Poverty porn can be described as the media exploiting the poor in order to derive sympathy from the audience and furthermore, charitable donations. But when analysing this concept; it entails graphic and vulnerable content. Would you be okay with someone trying to take photographs of you, or follow you around all day, whilst you’re in your most vulnerable state? Because that is how I would imagine it to be, I would feel objectified. But it is this exploitation that brings awareness to those who can possibly make a difference.
Is poverty porn empowering the privileged whilst exploiting the poor? There are two sides to the discussion on poverty porn; that it exploits the poor in their vulnerable state, and, that it sheds light on what needs to be known in order to make a difference.
The saviour, and those who need saving.
Considering that “Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day”, it can be conflicting for those who are privileged enough to decide where to delegate their charity. This is causing mass competition for charities to be the in support of ‘the poorest’ in order to get donations. Because essentially, that’s what they are trying to tell you, they produce their most crippling poverty porn in order to convince you that their cause is the most just, and that you are donating to the one who need it most. But even still, is this right? Is it morally right to convince an audience that your cause is most deserving even if its not? And even after all this work that has been done by organisations dedicated to helping the poor, “the data, released ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, shows the gap between richest and poorest continues to widen.”
If we were to analyse this instance of poverty porn, would you feel as though its true? Is it just? Two seemingly foreign photographers, capturing the vulnerability of poverty… As if you wouldn’t feel like an object? But the other side of the discussion argues that this is a necessary evil, and that in order to make a slow and consistent change, this is the harsh reality that we need.
I am not saying that poverty porn is all bad; yes it exploits tho poor and shows the privileged the worst side of the less fortunate, but if the privileged are never informed of the conditions and state of global poverty, then would they chose to help? Would they feel the need to help if they weren’t confronted with this kind of sympathy? It is this sympathy though, that is causing poverty porn to get more vulnerable and intrusive.
These kinds of charities evoke sympathy with their poverty porn, and this sympathy is what compels donations, making the rich feel better about themselves for donating money, as though they are a saviour and the poor are those who need saving.
Yes, poverty porn exploits the poor to the media, but until a dramatic and powerful solution is conducted, then what other choice do we have, is it not better to be aware and making small contributions than to be oblivious or for the problem to be hidden. There is much dispute over the concept of poverty porn, but the solution to poverty is not going to happen over night, and without that change, what else could be expected? “The world’s 62 richest people now own as much wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of the global population”, this statistic is crushing, but its this horror that implores devotion and help towards those who are in need.
Of course, if the option was there to end this exploitation, I am sure we would take it; but poverty is devastatingly real and enormous, there is no quick nor easy solution to bring an end to suffering.
Beresford, P 2016, ‘Presenting welfare reform: poverty porn, telling sad stories or achieving change?’, Disability & Society, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 421-425. Available from: 10.1080/09687599.2016.1173419. (Viewed 28 March 2017)
Shah, 2013, “Poverty Facts and Stats”, Global Issues, Available From: < http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats > (Viewed 28 March 2017)
Temperton, 2016, “The world’s 3.6 billion poorest people are getting poorer”, Wired, Available From: < http://www.wired.co.uk/article/global-poverty-oxfam-world-economic-forum > (Viewed 28 March 2017)
Emaily, 2014, “POVERTY PORN – EMPOWERING THE WRONG HERO”, Remedial Criticism, Available From: < https://remedialcriticism.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/poverty-porn-empowering-the-wrong-hero/ > (Viewed 28 March 2017)