Chances are that very few people would have ever heard of Tuszyn, a tiny town in central Poland, had it not been for a local official recording an awkward discussion about the sexuality of a fictional children’s character, and then leaking it to the press.
Local councilors in Tuszyn were debating whether to make Winnie the Pooh, a children’s cartoon bear created by British author A.A. Milne in 1926, the mascot of a local playground when more conservative members of the local board began fretting over the fact that the fictional bear doesn’t wear pants and doesn’t have genitals.
The incident occurred in 2014, but went viral again in September 2021, when the British website Unilad reported it without noting in its article that the story isn’t current.
The 2021 Unilad headline read, “Winnie The Pooh Banned From Playground For Being ‘Inappropriate Hermaphrodite.'” The term “hermaphrodite” is a dated word that refers to people who are intersex, or “people who carry variations in their reproductive and sexual anatomy that differ from what is traditionally male or female.”
However, Pooh wasn’t “banned” from a playground. Instead, the town council decided against making Pooh the mascot for the playground in question. According to The Associated Press, the council voted down Pooh as the mascot due to “unclear gender and immodest clothing.” Although the AP didn’t report whether the town selected another mascot, some present during the meeting suggested Uszatek, a Polish cartoon bear who is fully clothed.
The AP reported the discussion happened in a closed-door meeting and that the story only gained widespread attention after a recording of it was leaked to the news media.
Winnie the Pooh was adapted into a cartoon by Disney, whose animators have drawn the honey-loving bear wearing only a bright red shirt.
The story about the Winnie the Pooh debate in Tuszyn went global when it initially occurred in 2014. Not only was it reported in Poland, outlets like The Washington Post and the British publication The Independent also reported on it.
News reports centered on the strangeness of the town’s officials fixating on the lack of pants and genitals of a fictional, animated character. Generally, cartoon characters that aren’t human don’t wear clothes, or are only partially clothed, and for reasons that seem obvious, they don’t have genitals.
Days after the story went viral, one of the town officials stated that his comments about Winnie the Pooh were taken out of context and that his remark about the bear being a “hermaphrodite” were made in jest.
Articles at that time were based on a November 2014 by the Croatian Times, an English-language news outlet with what appears to be a now-defunct website, as its web address now redirects to a payday loan site. An archived version of the Croatian Times story, however, is still available here.
According to the Croatian Times story, after the debate in 2014, the town council decided that Winnie the Pooh would not be the playground mascot.
Half Naked Winnie The Pooh Banned From Playground – Around the World News – Croatian Times Online News – English Newspaper. 21 Nov. 2014, https://web.archive.org/web/20141121163908/http://www.croatiantimes.com/news/Around_the_World/2014-11-19/36417/Half_Naked_Winnie_The_Pooh_Banned_From_Playground_.
Polish Town Opposes Pooh Bear for Unclear Gender – ABC News. 22 Nov. 2014, https://web.archive.org/web/20141122071921/https://abcnews.go.com/Weird/wireStory/polish-town-opposes-pooh-bear-unclear-gender-27099433.
“This Polish Town Thinks Winnie the Pooh Is Too Scantily Dressed to Be around Children.” Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/11/21/this-polish-town-thinks-winnie-the-pooh-is-too-scantily-dressed-to-be-around-children/. Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.
Winnie The Pooh Banned From Playground For Being ‘Inappropriate Hermaphrodite.’ Unilad, 26 September 2021, https://www.unilad.co.uk/life/winnie-the-pooh-banned-from-playground-for-being-inappropriate-hermaphrodite/. Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.
“Winnie the Pooh Banned from Polish Playground for Being ‘Inappropriate Hermaphrodite.’” The Independent, 21 Nov. 2014, https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/winnie-pooh-banned-polish-playground-being-inappropriate-hermaphrodite-9872278.html.
“What Does It Mean to Be Intersex?” Them., 4 Dec. 2018, https://www.them.us/story/inqueery-intersex.
Associated Press. “Polish town opposes Pooh Bear for unclear gender,” 21 November 2014, https://apnews.com/article/4b128f53251949ebac84c90edb231496