When Will We Learn? The Problem with Too Much Privilege.
Last week, you may have seen a popular high street supermarket release a new campaign under the hashtag #PoorestDayChallenge. If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t guessed what it may involve, an influencer was paid an undisclosed amount (probably quite high based on their numbers) to shop at said supermarket with a budget of £25 a week (which was to feed a family of four).
I imagine, at the time of discussing it around the meeting room table, the aim of the campaign was to raise awareness about saving money towards the end of the month, or to highlight the struggles some families face, whatever. However, with inclusion of the hashtag, it very quickly became a conversation of poverty porn. See, rather than hiring an actual money saving influencer or asking a well-known chef who’s published books on making meals on a budget, they chose a middle-class influencer and, basically, asked them to pretend to be poor for the duration of the campaign.
After the initial outrage regarding the #PovertyPorn, to which I won’t go into as this isn’t what this post is about, I became increasingly aware of the initial comments below the Instagram post. Ones completely ignorant to the issue in front of them. Keen on “the findings” and congratulating said influencer on their work. It was quite sickening and, yet again, marginalised communities (and people who genuinely struggle to feed their families!) had to explain the issue.
Being quite partial to the occasional scrolling of social media, I often come across adverts and campaigns involving big name brands and influencers. When I do, I always try and support a (well disclosed) #AD when I see one, however this will often come with a caveat. That the campaign is well-thought out and/or inclusive.
You, therefore, probably won’t be surprised to hear that over the past year alone I’ve seen several campaigns and ambassadorships with an all white, cis-gendered, straight group of people representing the brand at the same time we’re talking about a lack of diversity in influencer marketing. I’ve seen influencers advertise big name supermarkets as they produce little bits of collectable plastic at a time when we’re talking about the planet, and I’ve seen high street clothing shops ‘make pretty’ the topic of breast cancer when, actually, there’s absolutely nothing pretty about cancer (they also could have used models who have or have had cancer!).
The list of poorly thought out campaigns is endless, as are the people jumping at the chance to be in them, not to mention the comments of support when they finally go live. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting adverts, however when people who should know better by now can’t see the issue or refuse to challenge the topic, or raise the issue then here lies the problem yet again.
The advertising industry is worth trillions of dollars, therefore there is no excuse for a lack of inclusion or eco-friendly products, for example. Not only that, but subjects such as poverty, the environment, and diversity are all well-discussed topics right now. So why are we still missing the mark?
Privilege & Ignorance.
Being an LGBTQ+ blogger, I talk A LOT about inclusion and diversity in my child’s books, and their television and film, not to mention in influencer marketing. It’s not acceptable in this day and age that campaigns still feature a primarily white, middle class, straight group of people. It does not represent today’s society and it’s certainly not forward thinking.
You’d think, therefore, by now that the people I am having these conversations with would think of our previous conversation when they receive an email to an event or ambassadorship. Likewise, you’d think that going on the fact that the environment is spoken about on a daily basis, people wouldn’t agree to work on or support a campaign that involves single use plastic! These are the same people sharing their hash-tagged sorrow when children are documented to be living in Poverty but excited by the outcome of a middle-class influencer pretending to be poor. You really want to face-palm sometimes. My eyes hurt from all the eye rolling.
In no time at all, these so called ‘woke’ people, talking of how they’re “going to do better” – sharing images of their t-shirt feminism – are no where to be seen when the next invite or campaign comes rolling in. It’s so tiring.
Although I come from a marginalised community, I also have my own privilege. I’m able-bodied, I’m cis-gendered, and white. Therefore, when someone told me that the use of black people in GIF’s was offensive, as it’s no different to using black-face, I immediately stopped using them. When people raised awareness of the issue around not captioning my stories I started adding captions to my Instagram stories and even went one further and started adding alt-text to the images on my grid. It took no time at all to change my attitude and it meant to world to another community. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.
So, why can’t everyone do the same? No one is asking for perfection. I’ve forgotten to caption my stories a few times (and apologised after) and I’m pretty sure I’ve bought a plastic bottle of water when at a petrol station. But at least I’m trying 90% of the time.
It is so incredibly exhausting when you’re having the same conversations with the same people who seem so blind by their own privilege. I don’t know whether they just don’t care about other communities or they’re just that ignorant that they don’t think of other people, or realise what effect their words and actions have on people. I’m starting to think it’s the former, because the information and awareness is out there!
Yes, there is a lot of expectation put on the privileged to do better, I do understand that and it can be hard, but unfortunately if you’re in a position of privilege then that comes with some form responsibility. The same way if you have a platform with a large following. If you are cashing in on your audience when you’re ‘influencing’ them to buy something, then you can ‘influence’ them to do better. If you’re privileged enough not to worry about the effects of an election, then you should vote on behalf of those that it will affect.
For me, it’s easy. I mute and unfollow people if people’s actions don’t align with my beliefs – they don’t deserve the space on my feed – but for one of me there are dozens more sticking around; listening and absorbing their words, and this is where the danger now sits.
If you’ve made it this far on this mind-dump of a post, please. Do better. Be Better. I am a firm believer that if we all did a little something then it would create waves elsewhere. Like I said before, we’re not expecting perfection, but conscious (and regular) changes are better than none or when it’s popular or trendy to do so.