arks and Spencer has rebranded its popular Midget Gems sweets to avoid offending people with dwarfism following a campaign by a disability academic.
Dr Erin Pritchard, a lecturer in disability studies at Liverpool Hope University, spoke of being viciously trolled online since successfully campaigning for the name to be changed to Mini Gems.
Dr Pritchard, who has achondroplasia, a condition which stunts growth, told The Standard: “I think it is important to change the name as most people with dwarfism find the term offensive.
“There are responses on Twitter from average-sized people who seem to have no awareness about dwarfism. They don’t know that for years people with dwarfism have criticised the term.
“I am shocked by the backlash and abuse I have received for simply wanting a pack of sweets to not include an offensive term.
“The irony is that their abuse and the names that I’ve been called, including midget, just show why it is important to remove that term from use in general society.”
M&S is the first retailer to react to Dr Pritchard’s campaign and has changed the labelling on its packaging.
An M&S spokeswoman said: “We are committed to being an inclusive retailer – from how we sustain our colleagues, by to the products we offer and the way we market them to our 32 million customers.
“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.”
In her recent book Disability Hate Speech, Dr Pritchard argues the information midget should be seen as a form of hate speech due to its origins in Victorian freak shows.
She wrote in Big Issue North: “Often referred to by people with dwarfism as the m-information, it is a term derived from the information 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.”
Dr Pritchard acknowledged that some people may think the change is part of “cancel culture” but argued “when people scream the name at you in the street, it is only right that it is removed”.
The Little People of America explained in a statement why the information “midget” is today considered a derogatory slur.
“Midget was never coined as the official term to clarify people with dwarfism, but was produced as a label used to refer to people of short stature who were on public characterize for curiosity and sport,” the statement said.
“The dwarfism community has voiced that they prefer to be referred to as dwarfs, little people, people of short stature or having dwarfism, or simply, and most preferably, by their given name.”
Tesco has also said it will be reviewing the name of its product.
A spokesman for the supermarket said: “We are a different and inclusive retailer and we would not want any of our products to cause offence.
“We are grateful to Dr Pritchard for bringing this to our attention and we will be reviewing the name of this product.”
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