Sometimes I get tempted by Google’s wild and wacky graphics reminding us of some day, event or person. Today was one of those days.
Google reminded us that it is the 75th anniversary of the birth of the Mr. Men series creator, Roger Hargreaves. Thankfully this dude is now wormfood, and I cheerfully celebrate this status.
The first Mr. Men book came out in 1971, around the time the second wave feminist movement was picking up momentum. Hargreaves was also married, and surely could not have helped but noticed the existence of females?
Even as a barely proto-feminist I noticed, at the time these books gained popularity, “Mr. Men, huh. Are there no females in this world?”. Well ok, I may not have said it so brilliantly back then, but that was the gist of what I was thinking at the time, barely a teen.
It took Hargreaves ten years to acknowledge that females might exist, with the rather late series of “Little Miss” books, 1981 in fact. The second wave was definitely a force of femaleness not to be ignored all throughout the 70s. It makes you wonder how Hargreaves could have missed it.
But, it is not just Hargreaves’ slow-on-the-uptake in all of this. The companion to the “Mr. Men” series was the “Little Miss” series. Mr. is the title for adult males, even at the time of writing these books, Hargreaves would have known that although “Mr.” was a joking address for boys, the official form of address was “Master” or “Young Master”.
It could be argued that “Miss” was the equivalent for girls, but it is an argument wrought with (misogynist) bullshit. The equivalency table is:
Mr – Miss, Mrs, or later Ms
Master – Miss
Young Master – Young Miss, Little Miss
So in using “Little Miss” Hargreaves infantilises the female equivalent to the “Mr Men” series. This usage or equivalency is exactly the same as today when “Men” is used in contrast to “Girl” when in fact girl is referring to young women or even adult women. Hargreaves’ use of “Men” even if he is referring to or identifying the male characters with little boys, also elevates them as the rightful heirs and successors of the patriarchy, and females as insignificant ‘others’.
But, it gets worse!
I checked the dikipedia for the list of the books, and a quick scan down the list will reveal generally ‘bad human’ traits for the boys, and quite a lot of sexist dribble for the girls: Little Miss Bossy, Little Miss Scatterbrain, Little Miss Helpful.
So if you ever come across Hargreaves’ grave, spit on it, do a happy little dance, and cheer on the worms!
Feminists are not born. They are made.