The Mystification of Poverty: Or the IMF and World Bank’s Poverty Monster

September 24th, 2011

Dear IMF and World Bank,

I saw this on the side of the World Bank yesterday and I had to take a picture of it and pose a few questions to you.  Why is it little girls’ responsibility to fight the “poverty monster”?  And you do realize that poverty isn’t a monster, right?  It’s real.

Why are you mystifying the processes of economic exploitation and colonialism–the things that produce poverty in the first place–through the production of this type of imagery?  And why do women have to do everything?  Are men going to take up some responsibilities now that women and girls are going to school?  Where’s that campaign?

Am I suggesting that little girls shouldn’t have access to education?  No, I’m not.  I’m just asking if you really think that more Westernized education does anything for them other than make them better resources from which to extract labor and capital in this global economy where the wealthiest 1% tell us where, how, and what to do to make them more money.

Poverty is not a hairy four eyed monster and no amount of reading can cause it to end if the people who help to perpetuate it, like yourselves, don’t stop making it out to be this thing that we can just end with through the “power of our minds.”

I’m not Jean Grey or Professor Charles Xavier, and neither are little girls in Sudan.

We can’t make people do things with the power of our minds.  As many people of color who are continually discriminated against in the workforce (and in comic books) can attest, it doesn’t always matter if you graduate from college (or have super powers), you can still be unemployed, disempowered, and completely disillusioned in the current global economy.  A systemic shift in the way that capital and labor are distributed needs to be the way to end poverty because little girls of color, they aren’t superheros.  They can’t make it rain…

Only Storm can do that… and she’s not real.

One Love,
“Doctor” Lane

P.S. A poverty monster? Who came up with that?  Bad idea.

2 replies
  1. Kanika says:

    Yo, this is right on– and there are definitely a number of development anthropologists who have criticized the World Bank’s “Investing in women is smart economics” line for similar reasons. Also, I just finished the first chapter of “Poor Economics” by MIT economists Duflo and Banerjee and their argument is somewhat akin to yours– but fewer references to X-Men, unfortunately.

  2. Julie says:

    thank you Dr. Lane. I am so tired of women carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. And advertising that portrays young women does not change the social norms and current state of affairs that women bear the hugest burden of making health choices, 2nd shift duties, earn less and face the Madonna-Whore complex or worse yet, the Mammy-Jezebel dichotomy. I’m tired of this b.s.

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