I think Laura Agustín’s post about Nicholas Kristof’s Half the Sky documentary (trailer below) is an interesting read. Read it here: “Kristof’s Paternalistic Smarm: the Soft Side of Imperialism redux”
I also had a hard time watching the PBS documentary. Aside from my general uneasiness when men talk to women about “how hard it must be for you,” media is a tricky thing. On one hand I think it’s a good thing that anyone (Kristof or Agustín) is telling that story, as skewed as the perspective may be. On the other hand… all the things she wrote about.
The key is promoting discussion, which posts like this prove it accomplished, in some small way. What I really wish is that writers like Kristof were more explicit in their framing of the debate and that consumers of media would see documentaries as jumping boards for larger conversations, as opposed to passive media to be consumed and filed away as unbending truth.
There are bigger issues at play about how we (the west, white people, media spectators, the internet) can participate in helping the people who want to be helped (from poverty, sex work, disease, low wages, you-name-it) without falling into centuries of our own unpleasant cultural muck in the process. In Epstein’s “The Invisible Cure,” she talks about the gross misuse of AIDS funding spent in eastern Africa creating western style hospitals, overhead, travel, and buying state of the art equipment - when the best care was given in homes and small scale centers with budget-limited control measures. It’s a similar problem faced with trafficking. How to help without some kind of culture translation? And who’s translation to trust?
Gabe Scelta is the Innovation Director at Ethicodes and Research Associate at the Ethiopian Global Initiative. A fellow at the Emerge Venture Lab, Gabe’s deep knowledge of the technology industry keeps Ethicodes pushing the frontiers of the fair trade industry. He holds a master’s degree from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and a bachelor’s degree from Boston University. He lives in New York City.