Savannah Kopp

Savannah Kopp is a senior economics major with a minor in international development and conflict management at the University of Maryland. She is passionate about using economic development to stabilize communities experiencing conflict. Savannah is excited to be working on projects to increase sanitation in schools, as all children should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and increase their economic stability.

The Plastic Potato

18 Mar

In a turn of events shocking to absolutely no one, the Republican party’s new hyper fixation has shifted not to Covid-19 relief, but to a toy potato. In conjunction with this, public discourse is once again flooded with a debate regarding gender, and furthermore, ones’ right to self-expression.

The World Health Organization defines gender as characteristics of women and men that are largely socially created and goes on to define sex as biologically predetermined characteristics. The two terms are not interchangeable from a scientific standpoint.

Not only is it blatantly scientifically inaccurate to insist one should confine the way they express themselves to a binary, but it also erodes progress regarding human rights and development.

Often, men who choose to express themselves through stereotypically feminine means (whether hobbies, clothing, grooming, etc.) are ostracized and perceived as lesser than. This demonization of femininity is more deeply rooted in the oppression of women in general. The outdated expectations inflicted on both men and women reflect the also-outdated perception that femininity is weak and emotional, while masculinity is rugged and logical.

While realistically it is bizarre to associate genitalia with interests and expression, it also upholds the notion that decency is achieved through little more than appearance. What lesson do we teach children when how they look or what they enjoy is a point of emphasis as opposed to characteristics we all would deem desirable such as reliability, empathy, honesty, and justness?

What damage do we cause young men when emotions are to be suppressed, and creativity is to be stifled? What limitations do we put on young women when their strength and intellectuality are regarded as off-putting? Does appearance and strict expectations mean so much that we are willing to confine human beings into binaries based on anatomy instead of allowing them to celebrate their individuality?

Public discourse may be centered on how a toy potato chooses to represent itself, but the infatuation is rooted in gender, where the principles run far deeper. Self-expression and determination are human rights to be respected and upheld. While the violation of these rights does not crush bone or infrastructure, it certainly crushes the human spirit.

If the United States is to be a leader in international development, our officials must recognize that humanity is rooted in individual choice and relies on basic freedoms to pursue those choices accordingly. Our work in human development requires us to rejoice in our similarities and revel in our differences, including gender expression. So, while we pursue at rapid pace the ever-growing height of human potential, may we also celebrate every bit of ourselves along the way.

Posted By Savannah Kopp

Posted Mar 18th, 2021

1 Comment

  • Iain Guest

    June 26, 2021


    Written like a true advocate for Human Development! I won’t comment on the Republican Party, which is an odd creature, but I do applaud your core message – that people should be free to choose as long as it does not harm others. Also, very nicely written, Savannah. Look forward to more blogs!

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