Mercy


Abuse against domestic help, maids, drivers, etc, exists globally. In our November issue of Design magazine, we tried to address the issue locally by running a public awareness campaign by Full Stop advertising about the mistreatment of drivers. It created quite a bit of controversy. The ad depicted a well-dressed clean shaven driver, with horse tackle in his mouth being steered by a veiled Arab woman, who is obviously supposed to be Saudi.

The reins dehumanize the driver, while the woman, masked behind huge sunglasses remove her from any direct responsibility for her inhumane actions.

Do we dehumanize others because we ourselves feel the victims of such practice? Are drivers bearing the brunt of our frustrations because we feel removed from exercising choice in mobility? Was this a fair depiction of female frustration manifesting itself or are these reins perhaps visually suggestive of how some of us feel the impulse to behave sometimes, even though we wouldn’t dare?

Responses varied among peers. Among the different extremes were those who thought the ad was too severe and portrayed Saudi women in a negative light, to those that applauded its bravado for drawing attention to an issue that reflects poorly on our social civility. The objective of the campaign was to incite a realistic dialogue on what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what we can do to proactively respond to it.

Reader’s Response:

The view of the President of a Jeddah based

Saudi human resources company

expressed:

The point is that this exists, but the ad stereotyped all Saudi women as mistreating their drivers. Is this true? Do all Saudi women mistreat theirdrivers? And what about Saudi men for that matter? Don’t they too havedrivers? The image of the woman should have been blurred as to draw thefocus to the mistreatment of drivers, instead of those who do the mistreating.

Because you can’t pinpoint the mistreatment of drivers to Saudi women only, the fact is it happens everywhere and that should be the focus and theissue. The focus should be on humanity and the respect for it.

الرَحْمَة

Discussion with the President of a Jeddah-based construction agreed that:

If you look at the ad and you get deeply offended, it must be touching a chord deep with in you; perhaps you are, then, one of the offenders.

Author’s response: Some people may look at the ad, and feel somehow that they’ve been violated. I’m no psychologist, but this reaction most likely stems from one of two sentiments: on the one hand, the ad effectively speaks to the minority of those who mistreat their drivers.

This ad may then work to ostracize them and their behaviour, and point them out as to deter them from continuing to engage in such practices.

On the other hand, the ad speaks to those who feel violated for other reasons. They agree that domestic help abuse is pervasive, although they themselves may not be guilty of such behaviour, but they feel they’ve been grouped together with those that do, since the ad does portray Saudi women as the offenders. There are various creative ways the ad could have been executed and we apologize for those who may feel offended by the ad. Yet, it can’t be denied that the campaign has achieved its goal; we have now started a dialogue on the issue. And, again, hopefully such dialogue will start to shift attitudes and behaviours towards the positive.

President of a Jeddah-based technology company:

It’s a very effective ad, but I it could have been executed better. It represented a specific class of Saudi society, those who drive nice cars, whose drivers wear nice thobes, etc. It didn’t really encompass all segments of society, although it was meant to.

Author’s Closing:

Public awareness campaigns are positioned to target minority segments of society on a particular issue. Our campaign focused on reaching out to the segment that does dehumanize their domestic help. These social problems do exist; read any newspaper, any human rights report on labour in the Kingdom, and they are rife with stories of the mistreatment of domestic help. Public awareness campaigns are an effective way of addressing these issues, while creating a constructive dialogue.

In design, the creative message is just as important as the moral one. We agree that there are many ways in which this ad could have been delivered, but while embracing creative diversity, let’s not condone moral atrocity. Abuse exists…here, there, everywhere. Let›s talk about it, with one creative campaign at a time.

Author’s response:

This is a very valid point and draws out an interesting question:

who should the emphasis be on? Those people who are guilty of mistreating? But, are those people all the same, or are there different types and classes of people who are equally guilty of this behaviour ?I think, in this respect, the ad was trying to consternate reactions to the ad, whether good or bad, and categorize the people doing the mistreating – in this case, Saudi women – and start a dialogue about the issue. Soon, the ad won’t be about ‘oh, they portrayed Saudi women negatively,’ and it will hopefully be more about ‘hey, these people [drivers] are vulnerable and they are getting seriously mistreated every single day. This is a problem and it has to stop!


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