White “Barbie Savior” Underscores The Problem With Voluntourism

First, we had hipster Barbie. Now, we have Barbie Savior, an Instagram account spoofing the trend of "voluntourism" in Sub-Saharan Africa. The phenomenon has been dubbed the "White Savior Industrial Complex."
In the pictures, Barbie acts out the stereotypes of white westerners “discovering” Africa for the first time. She calls Africa a country, shows little understanding of the culture, and is really invested in getting that perfect shot for social media. As her bio says, “It's not about me...but it kind of is.”
The Huffington Post reports that the account is the creation of two twentysomething white women. “The attitude that Africa needs to be saved from itself, by Westerners, can be traced back to colonialism and slavery. It’s such a simplified way to view an entire continent,” they told HuffPo in an email. The women have chosen not to disclose their identities, but they reportedly identify as “former white saviors” themselves.
The cluelessness of the people being parodied by the account is admittedly funny, but Quartz points out how that well-meaning ignorance can go wrong. These kinds of volunteer experiences can range from ineffectual to harmful: Some orphanages have even been found to intentionally keep conditions as dismal as possible in order to attract more volunteers. The account's creators told Huffington Post that while they do want Barbie Savior to make people laugh, they also hope it can stimulate some real discussions about these issues.

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