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Little Miss-Ogynist: Why it's about time someone called out the the Mr Men series' sexism

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Although they are read by thousands of children every year, the Mr Men and Little Miss books have recently attracted criticism for being sexist.

At a time when most talk of gender equality rightly tends to focus on the most shocking, pressing issues facing women around the world it can seem pedantic, stupid even, to focus on comparably menial issues.

However, recently talk has turned to gender representation in the popular series, and how damaging the magic marker cartoons can really be.

Mr Men Books

According to recent research by the University of Lincoln, the answer is pretty damaging indeed.

The research has suggested that the childhood companions of millions of kids are actually sexist, finding that whereas 32.6% of Mr Men had to be rescued by another character in their story, a huge 51.5% of Little Misses were apparently unable to look after themselves. 

They female characters are also less able to speak for themselves, saying an average of 12 fewer words per book than the Mr Men, which, considering how tiny those books are, is quite a noticeable amount. 

Although they may be fictional, the frustrations of these Little Misses will hit pretty close to home for many women who've have to prove their strength and fight to be heard on a daily basis all over the world.

And let’s not forget the blatant sexism in the names of Misterland’s inhabitants: Little Misses and Mr Men. 

They may just be the titles of kids’ characters, but I can’t help questioning what we’re teaching our girls when the first description of the female characters is small and defined by their relation to the men whose titles indicate that simply being male is enough. 

Even Little Miss Greedy, formerly, and I’m not kidding here, Little Miss Plump, is still prefixed with ‘Little’ even though she must be bigger than Mr Small.  Did no one ever teach Roger Hargreaves that consistency is key? 

Even Misterland’s newest arrival, Little Miss Inventor, who has been hailed as a triumph for feminism and a step towards gender equality due to her involvement in STEM fields, is still only a 'Little Miss'. 

Speaking about her creation, Adam Hargreaves noted that “it's also been nice to write a story that promotes a positive role model and to challenge a stereotype, if only in a small way”. 

However, if she really is the great inventor and feminist icon she’s been made out to be, surely it would be more appropriate for her to be Ms Inventor, PhD?

As if to rub salt in the wound, four new Mr Men and Little Miss books were released for adults last year, which catch up with some of the most memorable characters decades after their inception. 

Alas, there is no ‘Little Miss Bossy Becomes Prime Minister’ or ‘Little Miss Brainy Develops a Cure for Cancer’.  Instead, whilst ‘Mr Greedy Eats Clean to Get Lean’ and we experience ‘Mr Happy and the Office Party’, ‘Little Miss Shy Goes Online Dating’ and we see ‘Little Miss Busy Surviving Motherhood’, further perpetuating gender stereotypes.

I know there are more pressing issues to address when it comes to gender equality, and I’m not saying that we need to boycott any branch of Waterstones that dares to stock these stories, or snatch them out of the sticky hands of every passing toddler.

But let’s not forget that, at the end of the day, our Little Misses still inhabit Misterland, which might just be these books’ most accurate detail; as things currently stand, regardless of the important progress that has been made, it’s still a man’s world, and we little women just live in it. 

Image: Sam Howzit

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