It’s Mothers’ Day today. Depending on where you live, it’d be a different date. In any case, today we’re celebrating the American day for being nice to your mother once in a year.
I have great respect for working mums. I know many of you would rather be SAHMs (stay at home mums) but for whatever reason, you’re juggling both work and your kid/s.
The dream scenario, for me at least, is if I have a husband who’s rich enough to support me and the kids while I stay at home and nurture my offspring with creative experiences. Plus he should also be rich enough so that we have a maid or two to do all the household chores, including washing up after I prepare fun and nutritious Jamie Oliver-inspired meals in my Martha Stewart kitchen. This remains a pipe dream for me, and many others.
A few weeks ago, a mummy friend sent me the O&M video on Mums and Maids and asked my opinion from a journalistic perspective.
My response: It’s not journalism. It’s an ad/campaign that seeks to provoke.
And provoke it did. As I watched it, I felt my hackles raising even though I’m not a mum. I felt offended on behalf of all the mummies that are trying to do the best they can.
1. Where are the men?
As I watched, I was thinking that they’d got a really good representation of mothers, in terms of age and ethnicity/nationality. When the video ended, I was like where are the men? So you spend two minutes showing how mothers make a fool of themselves because they don’t know what their child’s favourite subject is and you allow the men to walk away. Are fathers exempt from having to bond with their kids too? The feminist in me roared: I bet it was a man who signed off on the creative.
“We focused the creative strategy on tapping into modern parents’ fear of missing out. By showing how parents are losing out on their relationship with their children by always requiring their domestic worker to be around, we reposition their day off as an opportunity to enhance family bonding,” said Eugene Cheong, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific.
Well, I was right about it being a man to sign off on the creative.
Now, the last time I checked, the term parents includes mothers and fathers. Fine, some modern families may have two mothers or two fathers, but we’re splitting hairs. The fact is the glaring omission of fathers in this unfortunate video reflects how our society’s perspectives on gender roles and equality haven’t progressed much from the Ice Age. Women are still expected to stay home and keep house while men bring back the bacon. Except that nowadays women bring back the bacon (or leg of ham) AND keep house at the same time. A little encouragement would be good.
Shame on you O&M for a creative that vilifies working mums (as though they don’t feel guilty enough). Shame on you O&M for perpetuating gender inequality by expecting mums to know all about their children while dads get away scot-free.
But I know you won’t feel ashamed because by your standards, this ad was a freaking success, having gone viral and making you really in/famous. If Amos Yee is in trouble for “wounding the feelings” of Christians, I think you should too, for wounding the feelings of women and mummies.
2. What’s the messaging, bro?
According to the logic of this video, if I give my maid a day off, I’ll be able to spend more time with my kid so that I know if she has a boyfriend (even though she’s only four!) Hello, kids don’t tell parents stuff, especially stuff that they think they might get into trouble for.
Unless I was the only troubled teen when growing up, I sure didn’t voluntarily spill out all my deep dark secrets to my parents. Like how I didn’t tell them I went to see Little Mermaid in the cinema on my first-ever date when I was 14. Except that my mum’s friend saw me in the cinema AND spilled the beans. I’ve never forgiven that kaypoh for getting my budding romance nipped. Heck, I’m 38 now and I still practise “selective speaking” with my parents.
Again, I’m not sure how capitalizing on mummy guilt will get domestic helpers their day off.
3. Fake or real
The third thing that bugged me was did the mums know how their answers were going to be used? In short, did they know they were being set up to be sitting ducks? Or were they actually actresses following a script?
Transient Workers Count Too put out a statement on its FB page:
“O&M also told us that the families portrayed in the film had participated in the film because they wanted to do their part to advocate for domestic workers’ rights.”
Yeah right. For O&M’s sake, I hope they didn’t misrepresent the purpose/style of the video when getting these mummies to do this film. In fact, there was one mum who said briefly in the video that she assumed that her face was going to be blurred out.
Whatever this video tries to portray or to achieve, I just want to wish all mummies a Happy Mothers’ Day. And for all the working mummies out there, you’re just plain awesome!