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Question 2

I think it's extremely important to ask oneself "what kind of moral education does one learn from being in a household in which one adult is so clearly subordinate to others?" When families make the decision to hire a nanny, it's easy to come up with reasons why having a nanny might make life easier for all family members or why they can't fulfill the responsibilities that they are hiring the nanny to perform. Feminists would see this as a critical issue because it is central to parenting, labor, and equality issues. In popular discourse, maids are supposed to fill a "wife" role without being a wife. In your blog, you compared it to the way in which the Brady household had Alice, and she was central to the family but never got the same rights or recognition as other household members. What came to mind for me was the 1940s version of Mary Poppins, where the cook and the nanny clean up and make sure Jane and Michael are behaving, while the father goes to work at the bank and the mother socializes with the Suffragettes (definitely an interesting feminist dynamic). I imagine it must be confusing for children growing up with a nanny or maid, seeing an adult who is supposed to care for them but who also is subordinate to the parents. Especially when the nanny is (insert ethnicity here), it creates the problem of people of color serving white people, and even if the parents are not racist, the implication is probably not discussed openly between the employer and their children. The moral education they should be receiving would expose them to concepts of justice and fairness in a professional environment, and to make work visible again. To show the children that work is necessary and not just reserved for second-class citizens is to instill a work ethic that will ensure that they value equal treatment as well. The issues of equal treatment, divided labor, visible work, and family dynamics are all things that can have a feminist spin.

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It's interesting that you bring up Mary Poppins, which I recently rewatched and was absolutely horrified by. Yes, it is definitely ironic that Mrs. Banks hires a nanny in order to have more time to devote to the Suffragist movement, highlighting the inherent privilege of upper-class white feminists. However, Mary Poppins isn’t a very good example of the subordinate domestic worker described by Tronto. For one thing, Mary Poppins is definitely not lower class. While the two maids are clearly working class and speak in cockney accents, Mary Poppins speaks with a distinctly upper class British RP accent like Mr. and Mrs. Banks, marking her privileged social status and upbringing. She is not an immigrant or a poverty-stricken victim of bourgeois British society. In fact, she is an AGENT of that bourgeois society whose function is to indoctrinate wealthy children into the ideology of British capitalism and imperialism. Mr. Banks himself describes the British nanny as a person who “mold[s] the breed” and “the future empire lies within her hands” (http://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/m/marypoppinslyrics/thelifeileadlyrics.html). Super different situation altogether.

Yeah, when I said "cook and nanny" I meant the women with the Cockeney accents because I couldn't remember their names. I should have been more specific and said that I was talking about the movie, not the character Mary Poppins. You raise an excellent point that I definitely couldn't have worded better myself.

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