Experiencing the “worst period of her life” : A critical analysis of women´s portrayal in humanitarian aid campaigns
Sammanfattning: Women and children are often the focus of humanitarian aid campaigns, generally considered to be the main victims of humanitarian emergencies. Previous research has explored the portrayal of victims within humanitarian action, focusing on humanitarian images, and how humanitarianism portrays the refugee. There is not, however, a lot of research that focuses on the humanitarian aid campaigns themselves, and not either on women´s victimisation specifically. This thesis thus makes a contribution to research by conducting a critical analysis of women´s portrayal in humanitarian aid campaigns, asking the research question of how women in the Democratic Republic of Congo are portrayed in humanitarian aid campaigns, with a broader aim of examining why humanitarian aid campaigns are gender based. I argue in this thesis through a single within case study that the empirical case “The worst period of her life” campaign created by ActionAid UK victimises women by associating women´s dignity with menstrual health, appealing to donors through the common hardships of menstruation, and picturing women as passive victims. The woman is portrayed as someone who is not capable of action, requiring external intervention. Using Agamben´s framework of “bare life” and homo sacer, this thesis concludes that women´s portrayal in the “The worst period of her life” campaign reduces the female victim to the realm of “bare life”. The already disadvantageous position that women have in the broader societal structure is reinforced by removing their agency in humanitarian aid campaigns. The results thus highlight problematic factors of women´s portrayal in humanitarian aid campaigns, opening for further research on the implications of the victimisation of women within humanitarian action.
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