What do you think of cows? Slow moving, doleful eyed, grass eating machines who idly chew the cud whilst laying down because the rain’s coming?
As a small boy I was terrified of cows because one chased me across a field and for many years after I would not go anywhere near a cow field.
I believed all cows were evil and that they would chase after me without provocation. Of course as I grew older I realised that most cows are really quite docile and it is only a few that might have issues with small boys, especially when the cow thinks that the boy and his dog might pose a threat to their young.
At that point in my childhood I didn’t understand cows and why they behaved as they did and I compounded my ignorance by forming an opinion about all cows through the actions of just one.
Stereotyping is a common human trait that we see displayed in many ways in our day to day life. It’s a short hand that we use to describe people who are different to us and it’s very easy to buy into a stereotype, because sometimes a stereotype is based in a degree of reality.
But stereotypes are not always right and they can be dangerous. It’s also lazy to think about someone in a certain way just because of how they look or where they come from. For example, we judge people too quickly because of their faith and religion or the lack of it.
We do love to label people don’t we? Sometimes a label can be helpful, it can lead to someone gaining access to support or feeling more secure about themselves.Even though many of us are proud to belong to certain groups within society the thing that makes us special is our individuality and our ability to choose to be different.
Perhaps we owe it to ourselves, and to others, to put the stereotypes to one side occasionally and to consider the individual rather than the group. We can choose to accept people just for who they are.