M&S has rebranded its Midget Gem sweets following claims the name is ‘hate speech’ and offensive to people with dwarfism.
A campaign by Dr Erin Pritchard, who has a condition that stunts growth called achondroplasia, was the driving force for the change after the lecturer in disability studies at Liverpool Hope University raised concerns around the use of the word ‘midget’.
Stating that the word has its roots in Victorian freak shows, Pritchard took pains to explain why the word is offensive – approaching a number of supermarkets and confectionary makers in her bid to stop the brand using the derogatory term.
M&S is the first retailer to react to her campaign, saying it was “committed to being an inclusive retailer” as it rolled out the changed labelling.
“Following suggestions from our colleagues and the insights shared by Dr Erin Pritchard, we introduced new Mini Gem packaging last year, which has since been rolled out to all of our stores,” a spokesperson for M&S said.
Tesco has also said it will be reviewing the name of its product.
A spokesperson for the supermarket said: “We are a diverse and inclusive retailer and we would not want any of our products to cause offence [so] we are grateful to Dr Pritchard for bringing this to our attention.”
Following the announcement, Dr Pritchard claimed a lot of people were getting “upset” about the change, taking to Twitter today to say: “It seems that there are a lot of average-sized men getting upset about the removal of the word midget from a packet of sweets.
“I didn’t realise they were so sensitive.”
Explaining a little more about why the word is offensive to people with restricted growth in Big Issue North, Dr Pritchard said: “Often referred to by people with dwarfism as the m-word, it is a term derived from the word midge, meaning gnat or sandfly.
“Its origin automatically dehumanises people like me.
“It was a term popularised during the Victorian freak show, where many disabled people, including people with dwarfism, were oppressed and exploited.”