Patrick Bumbled! Actress Geena Davis Improves a Recent MUTTS Comic Strip | MUTTS

Patrick Bumbled! Actress Geena Davis Improves a Recent MUTTS Comic Strip

Animals Nature People

Early last month, cat-and-dog duo Mooch and Earl celebrated the arrival of spring while chatting with some of nature’s most skilled pollinators — bees!

One of the strips within this week-long series caught the attention of actress Geena Davis, known for her roles in films such as Thelma & Louise and Beetlejuice, as well as for her advocacy for women in media.

Ms. Davis, who in 2004 launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, sent us a kind and insightful note to point out an error in the MUTTS strip that ran on Thursday, May 2. The original comic strip and Geena’s insightful letter are below.

Can you spot the blunder?


The Letter from Geena:

Hi there! This is Geena Davis. Let me start by saying I am a gargantuan fan of MUTTS and Patrick McDonnell! I have to see it every day.

I have had a research institute for a dozen years now that looks at how female characters are portrayed in media made for little kids. It’s actually pretty appalling not only how female characters are presented to kids — mostly narrowly stereotyped and valued for their looks — but how FEW female characters there are! I believe we are training kids to see women and girls as less valuable by not showing them taking up half the space and doing half of the important things.

So I notice everything, even tiny instances where we could do a teeny tiny bit better. I noticed in the strip today (very funny) they were talking to a bumbling bumble bee. I would like to point out to Mr. McDonnell that worker bees are ALL female; pretty much any bee you see out and about is female. Also, only female bees have stingers. Therefore, the bee in the strip today is definitely female, though it is referred to as male.

This is such a tiny point, as I said, but it’s useful to illustrate how easily we default to male. I was once in a park with my twin boys when they were young. I saw a cute squirrel, and thought about how we usually refer to all animals and bugs as “he.” So I said, “Look at the squirrel, she’s so cute!” Both boys swung around, alarmed, and said, “How do you know it’s a GIRL?!?”

We all constantly default to male simply because we were all raised to have unconscious bias. No matter how enlightened we think we are, it’s very hard to root it out unless you pay very strict attention. Nothing to feel bad about — it’s unconscious!


Patrick and our team are so thankful for Geena’s letter and for her organization’s work in helping to create a world in which women are represented equally on screen — and in print!

A new version of the May 2 comic strip is below. (This corrected image will appear in our MUTTS Shop as well as in the next annual MUTTS Treasury book.)  And we’re pretty sure that those bees will be buzzing around MUTTS again soon.

Female Worker Bee Comic Strip

Thanks, Geena!



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69 thoughts on “Patrick Bumbled! Actress Geena Davis Improves a Recent MUTTS Comic Strip

  1. Now you can perhaps, create an image of a clear-headed, focused female bee rather than a forgetful, less than organized one – or even a ‘bumbling’ boy bee sans stinger. After all, all pollinators have a heavy work load since some of their comrades are ailing.

  2. Learned something new in that Bee series! Loved how you worked the correction in and carried it through a few more panels

  3. I think much ado about nothing. I just love this comic strip period. Thank you Patrick !

  4. If Ms. Davis reads this, I just want to say how grateful I am for her work to benefit youth and women; I hope younger celebs take note of your example of contributing to causes outside their own skin. Great work! I also want to thank Mr. McDonnell and the Mutts staff for demonstrating how to graciously respond to criticism/correction. I saw the strips following this one w/ the bee explaining to Earl and Mooch how all worker bees were females. Something that could fuel an angry reaction instead was transformed into benefit to others. Good sign of Patrick’s practice fruition! (My all-time favorite strip is when Mooch does his meditation and his mantra is “YUMMM-SUUPP-AHHH!”) With love and appreciation for all of you, Linda Willow

    1. Beautiful reply in which every word counts!

  5. This is such an important point! Thank you for correcting the strip!

  6. Yes, of course, let us be very accurate in a comic strip because they are known for accuracies, such as dogs and cats philosophizing about life and carrying on conversations. Although the bit about that pink sock is soooo true.
    Geena I understand where you think there is an issue but I think you are being a bit triggered on this one. I also think being gender neutral is not the answer, whether the mailman delivering my mail is male or female is not the issue (Why should we care? Why should we notice?) the issue is about respecting the person doing the job.

  7. While it is true that in honeybees the bees foraging in flowers are workers, and therefore are all female, that is not true of bumblebees. In the early summer, the bumblebees that are foraging on flowers are female workers, collecting pollen and nectar. However, later in summer, the nest produces males (drones) and new queens; they will mate and the queens will establish new colonies the following spring (they hibernate underground). At this time of year, the males are feeding on nectar and the new queens on nectar and pollen. The males don’t have a nest to go back to, so they just hang out on the flowers – even sleeping on them. So, it depends on the time of year – since your strip was from May, those would be female workers if they are bumblebees. In August, they would more likely be drones. The populations of some species of bumblebees are declining in North America (one species has been listed as endangered – so bringing attention to the importance of native pollinators in the environment is critical. Thanks!

  8. I am so sick of these thin skinned , abortion loving Hollywood liberals telling me what I should think and what they believe is right and wrong. They have one job and one job only and that is to entertain me. Other than that shut the hell up !

    1. Talk about thin skinned!

    2. Michael, if you don’t appreciate them, that’s ok. There’s no reason to bad mouth an entire group of people. There’s also nothing wrong with pointing out a scientific fact about gender. I think your comment is out of line.

  9. Thanks for the update on that strip . It is quite a honor to be a long time member of Mutts fan base. I give your book as gifts to my family who are great animal lovers and enjoy them so much too. Great catch Geena.

  10. Well, I’d expect that you are going to see such comments as “Hey, why are you saying SHE?, Do you think females can’t do anything but bumble?” .
    I think that it has also been traditional for the male to be the brunt of jokes without any blowback and when you start using the female, you will find some much thinner skin. I could be wrong, we’ll have to wait and see.

    1. I agree….
      As in many sit-coms the male has been the foil; also, had this been the original strip, I could expect “thin skinned” others to “complain” that females are being down-graded. Can’t win for losing.
      We need to be less “overly” sensitive.

  11. As a beekeeper’s daughter, I say “Woo Hoo!” to anything that educates people about bees!

  12. I enjoyed this segment very much! I do it too, especially when meeting new dogs. But cars and boats have always been “shes.”

  13. I’m sorry to say, when you challenged readers to spot the error, I looked closely and was sure the objection was going to be that the bee didn’t have the correct number of legs! Ha! Good for you for accommodating Geena’s criticism. BTW, I love the comment by the Mom whose child asked why Mom called all the child’s stuffed animals “he.” Pretty eye-opening.

  14. While I appreciate Geena’s thoughtful letter to Patrick about the gender of the bee, I too, am concerned that a female “bumbling” will be perceived as offensive to women.

    1. Yes, I agree. We have to be concerned not just about including female characters, but how those characters are portrayed.

  15. Ms Davis has an interesting point. I agree with her. There are many sexist stereotypes that are culturally based that are likely much harder to combat: ships/boats are thought of as “Her” in the Western world – as “Him” in Russia and Eastern Europe (according to Tom Clancy novels), and in some languages (like French, I believe) nouns are described as male or female – regardless of the actual sex of the item (if any). I applaud your effort to correct the inequities.

  16. Brava Geena!

  17. Thank you for the correction! All bees who work are female.

  18. That was an AWESOME and LOVING thing you did, Geena!! Thanks, Patrick, for your openness and sensitivity to this, perhaps, ‘little’ issue. You’ve both committed ‘little’ acts of kindness, and the world needs more kindness.

  19. To me humor is art and if Patrick wanted to draw a bee with 2 heads, that is his freedom to do so. It isn’t the place of Patrick to educate us on the entomology of bees. He is such a kind person that he allowed the correction, but it has now destroyed the humor of the strip and as someone pointed out if he had said “she” then Geena would have complained that he was calling all women bumbling. It’s a no-win situation. Chillax Geena – you’re too serious! Learn to let go of some stuff. Ask yourself, “is it appropriate to call someone out in this situation?” Remember context and the strip is just for fun! This is a first world problem!

    1. Easy, now…She didn’t “call him out”; it wasn’t public, and the reasoning was gentle and spot-on. It was Patrick’s choice to share the reminder and education of the power of that pronoun. and I personally find the humor is perfectly intact.

      1. Right on. I couldn’t agree more. Kudos to both Geena and Patrick.

    2. Sorry Kristy! But we also need to set things straight or how else are we to learn?! It seems that it bothers you more than Patrick and Geena, so maybe you should chill too, as you’re getting too serious! Even a comic strip that could be read by children can be correct! We’re talking about the sex of bees! I learned from both P & G! Haven’t you? And look at how many comments it garnered! Just saying!

    3. Agree. The more you learn about bees, the stranger they seem. Only one female is allowed to reproduce, the rest are subservient workers. Apparently in the bumblebee world there is a type of bumblebee in which the queen invades another’s colony, kills that queen, and then appropriates her nest and workers. How far do people want to take this issue?

  20. Hurrah for the great work Ms. Davis does for girls and women! I love the correction about worker bees bee-ing female, and that Patrick will be correcting the error in a future comic. This is another reason MUTTS is my favorite strip! Humblee, Ann

  21. We can all use a little help once and a while…..good job Geena and good job Mutts‼️👏🏼🐝😊👍🏼

  22. Actually, it’s considered proper English to refer to someone as “he” when you don’t t know his gender.

    1. Who cares? Language grows and changes. They/them would be more appropriate when we don’t know their gender.

    2. Actually, that’s the point. We need to think about how we default to male pronouns.
      We can change this. It’s time.

    3. Yes, and when I learned French in high school, we were taught that even if there’s only one male in a huge crowd of females, the word for crowd takes the masculine form. The bias is strong in French – and English.

  23. Didn’t know worker bees were female, thanks for informing us Geena. I liked your letter and how Patrick and Mutts Comic Strip handled the correction. I have learned a good lesson on handling corrections, especially about the role of the female worker bees. If only all of us could SEE when corrected. THANKS and LOL

  24. That’s awesome!

  25. Do speakers of languages other than English automatically default to the masculine. English needs a neuter word.

    1. Yes, make, female, and -at times- neutral… in many languages: French, Spanish, German, more.

      1. In Italian the name of the bees, “le api”, is feminine.

    2. It has it and it is “it”.

  26. As a fan of Mutts, I applaud you for addressing this correction in a positive light; however, I still cannot get too worked up about the error. We are dealing with
    the aftermath of tornadoes here in southwestern Ohio, and there are some “things” that are just more important than a letter from Ms. Davis discussing
    the gender of a bee in a comic strip.

    1. That’s right, Mutts! No more bringing a tiny smile or ray of sunshine into someone’s life until everything in the world is fixed!

      1. We’re talking about EDUCATING YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF BEES! There are some things we can fix!

      2. Sad….
        Ain’t it?!
        He brings light to our lives, then needs to be concerned with accuracy.

      3. What a kind, thoughtful and gentle letter from Geena Davis! And what a wonderful, non-defensive response from Patrick! This is the kind of exchange we should aim for – building harmony! I do think it’s important – and though I hadn’t noticed, I certainly appreciated being made aware. A small thing, but significant. Thank you for your models, Geena & Patrick!

    2. Personally, I believe teaching girls and boys that women are as valuable as men is much more important then tornados that will pass.

    3. God be with you in your recovery. I agree with you.

      1. Thank you for your kind thoughts. You have restored my faith in what should be a priority: people’s (and all God’s creatures’) health and safety.

  27. So very, very true. When my daughter was around 2 1/2, she said to me, “Mommy why do you always call all my stuffed animals he”. She was born that aware. Now she’s 39, and LOOK out guys! I’m very proud of her, and encouraged her awareness.

  28. Geez. Give it a rest.

  29. Yes, I thought the same thing when I saw this strip! We kept Honey Bees for many years, and were delighted to educate people on the wonders of their matriarchal society. The workers and the Queen are all female, and the male drones have their small but important role to play! 🐝

  30. Thank you Geena (love your acting) and Patrick for this situation – and for teaching me something I didn’t know and for these comments adjusting it along the way. I’m an older female and enjoy females/males learning and accepting differences but with both empowered in those differences, not just one controlling things. Also I echo that Patrick, this is the only comic strip I receive daily and NEVER miss….shared with me years ago by my lovely daughter….and it gives me a smile each day….with its poignant and funny moments that remind us of the delights, realities and responsibilities we experience and hold towards the animal kingdom.

  31. I am impressed Patrick that YOU took the time and MADE the effort to Make this Right!!! YOU ARE a Great Person and Friend to Animal’s !!! Bless YOU!!!

  32. That was an AWESOME THING YOU DID Patrick!!!! I am a 70 year old Retired Nurse… Nurses are 90% of the time referred to as she… It has become a VERY BIG Profession for MEN NOW TOO!!!

  33. While all the bees collecting pollen in one way or another are indeed female – as is the one in this strip, it should be noted that male bees also visit flowers for their nectar.

  34. Hooray for Geena, and for MUTTS taking the ball and running with it, to use a usually-male-but-could-be-female metaphor.

  35. Yesh! Go Genna! This also goes for worker ants!

  36. She is so right. I would of never got on to that. I know I personally don’t think about things like that. I will now. But I also call things boys and girls. If it’s really cute, it’s a girl lol.

  37. If this was a female bee she would not be bumbling! Girls are smarter!

    1. I stand with Adele on this topic! Now I am more offended with this gender stereotyping than I am about the inaccuracy of initial strip.

  38. While I appreciate that the strip is now entomologically correct, the correction seems to play into the damaging old stereotypes of women being charmingly confused “bumblers.” When I read it originally, I was pleased that the bumbling bee was male! It’s a great strip no matter the sex of the bee, but perhaps Mr McDonnell could balance things by doing a strip sometime down the road wherein a female worker or queen bee displays how smart she is…? Thanks so much for Mutts, Mr McDonnell! It’s the only comic I get delivered to my inbox daily and it never fails to make me smile. We need a lot more kind and gentle humor — and animal advocacy — especially right now…

    1. I too treasure the daily Mutts. Patrick’s voice is so needed and so valued as one that recognizes the value of, and sings the praises of ,nature and all gods creatures great and small! As my English teacher mother would have pointed out (and who shared her love of Mutts with me) maybe a good bee should bumble about a bit. The put down would be if she were “people-ing ” about.

  39. how wonderfully politically correct.

    1. these nothing political about it its just naturally accurate

      1. 💞

      2. A six-legged bee would be naturally accurate. As is the case with any talking animals, it’s called artistic license.

        1. 👍

  40. It’s not only raising of consciousness, it’s more accurate! Male bees don’t collect pollen or leave the nest. Bees are matriarchal.

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