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A picture is worth a thousand words, but what if those words are wrong?

June 5, 2011

Over on his blog, Shaun Groves posted an entry the other day with the title “Filipino For Kitchen” and the following picture:

The words generalizing and stereotyping come to mind. So, I decided to comment on it, but my comment never got approved. My comment was not inflammatory, divisive, or mean. I have decided to post it below because I feel like the conversation still needs to take place.

This was my comment:

I understand the reason you posted this picture. You want people to grasp the poverty that people deal with in the Philippines and to see how hard life is for others. However, I have a couple of problems with how you presented this picture.

First, you titled it “Filipino For Kitchen” which leads one to think that everyone in the Philippines lives this way, that everyone in the Philippines is poor, has nothing, and needs our help. But that is just not true. Not everyone in the Philippines is poor and destitute. There is a range across the country and you cannot generalize and say that everyone lives this way.

Second, pictures like this continue to put forward the stereotypes of extremes and while these extremes do exist, poverty does not just exist in the extremes. Showing extremes like this all the times leads to stereotyping of the developing world. We use these pictures to evoke emotion and provoke people into action, which is a noble ideal, but there has to be a better way of doing it.

I am not saying that this was your intention. I am just saying that we need to be more careful with how we present and frame things, because it affects people’s perceptions and views of others. And if we have the wrong perceptions of others then we are likely to do more harm than good in trying to help them.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. paul crites permalink
    June 5, 2011 8:27 pm

    spot on.. Here in Guatemala I encounter this A LOT. Good eye Jon.

  2. July 1, 2011 8:56 am

    Well said. I just found your blog via Women of the Harvest, as one of the authors recommended it. I’ll be back.

    • July 1, 2011 10:32 am

      I’m glad that you liked the post and will be back

  3. Anonymous permalink
    October 18, 2011 2:48 am

    WOW THAT IS SO TRUE PICTURES LIKE THIS DO MAKE PEOPLE START STEREOTYPING OTHERS…HOW SAD THE WORLD THAT WE LIVE IN SILENCE IS GOLDEN PEOPLE….

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