are you into poverty porn?

are you into poverty porn?

‘Generally, the objectification and exploitation of human beings in the media bothers us. At least to some degree, we are bothered when media simplify humans, women and men, down to the characteristics that can be used to prove a point, elicit a high emotional response and generate profit. We see this in advertising, movies, pornography.

There is a similar problem with the way we represent the poor in our media, exploiting their condition and even their suffering for financial gain. As we often do with the objectification of women, we need to pause and ask ourselves whether it is ethical to depict the graphic qualities of a human being to Western audiences for the sole purpose of eliciting an emotional experience and ultimately, money. It is a practice called poverty porn, and it does almost nothing to address the real structural problem of poverty.’

And with that introduction, starts this article titled, ‘5 reasons poverty porn empowers the wrong people’ by Emily Roenigk, which you can read on her blog, ‘Emily from Charm City’.

Emily breaks down her reasons into these 5 but take a read of the article to see them in greater depth:

1. Poverty porn misrepresents poverty

2. Poverty porn leads to charity, not activism.

3. Poverty porn misrepresents the poor

 4. Poverty porn deceives the helper and the helped

5. Poverty porn works.

Back when I was living in an inner city community in Philadelphia, we had the same thing which we referred to as ‘Poverty Tourism’ – the idea of a group of [usually white] people coming in to a poor neighborhood and taking photos to stick on Facebook or show to the people back home of how they ‘hung out with the poor people’. To put it in some sort of perspective, imagine a group of tourists from another area or country walking down your street taking photos of your car and house and yourself and your friends without your permission and then plastering them all over their various social media networks. All for the sake of trying to prove or show off some thing.  Starts to feel a little intrusive, right?

What is you response to this? Have you witnessed firsthand anything you would categorise as ‘Poverty Porn’ or have you even been a part of doing this yourself?

 

 

Brett Anderson

Brett "Fish" Anderson from South Africa (the country) is passionate about seeing the church live out what it says it believe in all areas of life. He is married to the beautiful Val (tbV) and hates raiSINs with a different kind of passion.
  • http://www.mst.edu/~oertherd Daniel Oerter

    Guilty myself. Wish I wasn’t, but am. I try to cover it up with words like ‘partnership’ and ‘sustainability’, but if I brush off the veneer, I must admit I’m still guilty in some fashion. Pointing to our neighbor, rather than walking with our neighbor, is such a struggle. I can understand why Jesus felt sorry for the rich young man citing the difficulty of entering heaven when focused upon earthly riches. Thanks for sharing, Brett!

    • Brett Anderson

      ah thankx Daniel, it takes a big man to start noticing these things in the mirror before being able to point them out in their friends and enemies. And what an important frst step – asking the question, ‘Where am i guilty of this and what do i need to do to change?’

  • Bryan Hash

    “2. Poverty porn leads to charity, not activism.”
    (First of all, im not downplaying mission trips, this is just my take on it.)This really hit me because I have seen this firsthand on a mission trip. I went to Mexico with a well known, southern California church. Excited to give away free bicycles, and repair some of theirs, I returned to the U.S.A. feeling sick because we just handed out bikes/took pictures with them for like 3 hours then hung out in Mexico for two days. They were still poor and we went back to our “cool” mega church. And the following Sunday pics were shown to the church (with cheesy music behind it) that made it look like we changed the world.

    • Brett Anderson

      oh absolutely and there are definitely churches who are getting it a lot more right and making some good difference usually through mutual relationship and empowerment and learning from each other but also sadly a lot of churches who could benefit well from reading something like this…

      • Bryan Hash

        You are definitly right, there are churches that get it right. I finally found a church over a year ago that is doing great things in the community. They even trusted me and some friends to open a food pantry in the church.