Popular motorcycle taxi service app Angkas is quite renowned for its social media game, with each ad — usually referencing the freshest pop culture trends and memes — practically guaranteeing online traffic.
Its latest ad wasn’t an exception — the brand released a meme, referencing stepfamily porn, particularly that of a stepfather and daughter, that has recently been rising in popularity, thanks to channels such as Family Strokes.
Posted on June 8, Angkas posted a crudely drawn meme of a woman whose upper body was sticking out of a car’s sunroof and wincing.
The meme’s copy read, “Stepdad, I’m stuck,” with the words “in traffic” at the bottom in parentheses.
The social media ad was meant to promote its latest discount promo, “ANGKASDADDY.”
“What are you doing stepdad,” the app even captioned on social media.
It’s a clear move meant to incite laughs. Stepfamily porn — also known as fauxcest porn — has risen in popularity over the past years, with data company Components noting a spike in view counts in “step” as well as related keywords such as “father,” “daughter,” “mother,” “sister.” You get the gist.
Yet this trend of stepfamily members figuring in content meant to capitalize on people’s sexual fantasies is, at best, a cop-out in normalizing incest. At worst, it glosses over a very real and silent reality of underreported incest rape — perpetrated by fathers, uncles, and yes, even stepfathers — among women in the Philippines, with many of these cases starting while they are young.
A 2017 report by Rappler on the silent incest problem in the Philippines details how economic hardships, along with guilt and shame, complicates this problem further, leading victims to stay silent about the abuses. The trauma of incest rape runs deep, with many survivors needing years of holistic treatment.
Yet this hasn’t stopped a transport start-up — known for its fresh and youthful brand voice — from making an egregious misstep. What’s probably worse is the fact that many laughed along with them, highlighting how much of our contemporary culture is still steeped in the male gaze.
On Facebook, the ad was inundated with thousands of laugh reactions before making its way onto Twitter — with a handful of people calling out the ad’s incredibly sexist and problematic overtones.
Female users raised concerns about the messaging of a motorcycle taxi company, dominated by men, and how unsafe it makes their female riders feel. After all, motorcycle taxi apps such as Angkas have gained popularity among the young working-class set, including women, for being cheaper than ridesharing apps such as Grab and probably care little about creating safe environments for female passengers when they’re doling out discount promos left and right.
“I sometimes don’t feel safe with your riders, then your company culture promotes this? Ew,” one user wrote on Twitter.
Activist-organizer Hya Bendaña also took to Twitter to call out the ad.
“This is a bad ad. You’re a male-led and male-dominated company promoting incest and unhealthy sexual power dynamics in an ad,” she wrote.
“Do you even know how common sexual assault is by stepfathers in the Philippines?” She added, tagging Angkas. “I wish your ad team did some basic research before releasing this foolishness. Are we really normalizing incest and making it funny? So bad.”
Sociologist Ash Presto cited the “silent pandemic” of incest rape in the country, with fathers and uncles usually perpetrating this assault.
“I feel sick to the core seeing how Angkas turned this into a marketing scheme. Which audience exactly was Angkas targeting in this ad? The fact that a company as big as Angkas can target audience that takes incest rape as an inside joke reflects how grave the problem is,” she wrote.
Yet these voices have been drowned out amid the social media noise, who saw nothing but a clever meme — dished out by a social media-savvy brand as expected.
The app has since taken down the ad following the backlash, but Angkas has not issued an apology. And really, it’s one of those “We’re disappointed but not surprised” moments.
But just as what the brand wanted to achieve by alienating a significant number of its passengers, your guess is as good as ours. As Ash best said, “Which audience exactly was Angkas targeting in this ad? The fact that a company as big as Angkas can target audience that takes incest rape as an inside joke reflects how grave the problem is.”