Midget Gems Renamed After Disability Activist Says Word Is ‘Hate Speech’ Towards People With Dwarfism
Marks & Spencer has changed the name of childhood favorite Midget Gems to avoid offending people with dwarfism.
The retailer ditched the term dwarf and renamed the candy Mini Gems after a leading disability studies scholar warned the word can be “very problematic.”
Dr Erin Pritchard, senior lecturer in disability and education at Liverpool Hope University, condemned the term dwarf as a form of hate speech deeply insulting to people with dwarfism.
The academic, who herself suffers from achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, has criticized other UK retailers, including Tesco, for continuing to use the word.
Dr Pritchard said: “The word dwarf is a form of hate speech and contributes to the stigma that people with dwarfism experience on a daily basis.
“After talking to various companies about the use of the word dwarf, it’s clear that a lot of companies just don’t know how offensive the term is, and I had to explain to them why it’s such a problem. “
M&S ‘ready to listen’
Dr Pritchard told The Telegraph: “I am grateful that M&S has been willing to listen to the concerns of people with dwarfism and has continued with the rebranding. There was initially some reluctance, but I pointed out that if they persisted in calling them dwarf gems, why not call other candies by names that are just as offensive? “
She also called for other products using the word midget to be rebranded, and asked Amazon to remove novelty items that use the term, such as I Love Midgets key chains and t-shirts, from sale.
“If companies are still using the word in their products and branding, they should stop now. It is offensive and unacceptable to people with disabilities, ”she said, while acknowledging that it would be impossible to rename products that are no longer in production, like the iconic MG Midget car or the Daihatsu minivan. Midget.
A spokesperson for M&S confirmed the name change, adding: “We are committed to being an inclusive retailer – from how we support our colleagues, to the products we offer and how we market them to our customers. 32 million customers.
“Following suggestions from our colleagues and ideas shared by Dr Pritchard, we introduced a new mini gem packaging last year, which has since been rolled out to all of our stores. “
Another company has also removed the word midget from its jewels.
The vegan company Free From Fellows, whose products are stored in places such as Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, WH Smith and Boots, made the switch following Dr Pritcahrd’s intervention.
But she says other major supermarkets have so far failed to respond to her request.
Need for “better awareness”
Dr Pritchard – who also appears in Channel 4’s Dating with Dwarfism, in which she discusses some of the relationship issues faced by people with the disease – adds: “It is truly baffling that in our time a number of UK retailers are still able to use this crippling hate speech to market their products.
“Last October was Dwarf Awareness Month, and I took to Twitter to tag many supermarkets and confectionery companies in a tweet asking when they would remove the word dwarf from their products.
“Only Free from Fellows responded. At this point, M&S had already written to me indicating that they would remove the name.
“For me, this highlights the need to better understand just how problematic the word dwarf really is.”
The “dehumanizing” origins of the word
In his recent book Disability Hate Speech, Dr Pritchard argues that the word dwarf should be considered a form of hate speech because of its origins in Victorian monster shows.
“Often referred to by people with dwarfism as the m word, it’s a term derived from the word midge, which means gnat or sandfly,” she wrote in Big Issue North. “Its origin automatically dehumanizes people like me. It was a term popularized during the Victorian Freak Show, where many people with disabilities, including people with dwarfism, were oppressed and exploited.
After being contacted by The Telegraph about Dr Pritchard’s approach, Tesco issued a statement saying he would “reconsider” the name of his Midget Gems, with the goal of changing it to something else.
A Tesco spokesperson said: “Everyone is welcome to Tesco and we wouldn’t want any of our products to offend. We are grateful to Dr Pritchard for bringing this to our attention and we will be reviewing the name of this product.