The Spectacle of the “Third World Girl” and the Politics of Rescue
In this chapter, I ask what are the risks of the stories MHM tells about girls’ lives? I assert that MHM’s tendency to “spectacularize” the implications of what’s considered “poor” MHM is reflective of the Western imaginary of the “third world girl”—a flattened, overly simplified unitary subject that lacks agency. Intended to generate empathy and build cross-cultural support, MHM campaign discourse, through the use of this trope, may ironically further the distance between those in the Global North and Global South. I suggest that many of the stories of MHM are “feminist fables” following Cornwall et al. (2008)—representations that resonate with Western assumptions about life in the Global South, promulgate geopolitical hierarchies, and authorize “rescue” by well-meaning “saviors” in the shape of a narrow set of interventions. This, in short, is the problem with the problem frame advanced by advocates of MHM.
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