The Problems with Poverty Porn

I’m sure we’ve all seen commercials on TV or adds on social media that depict thin, emaciated kids, a row of small, run-down houses, or homeless people begging on the streets. This is known as poverty porn. Poverty porn is defined as “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”. Poverty porn was introduced in the 1980s when charity campaigns became popular. Organizers of these campaigns found the most heart wrenching photos and videos to show to the audiences to generate sympathy and increase donations. While poverty porn has been successful in helping to raise more money for people who are in need, it also has its faults. Many people argue that poverty porn is inappropriate in many ways.

First of all, it can be seen as an invasion of privacy. No, American people who see poverty porn will probably never cross paths with the people in the photos, however that’s not the point. If any of us were in that position, we wouldn’t want our face to be broadcast all over the world. It is just simply not right to exploit people because of their circumstances to make money – even if that money is supposed to help them. There are other ways to make money. Second of all, poverty porn creates stereotypes. For example, there is a stereotype of the starving African. For some people, poverty porn is the only exposure to Africa that they have. When this is the case, it can lead someone to believe that everyone in Africa is starving and poverty stricken, and living with false stereotypes like that can cause problems. There are no doubt lots of people in this world that need help, however exploiting them and turning them into puppets that charities play with the create sympathy is probably not the best way to help them.