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!



Comments (69)

these nothing political about it its just naturally accurate

Eloise Gadus

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

Alexandra Duane

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


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

Bożena Syska

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


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.

Sheila Richardson

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.

Letitia Wilson

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.

Wendy Easley

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!


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.

Tod Skallerup