Letter from Singapore: Votes for girls

Votes for girls
This month, Singaporeans have been casting their ballots. 

I’m not talking about the snap general election that happened on September 11th (the ruling party won, you won’t be surprised to hear). I’m talking about the Alamak! Awards, which asks the general public to vote for their ‘favourite sexists’ of 2015. 

The Alamak! Awards are an annual initiative driven by women’s group AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research). The candidates usually include politicians, business leaders and of course brand advertisers. The winners will be announced on 7th November. 

This year the contenders for this dubious honour include an array of mind-bogglingly bigoted comments from various politicians during the General Election; a tasteless ‘bust enhancement’ ad, a burger stall called ‘Jack the Ripper’ that has named all of its burgers after murdered prostitutes, and a TVC by Ogilvy & Mather. 

The last nominee has been the subject of much controversy since it first aired in April this year as part of a campaign encouraging Singaporeans to give their maids (known as ‘foreign domestic workers’) one day off a week – a right they are not guaranteed under Singaporean law. According to the Straits Times, more than half of the 206,000 foreign domestic workers employed in Singapore do not enjoy a regular day off. 

Ogilvy’s ad was aimed at influencing public opinion. It’s certainly an urgently required campaign. Unfortunately, the strategy was to vilify mothers and excuse fathers from any involvement in parenting. You can view the ad’s ghastly message here: 

I’m confident that had the ‘Bic for Her’ range been launched in Singapore it would have been triumphantly victorious in the Alamak! Awards. If you’re bored, the Amazon reviews for this bizarre product are an excellent way to take your mind off how much better your maid knows your kids that you do. 

Past winners of the Alamak! Awards (which is an expression of exasperation in Malay) can be seen here. You can also cast your votes. 

Katie Ewer is strategy director at JKR. Read more from her here.