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Maid in America

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Maid in America was a very eye opening film. I had never thought about domestic workers in the U.S. as a feminist issue, but it really is. After seeing how painful it was for Judith to be away from her daughters, while taking care of someone else, and also being pregnant, it became clear how unique this situation is to a woman. It really reminded me of apartheid South Africa when black women would travel long distances to be nannies to white families, sometimes having to live near the house instead of their own home, and they were more mothers to someone else's children than their own. It is so frustrating to see that, but at the same time, the three women in the video were so hopeful. Eva is determined to be an accountant, what she studied, Judith wants to return to the U.S. with her daughters and Thelma is thankful for the family she is working for because she says they do treat her like family (she is basically the mother).
I feel compelled to really look more into this after seeing this movie. I didn't think I would be this interested in feminism in labor, but this topic really makes me want to do something.

* I don't know why this wasn't showing up on the blog, I had it saved as a word doc so I really did write it back in March

DE Entry Group C Maid in America


This might be a weird concern, but what are these women eating?

Domestic work is hard labour: scrubbing, brushing, mopping, wiping, vacuuming, et cetera. They probably do a lot of walking as well. Judith had a bicycle. I would have expected the women in the video to be pretty fit.

Are they allowed to prepare meals in their employer's home on breaks? When Telma prepares food for Mickey, can she also eat the food she made? Does she have to have separate meals?

Do these women not have access to grocery stores with a cheap produce section? Do they not have enough money to buy fresh fruit and vegetables frequently?

How much private time do they have? Do they have adequate lunch breaks? Do they feel pressured to cut into their break time to get the work done?

In one scene, one of the domestic workers was drinking something greenish from a mug and tearing off chunks of bread for her breakfast. I would like to know what she was drinking. What is their grocery list like?

These women apparently had health care benefits because of their ownership of a business. As the video stated, most of the domestic workers do not have this luxury. When domestic workers have health problems, what do they do?

How many quality prenatal checkups did Eva have? How much did she have to pay for? How much did the state help her? Did she have access to healthy food while she was pregnant?

Maybe someone will see my post and think I'm being unfair and judging women because of their weight. Frankly, I wonder how much control they have over their health, and how low wages and benefits affect their ability to be healthy.

Most full time workers get health benefits of some sort because it is a less expensive way for an employer to compensate its employees. I wonder if the domestic workers' lack of health care benefits has anything to do with how their labour is valued/undervalued by society and by those who employ them.

Maid in America


When watching the film, Maid in America, the woman's story who seemed particularly problematic/ conscious-raising was Thelma's. She was the woman who worked for the black family. I understand that families have a lot going on and some need assistance with keeping the house clean, cooking, helping with homework, possibly bringing a child to and from school, etc. This family in particular had Thelma there for all parts of the day. I did not catch if she may have possibly even lived with them. It was also interesting that the couple even brought up their own histories which involved slavery and domestic work. The father seemed to see this work as a means to an end for Thelma. What is Thelma getting out of this relationship; what great ending is in her future? The father also mentioned that anyone who is a part of your family like Thelma is there's should be paid as much as the family could possibly afford. If i recall, at the end of the movie Thelma was dreaming of earning ten dollars an hour. To me that is not nearly enough money for the amount of work that she does for the family (cook, clean , help with homework, assist at family gatherings, drop off and pick of child from school, tuck the child in for bed, etc.). It also was very sad to me that the family's son had been around Thelma so much that he began calling her mommy. This shows the amount of time Thelma spends in their home. Does Thelma get private time away from their home? How often does she come in contact with her own family? Does she get vacation time and/or benefits? I still am not exactly sure if the use of domestic workers is something that is reasonable/fair. Under what circumstances is this kind of work okay and what type of pay/benefits/vacation should be a set minimum standard for these domestic workers?

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Maid in America


I was shocked to see that in L.A. alone there are nearly 100,000 domestic workers. I think it is great that this documentary brings light to this subject because it is a hidden issue for various reasons. For one, many of the domestic workers in the U.S. are undocumented workers so it is difficult for a domestic worker to turn to the government for protection.

One question that came to mind during the beginning of the film--why did any of these workers move to the U.S in the first place? They receive no benefits, low wages, and at times mistreatment from employers. It then became all too clear that moving to the United States for work is, in a sense, a lesser of two evils. One can work in the U.S. as a domestic worker and make money to live, but work like a dog and become estranged from their children. OR they can be with their children back home and live in squalor with no money. For example, Judith, a woman who had been separated from her family as she worked in the U.S., hadn't seen her children in 3 years. As the cameras followed Judith back home for the first time in years I understood why someone would want to leave those conditions. Judith explains that for her family to live back in their country she must send them money for food and rent every 15 days.

Another one of the women in the film worked for an older lady and a few things the employer said raised some questions for me. The employer, old lady, says she is friends with her domestic worker and that they mutually care for one another. Of course it's natural for a human being to form connections with someone after repeated contact, but at what point can you expect these aspects be expected in a work relationship. I can only assume that the initial job description did not include "friendship." To me, this is an example of what we were talking about on Monday--emotional labor.

Additionally, this same employer went on to say, "everyone needs help, it's essential." The first thing I thought was who helps the domestic worker? It seems that all of these domestic workers are doing physically/emotionally/mentally draining work, yet they are receiving low wages and no benefits.

DE for march 23 (due march 25)


This DE is for Group C. Please post your direct engagement by Friday (3.25) evening. Groups A and D should post comments by Sunday (3.27) evening.

In your direct engagement, critically reflect on the film we are watching in class on Wednesday: Maid in America. How does this film encourage your feminist curiosity? What questions, topics for discussion does it raise for you? In reflecting on and engaging with the film, make sure to draw upon specific examples from the film. Your reflection should be about 250-300 words. 

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