They were part of the fabric of my childhood. those dear Mr Men, those colourful, bright, simplistic drawings and simple tales.
My first book was Mr Silly. He was very, very silly, but was he sexist? A university study says the Mr Men books are. I confess I gave it little thought at the time, I was barely beyond the stage of using a book as a teething aid after all and there were no Little Miss books around for comparison (they joined us, alongside leg warmers and big hair in the 1980s). If you were looking for sexism in children’s literature at the time there was plenty of it - Topsy and Tim or Peter and Jane for example, where girls helped Mummy in the kitchen, doing the housework or the shopping, leaving the boys free to help Daddy with the gardening or tinkering with the Ford Anglia.
If there were a Mr Political Correctness Gone Mad he’d be blowing a fuse at the University of Lincoln’s latest Mr Men findings. Imagine the narrative: “What a load of tosh!” announced Mr PCGM angrily, as Mrs PCGM popped off to the kitchen.
Of 81 books from the Mr Men series published from 1971 to 2014 female characters were saved by male characters in more than 50 per cent of stories (compared to 30 per cent of males) The Mr Men characters were also found to contribute to more of the dialogue than female Little Miss characters, averaging 12 more words.
It quoted part of Little Miss Late as one example: “She managed to find herself the perfect job. She now works for Mr Lazy! She cooks and cleans for him.”
Well this Little Miss Editor says the drip-drip of gender stereotyping does have an effect on all our little Misses and Misters and if this study has got the debate going once more then that’s a very good thing - in fact it’s not silly at all!