“Othering” Language akin to Poverty Porn: Is Your Nonprofit Guilty?

“Poverty porn” refers to the use of pictures, video, the written word, and other forms of communication to present participant stories through a victimizing lens. These elicit feelings of pity and motivate donors to give. These media show helpless, passive victims just waiting for someone to rescue them.

While dehumanizing language may bring in funding, it does a disservice to the participants and the donors who support these nonprofits. From the participant end, calling someone “disabled,” “homeless,” or “obese” reduces an entire human—with many skills, talents, likes and dislikes—to a single dimension. It strips individuals of the agency to make choices that improve their situation. This language keeps people stuck in the status quo: If a person’s identity is tied to being homeless, who are they when they find housing?

Sheela Nimishakavi discusses this issue and how language forms an important aspect in humanising individuals and empowering them rather than victimising them.

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/othering-language-akin-poverty-porn-nonprofit-guilty/

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