Dwarfism affects around 7,000 people in the UK
Marks & Spencer has rebranded its popular “Midget Gems” following calls from a disability campaigner who said the term is a form of hate speech.
Dr Erin Pritchard, a lecturer in disability studies at Liverpool Hope University, has long been campaigning for supermarkets to change the name of the sweets, which she says is insulting to those with dwarfism.
Confirming the change in a statement on Thursday, 13 January, Marks & Spencer said the sweets have been renamed to “Mini Gems”.
“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,” a spokesperson told the Independent.
“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.”
According to charity Little People UK, dwarfism affects around 7,000 people in the UK. The condition is a result of a spontaneous mutation, with 80 per cent of people with dwarfism being born to average height parents.
Pritchard raised concerns about the name of the sweets in October 2021, during Dwarfism Awareness Month.
Midget Gems were first created and sold in 1903 by Lion Confectionary, a Yorkshire based company.
Tagging several supermarkets in posts on Twitter, Pritchard said the use of the word “midget” promotes promote disability hate speech towards people with dwarfism.
She told MailOnline that the term “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.”
It seems Tesco may also follow suit. On its website, the name of the sweets has been changed to “Mini Gems”, however an accompanying picture of the packaging still has the old name.
In a statement to the Independent, a spokesperson for Tesco 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.”
News of the change has received some criticism on social media, with users branding it a part of “cancel culture”.
“The change should have happened years ago. It is easy for people not called the word to think its removal is wrong,” Pritchard said.