Maids

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My house is a wreck. No, I’ll admit it: it’s filthy. The only part of the house that even approaches cleanliness is the area rug in front of our couch and that’s only every second or third day when we vacuum the cat hair off it. I could no more invite anyone over than I could fly to the moon. But even so, I just can’t muster up the energy to do anything about it. I have too many other things that interest me or require my attention.

I just went to an open house yesterday and the condo where it was held was spotless. Granted, the owner is a minimalist and my house is full of clutter, which is notoriously hard to clean and clean around. But I have a feeling she keeps her home that way all the time. She is, after all, a professional organizer.

I have a friend who has cleaned houses and offices for a living for over twenty years. She seems to like it, but it must be getting old (because she is!–Just kidding, Deb.) And my sister had a cleaning business for several years. It can be a good way to make money.

But it can also be exploitative and that’s why I bring it up today. As feminists, are we perpetuating the unequal distribution of labor (women stuck in low-paying service jobs) or are we providing someone with a way to make a living when (if) we hire maids to clean our homes? Isn’t there something degrading about expecting another woman to clean a toilet, like we think we’re too good to do it ourselves? Aren’t we perpetuating the stereotype that women do all the shit work?

But then if we didn’t hire maids or cleaning services, we’d be the ones doing the shit work, for the most part. Unless we have husbands or partners who are willing to share the chores equitably. Maybe that’s part of the dynamic: most women are responsible for most of the housework. What they need is their own wife. Lacking that, they hire maids, cooks, and nannies. Because it’s too much for one person to do alone!

I’d love to hire a maid if I could afford it. I suspect that most women are like me. But if I did, I would be tempted to work alongside her. In that way, I’d feel like I had hired someone to help me, not someone to completely take over my responsibilities. But maybe that’s not practical or realistic. Maybe the maid or cleaning lady would want me out of the way so that she can clean her way. If a maid sees herself as a professional, she might not like being told what to do.

Here’s an article about the pros and cons of hiring a maid. But this isn’t taking into consideration the feminist pros and cons. What would those be?

PROS
1. Hiring a maid gives you some relief from the heavy load of your responsibilities. It gives you a “wife.”
2. It also gives another woman a job.
3. It gives you a chance to treat the woman professionally and with respect.
4. It gives you the opportunity to be empathetic and to stand up for her rights.

CONS
1. If you don’t pay enough or you expect too much, you are exploiting the woman (or man) you hire.
2. You may come to think that housework is beneath you and not treat the woman with respect.
3. You may see her as “just” a maid.
4. You may trample her rights as a worker and a woman.

If you find yourself developing any of the “con” attitudes and behaviors you need some consciousness raising. We need to cultivate the “pro” attitudes and behaviors. Women from any walk of life are still our sisters. And we need to act like it.

Published by

Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

2 thoughts on “Maids”

  1. Thank you for telling me about your work. I think you have a gift and I hope your employers appreciate you. A clean and orderly house is a beautiful thing; I just wish I was better at making my own house that way!

  2. I have worked as a part time maid for almost 5 years now.
    I love my work. I really love doing house chores and cooking.
    I adore when I see a neat place.
    I have been paid normally. Not too much but I think it fair.
    What I cannot understand is why is this idea of seing cleaning work as dirty or lowering or so.
    I understand that in class divided societies there are upper class ladies that never clean. I find their lives really annoying. Attending teas and gossiping.
    But America’s is supposed to be not a class divided society or not too much, anyway.
    So the work of a maid should be appreciated as any other work. And those who, like me, love this kind of work should let live our lives peacefully.
    I guess.

    Rosa Maria Sanchez

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