I think we’re all guilty of inadvertent stereotyping

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Is it ever going to be possible to stop people being pigeon-holed? I was in the doctor’s surgery over the weekend and witnessed a boy looking through the books until he found one that he fancied.

He was quite young – I’d put him at about two. Mission accomplished, he grasped the book he wanted to his chest and returned to his parent to present his prize.

And what was the reaction? A genuine, no-blink refusal to read it on the grounds that ‘that’s a book for girls’.

Clearly that was the publisher’s intent and it was one that the boy’s parent had bought into hook, line and sinker. The child was sent back to swop the offending item.

Even from where I was, I could see that the book screamed ‘marketed for girls’. A pink cover, shiny embossed lettering, a picture on the front of a tiara-wearing female looking like she needed saving.

It looked that way because, as we all know, all girls aspire to be princesses. Sadly it then follows that princesses are judged on their beauty and soft skin – never on their brains or skill.

However much Tangled and Frozen have given us contemporary takes on the old fairytale, guess what? Both stories have men saving the girls – but the difference is they aren’t princes.

While princesses are now being taught to settle for less, boys are not even allowed to read about the step-change.

I think that we’re all guilty of inadvertent stereotyping. I find myself doing it all the time. I tell girls that they look pretty, or I like how they’ve done their hair, or admire a new piece of clothing.

As much as I know I’m doing it, and it’s in the back of my head that my first exclamation should never be about their looks, I still do it.

Perhaps it’s too hard to fight against 42 years of societal conditioning? But I do try really hard to start conversations with questions about sports, or books, or anything that’s not about looking good.

It baffles me how women (and it was a woman who wouldn’t read a ‘girly’ book to a toddler) have let this happen to us, to put ourselves in the state where we do need rescuing from ourselves.

But until women recognise that, it will never happen.