Truso Logo
Sign Up
User Image

Truso Team

Welcome to the other side. Boring content stops here.


POLITICS & SOCIETY
|
3 MIN READ

We Have a Poverty Porn Problem, and We Need to Fix Itverified tick

User Image
TeamTruso
4 months ago
4 months ago
Like Count IconComment Count Icon | 43 Views

Of course, the celebrities and charities and movies mean well. But the so-called third world nations have become increasingly frustrated as the western media and entertainment industry continues to focus only on the poorest regions of their countries, glossing over the progress and development that has changed the face of their cities and people. Is this use of the poorest of the poor emotional manipulation for personal interests?

The concept of poverty porn emerged in the 1980s, considered to be the ‘Golden Age’ of charity. You must have seen the examples all around you – in the movies that show children struggling against the harsh life of the slums, in the NGO posters that show starving people begging for relief, and in the celebrity photos they post on Instagram to make their followers aware of the people’s plight.

There is a commonsensical logic to all this, of course. Their aim is to generate in people impactful emotions that drive them to contribute via money and volunteering to worthwhile causes. But the problem with this approach is that no matter how effective it may be in generating money, it actually does a great disservice to the people in poverty as it does not present accurate information of people and their conditions.

Source- Shutterstock

Poverty porn, by the virtue of the emotions it manipulates, also brings about an automatic assumption that donations (money, in essence) will make the problems go away. Children will be happy, no one will starve, everyone lives happily ever after. But is it really so? Is poverty simply about the lack of money, or are there complex social, cultural, governmental, historical and situational factors that contribute to it? If you think it is the former, the problem with poverty porn is very apparent. Instead of just asking for donations, organizations and celebrities need to invite those they influence to think about poverty in a more nuanced and comprehensive manner. Changing people’s perceptions, such as their notions about ‘deserving and undeserving’ poor, is an important step towards more equitable conditions.

There is then also the fact that the people in these images become objects, representatives of something dire and sad, and both them and the groups they represent are stripped of their dignity. Why are there no images of poor but happy kids playing around? Why are there no images of the self-help groups that teach skills to people? Why are there no images of the festivals, bonds and joyous moments that people in poverty celebrate? There is a very common but disturbing practice of judging poor people for the little joys that they choose to indulge in, whether it be a TV, new clothes, or simply an outing to the movies. As if they do not have complex lives just like the upper brackets, as if they don’t deserve their joys, and are supposed to be perpetually depressed. Poverty porn directly and indirectly contributes to these negativities.

Source- Wikipedia

Charity and activism are very different in their connotations. Poverty porn leads to the former, an act of generosity that automatically assumes a hierarchy, and is supposed to make the donors feel better about themselves or eradicate their feelings of guilt or shame. Activism on the other hand comes when people truly recognize the underlying complexities of poverty, realize that their own position in this web is one of privilege, and then actively use the skills and resources at their disposal to level the playing field.

When poor people are turned into victims, they are robbed of their voices to contribute to their own betterment. Poverty porn overemphasizes the role of charitable organizations, leaves poor people without self-determination and dignity, and may indeed lead to costs that outweigh the money generation. Perhaps it's time media and organizations change the filters on their lens, and in doing so, provide a more real understanding of one of the biggest challenges that the world faces.


By Niharika Rawat

Like Icon
Save Icon
Facebook Icon
Twitter Icon
Comments