M&S change name of Midget Gems sweets following diversity campaign by Liverpool academic

Dr Erin Pritchard of Liverpool Hope University says ‘midget’ is a form of hate speech.

Retailer Marks & Spencer has become the first supermarket to change the name of Midget Gems sweets to Mini Gems following 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.

She says the term ‘midget’ is a form of hate speech and also widely offensive to the vast majority of people with dwarfism.

Dr Pritchard, who herself has achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, is a lecturer in disability and education and approached M&S to offer her insight.

She is campaigning for other UK retailers to understand the significance of using the word.

Dr Erin Pritchard has campaigned to change the name of the sweets Midget Gems. Image: Liverpool Hope University

‘Offensive term contributing to prejudice’

Dr Pritchard said: “The word ‘midget’ is a form of hate speech and contributes to the prejudice that people with dwarfism experience on a daily basis.

“Having spoken with various firms about the use of the word ‘midget’, it’s clear that many companies are simply unaware of just how offensive the term is, and I’ve had to explain to them why it’s such an issue.

“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.”

M&S Mini Gem sweets

Dr Pritchard, who has been receiving abuse on social media since news of the name change, has explored the use of the term ‘midget’ in a chapter for the book Disability Hate Speech: Social, Cultural and Political Contexts.

In it she describes: “‘Midget’ remains a popular term used to describe people with dwarfism within the entertainment industry, especially within lowbrow entertainment, as with the examples of ‘midget wrestling’ and ‘midget tossing’.”

M&S ‘committed’ to inclusivity

An M&S spokesperson said: "We are committed to being an inclusive retailer - from how we support our colleagues, through 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."

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.

"We are grateful to Dr Pritchard for bringing this to our attention and we will be reviewing the name of this product."