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)

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.

Linann K Knodel Duren

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?


Talk about thin skinned!


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

Linann K Knodel Duren

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


It has it and it is “it”.

Harold Vite

Beautiful reply in which every word counts!


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.

Phil Kampel

how wonderfully politically correct.

michael edwards

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

Mary Caldwell