Chris with daughter Harriet

Opinion: Peterborough dad’s dismay at reaction to M&S sweets rebrand

Peterborough dad Chris Pye explains why he has been dismayed by some of the reaction to Marks & Spencer’s decision to rebrand popular sweets...

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 5:00 am

The news that M&S were choosing to rebrand some of their sweets in the hope of trying to avoid causing offence.

Articles about this have appeared on lots of

news publishers’ websites and have been shared across social media, with thousands of people feeling the need to add a negative comment.

My simple question is why? Why do these people feel that after reading a headline it’s worth comments like “OMG when will stupidity end”, “how absolutely ridiculous!!”...... At the time of writing this, the Peterborough Telegraph has had over 140 comments, with the vast majority along the same line.

Why do I care? I am the father of a soon to be four-year-old, Harriet who has got Achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. Myself and my wife are both average height and there is no history of dwarfism in either of our families.

Harriet is a one in 20,000 baby that is born with this genetic mutation.

We have been embraced by the dwarfism community as a family and are part of many social media groups and have been attending the DSA (Dwarf Sports Association) sessions from before Harriet could walk.

Through the community, I have heard and seen first hand how society treats little people (generally the preferred term) and how the m-word is just one of many old fashioned ways that helps to empower people to laugh, mock and even video little people just to share and ridicule them online.

Why is that acceptable in today’s society?

Words like the m-word are not going to solve this, taking it off a brand of sweets does not stop people from laughing, pointing or videoing, but as a word that really does hurt and belittle the community, what harm is there in trying to take it out of general use.

I never really understood the difference between the m-word and dwarf until we were blessed with Harriet and we got to meet the very welcoming community of little people.

I don’t really see the point in going into the full history of the word (the article that started this has that detail).

I think it should be enough to know that it’s a word that has been negatively affecting a community for too many years and every step to reduce that should be celebrated.

This is not M&S overthinking it, it’s not the world gone mad, it’s not political correctness at its height, at its simplest it’s so that people like my four year old should not have to grow up in a world with words that are derogatory to the rare condition she was born with.

Harriet needs no pity, she is a tough and feisty four year old who embraces her condition and amazes us every day.

We have found all little people we have met to be open and honest about their condition and we want Harriet to be the same.

I say well done M&S and I really hope others follow and that people reading this are able to see and understand that this is an issue, not necessarily for you, but for a whole community it is!

BACKGROUND:

Marks and Spencer has become the first supermarket to axe the name Midget Gems from the popular sweets over concerns that it could cause offence.

The sweets have now been rebranded following an ongoing campaign by a disability academic, Dr Erin Pritchard of Liverpool Hope University.

The academic has been calling on supermarkets and confectionery makers to change the name. M&S has now rebranded the sweets as “mini gems”.

Dr Pritchard, a lecturer in disability and education, raised concerns to the chain over the use of the word “midget” which is seen as derogatory for people with dwarfism. She is also campaigning for other supermarkets and confectionery makers to follow M&S’s lead.

Dr Pritchard who has achondroplasia, a condition which stunts growth, said: “The word ‘midget’ is a form of hate speech and contributes to the prejudice that people with dwarfism experience on a daily basis.

“We need better awareness about this particular word so that things can change for the better. And I’m grateful that M&S has been willing to listen to the concerns of people with dwarfism and has gone ahead with the rebranding.”

Dr Pritchard has had to put up with cruel and very nasty jibes from strangers mocking her four foot height.

She 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.

“It was where people with bodies that exceeded normal expectations were put on display for others to stare at and often mock,” she added.

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