taiwan, but now I was faced with this conundrum.

What should I do? Should I leave, should I stay? Should I ask for help or an explanation? My Mandarin is scratchy at best and I was midway through disrobing. I couldn’t ask for help. I would have to figure this out myself. The gender specific / gender fluid signage on the walls was not making it easy.

Naturally I should use the male. But why present the female option in exactly the same place, and confuse the matter even more by offering a combined male and female option?

Were guests to shower together? Was it a water saving method? I’m all for environmental sustainability, but I was alone. Is a single person identifying as a single definitive gender allowed to bathe in this space?

I stood dumbfounded with soap at the ready and a desperate need to be clean. Then I ventured even further down the rabbit hole…

Is gender neutrality common in Taiwan?

Is gender fluidity or non-binary self identification accepted in this country? It might be in Taipei, the cosmopolitan capital, but what about here in Fenglin? Smaller regional centres tend to be more conservative, so it stands to reason that this would be true in little Fenglin. Then again, how would I know? I’d only arrived here today after a lengthy train trip and a long sweaty walk through the streets with my heavy pack slung on my back.

I shouldn’t make assumptions about a city that I’d barely met.

So, which one do I use?

Then I had an idea. A good idea. No, a brilliant idea. I knew who to ask. I crept toward the bathroom door with my towel around my waist. I peered outside. I looked right, I looked left. Clear. I made a mad dash for my room, quickly turned the key in the door and entered.

I sought out the wise one. The one who could surely answer my question. There is no wiser. I asked Elmo.

Elmo didn’t have the answer. Elmo didn’t have any answer. He said nothing. It was all to much for him as well. I retraced my cautious steps to the bathroom to face the challenge alone.

I scanned the signs again.

Male.

Is there such a thing as male bath gel? I’d never heard of it. I usually just bought the soap that was cheapest and most environmentally friendly (if available) and I didn’t even realise soap could be gender specific.

Does male soap contain different properties? A different scent would be plausible. Maybe I should sample the soap before using it. Dab a little on my wrist and sniff lightly – perhaps dab a little behind the ear and see if I take to it.

Female.

And female soap. Is it softer, more delicate on the skin. Oops, there I go, projecting again, perpetuating age-old gender stereotypes. I wonder how the good folk of Fenglin would react if I wandered the streets emitting an aroma of female bath gel. I wonder if they would even detect it under the omnipotent pungent sweat.

Male and female.

This is too much.

One soap is designated male, another soap is designated female and supposedly ne’er the twain shall meet, but the hair conditioner is gender neutral. This didn’t make any sense to me. Surely the most salient difference between male and female grooming trends is the length and style of one’s hair.

The conditioner must be gender neutral. But not non-binary, because non-binary folk don’t identify as any specific gender. And if the label denotes male and female this proposes that the conditioner can be used by both genders, and perhaps used together.

How do they make male and female conditioner; do they just mix the male soap with the female soap?

50-50?

At some point I had to make a decision. I was standing in the middle of the bathroom all sweaty and smelly and silly and I just wanted a shower. I had to take the plunge.

I could always try a little of all three. I could embrace my feminine side as well as reinforcing my masculinity, and if I applied too much of either I could restore the natural balance with a dollop of the male and female product.

Right. That’s it. That’s what I’ll do.

Then I realised I had another problem. What to do with all these taps?

Is there a male and female tap?

Male is right – female is left.

That’s what I was taught in army cadets when affixing my belt for parade. The male part always went on the right hand side of the webbing. The same rule could apply here. That said, they drive on the other side of the road in Taiwan so maybe tap selection demands this role reversal as well.

Should I touch the female tap?

Is male hot and female cold, or is that assumption sexist? Are men hot blooded and women more tempered? Can a woman be hot? Yes, but if I call a woman hot am I objectifying that woman? If I call a man hot am I gay? Is there anything wrong with being gay, or am I just being homophobic?

Is anyone a man or a woman?

Now we’re back at the soap dispensers?

Maybe I should have a warm shower. That would be safer. Less likely to complicate the discussion or offend anyone. But there’s no one else in the bathroom, certainly no one else in the shower. No one to offend.

Actually, what I really wanted was a cold shower after enduring the tropical heat all day. I kept hoping, praying for the mass of angry black clouds to burst and release a downpour of gloriously refreshing rain on the small town.

I wanted to dance joyously in the soothing rain and rid myself of the layers of sweat clinging to my skin. But bathing in public was sure to offend someone, even if gender assumptions did not.

I showered;

Cold water. Mixed soap. No major side effects. I was clean.

After all that excitement I was exhausted. I needed to sit down. I needed to find a beautiful, relaxing chair on which to rest my tired self and contemplate one of the most complicated showers I had ever taken.

Where would I find such a chair?

In the elevator of course.

Image: http://www.pridelife.com