The satirical Instagram account of White Savior Barbie traipsing through Africa, holding African babies, and taking “slumfies“ is attracting a growing and loyal following. Many followers are people who have worked in aid or development and have similar questions about volunteer work on the continent. The creators of the account, who declined to give their names, answered a few questions by email about their motivations in creating Savior Barbie.
What was the inspiration for the Instagram account? Is there a point you’d like to make with it?
At this point, we just want Barbie Savior to be a topic of discussion in terms of what is and isn’t appropriate behavior abroad. It seems almost rude or harsh to question a well-intentioned person’s motives or actions.
But the reality is, when other people’s lives are at stake, it’s only fair that these questions are brought up and that people are held accountable for their actions. We think that many of the types of behavior that have been so positively reinforced without question by the public need to start being challenged.
You are both 20-something Caucasian women who have worked in East Africa. Can you tell us more about your experiences in this field?
Between the two of us, we have over a decade of studying, volunteering, and working abroad. We both, in the past and currently, hold full times jobs in areas that provide healthcare, social work, human services, etc. We aren’t saying “Don’t help others.” We are just trying to engage in a conversation about how best to help others.
Why do you want to remain anonymous?
We want to stay anonymous for several reasons, but the major one is because we don’t think it’s necessary to know who is presenting these ideas. This takes away from the real conversation, the real issues. Our story is not special in any way from many other peoples’ stories. It’s clear that the issue being presented resonates with people, and we want to keep it that way. Also, the anonymity helps propel the account. It’s more relatable when you don’t know who is behind it.
Are you surprised by the reception Barbie Savior has gotten?
Yes, we are quite surprised. We started this account as a joke between the two of us, and then it went completely viral. We have followers from, it seems, all over the world. We have received feedback along the lines of, “I thought I was the only one who thought this wasn’t okay.” That leads us to think that addressing this issue was a long time coming.