#BBCtrending: The organic genderless gingerbread debate

  • 22 October 2014
A gingerbread figure, labelled as genderless and vegan

The traditional gingerbread "man" has been re-imagined by a Melbourne bakery, leading to a surge of irritation on web forums. But what does the debate tell us about the politics of the internet?

Ethically aware, health-conscious liberals rejoice. The patriarchal stranglehold on baked treats has been broken at last. But not everyone is celebrating.

This picture - of a row of emasculated gingerbread men - was shared on the web forum Reddit on Tuesday. As the sign makes clear, they're organic, they're gender-neutral and, of course, they're vegan. The post, titled "So this is what the world is coming to...," attracted more than 2,000 comments in just a few hours. The picture was also widely shared on Facebook, and the internet discussion prompted one British newspaper to declare, sarcastically, that "genderless gingerbread figures are a thing now".

The picture itself appears to have been taken at a delicatessen in Melbourne, Australia. We've been unable to contact the owners, but - from the use of the word "genderless" alone - it seems fair to assume the message is tongue-in-cheek. That didn't stop Redditors, and others, taking umbrage at the idea. Comments like "That's so politically correct it makes my brain hurt," and "just wait, next they wont have ginger so as not to offend," sum up the tenor of the conversation. Though some appeared to find it funny, the overwhelming emotion was one of annoyance.

The debate over "political correctness", and polarised views on what's good to eat, are hardly new, But the debate did highlight the way different social media platforms tend to take different sides on cultural debates. Anger over the healthy gingerbread "person" was driven by Reddit users, who are regularly criticised by feminists for their attitudes. Sure enough, one Reddit user said these were "feminist cookies," and another said "I blame Tumblr for this" - a reference to a perceived rivalry between users of Reddit and Tumblr, a popular blogging platform.

Of course, both Reddit and Tumblr have users with a broad spectrum of political views, but common stereotypes are that Tumblr bloggers are over-sensitive, female, social justice campaigners (or "Tumblrinas"), whereas Redditors are aggressive, sexist, and male. A number of people in the conversation posted links to "TumblrInAction", a section of the Reddit website that pokes fun at Tumblr blogs that supposedly fit the stereotype. And to counter them, others posted "I blame ****RedditSays" - a self-parodying section of the Reddit website, where Redditors themselves pick out quotes that play up to their own negative image.

You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending

All our stories are at bbc.com/trending