PLAN’s campaign reproduces the problematic imagery of a “white savior”
The antiracist research network RASTER has challenged ETMU to take a stance towards the campaign of PLAN International Finland, where a 12-year old pregnant Zambian girl is featured in fashion photographs. The campaign has been criticized for spreading colonial representations (see, for example, the campaign by SahWira Africa International, the statements by RASTER and the Association for Gender Studies, and the YLE news story on the topic). ETMU shares this critique and supports SahWira Africa International, who has brought problems related to PLAN’s campaign to the public.
Through the photographs, the body of a young pregnant girl becomes visual content for the Finnish audience. The PLAN campaign has been published on YouTube as well; thus, the images spread beyond Finland and the Finnish context. The campaign is problematic especially because it uncritically reproduces power hierarchies in which Finns are “white saviors” who save African girls from their own culture. White Finns have the power to decide how the girl is portrayed, and they also define the terms of the campaign as well as the actions that are most effective in preventing pregnancy among African girls. The pictures renew colonial representations, where the racialized body is a sexualized object of a white gaze.
ETMU would like to thank RASTER for this challenge and encourage other scientific societies, such as the Society for Cultural Studies in Finland and the Finnish Society for Childhood Studies, to continue the discussion.
Campaign material by PLAN International Finland