Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

“Saviour Barbie” is mocking gap year travellers on Instagram

barbie 2.JPG

We get the icons we deserve, and today, nothing seals a stereotype like a parody Barbie Instagram account. Last year, Socality Barbie nailed the glossy-haired hipsters whose Pinterest-worthy social media posts make you feel bad about your own sloppy life:

socality

And now, we have Savior Barbie, a pitch-perfect takedown of the gap year traveller who manages to make their volunteer work in a developing country all about them – with the help of a few Instagram filters, some tactless “inspirational” quotes, and the hashtag #blessed.

In her bio, Savior Barbie describes herself as being all about “Jesus. Adventures. Africa. Two worlds. One love. Babies. Beauty. Not qualified. Called. 20 years young. It's not about me... but it kind of is.”

The account is aimed at young, Christian Americans going on volunteering missions to African countries, and it's undeniably hilarious. But it also taps into the broader trend – and important issue – of young, privileged Westerners breezing into disadvantaged communities, spending a couple of weeks building an orphanage or teaching English, and sailing away again. 

When done right, volunteering can be a powerful tool. A 2015 study of 3,700 participants from four different countries found that volunteers can be an effective means of reaching poor and vulnerable communities, while also giving them access to valuable public services and fostering a spirit of altruism within the communities themselves. 

But when done Savior Barbie-style, this kind of “voluntourism” can do more harm than good – as well as being teeth-grindingly irritating when it’s clogging up your news feed.

It makes sense when you think about it. An inexperienced student with no real practical skills is unlikely to be the most useful person in the world: one former boarding school student who volunteered in a Tanzanian village as a teenager has described how, after she and her classmates attempted to build a school, local men would spend every night redoing their shoddy construction work. The very presence of volunteers can mean that local workers are prevented from getting much-needed jobs, while local children can also be left traumatised after forming emotional attachments to volunteers who only stay for a couple of weeks.

The account was created five weeks ago by two white twenty-something women, and already has over 7,000 followers. Its anonymous creators once volunteered in East Africa themselves, and describe themselves as former “white saviors”. 

“We were never as ‘savioresque’ as Barbie Savior, but we did things back in our White Savior days that we regret,” they told The Huffington Post. “It really just started as a joke between us, a way to get some of these things off of our chest. Its hard to pinpoint the irony at times in real life... the wildly self-centered person veiled as the self-sacrificing saint.”

“The attitude that Africa needs to be saved from itself, by Westerners, can be traced back to colonialism and slavery,” they added. “It’s such a simplified way to view an entire continent.”

Related

hipster barbie.JPG

'My work here is done.' Hipster Barbie parody account quits Instagram

aaiaj858_rt.jpg

Food writer Yasmin Khan shows a side of Iran rarely seen in the news

Sally Nixon 11.jpg

These illustrations beautifully capture women's everyday lives

hipster-barbie.jpg

Barbie account mocks the picture perfect lifestyle snaps of Instagram

ONLINE_ARTICLE.jpg

This is what 30 looks like to women across the world

Air steward.JPG

Five secrets you never knew about flying

travel before kids.jpg

18 travel experiences to enjoy before you have children

iStock_000087418675_Large.jpg

Going veggie could save the planet and millions of lives

green_backgroundblueshoe_rt.jpg

Lupita Nyong’o on self-belief, family and The Jungle Book

Comments

More

The world's first hot air balloon bar is coming to the UK

Get ready for some sky-high drinking

by Sarah Biddlecombe
24 May 2017

All the best ways to indulge your love of gin around the UK

Safaris, festivals, teas and tours to get your juniper on

by Amy Swales
24 May 2017

The time of day has a very real effect on what we want to binge-watch

Light in the morning, darkness at night

by Moya Crockett
24 May 2017

Sunshine could help ease chronic period pain, suggests study

A link has been found between vitamin D, aka the 'sunshine vitamin', and reduced cramps

by Moya Crockett
24 May 2017

Piers Morgan’s ‘hate-mongering’ is expertly shut down on live TV

When Morgan began airing his views about the Manchester attack, Sally Dynevor made it her mission to shut him down

by Kayleigh Dray
24 May 2017

Sara Rowbotham finally makes her voice heard on First Dates

The Rochdale sexual health worker broke down on the Channel 4 dating show

by Kayleigh Dray
24 May 2017

“A teenage girl's first concert should be a rite of passage”

“And, last night it was snatched from their innocent hands”

by Lucy Foster
23 May 2017

Manchester attack: how you can help

The ways you can support the victims, survivors and investigation

by Amy Swales
23 May 2017

The entertainment world reacts to the Manchester terror attack

Tributes have poured in from stars across the globe following the tragedy

by Joe Ellison
23 May 2017

Manchester attack: the woman who heroically protected over 50 children

Paula Robinson has been praised for her heroism on social media

by Kayleigh Dray
23 May 2017