For a society which makes such a fuss about lazy stereotypes, we still use far too many.
The trouble is, stereotyping tends to make us more comfortable and takes many of us back to a ‘simpler’ time, when things made more sense. If that time ever existed of course!
Those who end up being stereotyped tend not to get a great deal out of it and it seems to me that one of the groups which suffers the most is young girls.
In the past week I have read two news articles about girls which have made me cross. One was a public relations gimmick, which highlighted 50 things that dads of little girls should know.
The second was based on a report by three American universities which concluded that, by the age of six, some girls don’t think it is possible to be as brilliant as their male counterparts. As a dad to an engaging, sensitive seven-year-old,it was impossible for my shoulders not to drop in disappointment at the sheer inevitability of it all.
I wasn’t surprised to read the ‘what all dads need to know’ article, particularly on discovering it was the creation of doll manufacturer Mattel. While it may have been seen as a fun thing to do, the list, which included knowing how to shop and do a French plait, is less than helpful if your daughter point blank refuses to adhere to perceived normality.
The list, which depicts ‘normal’ dads playing with their daughters and their Barbies, also acknowledges that girls like to climb and some may even like football. While it is clearly a piece of marketing guff, the article reinforces the stereotype that all girls like dolls, glitter and cartwheels. They don’t.
But it all becomes more serious if we dwell on the academic study which examined the behaviours of children. The research concluded that from six upwards that girls were less likely to associate brilliance with their own gender than boys were.
My eldest child is now at an age where self-consciousness is beginning to dictate how she behaves – what she really needs to know is that everybody is different. I am not one of those who thinks a truly equal society is unachievable but until we are rid of lazy stereotypes, we are not going to get there quickly.