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.