More on The Help and Romantic Hindsight

. . .though not by me. In the comments on Jill’s post about The Help, Angel H linked to an excellent, hard-hitting essay by Dr. Bernestine Singley that covered the reality of being a Black woman who worked as a maid. She also puts to rest the bullshit lines that a family’s maid loved them (no, they often didn’t, actually), and that the maid was like a member of the family (no, they really weren’t). (Seriously, can we shut that shit down? That’s about as patronizing as “My secretary really runs this company!” Oh yeah? Then sign over your fucking paycheck. Your maid is like family to you? Really? So I take it she’s in the will and you know her kids and you and she are in and out of each other’s houses and you go shopping together and hang out over Bellinis and go to family reunions, etc.? Come over for the holidays–and not to work? Yah. Didn’t think so.)

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2 Responses

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 25, 2011 at 10:58 am |

    The maids hired by my grandparents were not treated badly. They were not treated as equal according to the customs of the day, which doesn’t excuse them. They were not members of the family. And they shifted considerably. There wasn’t one trusted maid for years and years. I understand your seeking to not seem paternalistic or condescending, but the truth is a bit more complicated.

    This doesn’t mean that there weren’t affectionate feelings. My father tells a story about coming home from college. He lived in a dry county where alcohol could not be legally purchased, and one of his high school friends claimed to know the location of a bootlegger. They wanted to drink and were prepared to break the law if necessary.

    So they piled into a car and eventually found the bootlegger’s house which was way on the outskirts of town. After being deemed “safe”, and allowed to enter the front door, they were escorted back to the kitchen, which apparently was where business took place. As it turns out, the woman in charge had been one of my father’s maids growing up.

    She recognized him and called him over for a hug.

    My father asked how she was doing. She got a triumphant look on her face and said, “I haven’t cleaned a floor in ten years!”

  2. michelle
    michelle August 25, 2011 at 10:50 pm |

    Dr. Singley’s essay is killer! A first-rate, brilliant, personalized broadside against that trash ‘The Help!’

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