Little Miss Trending Women

Why we didn’t jump on the ‘Little Miss’ Trend

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a member on LinkedIn. And if you’re a member on LinkedIn, it’s likely your feed has been inundated with images of Roger Hargreaves beloved ‘Little Miss’ characters over the last week or so. Thanks to the Instagram account @littlemissnotesapp, the childhood illustrations have been turned into a series of memes that depict 2022 personality traits. I’ll leave you to decide how relatable Little Miss ‘Book Smart But No Common Sense’ and Little Miss ‘Asks For Advice But Never Takes It’ are…  

Anyway, the trend of associating yourself to one of these ‘relatable’ cartoons has blended into the business world. LinkedIn is now abundant with members identifying themselves as ‘Little Miss Stationery Hoarder’ and ‘Little Miss Marketer With 253+ Tabs Open’. Jumping on trends is a major staple in the content marketing world, an easy and free way to engage in conversation that keeps your brand current. So, why was I met with resistance when I brought up Halston B2B joining the Little Miss trend?  

Putting a spin on a current trend

You know those people in the office that don’t always think before they speak? I’m often that person, but with ideas. When brainstorming content, especially if it’s reactive, I tend to send a stack of short, snappy words and phrases to my colleagues without too much thought. Which is arguably what happened when I sent my twist on the Little Miss trend to our entire company’s Teams chat. 

Instead of using ourselves as the subjects, I thought it’d be fun to personify our three office pooches and their three very distinct personalities. For example: 

  1. Our border collie cross Trixie is the full-timer of the group and is quite simply ‘Little Miss Calls-The-Shots’. 
  1. Lola would take the form ‘Little Miss Sleeping Beauty’ – she’s exactly how you’d expect this Disney princess to look and act if she were an Olde Tyme crossed with an Olde English Bulldog. 
  1. There would be nothing other than ‘Mr Outnumbered’ to describe Eric, our teensy Miniature dachshund with a sassy voice trying to assert his authority in an office full of women. 

See why I thought I was onto a winner?

Constructive Feedback

Generally, the idea was met with positive feedback – we even wondered if the creative team could whip something up that very afternoon if we could get the right snaps of the dogs. But then Group CEO Georgia’s reply popped up.  

‘I have strong feelings about Little Miss – I think it supports the infantilisation of women.’

And it made me reconsider. 

Language and Gender

My English Language A-Level had a module dedicated to language and gender, and I specifically remember there being a recurring focus on how and why we often refer to women as ‘girls’ rather than, well, ‘women’. There’s a whole lot to be said – that’s a blog for another day – but in short, some women favour being called a ‘girl’ simply for the younger, youthful connotations it brings. Rightly or wrongly. 

For me, I suppose it largely depends on who is calling you a ‘girl’ – if it’s your group of female friends ready for a ‘giiiiiiiiirls’ weekend’, that feels like one thing. But if it’s a 50-year-old male MD referring to you as their ‘marketing girl’, you start to see how and why it feels pretty condescending. 

Little Miss or Mrs Women?

So, back to ‘Little Miss’. Roger Hargreaves wrote the series of Mr Men books in 1971. Ten years later, the Little Miss series followed. Now, there’s fair bit to unpick here – did he always intend to write two series, one with male characters, the other female? Or was it the success of the Mr Men books that prompted him to diversify to female characters, too?  

Either way, there’s two major differences despite the same theme. Traditionally, ‘Master’ is the title for a male less than 18 years old, replaced by ‘Mr’ as he comes of age. If the Mr Men are ‘adults’, what are their female counterparts? ‘Miss’ describes an unmarried woman; ‘Mrs’ those married. Maybe ‘Mrs’ makes the characters sound too old. Secondly, the male characters are simply just men: ‘Mr Men’. Yet there was a need – or reason – to precede the females with an adjective, ‘little’.  

Maybe it was simply to ensure the books’ relatability and appeal to their childhood (and unmarried) audience – I’d like to think so. Less naively, could it have been a conscious way or reinforcing our patriarchal society? Perhaps. Would such references be ‘cancelled’ today? Probably.  

Fond memories vs. present thoughts

I’d like to state here that I was – still am – a huge fan of both series. I had complete collections, and fondly remember spending hours reading and then returning each book back into the case which, when ordered correctly, meant all of the spines lined up to read ‘My Mr Men Library’. 8-year-old me wasn’t thinking about the connotations of ‘Little Miss’ – if anything, I wanted to be compared to Little Miss Sunshine. But now? I’d still enjoy the association of being a ‘happy’ person that comes from ‘sunshine’, but perhaps less so the weak implications of being ‘little’ (despite my 5”5 frame) or ‘Miss’ (AKA a 26 year-old spinster). 

So, are these ‘memes’ subconsciously belittling women, or are they providing us with a chance to inject some playful nostalgia into our work personalities? Do they give people the chance to self-indulge (Little Miss Gets Sh*t Done) or self-depreciate to induce relatability (Little Miss Emotionally Unavailable)? Are we falling into the trap of overthinking something that was probably meant as a meaningless bit of fun, or is the fact that we’re not really thinking about the implications of joining this meaningless bit of fun – and others – another contributor to the inerrant ways in which we still use language that demeans women? 

The jury’s out in our office and, as with anything, it’s not necessarily about where we stand individually. It’s about the conversation it’s sparked, and long may it continue.

What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear from you!

27th Jul 2022

Beat the block!

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a member on LinkedIn. And if you’re a member on LinkedIn, it’s likely your feed has been inundated with images of Roger Hargreaves beloved ‘Little Miss’ characters over the last week or so. Thanks to the Instagram account @littlemissnotesapp, the childhood illustrations have been turned into a series […]

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