Oct 8, 2008

Posted by in Filipina in the News | 10 Comments

Filipina Maid Scandal from BBC’s Harry & Paul

So what do you think of the latest racial slur to affect our Filipina maid? A BBC comedy show portrayed a Filipina dressed as a maid aka sex entertainer for a depressed and aging British man. The Filipina “maid” was also made to dance in front of the British man as two others were egging him to have sex with the Filipina.

Here is a youtube video of that scene. (View clearer video)

In fact, the Philippines is demanding an apology from BBC.

All right! All right! Calm down, calm down” was always enough to placate the constantly bickering Scousers on Harry Enfield’s 1990s TV show. But it may not resolve the diplomatic row the comedian sparked yesterday after the Philippine ambassador in London accused him of racism and making light of sexual exploitation.

In a letter to the BBC, Edgardo B Espiritu demanded an apology for a skit in the Harry & Paul show in which a posh southern character tries to get his “pet northerner” to mate with his Filipino housemaid.

“Such portrayal and stereotyping of Filipino women as domestic workers and sex playthings is not only egregiously insulting to the Filipino community in the UK, it is also very malicious and is a blatant display of racial prejudice,” wrote Espiritu in the letter to Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust.

The Philippine government also protested about the sketch, which was screened on BBC1 on September 26.

Congresswoman Risa Hontiveros demanded the BBC publicly apologise and called on the Philippines department of foreign affairs to file a formal complaint to the British government.

Foreign secretary Alberto Romulo summoned British ambassador Peter Beckingham to discuss the matter. But Beckingham said that any apology should not come from government officials but from the network and the show’s producers.

Yesterday Tiger Aspect Productions, which makes the show, said: “Harry & Paul is a post-watershed comedy sketch series and as such tackles many situations in a comedic way. Set in this context, the sketch is so far beyond the realms of reality as to be absurd – and in no way is intended to demean or upset any viewer.”

But a spokeswoman at the Philippine embassy said: “If Tiger Aspect intended the episode to be a joke, we were definitely not amused. Neither did the Filipino community in the UK find it amusing. The UK is a country that is big on human rights issues as well as issues concerning women and racial equality. To stereotype Filipino women … is not only malicious but is also a blatant display of racial prejudice.”

She added: “And just for the record, Filipino domestic workers in the UK command one of the highest if not the highest salary among their counterparts. They are highly regarded by their employers because of their work ethics and their trustworthiness.” An online petition, attributed to the Philippine Foundation, condemning the “disgraceful” skit, had 685 signatures by 5pm yesterday.

A BBC spokeswoman said that the corporation had not yet received the letter from the Philippine ambassador, but that by 3pm yesterday, 54 members of the public had complained to the BBC about the negative stereotyping of Filipinas.

She said that no one had so far objected to the portrayal of northerners in Harry & Paul, but that last month 41 people had objected to a sketch in which a kitten was stamped on..

The following is an account made by the Philippine Foundation on October 5 of the episode.

“On 26 September 2008 at 9 p.m., BBC 1 aired the comedy series Harry and Paul starring Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. The opening scene showed Paul seated on a chair on his front lawn, while still in his pajamas. A young Asian-looking female was shown gyrating in front of him in a lascivious manner. The postman arrived to ask Harry, Paul’s friend, what was going on. Harry told him that he is trying to see if his ‘Filipina maid’ can seduce Paul who obviously looks depressed.

Harry then continued to shout instructions to the young girl and to Paul to ‘hump’ the Filipino maid. He remained unmoved while the girl even played with his hair. On further instructions from Harry, she continued to gyrate sexually in front of Paul. Harry then instructed the maid to ‘present her rear’ which she did while wiggling her bottom in a seductive manner. The maid did not succeed in seducing Paul as he got up from his chair to go to his house. Harry shouted at the girl in an angry voice to leave as she was useless in doing her job. The girl walked towards the pavement looking upset. While walking on the pavement, the postman looked at her in a leering way and followed her. After catching up with her, he was shown to be whispering in her right ear and the girl then walked off with the postman.”

The result is indigation and an Online petition launched vs BBC on ‘anti-Pinay’ comedy skit.

Called Dignity and Respect for the Filipino Worker Campaign, the online petition stated that “the Filipino community in the United Kingdom hereby condemns the BBC and the Harry and Paul Show for their tactless and insensitive behavior and for inciting stereo-typed racial discrimination, vulgarity and violation of the maid’s human rights. The show demeaned the dignity of honest labor while promoting the sex industry, domestic abuse and maltreatment of the blue-collar worker that effectively sustains this economy.”

Though meant to be funny, I didn’t find it funny at all.

Edit- October 25,2008

BBC formally apologizes to RP

MANILA, Philippines — The British Broadcasting Co. (BBC) has formally apologized for a comedy skit that stirred outrage for portraying a Filipina domestic helper gyrating in front of her British employers, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday.

The apology is contained in a letter dated October 10, 2008 from BBC Director General Mark Thompson to Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s Edgardo Espiritu.

The episode of the comedy Harry and Paul, initially shown on September 26 and replayed on BBC 2 on September 29 had members of the 200,000-strong Filipino community in the United Kingdom protesting the “insulting reference to Filipino women, typifying them in a dual role as domestic workers and sex toys of their British employers.”

“Please accept my sincere apologies, on behalf of the BBC, for the offence that this program caused you,” said the letter from Thompson, which the Philippine Embassy received only on October 20.”

The BBC apology was written a week before Andrew Zane, chief executive of Harry and Paul producer Tiger Aspect Productions apologized to Filipino protesters who picketed the BBC office in White City, just outside central London, and Tiger Aspect in Soho in central London on October 17.

“We’re sorry to anyone who was in any way offended by the program. This certainly was not our intention,” Zane told the protesters.

read more?

  1. Noemi,

    I don’t see the humor in this either.

    What I did find humor in was the Filipino Based Blog where I first read about this had Filipina Dating sites blatantly displayed. And in the adwords of course there’s a whole list of places to “shop” for filipinas.

    It’s no surprise they didn’t approve my subtle suggestion to remove that if they’re going to champion the cause of Filipina stereotyping.

    Hope you’re doing well,

    Don

    Dons last blog post..Top 10 Philippines Travel Blogs – Readers Choice

  2. But British people insist that this is their brand of humour–to show “sarcasm”. They said they were making fun of the man who was abusing his powers, the one giving orders. That’s ok. We don’t have to like what they like. We find it objectionable. They don’t? Bahala sila.

  3. If they wanted to make that kind of scene, they shouldn’t mention in particular “Filipina maids.” Why didn’t they just use maids ? They really seem to intentionally degrade the filipina maid.

    By the way Marghil Macuha and I have just launched our free new blogging ebook. You might want to help us promote it. Check it out at http://www.zdiaz.com/index.php/2008/09/29/finally-our-very-own-guerilla-blogging-ebook/

    Zigfreds last blog post..The answer to the poverty problem

    • So you mean to say its ok with you for as long as they don’t mention the word “Filipina”? If they say “Visayan” instead of “Filipina” then I don’t think Filipinos will find that offensive. Our local shows here are far more offensive & discriminatory as compared to that one but have we ever done something on that? A big NO! Most of our sitcoms here even poke fun of the Igorots, Visayans & Batanguenos especially their accents and mostly they are the object of ridicule on the show & are regarded of as stupid people.

      Now which is far more offensive?

  4. I’m a very proud Filipina but I think being too sensitive about these kinda racial slur wont get us anywhere. We are only inciting more negative attention and opinions about us. If we have shows about them being porn addicts, perverts and pedophiles, I’m sure they wont mind either :P

  5. from the book “Crones Don’t Whine” by Jean Shinoda Bolen: “Men have accused women of having no sense of humor because we don’t laugh at jokes that men think of as funny. Freud’s analysis of humor as being hostile helps explain why we might not(especially when directed at women). Then there are jokes that little boys tell that is scatalogical or toilet humor, which grown men still find funny. Little girls and grown women don’t get why.

    Difficulties between the sexes has made some women describe the challenge as being an “interspecies communication” problem. This seems to apply especially to humor. However, humor as an outlet for hostility or superiority has an appeal for both sexes. Dumb blonde jokes, mother-in-law jokes, put-down humor in general, including male-bashing jokes, are all outlets for hostility. This kind of humor does not leave people with a sense of well-being, and the quality of laughter is different. Compared to hilarity or healing laughter, there is an absence of affection.”

    So that explains very well, that the BBC show has the “kind of humor that does not leave people with a sense of well-being” and that is some sort of outlet or articulation of hostility or superiority.

    whaddya think?

  6. Frankly speaking, I don’t find it offensive at all as compared to the ones being illustrated by the local shows. Our shows here are far more insulting compared to the ones being shown abroad. Come to think of it of all nationalities being negatively commented to, only the Filipinos are the ones who do such big moves. Look at the Chinese people, did you see them walking down the street & protesting against Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s words? Have you encountered the Japanese people protesting against our media for making fun of their fellow Japanese, Ya Chang? Honestly I find our move like somewhat childish, we are like a child na mahilig mangasar pero kapag siya ang inaasar napakadaling mapikon. Another one is, we don’t like to accept the truth. Kris is right we are too egoistic enough to think that we are the best & so we think any negative publicity will hinder our ego. Sometimes i feel we need to learn how to use our patriotism properly coz with the way i see how some of our kababayans are doing it, it makes me feel somewhat ashamed of being a Filipino.

    Lesson learned here, before we do anything against those foreign media we should learn to look first on our own actions. There is the saying that goes like this ” Don’t try to remove the speck of other person’s eye w/o first removing the speck of your own eyes”

  7. i really don’t see the issue here.
    everytime somethin like this comes up, guess which group of filipinos always cry foul the loudest??
    the freakin filipino politicians.
    they dwell on these kind of stuff.
    in the end what do they do about it??
    absolutely nothin…

    ang pinoy ay natural na sensitibo.
    kaya nga gusto tayo ng mga westerners, europeans etc.
    dahil sensitibo tayo at mapagmahal, sa kapwa, sa bagay, sa trabaho etc.
    at yang eksaktong pagiging sensitibo natin ang laging ginagamit ng mga tusong politiko at mga tao sa gobyerno (hindi naman lahat) na may mga tinatagong “agenda” upang gawing issue para pagtakpan ang totoong issue-ang kakulangan ng suporta nila sa mga manggagawang pinoy sa ibayong dagat.

    instead of dwelling on stuff like these, the government (and whoever else responsible) should focus on creating policies and whatever necessary means to protect their people, both back in the philippines and overseas.
    and not play the people like a piano…

    by the way, have any of the people complaining in this forum ever watched pinoy sitcoms, telenovelas & the likes back home?
    we discriminate and slur ourselves there every single day.
    so who’s complaining about that???

  8. Please join the group “Ethiopian maids abused in Middle East”.
    The aim of this group is to help our sisters, who are working in the Middle East under cruel and inhuman condition.

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=127678883924093

  9. I don’t see the big deal. One of the primary roles of the Pinay “maid” or “helper” is to provide sex for their masters. So what if people make a joke about that? If Filipinos don’t like it, then why volunteer to be sex slaves, er helpers?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Sinong makakapigil sa akin na sabihin ito? « Blog Ong - [...] din ng mga dayuhan ang mga babaeng Pilipino (mga pinay) na “maid“ o katulong? Katulong o chimay, yan ang turing …

Leave a Reply