Saturday, 27 June 2009
Reel Around The Fountain - The Stereotypical Pervert
I was today in the Peace Gardens in Sheffield City Centre and the sun was shining bright. It was hot and busy in the city and people were milling about everywhere. In the gardens themselves there is a large water fountain that is the focal point and in the summer, kids splash about in it. It's like an urban seaside in a way - I certainly remember going there when I was younger.
Whilst sat on the wall with the family - resting our legs, having a drink, or some such activity - we could see all the kids frolicking about. In fact, all the benches face inwards onto the fountain. There were probably about 4 or 5 kids playing in the fountain, all of whom were either in their underwear or were naked - they were probably about 5-8 years old or something.
But notable in this scene was a man crouched on the pavement, just away from the fountain, taking pictures of the kids with his SLR camera. This man had a grizzly and unshaven face, quite thick glasses and was pretty overweight. He had a ruddy complexion and was dressed pretty scruffily. For about five or ten minutes, as the undressed kids were playing in the water, he was crouched on the periphery taking photographs.
I walked over to the bin to get rid of my coke bottle, and as I did so, I passed by a group of student-looking pepole, and I heard that they too had noticed this strange and creepy man. I also saw a couple; the man appeared to be alerting his wife to this man taking pictures of the kids. Clearly people were thinking the same as me - they were quite unnerved by this middle aged pervert.
The man taking pictures seemed to be taking them mostly of a little naked girl. Then the little girl ran over to him and gave him a hug, he dressed her, put some suncream on her face, stood up, took her hand and went and bought her an icecream. He was her dad.
This seemed to say something quite profound about the fear our society holds for the welfare and safety of our children. Possibly I am wrong in thinking so, but I often consider myself to be less susceptible to such social judgements and stereotypes.
But on this situation, seeing a man taking photographs of a child (photographs which with the benefit of hindsight, you can see would be just a parent's family photographs showing his daughter in a state of total happiness on a sunny summer's day) - on this situation, my first thought was that he was a paedophile. On seeing a man taking pictures of a child, my initial label of him was as a criminal rather than a father!
Now of course, this isn't to say one ought to presume every seemingly suspicious scenario has an innocent explanation, but at the same time, not only are we too quick to judge using stereotypes, we delude ourselves in the process. Those adults in society who prey on children are bad and, thankfully, there aren't nearly as many of them as their prevalence in the parental conscience would suggest.
Effectively, the thought process I had was that he was an adult male who looked unkempt and because of this profile, I thought him more likely a threat than a father - I'd hope that those who shared my misconception might take heed of it too and be less quick to judge.