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Author Topic: Servant? Domestic worker? Does it matter?
Sharon
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posted 03 October 2005 11:08 AM      Profile for Sharon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
It's all a matter of words. What is the correct way to describe those workers who are employed in other people's homes? Well, auntie – no surprise – has a very strong opinion on this.

auntie's back

P.S. Do you have a problem or a question for auntie? For the time being, while we work on a little publishing glitch, you may send letters to editor@rabble.ca.


From: Halifax, Nova Scotia | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Reality. Bites.
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posted 03 October 2005 11:19 AM      Profile for Reality. Bites.        Edit/Delete Post
It often seems like half the people who write to auntie are trolling. Not looking for advice, but looking for a fight.
From: Gone for good | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
lagatta
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posted 03 October 2005 11:20 AM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Beyond demeaning vs overly "politically correct" language, the problem with domestic work is the usual lack of decent pay and benefits, exposure to sexual and other harassment, undue demands on time, etc. I disagree with the letter-writer that all people who hire others to do some aspects of work in the home are necessarily bourgeois or lazy.

If I had even a bit more money, I'd certainly hire a person with a better sense of order to straighten out my abode every week or two - I'm terrible at it - it can take me a day or two to properly clean my little flat, and I'm not even including work-related files. I have a friend who employs a very skilled cleaning person (and pays her fairly) simply because the cleaning person is so much better at creating order out of chaos. It is a skill that must be valued more, like a lot of "nurturing", "husbandry" or "soft knowledge" skills.


From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Reality. Bites.
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posted 03 October 2005 12:20 PM      Profile for Reality. Bites.        Edit/Delete Post
Indeed, my mother comes to town a couple of times a year to help my hopelessly unorganized aunt with her apartment.

Some people lack certain skills and not all of us are fortunate enough to have friends or relatives willing and able to help us out in those areas.

We don't think less of someone who needs someone else to look after their computer, and we respect and value the person who does it for them.


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lagatta
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posted 03 October 2005 12:26 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Indeed, the CLSC homecare workers sometimes help people who are a bit confused or suffer from psychological conditions making it hard to keep a dwelling clean and safe (no, that is NOT my case, I'm scrupulous about cleanliness, but messy) with their housework - if not such people will simply wind up being evicted from their dwellings. I worked at a tenants' association (still belong to it) and such cases were frequent.

Much milder cases of organisational dysfunction are very common.

How I'd love to find a site without the ideological baggage and disregard for the environment that contaminate the flylady site! (though she has helped me keep my kitchen sink clean - although even there she assumes that people have diswashers...

[ 03 October 2005: Message edited by: lagatta ]


From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 01:00 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Yay for auntie!

About midway through, KFP says:

quote:
Perhaps I'm naïve and cheeky, believing as I do that within one's own home one should clean one's own dustbunnies. But that's another matter.

Well, no: that's obviously the heart of the matter, what provoked KFP's sniffy challenge to his "friend," or host, at least, and it was his host he wanted to get at too. In order to do that, he was willing to use a word that most domestic workers would indeed take as a dated insult.

So KFP is dishonest as well as rude.

I used to feel guilty about asking anyone else to help me much at all, but I got over that. I was forced to, by a catastrophic illness in the family and by the combined pressures of work, aging, personal responsibilities, and persistent cat poo (which I do clean up m'self).

As RB says, there are a lot of other things many of us can't do on our own -- prune a tree, eg, or repair the leaky foundations of a house, or lift another person in and out of a bathtub alone. It has never occurred to me that I was insulting an arborist or a contractor or a homecare worker to hire her or him for that work. Why the automatic assumption that domestic work is less to be respected? Oh, yes ... I remember ...

It is true that most domestic workers -- like all homecare and most health-care workers -- are not being paid fairly for their work and are denied the respect and status they deserve for taking on some of the toughest jobs we have to offer. So we should start by changing our own attitudes to the work they do, and support them in organizing for change.

I do consider that there are many things wrong with the way that we organize work right now -- no question. We would all probably be better off if we shared the tougher jobs more generally. But that takes systemic change, deeper change than most people, caught on their own little treadmills, can be expected to be responsible for all on their own. And it is simply not logical to decide that there is something intrinsically shameful about the tougher or more banal jobs.

Sometimes some kinds of political purity look more like preening than humane wisdom.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 03 October 2005 01:07 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
As RB says, there are a lot of other things many of us can't do on our own -- prune a tree, eg, or repair the leaky foundations of a house, or lift another person in and out of a bathtub alone.

Well there's where the "sniffy challenge" comes from: doing one's own dishes doesn't require expertise, a professional certification, or the strength of two.

I'm not saying I agree with KFP's attitude. But let's be realistic: if you're hiring Molly Maid to come in and clean up, it's likely because you either don't care to do so, or see other things as a better use of your time. I doubt that it's too often because you lack the physical strength or necessary skillset to move a broom back and forth.


From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
RP.
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posted 03 October 2005 01:11 PM      Profile for RP.     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Magoo:
I doubt that it's too often because you lack the physical strength or necessary skillset to move a broom back and forth.

I would venture that it is quite often because the person can't do the work themselves, through some disability or other.


From: I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle | Registered: Nov 2004  |  IP: Logged
Amy
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posted 03 October 2005 01:14 PM      Profile for Amy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
(In response to Mr. Magoo) I do know lots of people who lack the mobility to do such tasks though, and who have the spare cash to make hiring people for home cleaning and minor maintenance easier than dealing with MSP.

[ 03 October 2005: Message edited by: Amy ]


From: the whole town erupts and/ bursts into flame | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 03 October 2005 01:27 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't think this letter is a troll, necessarily. There are strong, valid leftwing arguments against having domestic servants, and I think the writer had a point when he or she talked about how the root of the discomfort with the word "servant" might be Good People who don't want to see themselves in a certain way.

There are good arguments against able-bodied people hiring underlings to clean their shit out of their toilets. (Obviously this doesn't apply to people who have impairments that make it difficult or impossible to do so.)

One of those arguments is that if your house is too big for you to keep clean, then maybe you've got too much house for what you need, and maybe you need to downgrade to a size you can handle - maybe you don't NEED that suburban sprawl house for you, your spouse and your one or two kids since you aren't able to take care of it.

Another argument is that if you just don't LIKE cleaning your own shit off your own toilet, then what makes you think that's fulfilling work for anyone else to do? You're too good to do it yourself, but your cleaning lady isn't? (And don't get on my ass about "cleaning lady" - almost every person I've ever known who has had a cleaner calls them "the cleaning lady" or "the maid", whether they're progressive or not.)

Another argument is that if you feel you just can't clean up after everyone in your family, or you're having housework battles with your spouse (and this is especially true of some wives who finally throw their hands up in understandable frustration at being expected to do the "double shift" simply because they're female), then maybe you've either got too much stuff, or you have to find a way of sharing the tasks around the house with the rest of your spoiled family. It ain't all that radical for a woman who feels like she's at the bottom of the domestic chore pecking order in her house to try and find someone outside her home that is even lower than her on society's pecking order to do it for the family instead.

Now, I'm not necessarily saying I agree with these arguments, although I tend to lean towards them. I'm just saying they're valid arguments, and perhaps the person, by calling domestic workers "servants", is actually making a progressive political statement with the word, kind of like the way those of us who are pro-choice use the word "anti-choice" as a political statement to describe people who are pro-life.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Contrarian
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posted 03 October 2005 01:52 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Do people actually refer to "my domestic worker"? It sounds too precious to me. What's wrong with "my cleaning lady" or housekeeper or cleaner or hired help?
From: pretty far west | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 02:42 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Any time I've had anyone in to wash floors for us/me, we've always been on a first-name basis, and I've always referred to him as, eg, "Craig [not his real name], who cleans the main floor for us [because that is what Craig did]."

Does anyone actually leave shit in the toilet for someone else to clean up? I sure never have. Everyone I've ever talked to about having domestic help has agreed: you spend a bunch of time the night before getting things presentable for the person who washes the floors.

Shit I actually consider my specialty, at least both human and cat shit, on the person/animal, in the toilet, on the floor, on the upholstery, on the linens, in the box or just missing -- you name it, I know how to take care of it.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 03 October 2005 02:58 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, according to (damn, I forget her name, the woman who wrote Nickel and Dimed), that is how she characterized many of the bathrooms she's cleaned. It's often up closer to the rim where it's not easily seen, but she says it's there in a lot of bathrooms, and I believe her.

I, of course, would call a person working at whatever job they are doing by whatever title they wished to be called. Therefore, I wouldn't call a domestic worker "the servant" in their hearing. (Then again, maybe they might bristle just as much at "the cleaning lady" or "the maid" although that is the generally-used term.) I'm not going to demean someone by making political statements about their occupation using terms to describe them personally, in their presence, that they don't appreciate.

The truth is, I have mixed feelings about the whole question. Personally, I would feel much more demeaned by cleaning someone's toilet for money than by having sex with them for money. My first visceral reaction is that cleaning up an able-bodied person's messes (especially the real "dirty" stuff like pubic hair and bathtub grunge and icky stuff on the toilet) is inherently degrading. (Please note that I'm not including cleaning up after people who can't clean up after themselves - there's a difference in attitude between the idea of cleaning up after someone because they can't do so themselves, and cleaning up after someone because they feel they're too good for that sort of thing so they'll pay you to do it instead.)

And yet, I find my own reaction interesting - I can use all of the same arguments I use in favour of seeing prostitution as a potentially honourable profession (and not inherently degrading) to justify people hiring (mostly) women to clean up their personal grunge. So I guess I figure that if a person is paid well to do the job, and they are treated with respect, then who am I to say it's degrading? I would find it degrading and icky but a lot of women wouldn't.

So, really, more power to them.

[ 03 October 2005: Message edited by: Michelle ]


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Sharon
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posted 03 October 2005 03:08 PM      Profile for Sharon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
(damn, I forget her name, the woman who wrote Nickel and Dimed)

Barbara Ehrenreich.


From: Halifax, Nova Scotia | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
chubbybear
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posted 03 October 2005 03:29 PM      Profile for chubbybear        Edit/Delete Post
Ok. Let's admit it and be honest shall we? If you pay someone to clean your poo from the toilet and walk your little puppy around the park we are talking about servants, and pardon me but you have become the people you pretend to hate.
From: nowhere | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 03:31 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't see where "able-bodied" should become the dividing-line on this issue.

I mean, even able-bodied people still need eight hours of sleep a night, as it were. There are limits to what any single person can do, able-bodied or not. And for most people, doing whatever they do for money requires following an employment logic that they are not fully in control of themselves.

I'm sure there are people for whom never having to do a lick of domestic labour is just one of the perks of a privileged life, but I should think that that is a small minority in the current economy.

I know of (unfortunately, not accessible to moi) a number of women and a couple of men who have been able to build pretty good independent businesses doing something they enjoy and that permits them considerable independence in their work -- cleaning other people's homes. Because they are actually in scarce supply, when they are known to be good at it, they end up writing their own tickets. They set the hours and conditions. And they say they like doing it, which I don't actually find all that far-fetched since I vaguely remember enjoying domestic work myself (everything except ironing).


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 03 October 2005 03:36 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
And for most people, doing whatever they do for money requires following an employment logic that they are not fully in control of themselves.

I suspect that for some people it's economics. Their time is worth, say, $50/hour to them, so if they can pay someone to scrub the latrines for $15 then they're better off applying themselves to their usual endeavours and paying someone considerably less than what they make to look after the domestic stuff.

To tell the truth, while I can appreciate that there aren't enough hours in a week (I work two jobs myself, and I cook and clean) I have to wonder: if your neighbour told you that his mother comes in twice a week to wash his skivvies and do his dishes and make his bed and pick up his socks, wouldn't you snicker?

Why is it any different if it's someone else's mom, and he gives her money?

Notwithstanding the labour issues here, or the class issues, or the race issues, it's just really hard for me to respect someone who can't seem to cope with their own basic needs like that. Disability not included, of course.


From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 03:38 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Oh, chubbybear -- surely not the dog-walking.

I used to live next door to a family who had a pro dog-walker. Gorgeous woman -- six feet tall, model-slim, spiky hair a different colour every few weeks -- wowser. She walked (probably still does -- I just don't see her any more) seven or eight dogs maybe five or six times a day, all at once, and they definitely knew she was leader of the pack. Even before I got to know her a bit, I could see from the way she radiated that she was one of the healthiest, smartest people I'd met.

In the dead of winter, I would watch her sitting on a camp-chair in the back yard next door, tossing snowballs for the dogs, and the pack all bounding through the deep snow after them. She was laughing; they were happy; and I was happy, watching.

The neighbours told me one day that she has a graduate degree from one of the American Ivies. I'm not surprised. What's so great about anyone else's job that a philosopher wouldn't prefer that one?


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
fern hill
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posted 03 October 2005 03:39 PM      Profile for fern hill        Edit/Delete Post
I dunno, I think I'm with chubbybear on this one.

quote:
Originally posted by chubbybear:
Ok. Let's admit it and be honest shall we? If you pay someone to clean your poo from the toilet and walk your little puppy around the park we are talking about servants, and pardon me but you have become the people you pretend to hate.

I've been in a position to pay for domestic engineering (my fave of alternative 'housewife' terms) and have even had the justification -- too busy, too stressed, too whatever. But I've never been able to bring myself to do it. It's some kind of class-queasiness.

I have dropped laundry off at the laudromat to be washed and folded for a couple of bucks a pound.

And, really, paying someone to service your computer or your furnace is not the same as paying someone to clean your house. In the one case, you're paying a specialist; in the other, you're hiring a servant.


From: away | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 03:42 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
if your neighbour told you that his mother comes in twice a week to wash his skivvies and do his dishes and make his bed and pick up his socks, wouldn't you snicker?

Why is it any different if it's someone else's mom, and he gives her money?

Notwithstanding the labour issues here, or the class issues, or the race issues, it's just really hard for me to respect someone who can't seem to cope with their own basic needs like that. Disability not included, of course.


No, Mr Magoo; I would not snicker.

But that's where you and I differ sometimes, Mr Magoo. I think that people are different. If I'm going to pay any attention to them at all, it will be in terms of who they are, not who I am. If who I am becomes of overriding importance, then I don't know them.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 03:44 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
And, really, paying someone to service your computer or your furnace is not the same as paying someone to clean your house. In the one case, you're paying a specialist; in the other, you're hiring a servant.

See, I just don't agree. I can't service my furnace because I never learned how to service a furnace: girls my age didn't learn that. But my tech adviser can't work my sewing machine, and I can.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 03 October 2005 03:48 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
See, I just don't agree. I can't service my furnace because I never learned how to service a furnace: girls my age didn't learn that. But my tech adviser can't work my sewing machine, and I can.

How does that refute the argument?


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 03:53 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The claim was that there is some essential difference in the level or quality of work involved.

I am saying that I don't think so. I think people think that for one of two reasons: either work that they haven't learned to do seems mysterious to them (a human universal), or they have been socialized to think that laying tiles requires more attention than cleaning a house.

The original letter-writer spoke of cleaning up your own dust-bunnies. That seems to be his conception of what needs cleaning or organizing in a home. One thing I'm sure of: he isn't Craig.


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kuri
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posted 03 October 2005 03:57 PM      Profile for kuri   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I really enjoyed reading this auntie.com.

When I was in Edinburgh, I lived in an international students' residence that paid for cleaners to come in once a week. I wouldn't have paid whatever extra the rent was for that service if I had the choice, and I felt somewhat strange about having a cleaner* come in. For one thing, they didn't always actually do that good of a job. There was mould left on the bathroom tiles that I would have bleached/scrubbed away myself normally. But I also felt that I was paying the same (exorbitant) rent regardless, so I shouldn't have to pay again to buy cleaning products to do someone else's job properly. But explaining that conundrum to others makes me feel like some sort of a rich bitch caricature, saying "It's so hard to find good help these days." It's not someone I wanted to be for obvious reasons.

I think the debate in this thread is somewhat related to the "cult of the job" thread. There's an automatic discounting of some types of jobs such that it becomes impossible for anyone to imagine doing them unless they are forced to from economic necessity. That doesn't resonate with me. I actually enjoy some types of cleaning (tidying and organizing storage especially, and vacuuming) and I can appreciate that there is a certain level of exclusiveness to the cleaning tasks we hate. A friend of mine from high school, for e.g., worked for a fire, water and sewage clean up company. It's at the scale of a problem (in particular with sewage disasters) that you can appreciate the effort and sacrifice that goes into cleaning work.

*I think the term "cleaner" is the best one to use, because it's simpler than "domestic worker" and gender neutral.


From: an employer more progressive than rabble.ca | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 03 October 2005 04:00 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
But that's where you and I differ sometimes, Mr Magoo. I think that people are different.

I think we both agree that people are different. What's more, I think we probably agree that not all "differents" are equal. If we disagree, it's on which "different" should be respected and which shouldn't.

Sorry, but grown men letting momma come in to do their laundry? Awesome.

I had a friend whose mother did everything for him when he was young. When we'd be hanging out in his room, reading comics and such, and he needed to blow his nose, he'd get a clean sock from his drawer, fill it with snot, and toss it on the floor for momma to pick up and launder. Touching a dinner plate after having emptied it was beneath him. Cleaning anything other than a car? Not for the likes of him!

As far as I'm concerned, we all have to live, and we should all have some basic idea of how to accomplish that. Those who refuse to take on the menial chores of their own existence must, by definition, be pawning those chores off on someone else. Someone who, frankly, has no more interest in picking pubic hairs off the soap than they do.

I just can't have respect for someone who won't grow up and take a little responsibility for their mess. Again, disability excepted. Maybe it's upbringing. If, as a kid, I'd simply left a plate on the table for momma to pick up I'd probably have a big plate-shaped scar on the back of my head to show to friends.


From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 03 October 2005 04:01 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
I mean, even able-bodied people still need eight hours of sleep a night, as it were. There are limits to what any single person can do, able-bodied or not. And for most people, doing whatever they do for money requires following an employment logic that they are not fully in control of themselves.

I'm not sure that argument works, skdadl. You'd have to believe that people (who can afford maids, remember) are REQUIRED to work 14 or 16 hour days, and literally have no time for housework. Do I believe that? I'm not sure I do. Everyone doesn't have a choice about whether they can find employment, but I think most middle-income-and-higher people have a choice about whether or not they have to work 72 hour work weeks. Are we therefore saying that people have an excuse to hire people to do their grungework as long as they're working excessively in pursuit of the almighty dollar? That doesn't sound like a very progressive argument to me.

I remember a long time ago, someone wrote to auntie talking about how her boyfriend was involved in a million causes, and because he was so busy doing all that Very Important Social Justice Work, he had no time to clean up after himself around the house. His time was way too valuable for that - so it fell to her.

Auntie, if I remember correctly, wasn't all that sympathetic about this fellow's time management choices, and didn't think it was a very good excuse for sticking someone else with cleaning up his share of the mess. Most of the folks posting to that thread didn't think much of it either. No one was making the excuse that he just didn't have enough time - they said (and rightfully so) that it was HIS CHOICES that led to him not having enough time to do so.

And if I remember correctly, in another article, Auntie also didn't have much respect for the idea of a woman choosing the more traditional role of housewife while the husband goes to work, even though the wife herself saw it as fulfilling and a fair division of labour (e.g. she is in effect being "paid" by the husband to stay home and do the housework).


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
fern hill
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posted 03 October 2005 04:04 PM      Profile for fern hill        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
The claim was that there is some essential difference in the level or quality of work involved.

What I was trying to get at is not the level or quality of work, but the role of the 'employer'. When my computer goes weird on me, I call a guy and he comes over and he tells ME what's wrong, how long it will take to fix, and consequently how much I owe him. He charges $80 bucks an hour, well worth it because the computer is my living.

If I engaged a cleaner, I'd be telling him or her what needs doing, directing the cleaner to do what I want them to do, what I think is important. I'm not hiring the cleaner as a specialist, someone who is doing what I can't do. I'm hiring someone to do what I don't want to do. And at a rate that is sufficiently less than what I can earn in the same length of time, so that it makes economic sense.

Maybe lagatta's employment of a cleaner or organizer is more like my employment of a computer guy -- it sounds like she is consulting a organizing specialist and is willing to pay someone to do what she cannot.

[ 03 October 2005: Message edited by: fern hill ]


From: away | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 04:05 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Oh, and I also had to speak to this from a socialist pov:

quote:
I suspect that for some people it's economics. Their time is worth, say, $50/hour to them, so if they can pay someone to scrub the latrines for $15 then they're better off applying themselves to their usual endeavours and paying someone considerably less than what they make to look after the domestic stuff.

There is a misconstruction of the way that wage-labour works embedded there. Maybe some people are free to make such direct cost-benefit analyses of their time and expenses, but most employees cannot do that. I spoke above of the logic of employment, and I meant that -- something more complex than just one's hourly or weekly wage.


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brebis noire
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posted 03 October 2005 04:06 PM      Profile for brebis noire     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well geez Magoo, I hope the cattle and hens in your garage and your backyard crop of vegetables and grains are gonna tide you over the winter. You know, I always hafta snicker at those people who can't deal with their own basic needs in food staples.
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skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 04:09 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
fern hill, I just wrote above of the cleaners I've heard of who do exactly what you say your tech guy does: they set the terms because they can.

I agree with you: that is ideal, and from all I've heard, there are a fair number of people around who run cleaning businesses that way. And that, to be fair, was what auntie was arguing for at the end of her column.


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Michelle
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posted 03 October 2005 04:11 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
The claim was that there is some essential difference in the level or quality of work involved.

But there is. fern hill talked about the difference between cleaning the floor and fixing a furnace or a computer, that one is skilled work and the other is not. You refuted that by comparing fixing a furnace and sewing something on a sewing machine. It's apples and oranges.

Any able-bodied person can clean a floor. Any able-bodied person can clean a toilet. It's not skilled work, any more than dressing oneself in the morning or locking the door behind you when you leave the house. Fixing furnaces, sewing (or tailoring), and fixing computers are skilled work which require specialized training.

Housecleaning is basic picking up after yourself. It's a basic life skill. I don't think most able-bodied people who hire maids do so because they just can't quite figure out how the whole mop on the floor thing works, and it's just too technical for them to wrap their brains around it.

That's where I think your analogy breaks down.

quote:
Well geez Magoo, I hope the cattle and hens in your garage and your backyard crop of vegetables and grains are gonna tide you over the winter.

That is also not the same thing. Not everyone has acres of land to pasture animals and grow vegetables, and not everyone has the specialized training to do so. But everyone with a home has a bathroom, and can easily figure out the business end of a broom or a toilet brush.

[ 03 October 2005: Message edited by: Michelle ]


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 03 October 2005 04:14 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
You know, I always hafta snicker at those people who can't deal with their own basic needs in food staples.

I'd love to grow my own food, if I owned the necessary land.

I do, however, own a vacuum cleaner. Not much excuse for me to not use it, eh?

See the difference? I'm not arguing against all division of labour, and I'm not arguing that anyone should do something that's just not possible for them. But honestly, who doesn't own a rag and some Comet? Who simply cannot pick their own pubies off the rim of the toilet?

I think that's really the achilles heel of any "who has the time anymore?" argument in favour of hiring someone: apparently people strapped for time only lack the time to do the really shitty stuff.

If it's just about the hours in the week, and NOT about trying to get out of the drudge work, then why don't more people pay the Guatemalan lady to take their kids to the zoo, while THEY stay home and scrape the oven burners with a knife?


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skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 04:15 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
In answer to Michelle: no, I certainly believe that people should have some time in their lives when they are neither working nor sleeping.

That was the point of the forty-hour-week (and is now the point of our chip-chip-chipping away at that standard).

Gee, I just don't believe in punishment, y'know? If you read the stats, you conclude, as even the economists do, that it is very hard to run a working-class family these days on less than two incomes. Average real wages have barely held over the last generation -- that is an economic revolution, whether people want to recognize it or not.

It has meant massive social reorganization, particularly in the lives of women.

And then there are all of us out here who don't have regular "jobs," who are trying to think of something inventive to do that would keep us afloat in this strange, shifting economy. That many smart people have taken to helping the wage-slaves driven mad by their regular jobs isn't such a stretch for me, y'know?


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Michelle
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posted 03 October 2005 04:18 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Who said anything about punishment? Since when is expecting people to perform their own basic maintenance "punishing" them?

Also, it's not working class families who are hiring maid services. Well, okay, I guess if you include highly-paid "working class" people, then I suppose that's not true. But if you're one of the "highly paid" working class, then no, you don't need two incomes, both with 60 hour work weeks, to get by.

[ 03 October 2005: Message edited by: Michelle ]


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
fern hill
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posted 03 October 2005 04:19 PM      Profile for fern hill        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Magoo:

If it's just about the hours in the week, and NOT about trying to get out of the drudge work, then why don't more people pay the Guatemalan lady to take their kids to the zoo, while THEY stay home and scrape the oven burners with a knife?


Excellent point, Mr. M. And dog walkers? Don't get me started. . .Why the hell would someone have a dog if s/he didn't have time to walk it?


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chubbybear
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posted 03 October 2005 04:28 PM      Profile for chubbybear        Edit/Delete Post
Sorry, but it is so fine that some of us are to harried to deal with the fundamental (and I mean "fundament") issues of packaging doggie and baby poo that they must hire others to deal with such trivialies, but are harmed, yes harmed by the very idea that they are employing servants!!! Excuse me, but as a former waiter, how many fine functions have a given a fine bit of crab or a nice glass of wine to someone at one of your fine gatherings? Surely you don't think I was not an f'n servant when you asked me to find something you lost or asked me to shine your shoes or fell on me or whatever. Sod off. Don't pretend the people you exploit are not your servants.
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Reality. Bites.
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posted 03 October 2005 04:31 PM      Profile for Reality. Bites.        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by fern hill:

Excellent point, Mr. M. And dog walkers? Don't get me started. . .Why the hell would someone have a dog if s/he didn't have time to walk it?


Some people use dog walkers to take the dog out for a walk when they are at work. My dog is fine staying all day in terms of bladder/bowel control, but others aren't, and even mine would certainly enjoy an additional walk. Older and smaller dogs can have a problem, and if the alternatives are euthanasia, quitting one's job, crating the dog or letting it pee on the rug, then a dog walker seems a perfectly reasonable choice to me.


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Michelle
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posted 03 October 2005 04:40 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chubbybear, I can understand your anger in general over this issue, but I'm not sure who your post is directed at since I don't think anyone in this thread has been showing any callous disregard for servants.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 04:50 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
chubbybear, if we're talking fundaments and their products, I've already said that I consider self a master-craftswoman on that score. And unlike a lot of people, I'm not disgusted by other people's shit or by catshit or dogshit either.

Obviously, I should put some thought into this. I hafta tell you, I have had much more enriching experiences over the last few years cleaning up human and animal shit than I have cleaning up some of the shit that people with professional degrees write and publish. I'm not making that up.

Mr Magoo spoke above of granting a certain amount to the logic of the division of labour, and I think that matters too. People really are different. What I find enriching, others wouldn't. Well: pretty obviously haven't.

But most of us don't find ways of surviving that way. It is undeniably very hard to do in this economy.


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chubbybear
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posted 03 October 2005 04:57 PM      Profile for chubbybear        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michelle:
Chubbybear, I can understand your anger in general over this issue, but I'm not sure who your post is directed at since I don't think anyone in this thread has been showing any callous disregard for servants.
Sorry, M. I think I just have a bee in my bonnet about anyone who thinks their live style requires (other than the disabled, as I have worked as a helper for the disabled) a personal helper.

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chubbybear
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posted 03 October 2005 05:01 PM      Profile for chubbybear        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
chubbybear, if we're talking fundaments and their products, I've already said that I consider self a master-craftswoman on that score. And unlike a lot of people, I'm not disgusted by other people's shit or by catshit or dogshit either.
Sorry, S., I hope I have not been misunderstood, because I have worked as an assistant to less-abled persons, and have spent a fair bit of time in cleaning fundament from good persons behinds, to their benifit and general comfort, and with good will and a smile, as a good friend would. I have dealt with more shit and vomit and pus and anything else as a health care worker, and I cared for my clients as friends and I respected them.

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skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 05:06 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
chubbybear, if you have done that, you are one of my best friends.

I mean, you were already. But that cements it, as it were.

(You wouldn't happen to know anything about cement, would you? I am a dope on cement.)


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Michelle
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posted 03 October 2005 05:23 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Just for fun - a previous auntie article where she didn't have so much patience for the "I don't have time for housework" excuse.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
chubbybear
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posted 03 October 2005 05:30 PM      Profile for chubbybear        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
chubbybear, if you have done that, you are one of my best friends.

I mean, you were already. But that cements it, as it were.

(You wouldn't happen to know anything about cement, would you? I am a dope on cement.)


Course I know cement, but if you want me to be honest, my wife is better at it. I was so glad that she helped me fix the front porch last year.

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skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 05:30 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
But auntie was talking about cynical arguments (and interpersonal ones) about division of labour there.

As I read her, she has always argued in favour of hiring people on at a fair wage and under good conditions.

Those are two dramatically different situations.


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Mr. Magoo
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posted 03 October 2005 05:37 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Those are two dramatically different situations.

But as you say, so are people.

Maybe the lazy world-saver-guy in the older Auntie column is just, well, different.


From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 05:41 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Mr M, he can be as "different" as he likes, but any roommate with half a brain would walk out on him.
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skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 05:42 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
PS: I put that more brutally than I actually believe.

I know how people get caught up in these situations. I don't think that the victims are brainless, although I do think that walking out is usually the good solution. But that would be another discussion.


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brebis noire
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posted 03 October 2005 05:44 PM      Profile for brebis noire     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The whole housecleaning thing isn't as easy as it sounds, and it's not just about picking up after yourself.

I spend an average of two hours every day doing household tasks that include laundry, cooking, picking up stuff and cleaning. But I still need a person to come in and clean the whole shebang once every two weeks; I can't set aside an entire morning, and I've realized over time that housecleaning involves skills, attention, time, technique...I'm very happy to be able to pay what it's worth for the time and skill involved, and it would never occur to me to think of my neighbour as 'my servant'. She told me what it costs, and I pay it.

And as for my crack about food - of course not everyone has the land or the machinery to raise their own food, but there's an awful lot of shit and dirt involved in that work and let's just say that the pay is about as crappy as it gets. People in cities and suburbs are so disconnected from this basic reality that from my perspective, it does resemble hair-splitting when people decide that it's virtuous to perform certain tasks for themselves but other types of equally shitty and equally essential work just goes on unseen.

To me, what's important is how people are treated, and how their work is valued, not who is doing what.


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Sven
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posted 03 October 2005 05:56 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michelle:
Another argument is that if you just don't LIKE cleaning your own shit off your own toilet, then what makes you think that's fulfilling work for anyone else to do? You're too good to do it yourself, but your cleaning lady isn't?

Our cleaning lady comes twice monthly and works in several homes in the neighborhood. That's how she (and thousands of others) earns her living.

Could I clean the house, do all of the yard work and, with a bit more effort, do most of the maintenance around the house? Probably. I simply choose not to.

So, I don't get it. You'd rather have me (and the others in the neighborhood) do those things and leave Julie without a job?

I don't get it.

[ 03 October 2005: Message edited by: Sven ]


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chubbybear
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posted 03 October 2005 05:58 PM      Profile for chubbybear        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by brebis noire:
I spend an average of two hours every day doing household tasks that include laundry, cooking, picking up stuff and cleaning. But I still need a person to come in and clean the whole shebang once every two weeks
Seriously, if you spend two hours daily cleaning stuff and still need someone to help out you've got a lotta stuff. Me, if I can't fit everything in a basic half ton when I go, then I've got too much stuff.

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brebis noire
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posted 03 October 2005 06:02 PM      Profile for brebis noire     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Kids, animals and 'lotsa stuff' tend to go together. I wish somebody had told me exactly how it was gonna be.
I have a garden, too, and cooking is something I consider important.

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Sven
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posted 03 October 2005 06:12 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michelle:
Are we therefore saying that people have an excuse to hire people to do their grungework as long as they're working excessively in pursuit of the almighty dollar? That doesn't sound like a very progressive argument to me.

Okay, so what personal tasks do you think should be on the do-it-yourself list and what personal tasks should be on the to-hire-someone-else list?


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skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 06:16 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
chubbybear: about brebis noire: she also has two children, plus she is a veterinarian. The two hours was just the picking-up-around-the-house part.
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Sven
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posted 03 October 2005 06:18 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by fern hill:
I've been in a position to pay for domestic engineering (my fave of alternative 'housewife' terms) and have even had the justification -- too busy, too stressed, too whatever. But I've never been able to bring myself to do it. It's some kind of class-queasiness.

If you own a business that has a few crappers around the building, must you clean the crappers yourself (because you’re the owner) or are you permitted to delegate that task to someone else?

If you can delegate it, does that cause you any “class-queasiness”?


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Sven
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posted 03 October 2005 06:19 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Also, does anyone care about what the cleaning people think?
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chubbybear
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posted 03 October 2005 06:21 PM      Profile for chubbybear        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
chubbybear: about brebis noire: she also has two children, plus she is a veterinarian. The two hours was just the picking-up-around-the-house part.
Oh gosh, you don't want me to start whining about relatives who have two kids and work at gas stations or whatever do you? Pardon me, boo and hoo. If you want to hire a servant, go ahead, but don't pretend that they are not servants, ok?

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skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 06:24 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
brebis noire's neighbour does not sound like a servant to me. She sounds like two things: a self-respecting worker, who knows the value of what she does and expects others to respect that.

But then beyond that, she sounds like a good neighbour to have. A lot of us need those in times when we are living three lives at once, as brebis noire is (I left out the writing part), and too few of us find them.


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chubbybear
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posted 03 October 2005 06:29 PM      Profile for chubbybear        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
But then beyond that, she sounds like a good neighbour to have. A lot of us need those in times when we are living three lives at once, as brebis noire is (I left out the writing part), and too few of us find them.
I don't mean to disrespect any individual. As I've said, I've worked as a "bum-wiper", "bather" and "feeder" and was proud of it, because I helped people lead full lives who might otherwise not. I worked with humour and fun and enjoyed the company of my clients who were very nice to me. However, there is a difference between working in an institution for a group of people and being attached to a single family as a person who could not otherwise be free, as in a person of foreign servitude. So let us be clear about the degree of freedom one might have in ones employment. While my previous employment may have paid little, I had the choice of going elsewhere, while others would merely have the choice of being deported.

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Sven
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posted 03 October 2005 06:37 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by chubbybear:
While my previous employment may have paid little, I had the choice of going elsewhere, while others would merely have the choice of being deported.

Have you been assuming that all domestic workers are illegal immigrants? If it's an immigration issue, that's a different topic.


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
chubbybear
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posted 03 October 2005 06:38 PM      Profile for chubbybear        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Sven:
[QBHave you been assuming that all domestic workers are illegal immigrants? If it's an immigration issue, that's a different topic.[/QB]
No - many personal domestic workers are foreign workers working under contract.

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skdadl
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posted 03 October 2005 06:40 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
While my previous employment may have paid little, I had the choice of going elsewhere, while others would merely have the choice of being deported.

Aha. You are talking, chubbybear, about the nefarious Canadian government, and the special rules under which it brings some workers into this country, especially nannies? (I'm not sure of other categories.)

That is indeed a serious political problem. The nannies, anyway, have a serious political organization a-building, as I understand it, and we must support them. What has been done to them is evil, simply evil.


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koan brothers
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posted 03 October 2005 06:55 PM      Profile for koan brothers     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I am a servant of a sort. I'm a caretaker on a large property owned by a very wealthy individual. I'm in charge of hiring other workers on the property such as cleaning people, pool cleaners, lawn maint. etc.

Most of these people are self-employed small business owners doing what they want to do to earn a living.

The people that I am familiar with don't attach any stigma to what they do. They leave that to the snobs.


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brebis noire
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posted 03 October 2005 07:05 PM      Profile for brebis noire     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I'd just like to apologize for bringing out the angle of my own little life. It's not like I can't see the difference between having a person come in for a few hours a week (which, I'd like to add, if I can afford it that means an awful lot of people can - there's stuff I scrimp on, but that extra help makes a huge difference in my life) and having a person in the house for several hours a day, doing all kinds of work, and even living in what amounts to the servants' quarters.

There is a class divide, and it's growing - it's being reinforced in all kinds of ways, including through domestic servitude, and I think that's an awful thing (again, we can make an exception for disability.)

But it still does come down to how people are treated, and how their work is valued. That is the bigger issue, and it's not going to be solved by harping on the people who can *just* afford to have some extra help a few hours or so a week - I mean, my god, even the most ordinary of rural families here in Quebec traditionally had outside help of some kind, and we'd *all* still need it if it weren't for modern appliances and transportation.


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andrean
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posted 03 October 2005 07:31 PM      Profile for andrean     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by brebis noire:

To me, what's important is how people are treated, and how their work is valued, not who is doing what.

I agree, brebis noire, and I find it a little shocking that a board peopled mainly by socialists and feminists should construe any labour, especially the traditionally women's work of house keeping, as inherently degrading (sorry, Michelle, I'm not just picking on you, but you introduced the phrase and I think it does encapsulate a lot of people's opinions). We validate other jobs that are based on women's traditional roles (childcare, nursing, handcrafts) but not housecleaning?

If housecleaning work is so unpleasant and unfulfilling that we should be ashamed to inflict it on anyone else, why should we then allow people to clean our schools, stores, offices or factories? Why shouldn't we all just stay after work to mop or vaccuum and wash the windows? Surely we shouldn't pay people to collect garbage from the curb when we can deliver it to the waste depot ourselves. And, since any able-bodied person can use a paintbrush or hammer a nail, there's no need for any of us to hire painters or carpenters.

Obviously, I'm exaggerating here, but I think that taking the position that we must perform certain work just because we can gets ridiculous pretty quickly. And most of us have jobs, or at least aspects of our work, that we find unfulfilling but that we perform anyway. I find data entry pretty dull but the salary I get from doing it allows me to pursue the work that I do find fulfilling but that doesn't pay enough for me to live on.

I do pay someone to clean my house (and, incidentally, her hourly rate is higher than mine) and I don't call her "my servant," just like I don't call the person I pay to fix my plumbing or install my light fixtures "my servants". I call the person who cleans my house "the cleaner" (obviously only in the third person - I call her by her first name, as she calls me by mine). She doesn't serve me; she comes to my house and performs tasks for which I pay her, the same as I pay the plumber or the electrician. I can do simple plumbing, and could probably do simple electrical if I had to but I don't. The time it would take me, and aggravation it would cause me, make it easier to hire someone else. Same with the housecleaning: the cleaner can do in two hours what would take me four - she is better at that job than I am, so I am happy to pay her for her skills.

The domestic worker regs of the Canadian government are a whole different thing and unrelated to the nature of the work of housecleaning.


From: etobicoke-lakeshore | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
kuri
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posted 03 October 2005 07:43 PM      Profile for kuri   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by brebis noire:
And as for my crack about food - of course not everyone has the land or the machinery to raise their own food, but there's an awful lot of shit and dirt involved in that work and let's just say that the pay is about as crappy as it gets. People in cities and suburbs are so disconnected from this basic reality that from my perspective, it does resemble hair-splitting when people decide that it's virtuous to perform certain tasks for themselves but other types of equally shitty and equally essential work just goes on unseen.

Excellent post.


From: an employer more progressive than rabble.ca | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged
lagatta
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posted 03 October 2005 08:31 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
By the way, I don't hire a housecleaner - can't afford it, and I sure as hell wouldn't make anyone clean my toilet much less pick pubic hair off my soaap. I have no problem with that type of "cleaning" - my problem is organisation, and I consider that a skill, or something in the brain that I'm sorely lacking.

And I have a very small dwelling: office, bedroom and kitchen/dining room, none of them large. Not even a proper living room. The "stuff" I have is books, papers, art supplies, cooking implements... I think a slightly larger dwelling and above all better storage (cupboards, drawers) would make me much more and not less organised.


From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Tommy_Paine
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Babbler # 214

posted 03 October 2005 09:29 PM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It's my view, lagatta, that it's easier to keep a small place organized than a large one. Extra space enables you to hang on to extra stuff. Analyse the stuff, first. Get rid of what you don't use. Other people might be able to use it.

After that, it may come down to better storage space, if things are still cluttered.

Anywho.

I found the letter refreshing, as it contained that there was a "liberal" out there ready to hit someone.

All in all, it's been a long time comin'.


From: The Alley, Behind Montgomery's Tavern | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
Moderator
Babbler # 560

posted 03 October 2005 10:27 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by andrean:
I agree, brebis noire, and I find it a little shocking that a board peopled mainly by socialists and feminists should construe any labour, especially the traditionally women's work of house keeping, as inherently degrading (sorry, Michelle, I'm not just picking on you, but you introduced the phrase and I think it does encapsulate a lot of people's opinions).

Well, do note that I said that was my first visceral reaction due to my strong dislike of housecleaning. Later in the post, I conceded that just because my perception of the work is like that, doesn't mean that makes it factually true. ("So I guess I figure that if a person is paid well to do the job, and they are treated with respect, then who am I to say it's degrading? I would find it degrading and icky but a lot of women wouldn't. So, really, more power to them.")

Really, I guess I'm pretty much convinced by your argument, andrean. In this imperfect world, there's a lot of work out there that isn't thrilling. I'm sure there would be people who would absolutely abhor my job (and I've talked to admin assistants who really do) and would much rather be housekeeping instead, whether in their own home or in other people's homes through their own business. Whereas I really like what I do.

So, hey. I'm all for reforming what needs to be reformed (exploiting companies that pay shit wages and corrupt immigration schemes that make human slaves out of third world women who come here as housekeepers), and letting live.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Polly Brandybuck
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posted 03 October 2005 10:51 PM      Profile for Polly Brandybuck     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Is it still considered snobbery if you trade services? I have a cleaner too, she comes in once a week and makes my house look so very much nicer than it does when I clean it. (BTW, there is nothing I would rather avoid than housework). She and her husband have a small business, while she cleans I bean count for her. She thinks she is getting the better end of the deal, I swear I am.

[ 03 October 2005: Message edited by: housemouse ]


From: To Infinity...and beyond! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
Ferdzy
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posted 03 October 2005 11:15 PM      Profile for Ferdzy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I've come late to this conversation, and I don't think I have too much new to add. However, I think the emerging consensus is quite right: it's not the work, it's the power (wage, hours, legal status) structure that make cleaning work okay or not.

I have a "cleaning lady" and certainly don't feel guilty about it. She is also a friend, who I met through my religious organization. I don't regard her role as that of servant; I see her as self-employed, like me.

Perhaps it makes a difference that I worked as a cleaner myself in the past, both in homes and in a women's shelter/daycare. There are also a lot of cleaning aspects to my present work. Interestingly, I had no problems cleaning up the piss and shit, but hated cleaning ashtrays with a passion. Now those are GROSS. Gag, gag.

I do think the worst aspect of cleaning is people's attitude towards you and it. People frequently have very unrealistic expectations. When you hire someone to clean for three hours, what you get is three hours of cleaning. You do not get a bathroom that looks brand new, if it isn't. You do not get your house cleaned of every speck of dirt (unless you have a house small enough that three hours will do it; unlikely.) And as for people's personal papers, oy, let's not go there. You mustn't touch them, but somehow they must be made clean and neat.

However, the work itself is just that: work, for money. Like I said, the real questions are: is the money fair; are the working conditions fair; do you get treated with respect? And can people let go of their baggage about someone else cleaning their stuff, which is where I think all the problems in the previous paragraph come from.


From: Small Town Ontario | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
Sven
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Babbler # 9972

posted 04 October 2005 01:14 AM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Ferdzy:
...is the money fair...?

If I ask a prospective cleaner if she will clean the house for $XX each two weeks and she said, "Yes", then the money is "fair". If I don't pay enough, I wouldn't find anyone willing to do a quality job.


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
FabFabian
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posted 04 October 2005 02:21 AM      Profile for FabFabian        Edit/Delete Post
So calling someone who does your housework a servant is being nasty eh? I would call them an indentured slave, but that's me.

I feel a good deal of this having "help" is status, the middle class mimicking the upper classes. Unless you live in a 30 room country estate or in a palace, I hardly think you need hired help. What you do need is to manage your time wisely.

Which brings me to a related topic; nannies. Oh how it made me cringe when a certain higher up at work would go on about having a nanny. More than likely the poor woman in charge was not a nanny, just a glorified babysitter. People in Canada and the U.S. have no idea how to identify a real nanny or treat one as such.


From: Toronto | Registered: Nov 2004  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 478

posted 04 October 2005 08:26 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
There is, btw, a great article on nanny abuse in the March 2005 issue of the Walrus magazine. Here is the Walrus site; the article, unfortunately, is not available online.
From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
aRoused
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Babbler # 1962

posted 04 October 2005 10:30 AM      Profile for aRoused     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
As is so often the case, the BBC recently did a relevant documentary:
BBC

quote:
London alone now has an estimated 250,000 immigrant cleaners. An industry once dominated by white working class women is reliant on cheap foreign labour.
(snip)
"Many buildings today are now cleaned for the same amount that they were ten years ago. All that has happened is that labour costs have been driven down and cleaners have to do a bigger area than a few years ago... We would not survive without them and I think everyone recognises that this whole industry needs them."

"Cleaner" is the accepted term for this type of work in the UK. "Servant" would imply stately homes and Upstairs/Downstairs concepts to a Brit.

[ 04 October 2005: Message edited by: aRoused ]


From: The King's Royal Burgh of Eoforwich | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged
Sven
rabble-rouser
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posted 04 October 2005 12:34 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by FabFabian:
Unless you live in a 30 room country estate or in a palace, I hardly think you need hired help. What you do need is to manage your time wisely.

There is a significant difference between "need" and "want".

There are a lot of things I don't "need" help with:

1. Cleaning the house
2. Changing the oil in my vehicle
3. Washing my vehicle
4. Painting my house
5. Doing basic plumbing and electrical work
6. Maintaining my bicycle
7. Making all of my own meals
8. Laundering and ironing my work shirts.
9. Refinishing our wood floors.

And on and on...

But, in most of those cases, I simply don't "want" to.

Could I make time to do all of those things? Sure. But if I don't have to, why should I? In other words, on what basis do you make the judgment on how I should be spending my non-work time?


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Fed
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 8926

posted 04 October 2005 03:52 PM      Profile for Fed        Edit/Delete Post
My thought, FWIW, is:

"So long as you pay me decent money, you can call me anything your little heart desires."


From: http://babblestrike.lbprojects.com/ | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Sven
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Babbler # 9972

posted 04 October 2005 05:01 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
BTW, there is something missing from my list above that is of much greater importance than the rest of those items combined: Child care.

How can a person conclude that you must do all of the mundane tasks around your home (like housekeeping) yet have no quibble with someone coming into your home to take care of your kids?


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
Babbler # 3469

posted 04 October 2005 05:04 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
How can a person conclude that you must do all of the mundane tasks around your home (like housekeeping) yet have no quibble with someone coming into your home to take care of your kids?

Because you can do your housekeeping anytime (before work, after work, weekends, some of each) but you can't look after kids just between 5 and midnight. They need to be looked after while you're at work, whereas the laundry doesn't.

That help?


From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Sven
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posted 04 October 2005 05:06 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
You're correct.
From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Woodnymph
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posted 07 October 2005 06:21 AM      Profile for Woodnymph     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Thank God at least one person who has worked as a cleaner jumped into this topic. Great to have ideals about "I'm too good/organized/efficient/productive to have someone else clean up behind me" but it completely glosses over the realities of the situation. My mother has a grade 9 education and has done nothing by way of educating herself formally since getting married to my dad at age 19. It doesn't interest her in the slightest. What she does is clean. She's great at it. And it is the only way she is able to earn a living. Honestly, she gets paid much better and works better hours than any McJob she might be qualified for. The only drawback to her chosen employment is people who, like so many on this topic, believe that it is not valid or worthy to clean other people's houses. They see it as disgusting or demeaning and personally I think its because it has traditionally been work that women do. Its hard work that requires skills and abilities that not everyone has.

Living overseas, I have come to view house cleaners in even a more broader sense. I employ one. Yosoma comes to my house twice a week. I could go on about how I treat her the way I would want to be treated, etc. etc. etc. but the realities of the situation are that if I wasn't employing her (along with her other "families"), she would be working in a sweat-shop factory pumping out Gap clothes without the benefits of vacation pay, sick pay and Christmas bonuses like she currently gets. She would be working longer hours for an employer that didn't give a rat's ass about her.

And as an answer to the topic's name; Yosoma and my mother both refer to themselves as "house cleaners". To me, they are my Canadian mother and my Sri Lankan mother. I love them both.


From: A little island on a big ocean | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Debra
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 117

posted 07 October 2005 09:00 AM      Profile for Debra   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Cleaning does require a certain set of skills.

Yes anyone can clean, but not just anyone can do it well.

I am currently employeed as a cleaner in two town buildings and have worked as a "housecleaner" in the past.\

Is working in a building above working in a home or are they both demeaning mundane jobs?

It is interesting to me that I can go through a house someone has just cleaned and make it look completely different and yet be told I have no skill set.

Seems to me true progressives would realize all types of work are equally worthy.


From: The only difference between graffiti & philosophy is the word fuck... | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Suzette
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 7708

posted 07 October 2005 09:19 AM      Profile for Suzette     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Debra:
Seems to me true progressives would realize all types of work are equally worthy.
Thank you for saying that, Debra. I wanted to add something similar on the other thread on this topic, but had ranted on too long already.

It is terribly elitist to look down this work. I recall a former boss picking up a broom to clean the workshop floor; when I expressed surprise that he would be doing what was essentially a part of my job he said, "All work is noble." Right on.


From: Pig City | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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Babbler # 478

posted 07 October 2005 09:21 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Which thread are we posting what sort of views on?

sk "interested but confused" dadl


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Suzette
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 7708

posted 07 October 2005 09:35 AM      Profile for Suzette     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
Which thread are we posting what sort of views on?

sk "interested but confused" dadl


Anywhere. Everywhere. Higgledy-piggledy.

Actually, I'm a little confused, too.


From: Pig City | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
the weather
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 10356

posted 08 October 2005 11:21 PM      Profile for the weather     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
wow, i'm really impressed by this discuss. i'm a newbie to this sort of forum and seeing the many respectful responses to my original question feels really good.

to respond to an earlier post, i really wasn't trolling for a fight, i honestly wanted to hear what the good auntie had to say as i was quite conflicted about the conflict.

auntie's response left me disappointed, i don't feel like she answered my question and introduced some bad logic by saying that the domestic worker helper-out people could be working in a sweat shop. i think's that's know in the illogic business as a "false dichotomy". i don't dispute the fact that there are worse jobs but that cleaning someones house is serving someone and that empowering language only manages to shield the employer (and everybody else) from the ugly truth.

auntie, you say "the word “servant” is demeaning; “domestic worker” is infinitely preferable" but you don't explain why. I worry that it's just a semantic sleight of hand. please, dear auntie, tell me WHY i'm wrong, not just that i am wrong.

as for the rest of the comments, i'm making my way through them and will hopefully have some comments. so far i feel that intelligent comments have supported enough of my postion making me feel that it's not as cut and dried as auntie tried to brow beat me into believing.

though i love her dearly.


in rudeness and in health,
the KFP aka The Weather (because my moods are as predictable as global warming)


From: toronto | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged
Raos
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 5702

posted 08 October 2005 11:51 PM      Profile for Raos     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Debra:

It is interesting to me that I can go through a house someone has just cleaned and make it look completely different and yet be told I have no skill set.

That is exactly why I could never hire a house cleaner. I really don't like my things being moved or cleaned, or anything changing without me being explicitly aware of all of it. I hate it when I put something somewhere (which could very well involve the floor, or having a stack of papers on top of it) and it not being there when I go to look for it.


From: Sweet home Alaberta | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Puetski Murder
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Babbler # 3790

posted 09 October 2005 09:52 PM      Profile for Puetski Murder     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Unless you live in a 30 room country estate or in a palace, I hardly think you need hired help. What you do need is to manage your time wisely.

Wow! Great to see you have pat assessments about other people's lives. Remind me to consult you anytime I need smug answers to a life dilemma.

I live in a 2000 sqf place with my mother. She is so finicky about cleanliness that our place must be cleaned every week, even if there is only a sprinkling of dust. And brother, I mean *cleaned*: scrubbing, vacuuming, tidying, washing, ironing, dusting, the whole bit. If you walk into our apartment, it is showroom clean, anyday of the week. She likes it this way, and says it focuses her to have a spotless space. Fine by me, since she works 80 hours a week in her home office.

Divided between two people, the task is still time consuming and tedious. Who is anyone to judge if we make the decision to hire someone? Our place will never be a sty, because we do a lot of intraweek maintenance, and we pay well. Furthermore, we give great references which is important in the domestic worker industry. Both of us know what the job entails and are accordingly grateful.

Moreover, I've often wondered if I could pick up some side cash by cleaning. I've done it in a commercial setting, and cleaning homes is like a second nature to me. I'm very detail oriented.

I don't begrudge anyone their job if that's what they want to do.


From: Toronto | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Vivian
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 10792

posted 27 October 2005 05:08 PM      Profile for Vivian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I really dislike the idea that people must be bullied into using the right word, as if that makes all the difference. There's something very phony and dishonest about the politically correct tendency to make up a new word at regular intervals, ie. crippled becomes handicapped becomes disabled becomes differently-abled becomes special. Each new word is less descriptive and more mealy-mouthed than the one before it. Each new word eventually acquires the "taint" of the thing described, and so must be replaced. So the very process of word-changing demonstates that prejudice still lives within the word-makers.

I expected better of auntie, but she had herself a right little temper-tantrum there, didn't she? I wasn't aware that "servant" was considered an insult, but she used quite a few actual insults in response. Who's the real boor here?

I also think it's odd that no one considers the host's reliance on violence worthy of mention.

This auntie column annoyed me so much, I registered just to write about it!

[ 27 October 2005: Message edited by: Vivian ]


From: Montreal | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged
shaolin
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4270

posted 27 October 2005 06:11 PM      Profile for shaolin     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Last night I was at work - a coffeehouse setting where one of the nightly tasks is cleaning the toilets. I hate it. I feel absolutely degraded having to clean up others shit or $8.50/hour. Then again, I also get angry when people leave old gum on the side of their saucer for me to have to get rid of, so maybe that says a little about my tolerance for such things. Anyway, I always try my best to get out of doing the toilets and last night was the same. But as it turns out, one of my co-workers actually likes doing them because it means she doesn't have to sell yuppies coffee for twenty minutes. This revelation definitely made me soften my somewhat hard-line stance on employing domestic help (not that I could afford to anyway).

I think one of the big problems with this whole debate is that most cleaners are not like Craig or any of the others who happily own their own businesses and can charge the prices they deserve to be paid. Most cleaners work for companies and only a fraction of what the home owner pays for the service. Likewise, the people I've known who clean in an industrial or commercial setting (from maids in hotels to night cleaners in office buildings or fast-food places) rarely make more than $10/hour.

But maybe they'd rather be doing that than slinging coffee like I am?

[ 27 October 2005: Message edited by: shaolin ]


From: Edinburgh | Registered: Jul 2003  |  IP: Logged
kuri
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4202

posted 27 October 2005 06:16 PM      Profile for kuri   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by shaolin:
Then again, I also get angry when people leave old gum on the side of their saucer for me to have to get rid of

*guilty compulsive gum chewer* And I thought I was so virtuous saving the trees by not using a napkin!

quote:
Originally posted by shaolin:
Likewise, the people I've known who clean in an industrial or commercial setting (from maids in hotels to night cleaners in office buildings or fast-food places) rarely make more than $10/hour.

Exactly. I think that's the real issue, more so than terminology.


From: an employer more progressive than rabble.ca | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged
Cougyr
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3336

posted 27 October 2005 07:57 PM      Profile for Cougyr     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Service
quote:
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin servitium condition of a slave, body of slaves, from servus slave

dictionary

From: over the mountain | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
shaolin
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4270

posted 27 October 2005 08:00 PM      Profile for shaolin     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
*guilty compulsive gum chewer* And I thought I was so virtuous saving the trees by not using a napkin!

I'm all for not wasting a napkin - just throw it out instead of leaving it for me to scrape off of the saucer!


From: Edinburgh | Registered: Jul 2003  |  IP: Logged
Reality. Bites.
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 6718

posted 27 October 2005 08:44 PM      Profile for Reality. Bites.        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by shaolin:

I'm all for not wasting a napkin - just throw it out instead of leaving it for me to scrape off of the saucer!



Yeah, anything dry that gum touches will never be clean again without a lot of effort. Even worse than gum in a plate is gum in an ashtray. Garbage can, toilet, or paper that will be thrown out anyway, such as a bus transfer, a small piece of newspaper, etc.


From: Gone for good | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Sven
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 9972

posted 28 October 2005 07:47 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by shaolin:
I think one of the big problems with this whole debate is that most cleaners are not like Craig or any of the others who happily own their own businesses and can charge the prices they deserve to be paid. Most cleaners work for companies and only a fraction of what the home owner pays for the service.

Why don't most cleaners do what Craig and the others did, start their own business and "charge the prices they deserve"?

When my nephew was in high school, I suggested that he start a company called "Karl's Komodes" and just offer to clean people's bathrooms. He'd have more business than he could handle. Some people wouldn't want to spend the money to have their entire house cleaned but a lot of people just hate cleaning bathrooms.


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
presca
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 6450

posted 28 October 2005 08:49 PM      Profile for presca        Edit/Delete Post
Originally posted by Sven:

quote:
Why don't most cleaners do what Craig and the others did, start their own business and "charge the prices they deserve"?

My guess is that most cleaners don't have the ability to quit their job, coast on their savings, and try to start a viable business. Or maybe they don't have the time to keep their job while putting in the extra time to start a viable business.

I also suspect that people who work for cleaning companies may have to sign something stating that they won't set up their own business and steal clients. I've never worked for a cleaning company so I wouldn't know, but I think those things are easy to include in work contracts.


From: mtl | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
flawedplan
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 10836

posted 01 November 2005 05:00 AM      Profile for flawedplan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chiming in with my experience as a scrubwoman (at least that was what I called myself, the nostalgia of the term appealed to my aesthetic sensibilities).

I started out working for agencies, and within a few years had my own small company. Some clients are nice, offer you refreshments and treat you with respect and gratitude, others are into pointless exactitude, submission really, for its own sake, and like seeing an inferior on her knees, scrubbing out their toilets. So I remain ambivalent about the work, yes it has humiliating aspects, but I also truly needed every cent I earned while cleaning houses, and counted myself lucky to be my own boss and self-supporting...


From: Austin | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged
Cartman
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 7440

posted 10 November 2005 03:22 PM      Profile for Cartman        Edit/Delete Post
Sorry, I just cannot stand to look at that Spank the boys and make them Batman anymore.
From: Bring back Audra!!!!! | Registered: Nov 2004  |  IP: Logged

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