During this lockdown, the most contentious issue has been the issue around non-availability of maids, but having to pay them full salaries. It is strange that we are so averse to doing our own work. And it is stranger that some of us have to think twice before paying them their full salaries while a full fledged pandemic is engulfing us. As there have been heart-warming stories of support for them there have been some cringe-worthy conversations and all of us are aware of them. However, recently, a popular healthcare products and home appliances brand has taken this issue a step further and put out a new ad for its atta maker and bread maker which is anti-domestic helpers, to say the least. The ad says, “Are you allowing your maid to knead the atta dough by hand? Her hands may be infected. Choose Kent atta maker and dough maker for hands-free kneading of the dough. Let automation take care of hygiene this time!”
The framing by Kent is most disappointing, on multiple levels 🙁 Can't the house help wash her hands? Very badly articulated reason-to-buy. pic.twitter.com/WDCeC94i0h
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) May 26, 2020
I would love automation to take over a few chores, but don’t you think it is needless to blame the poor maid? She is not coming to her job, we have asked her not to, her husband is jobless and some of them are even walking the length and breadth of the country to reach their homes in places which have been further ravaged by a dreadful cyclone!
There has been severe social media backlash and the ad has now been removed from the company Twitter page. Today an official statement of apology has also been issued.
I wrote to Mr. Mahesh Gupta, CMD of @KentROSystems last evening, requesting him to take this ad. down. Today an official statement of apology has been issued, a copy of which I just received. We all make mistakes, but few own up to it. @ndcnn @thesatbir @beastoftraal @SandipGhose pic.twitter.com/4wL0VrP3aa
— Sanjay (Nick) Sarma (@NickSarma) May 27, 2020
The brand in question is also endorsed by actor Hema Malini. So, the most important question here is how did no one put their hand up to object to this copy before it was put out for public consumption? How can people in the name of creativity write such stuff and push it out for the world to see it?
Don’t you think it is needless to blame the poor maid? She is not coming to her job, we have asked her not to, her husband is jobless and some of them are even walking the length and breadth of the country to reach their homes.
While everybody is experimenting with how the post corona world will look like when we start coming out of the lockdown, brands too are reinventing themselves to be more appealing to the buyers and throwing at us products which were not part of our lives thus far. However, let us not look away from the fact that the underprivileged section of the society is really struggling, let us not put the onus of our health on them. They are more cautious about health, safety and even reproduction and do not shy away from asking questions if you are willing to answer.
And why are we assuming that the domestic helpers are the ones with questionable hygiene levels? Remember, it is a viral infection and it was the more privileged globe trotters amongst us who got the disease first in the country and passed it on to them. The blatant dehumanisation of the domestic helpers and the onus of them being clean being on the employers, has been taking over various WhatsApp chat groups that I am part of. I find them cringeworthy. As a working woman, I am indebted to them for cooking, cleaning, feeding, and taking care of my household including my kid while I can focus on my work. And they have done it efficiently.
And why are we assuming that the domestic helpers are the ones with suspect hygiene levels? Remember, it is a viral infection and it was the more privileged globe trotters amongst us who got the disease first in the country and passed it on to them.
I think currently they have a lot more at stake than us, otherwise, no one would choose to live out the pandemic on a road. At least we have the atta to make a dough! Many of them don’t.
The views expressed are the author’s own.