It’s the little-malnourished girl that stares at you, it’s the little boy washed up on the shore. And it’s the mother and father holding their dying baby.
This is what we are confronted with when charities and media want to expose and prompt audiences, of the poverty around the globe.
The following images can be identified through the term ‘poverty porn‘. Poverty porn is “known as development porn or even famine porn, is any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause.” It is a strategy that causes us to think “What can I do to help”? We are left feeling conflicted whether to post and share these devastating image with the world or to donate “hey any amount will help”. However, it is a term used to exploit poverty.
It is these organisations that expose the worst of poverty, they highlight the misery and suffering. Promoting the ‘if’ and ‘when’, what happens if you do donate and what happens if you do not. Poverty porn maintains this idea that, third world countries are filled with misery and suffering.
However in the video above, it shows that some of these kids who live in the worst possible conditions are happy, they create positive outcomes for themselves. It is videos like these that expose an alternative perspective on poverty, while poverty is faced with suffering and heartache. There are slums throughout the world that aim to change their way of lives, they want their minority to progress.
In this TEDx talk, Erica Hangan is the co-founder of ‘Map Kibera’, an organisation that aims to empower these communities and put them on the map through open data, open mapping, citizen media and participatory processes. In the following video, Erica expresses how so many slums in huge cities are not identified on their maps, their aim using locals is to put the slum of Kibera on the map. And through this exploration, it is astounding to see a number of facilities that are crammed into this small place, and the economy these people have built for themselves.
In 2015 twitter users coined the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShows, it was platform young African’s were able to use to fightback against their ‘poverty stricken identity’. Photos were posted using the hashtag of the beautiful landscapes, jobs, universities etc. attracting over 42,000 tweets. Each and every tweet was a pushed to break the African stereotype, another twitter user posted a photo collage of four photos. Each different from the other to emphasise that not all of Africa is the same, making the following statement “Africa is not a country, Africa is a continent made up of 56 countries. Africans do not all look alike. Africa is not defined by poverty. I don’t speak “African” because African is not a
The objectification and exploitation of poverty through media is under scrutiny and empowers the wrong people. Such stereotypes portray societies in a negative way where these reputations can hold. An example of this is SBS documentary ‘Struggle Street‘, a documentary depicting stereotypes of lower socio-economic suffering.
The series was designed to show the struggles and suffering of poverty in the western area of Mt Druitt, aiming to expose the ‘raw reality’ of a south-west suburb. SBS’s Marshall Heald said that “Struggle Street will seek to raise awareness and deepen our understanding of those of us in the community facing social and economic hardship through an honest reflection of what it’s like to be doing it tough in Australia today.” However the show enhanced the negative stereotype Mt Druitt had received, Threadgold argues that the show is “denigrating The undeserving poor, scapegoating and even pathologising them as figures of loathing, while completely ignoring the harsh structural economic realities that create such poverty in the first place.”
Blacktown Mayor Stephen Bali was “appalled” after seeing the first episode. “What I saw wasn’t a documentary, it was simply publicly-funded poverty porn“, after meeting with SBS management he expressed “With all the funding cuts in the local area with domestic violence and … the whole heap of great education facilities that are losing funding, to spend $1 million on this crap, it shouldn’t happen”.
Poverty porn exploits degrades and stereotypes a minority based on how the media gather their understanding and frame their portrayal of a minority. Who are we trying to empower, us or them?
- Aid Thoughts. (2009). What is ‘poverty porn’ and why does it matter for development?. [online] Available at: http://aidthoughts.org/?p=69 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2017].
- Ted.com. (2017). TEDx Program. [online] Available at: https://www.ted.com/about/programs-initiatives/tedx-program [Accessed 18 Mar. 2017].
- Twitter.com. (2017). #theafricathemedianevershowsyou – Twitter Search. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23theafricathemedianevershowsyou&src=typd&vertical=default&f=tweets [Accessed 17 Mar. 2017].
- Banning-Lover, R. (2015). The Africa the media never shows you – in pictures. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jun/30/the-africa-the-media-never-shows-you-in-pictures [Accessed 18 Mar. 2017].
- PARROTTE, K. (2017). BORGEN Magazine. [online] Available at: http://www.borgenmagazine.com/what-is-theafricathemedianevershowsyou/#prettyPhoto [Accessed 18 Mar. 2017].
- Galvin, N. (2016). Struggle Street 2 coming to SBS. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/struggle-street-2-coming-to-sbs-20160428-goh0zg.html [Accessed 18 Mar. 2017].
- Kerin, L. and Ong, T. (2015). Blacktown Mayor slams SBS over ‘poverty porn’ Struggle Street. [online] ABC News. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-05/sbs-struggle-street-series-poverty-porn-says-mt-druitt-mayor/6446648 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2017].