Thomas the Baker is a small family-run bakery that has more than 30 locations scattered throughout the northeast of England. It sells a standard range of breads and rolls, award-winning sweet mince pies, Victoria sponge cakes, and a dense, decidedly regional dessert bread called a Yorkshire Brack.
But Thomas the Baker is being dragged on social media, not because of stale croissants or a curd tart that failed to be tart enough, but because its gingerbread cookies are gender-neutral. Because it’s 2018, and people love to get angry about things that don’t personally affect them in any way, the fact that Thomas sells ‘Ginger Persons’ in its shops has caused Conservative Twitter to inhale sharply, shake their heads, and press send on improperly punctuated retweets that include words like “triggered” and “snowflakes.”
A Manchester resident named Demii Leigh Heffron shared a photo of those deeply offensive ginger cookies on Facebook, writing “It's happening. it's actually happening. It's 2018. Stop the earth, I wanna get off.” (Yes, of course it’s happening in 2018, because the past 10 months have been made entirely of manufactured outrage and perceived slights.) She has since clarified that she posted the photo—which has since been shared more than 13,000 times—but did not take it.
Although most of the responses were negative, or accused Thomas the Baker of being too politically correct, or both, there was one parody account that praised the company’s decision. “Thanks to @thomasthebaker for doing the right thing by changing the name of gingerbread men to gingerbread people,” a user named @GuiltyWhiteBoi wrote. “I like to think I played a part in this. I campaigned up and down the country for many months drawing attention to this issue. Here's to gingerbread people!”
But in a response to that tweet, Thomas basically said that it’s neither an easily offended snowflake or North Yorkshire’s wokest bakery. “Sorry to disappoint you all—they have been Ginger Persons since 1983!” the company tweeted. “It was chosen by one of our Managers in York and the name stuck. We did get a complaint from trading standards in the 80's that we were discriminating against ginger haired people—seriously!!”
Unsurprisingly, this is not England’s first gender-related gingerbread controversy this year. In May, a shopper in Cleveleys, Lancashire, harrumphed his way through an angry Facebook post after realizing that the JL Beans bakery served gingerbread persons as well. “Seemingly now you have to call gingerbread men 'gingerbread persons' when ordering,” Jeff Dugdale wrote. "As far as I can see there is no law in place for this type of PC nonsense."
But again, the bakery insisted that this wasn’t new. “My wife just put this little 'gingerbread persons' label on them as a whim, and that was last year,” Paul Lewis, the owner of the bakery, told the Express. "It was never anything to do with political correctness and we've not really had any comeback until now.”
And, in August, the United Kingdom’s largest sandwich chain faced criticism and backlash after it announced that it would be adding a female gingerbread person to its dessert range, and that both the male and female cookies would be referred to as “gingerbread biscuits.” Pret-A-Manger said that a customer wrote to its CEO, after his niece asked why there weren’t any gingerbread girls in the restaurants; it decided to add ‘Annie,’ a female-presenting cookie to accompany Godfrey, its male counterpart.
“Since we’re introducing Annie, we thought it would be simpler to call them gingerbread biscuits,” Clare Clough, Pret’s Food and Coffee Director told Big Hospitality.
If the clothing that has (or hasn’t) been iced onto a cookie upsets you this much, then maybe it’s best if you just stayed home. You know, bake your own cookies, roll them out in whatever shape suits you, and call them whatever the fuck you want.