Why the #worldstoughestjob viral ad is offensive and regressive

<i></i>

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Cha-Ching!

The hands down winner of the most successful Mother’s Day marketing campaign so far goes to greeting card company American Greetings for it’s #WorldsToughestJob video.

The video – which has so far infected 8.5 million viewers – has been declared by many on social media to be the best video they’ve ever seen. It’s guaranteed to reduce you to a puddle of tears.

It made me want to cry too – but probably for completely different reasons to those who are gushing over it. Put politely, it’s one of the most manipulative, and guilt-inducing representations of motherhood I’ve seen in a long time.

The video starts out as a series of job interviews for candidates applying for the position of Director of Operations.

The interviewer relays the job description to the horror and disbelief of the candidates.

‘This job requires that you will be able to work standing up most or all of the time.’ says the interviewer.  ‘Constantly on your feet, constantly bending over, constantly exerting yourself. A high level of stamina.’

He tells the candidates that they’ll be required to work between 135 hours to unlimited hours a week with no breaks and for no pay.

As you can imagine the job candidates, who reportedly believed they were responding to a legitimate job advertisement, go from interested to incredulous.

‘Is that even legal?’ says one candidate.

Another candidate: ‘That’s almost cruel. That’s almost a very, very sick twisted joke.’

Another candidate: ‘That’s inhumane. 

Cue tear-jerking music.

‘What if I told you that there is currently someone who holds this position now? Billions of people actually,’ said the interviewer. ‘And they meet every requirement.’

When the candidates discover that the job description is for a mother they all declare their love for their mums and it’s suggested that ‘This Mother’s Day you might want to make her a card.’

Well, that’s that sorted then. If only a card could solve the hole in the ozone layer or global poverty as well.

It’s great to see people appreciating their mothers. And there’s no doubt that most mothers do a fantastic job and are deserving of gratitude and recognition.

What they don’t need is images of motherhood that romantisise perfection and reinforce the idea that all this un-paid, and often under-valued, work is fine so long as someone throws a cheap piece of folded cardboard your way once a year.

The video reinforces the stereotype that all mothers – well one’s deserving of a Mother’s Day card anyway – must be absolutely self-sacrificing.

‘If you had a life we’d ask you to give that life up,’ says the interviewer, implying that this is a necessary part of motherhood.  

The logical extension of this kind of thinking is that any mother who wants to work outside the home, or even have any sort of hobby or social life unrelated to her kids is not doing motherhood right.

According to the ad, mothers also need to be experts in every area of life.

‘We’re really looking for someone who might have a degree in Medicine, in Finance and the Culinary Arts,’ says the interviewer. 

Why? I managed multi-million dollar budgets in the corporate world without a finance degree but I need one to decide what brand of nappies to buy? And I can tell you from experience, you don’t need a culinary degree to mash vegetables or make a ham and cheese toasty.

Not only must mothers to be complete martyrs, they’re also not allowed to express any other emotion about their predicament other than totals bliss and fulfillment. ‘And we demand...a happy disposition,’ says the interviewer.

But hey, it’s worth it. Just think about the tacky cliché on the card you’re going get.

Motherhood is hard, there’s no denying it. Many are the times I’ve sobbed in despair at my loss of independence, my loneliness and isolation and my feelings of inadequacy. The suggestion that I should be doing even more – and with a smile – is not helpful.

In fact, it’s patronising, oppressive, and just reinforces the status quo where childcare labour and responsibility is presented as the natural lot of women.

Rather than an annual pat on the back for my sacrifice, I’d prefer a serious conversation about how I, and many of my mother friends got retrenched while we were pregnant or on maternity leave.

I’d like greater workplace flexibility, where meaningful part-time work and career progression is something other than a fantasy.

Or how about good quality, affordable and flexible childcare?

Perhaps the job wouldn’t be so tough for many women if the split of domestic work and childcare wasn’t so unequal between men and women.

So, American Greetings, you can stick your #WorldsToughestJob hastag up your twitter.

Some mothers choose to and enjoy devoting their entire lives and beings to their role of motherhood.  All the power to them. But for the rest of us, how about cutting us a little slack this Mother’s Day.

We can do without the #ImpossibleExpectations and #GuiltTrip.

Kasey Edwards is the author of Thirty-Something and The Clock is Ticking: What happens when you can no longer ignore the baby question. www.kaseyedwards.com

 

 

Advertisement

36 comments

  • How DARE anyone acknowledge the difficult and unrelenting task that is motherhood. Motherhood is nothing but women accidentally forgetting to take a little pill and then claiming to be some kind of life long hero(ine) for doing nothing except sit around oobling over a baby all day and probably watching lots of television.

    Acknowledging the sacrifice that women make, their careers, their bodies, sometimes their marriages, almost certainly their sleep, health - both mental and physical, and the emotional journey it brings is absolute bunkum isn't it? If someone wants to have a baby well that is their choice how dare they claim to have some kind of unique life experience that separates them from women who haven't had babies. Women who haven't had babies know just as much about everything, I'm sure that women who haven't had babies know exactly what it is like to have children and that is probably why they don't have babies ie because it isn't a job, it isn't a vocation, it isn't anything is it?

    No, it's nothing at all. We should get rid of Mother's day entirely, what a sense of entitlement.

    Commenter
    Miranda
    Date and time
    April 17, 2014, 8:24AM
    • You didn't even remotely read the article, did you?

      Nice rant, anyway.

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      April 17, 2014, 1:05PM
    • Well apparently YOU didn't come out of your MOTHER!? goodness so much hate for an appreciation day...your EXISTENCE was thanks to YOUR MOTHER! Ungrateful much??

      Commenter
      Celle
      Date and time
      April 17, 2014, 1:29PM
    • When I watched this video, I didn't think of myself as the mother they described because yes, I did make a choice to be a mum and I don't expect any reward. But it did make me think of my mum who passed away nine years ago. I thought of how much she sacrificed for her family and how much love she showed me and the values she instilled in my sister and I. She was 100% entitled to acknowledgement. To suggest that she didn't is to discount all that her life stood for. So how DARE you Miranda suggest that mothers shouldn't be acknowledged. I know mine did.
      In addition, the ad is NOT setting 'women who are mothers' against 'women who aren't'. It is simply asking people to reflect on their own mothers. I was blessed to have had an amazing mother. I can only imagine with your negativity that you mustn't have been blessed the same.

      Commenter
      milunkavosp
      Date and time
      April 17, 2014, 2:18PM
  • For goodness sake, motherhood is really easy. You just get one of those women from overseas to come and live with you and it's a piece of cake. That way I have can have a thriving career, great sex, go to the gym and have plenty of time to myself and it doesn't cost much at all. I even give her two weeks off every year to go home and see her own children, she really appreciates that, she told me how grateful she is to have such a great owner.

    Commenter
    Belinda
    Date and time
    April 17, 2014, 8:36AM
    • It's weird, the most 'self pronounced progressive and enlightened' people I know are dying for this to be legal. If it doesn't happen this year they will move to a country where they can have a slave.

      Their children are such an inconvenience to them, I have no idea why they had them.

      You can choose your friends... but not your mum!

      Commenter
      cranky
      Location
      pants
      Date and time
      April 17, 2014, 12:29PM
    • Indeed but I suspect what is really happening here is that thoses women actually know how to do the job whereas those of us who've been raised with the idea that mothering skills should not be taught and passed down from one generation to the next haven't a clue. Some of us learn how and others outsource but cheaply and often depriving other children of their very competent hard working and desperate mother.

      Commenter
      belinda
      Date and time
      April 17, 2014, 2:49PM
  • Different strokes for different folks - my mum thought it was lovely. It's a shame you couldn't take the positive messages from the video, but I guess that's just the society we live in, where everyone has a right to express their frequent disapproval of every little thing.

    Commenter
    Schmole
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 17, 2014, 9:40AM
    • Hey, lighten up! I am a (middle aged, mostly grumpy) mum to 2 kiddies, 5 and 7, have a job (several as a contractor who works from home), love cooking - including mashing veges, occasionally get to Pilates, wear lingerie (can't recall what year or month, but I have done so! Let me check the photos . . .) AND catch up with friends ever so often . . . that is, every 5 year increment for school reunions. I found it ironic. It made me laugh. Then I phoned my mum.

      Commenter
      jb
      Location
      gc
      Date and time
      April 17, 2014, 9:50AM
      • There are two very different arguments in this piece.

        I didn't interpret the video as a "how to", more of a "could you?"
        The target market isn't mothers present or future. It's not an actual, prescriptive job description that mothers should be expected to uphold. It's not a fist up for the sisterhood (motherhood?) about us and by us. It's for those who take us for granted.
        It's a mirror of most people's experience of motherhood from the position of associate. It's inviting the "former associate" to consider the conditions of a seemingly all encompassing job.

        Experiences of mothering don't just belong to mothers. These experiences also belong those around us, and while those around us might not sense the isolation, boredom, frustration etc that comes with it, they would understand the sacrifice of self (either willing or unintended) that often comes with the territory.

        Mothers Day is more about the experience of receiving mothering, an outside-looking-in approach. The conversations surrounding it are not mothers-on-mothering. It's past-tense gratitude, not future-tense instructional.

        The other argument in this piece, the dreaded work/life balance, the lack of viable meaningful work options - well, it's not really a conversation for mothers day, but it is one we should be having 364 days of the year.

        Let those we mother have that one day of respect and thanks (however cheesy, simplistic or misdirected). Those more important mothers-on-mothering conversations need more than one day. I'll pump my fist in the air for the motherhood; for a decent, flexible or part-time job, for not having any super, for maternity leave, for maintaining a sense of self, for the kids, for the partners and for the future mothers who deserve to do it how they want.

        Commenter
        Boobytrapped
        Location
        Blue Mountains
        Date and time
        April 17, 2014, 10:02AM

        More comments

        Comments are now closed