Mr Men book ignites controversy
A university student has accused the popular Mr Men books of perpetuating "antiquated gender roles" because of a scene in which a male character "mansplains" a simple concept to a female character.
PhD student Shelby Judge, 24, who did her masters degree in women's studies, said the series should be renamed Mr Mansplain after coming across the conversation between Mr Clever and Little Miss Curious.
In the book, which Ms Judge found in the gift shop at Stirling Castle in Scotland, Mr Clever and Little Miss Curious are discussing the Forth Bridge. When Mr Clever tells Little Miss Curious the bridge is named after the river that runs underneath it, she asks what happened to the River First, River Second and River Third.
"Mr Clever sighed," the passage reads. "It was going to be a long day."
Ms Judge told Kennedy News and Media her reaction was to say "eugh", as the scene suggests "girls are stupid and it's a man's job to explain things to them". "The quote 'it was going to be a long day' tells girls that men are exasperated with you for existing," she said.
The English literature student said Mr Men was being used to "enforce these ridiculous antiquated gender roles". "It's not so obvious, because it's meant to be a funny joke but then it's always at the expense of women - it's punching down," she said.
"You should punch up and attack the people above - like politicians or world structures - or you can go on an equal playing field. You don't have to joke at the expense of anyone, there's just no need."
She asked why children couldn't be given stories "that inspire them" rather than punching down. "This was in a Scottish heritage site and was about Scotland, why did that have to be included in that?" she said.
"They don't need to rely on such tired gender stereotypes for a children's story about Scotland. Why is that what you want to give as part of your souvenirs?"
Ms Judge described it as the "very definition of a micro-aggression". "Some might say, 'Why are you making a big deal of this very small thing?'" she said.
"But it's an example of these tiny things that build up to create a whole patchwork quilt of sexist iconography that every child of any gender is going to internalise."
She added, "I would actually really like Mr Mansplain to be a character if, of course, he was mocked for his condescending manner."
A spokesperson for Mr Men publishers Egmont UK told Kennedy News and Media, "In Mr Men Scotland, the many Mr Men and Little Miss characters in the book get up to their usual antics. The book is a celebration of Scotland and its unique heritage sites."