Social Media

This Instagram Account Is Shaming Bad Domestic Helpers, and Crossing a lot of Boundaries In the Process

A look inside the highly problematic world of maid shaming.
July 16, 2018, 11:45am

There are a lot of domestic helpers in Indonesia. Just go to a posh Jakarta neighborhood like Menteng and you'll find some houses where the staff outnumbers the family members who call the place home. Now, of course, not everyone who works as a domestic helper is the best at their job. Some of them aren't the best nannies. Others steal.

In the past, wealthy families would just fire their staff and, probably, complain to their friends. Today, they're also outing the offending maid on Instagram accounts like @blacklistnannys, where people upload photos, full names, and home addresses of maids, nannies, and security guards who they fired, for whatever reason. That account alone has more than 35,000 followers, and photos of nearly 300 domestic helpers.

The posts detail a long list of grievances. Some of them slept too much. Others hurt their children, or stole something from the house. The admin told me that "we created this account because there are irresponsible nannies, housemaids, and agencies out there."

The admin told me that they receive the information through DMs. I reached out to Cindy Tia, who reported her own maid to @blacklistnannys. She told me that her maid spent too much time on her phone. "She was always on her phone. She liked to go to sleep at midnight, and wake up at 8 am. I had to wake her up sometimes."

OK. So here's the thing, sure some domestic helpers do shitty, messed up things while on the job. There's the maid who was arrested in Batam last January who stole jewelry from her employer. There's the nanny who was caught on video abusing a baby she was employed to take care of.

But those incidents are rare, especially when you consider the sheer number of men and women employed as domestic helpers in Indonesia—it's in the hundreds of thousands. And even in the scenarios where someone did steal from you, that doesn't make it right to dox them on social media, especially when no one is bothering to check whether or not any of these allegations are true.

Life can already be hard enough for domestic workers in Indonesia. Mulyadi, the head of the advocacy group Migrant Care, told me that most agencies still treat domestic helpers like they're commodities, and they use them to make money off of their employers, which further supports the idea that they are a good, not a living, breathing human being.

"This problem is all about the high costs," Mulyadi told me. "Every process requires more money. And families who want to hire a housemaid from an agency have to pay them too."

These agencies are often quick with the promises and short on the follow through. They promise young men and women that working as a domestic helper will get them a high salary, bonuses, and a place to live. They even give cash gifts to their families, but what few people know is that cash comes out of the salaries of domestic helpers, explained Mulyadi.

They also promise training that rarely materializes, which means that they are woefully unprepared for the kinds of tasks they might be asked to do by their employers. Then, later, when an employer complains about their performance and posts their image on an account like @blacklistnannys, it's the domestic helpers themselves who has to pay the price.

Accounts like @blacklistnannys can ruin a person's career. They can make it near impossible to find a new job, and send them home with the stigma of being a thief, or lazy, or worse. It's a lot to put on someone, especially when they might not even been 100 percent at fault. So, if you employ a domestic helper, and something about their work pisses you off, maybe just do what everyone use to do and just keep your complaints to your WhatsApp groups.