Emily Tan
Apr 24, 2015

'Mums and maids' ad called out for shaming mothers, ignoring dads

SINGAPORE - The cause is one most agree with: Give maids the legally mandated time off they deserve. But the method by which the ad makes its point has drawn considerable controversy among mothers in both Singapore and in Hong Kong.

'Mums and maids' ad called out for shaming mothers, ignoring dads

The ad, which debuted yesterday, pitched moms against their maids in a quiz about the child they both care for. In each instance, the maid's answers corresponded with the child's while the mothers were left looking clueless.

Well filmed and presented, down to the heart-stirring soundtrack, the poignant ad has drawn support for the cause it champions. Many commenters have said they love that it draws attention to the need for mothers to spend more time with their children and for maids to be given more time off. 

However quite a few have raised some valid points about the ad's decision to shame these mothers publicly.

Perhaps most valid of the questions asked online is: Where are the dads? Why are only moms called to task and held responsible? Are working dads not expected to spend time with their children? 

On a private mummy forum in Hong Kong, another mother pointed out that the ad had edited out responses that the mothers had gotten correct. A stat presented in the ad said that 74 per cent of maids gave more accurate answers than the mothers, so some mothers must have answered the questions correctly. 

One could also question why, instead of highlighting the plight of the foreign domestic workers, the ad chose to shame working mothers—most of whom work out of necessity, not out of desire.

On a private Hong Kong mother's forum, Jolene Otremba, who gave permission for us to use her comment, wrote:

"I think it's a terrible ad too. I'm a stay at home mum and look after both kids myself. In fact, only hubby and I have ever given my kids bath / bedtime, etc... But we are the few lucky and blessed ones, where we don't need both incomes. Many families do. While the message is about giving days off, it does a poor job because the focus is on guilting working mums for not knowing their kids. It's downright mean."

(Full disclosure: Otremba is a former Campaign Asia-Pacific editor)

Furthermore, even if the mothers did know their children better, it wouldn't negate the maids' right to time off, another commenter on YouTube noted.  

Finally, several commenters have pointed out that the maids themselves wouldn't be able to answer the questions about their own children because they too, are working moms. 

An opinion piece in Sassy Mama Singapore asks many of the same questions about the ad. 

Campaign Asia-Pacific approached the agency behind the ad, Ogilvy Singapore, for comment. The agency's only response is:

"We are glad to see that the film is attracting attention and raising awareness of the issue of worker rights. Our mission is to bring the problem to light, get people talking and ultimately change behavior. There will be many opinions on the video, but the important thing is to focus on the end goal—making sure domestic workers have a weekly day off."

On behalf of the client, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), an Ogilvy spokesperson referred to a press release it issued yesterday which stated:

"The underlying theme of O&M’s film seeks to convince employers to give domestic workers their day off by showing that the domestic workers’ absence is not an inconvenience, but an opportunity for parents (represented by mothers for stylistic consistency) to bond with their children.

"While that is true, TWC2’s belief is that a day off is a basic right any worker should have, independent of and separate from such a functional motivation of their employers. We would add that family bonding is the responsibility of both parents.

"This is a provocative video that will arouse debate. We at TWC2 hope it will contribute to a constructive re-examination of employers’ relationship with their domestic workers."


Update, 27 April: This morning TWC2 released a statement via its Facebook page discussing the ad and the reactions to it. In the statement, TWC2 president Noorashikin Abdul Rahman stands by the campaign, saying: "Four days after its launch, the campaign video has reached more than 2.6 million viewers worldwide…. Never has the issue of domestic workers' right to a day off been discussed on this scale and generated so much buzz. This is what we hoped for when we lent our support to the campaign."


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