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TikTok’ers of Kuwait

Domestic helpers dominate music, dance app in Kuwait

I had spent endless hours on the Internet during my boring weekend, when suddenly an ad pops up suggesting I download ‘TikTok’. I’m unfamiliar with the app, but have seen its videos and read articles about it. So I gave it a chance and checked it out. In the hours I’ve spent on TikTok, I’ve witnessed a diverse composition of subcultures in Kuwait – it seems the app is a huge deal for teens, women and men, and even some people who promote their businesses. The app allows the creation of short videos, which can be lip-synced to any soundtrack.

I knew that such apps are popular among teens, but domestic workers in Kuwait?! This was news to me! I saw dozens of short videos of maids in uniform, dancing, lip-syncing or acting while standing in the kitchen, bedroom or living rooms of their sponsors’ homes. Not just one or two videos by the same women but dozens and dozens of different domestic helpers – sometimes mimicking each other or making fun of their sponsor’s constant demands. In some videos, one helper will be in uniform while another dresses up as the ‘madame’ who then proceeds to verbally abuse the maid. In others, the helpers line dance in the kitchen while washing dishes or cleaning up after a meal. For the most part the videos are harmless fun, with simple dance routines done in a few seconds.

Unfortunately, the popularity of TikTok among Kuwait’s domestic helpers – many of whom post while wearing their uniforms and with their faces clearly visible – has exposed them to sarcastic comments and abuse by the community at large. I read many offensive comments criticizing them. I understand that some people may feel uncomfortable seeing their maid in a video in an inappropriate situation, but what if she is not doing anything except having fun during her break? Is this a crime?

In recent years, cases of abuse and mistreatment of domestic workers have been on the rise. People need to recognize that maids are humans too, and deserve to be treated fairly; although there are a few who acknowledge that a maid needs to be treated with equal dignity. They are here to work for us, and they play important roles. There is no reason for them to be treated so poorly. These maids are not as fortunate as us, and we cannot expect them to meet all our expectations. Just let them be human – they feel bored and want to spend time on social media just like the rest of us.

By Faten Omar

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