A campaign waged by a disability academic has led to major UK supermarket chain Marks & Spencer rebranding its ‘Midget gems’ over concerns that the name could be offensive to people with growth problems.
‘Midget gems’ have been around since the early 1900s, with numerous companies producing the firm, chewy sweets that are much-loved by British customers.
However, the popular treat had always left a bitter aftertaste for Dr. Erin Pritchard of Liverpool Hope University. The academic, who herself has achondroplasia – the most common form of dwarfism – has been urging supermarkets and confectionery makers to rename those sweets for good.
“The word ‘midget’ is a form of hate speech and contributes to the prejudice that people with dwarfism experience on a daily basis,” Pritchard insisted.
She said she drew this conclusion not only from her studies, but also from her personal struggles in daily life. “When people scream the name at you in the street, it is only right that it is removed,” she said.
According to the academic, many producers and distributors simply weren’t aware of how offensive the term ‘midget’ – or ‘the m-word,’ as people with dwarfism call it – really was.
It derived from the word ‘midge,’ which means gnat or sand fly, being popularized by so-called ‘freak shows’ in the Victorian era where disabled people were oppressed, exploited, and made fun of, she clarified.
Pritchard’s efforts haven’t been in vain, as such producers as Free From Fellows and WH Smith and Boots have already given up on using the ‘midget gems’ branding.
Earlier this week, the UK media noticed that Marks & Spencer (M&S) has also ditched the name, becoming the first supermarket chain to do so. The retailer, which boasts some 32 million customers, had quietly renamed the sweets ‘Mini gems.’
The company’s spokesman has confirmed the move, saying on Wednesday that after Pritchard’s insights and some other suggestions, “we introduced new mini gem packaging last year, which has since been rolled out to all of our stores.” The chain is “committed to being an inclusive retailer,” according to the spokesperson.
Another major supermarket chain, Tesco, also recently promised to review the branding of its ‘Midget Gems.’ “We are grateful to Dr Pritchard for bringing this to our attention,” the company said.
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