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The hot Texas heat bore down on my mother and I as we traversed the parking lot to the movie theater, ready to see the movie “The Help” that we had heard was good. I’d never read the book, and was curious to see what the movie was like.  

I looked around, and most of the people heading into the dark movie theater were white women in their fifties and sixties. There were no black people, and my mother remarked on this. I looked at her and said, “Why would they want to see a movie about racism and what it was like to be a domestic worker back in the 1960s? They’ve already lived through it and experienced it.” This made sense to my mother, and she nodded. We went inside, found our seats, and I put my captioning device in the cupholder, adjusted the screen, and sat back as the movie opened.

Even though the acting was amazing, and there were many funny and sobering scenes in the movie, I noticed that much of the narrative was focused on Skeeter and the racist housewives, Hilly and Elizabeth. There was a conceit to the movie from the white perspective, and when Aibileen said that she was a writer, and kept repeating that, it felt false to me. How could she be a writer when it was a white woman that wrote her story, and she didn’t publish the book under her own name? I felt that the author, Stockett, who had written the book, was patronizing us in the audience in that sense about Aibileen and Minny ‘being writers’ when in actuality, they were subjects for Skeeter to be interviewed.  

It was Skeeter who ended up elevating her own success by going to New York City and getting that job of her dreams. She’d used those women, and she got successful for it. And what happened to Aibileen and Minny? Aibileen lost her job, and Minny kept hers, but never rose out of her role as a domestic worker to another elevated role.

After we left the movie theater, and we sat in the car, thinking about the movie. My mother remarked to me that she wished the movie had been based on an actual memoir, and the stories would have been more authentic. She’d noticed how much of the movie was done from the white perspective, and said, “You know those white women in the audience? How many of them really think about their own Latino help and see the similarities in what they’ve done to Latino women here in El Paso?”


We talked about the border, and how women put their own lives in danger to cross the border to work as domestic ‘help’ for wealthy and middle-class Americans for little pay and no benefits. My mother told me about the stories she’d read in the newspaper about these missing women, and how many of them worked across the border on the U.S. side in wealthy homes. They were replaced by other women, and their employers just didn’t care enough to search for these missing women. They didn’t want the law to know how little they paid these women below the federal minimum wage, didn’t file payroll taxes, and exploited them. So, if their domestic help ‘disappeared’ to the drug cartel violence, they’d find another domestic ‘help.’ There were no shortages of desperate Latino women for these wealthy and middle-class Americans. These wealthy and middle-class Americans are wage thieves, and exploiters of desperate human labor.

The Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, the Border Network for Human Rights, and the Labor Justice Committee released a report in June of 2011 about the systematic exploitation of Mexican women and wage theftalong the border.

“Wage theft in El Paso correlates closely with El Paso demographics. Nearly a third of all El Paso residents are3―foreign-born, many of them from Mexico and undocumented and struggling financially.‖    Wage theft is particularly prevalent among immigrant workers, and ―work-related exploitation appears to be growing along with the country’s immigrant population.‖4    In addition to fear of losing their jobs, immigrants without legal status are also less likely to report incidents of wage theft for fear of immigration detention and deportation.5

…..

But the question facing El Paso, along with the rest of Texas, is, ―What kind of jobs are we creating?‖ A recent report cast doubt on the optimism of Texas’ newfound job growth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas ranks as one of two states, along with Mississippi, with the highest percentage of workers making at, or below, the federal minimum wage.9    Of Texas’ 5.7 million hourly workers, 550,000 earned at or below federal minimum wage in 2010.10 El Paso statistics mirror these state-wide trends. Around eighty percent of low-wage workers interviewed in El Paso for this report earn less than $10 an hour. It is doubtful these are the kind of jobs that will create a healthy economy and sustain El Paso families and communities in the long-run.

These domestic workers have little recourse for help from the state. Governor Rick Perry has defunded our state to the extent that the agency, the Texas Workforce Commission, which is supposed to help these workers, only has 24 investigators for the entire state. The report points out that as a result of policy and lack of resources, these investigators have not conducted a field investigation since 1993.

Here is the story of Maria, a domestic worker, who did not receive the help she needed from the federal government when she turned to the local Department of Labor office for assistance:

As a domestic worker, she fell directly under the FLSA minimum wage provisions. Based on her calculation of hours worked, her employer owed her more than $11,000 in unpaid wages. When María brought this information to her investigator, the investigator refused to negotiate for the higher wage rate and refused to accept any other information she had regarding her claim. The investigator only recovered a little more than $3,000 in unpaid wages, a third of her owed wages.

More troubling is the inability of workers to have representation or an advocate when they make a complaint. In the case of María, an attorney represented the employer in negotiations with the DOL investigator. Maria was unrepresented. After feeling concern over the lack of advocacy in her case, she sought help from the Labor Justice Committee. She then tried to set up a meeting with the DOL investigator about discrepancies in her hour calculations. The investigator told her in no uncertain terms that, if she wanted to have representation of any kind, including a non- attorney community advocate, she would not be able to continue her complaint with the DOL.24 The investigator informed her that she could pursue the DOL conciliation or she could have an attorney, but could not have it both ways.25    Worried she would be left without any help, María decided to accept the vastly undervalued DOL settlement. By refusing to let María go to the DOL office with representation of any kind, the local DOL essentially forced her to go through the wage claim process alone, while allowing the employer to have legal representation.26

More women like Maria are slipping through the cracks because our society and those in power are unwilling to do anything about the problem. Why would those in power do anything different? They’ve got domestic help in their own households. We’ve got to keep beating the drum about wage theft, because it’s not just Latino workers that this is happening to, it’s happening to all of us.  The report points out how wage theft and human labor exploitation ends up dragging us all to the bottom:

When employers shortchange employees, they also shortchange the local economy. Low- income families, who have to spend most of their earnings on basic necessities, are unable to spend, which in turn impedes the circulation of capital through local economies. As one report put it, ―[w]age theft robs local communities of this spending, and ultimately limits economic growth.‖47 Wage theft also depresses sales tax revenue for local and state governments. Further, it robs state and federal coffers of unemployment taxes. In this report, 47% of workers received all or some portion of their wages in cash. Employers seldom report payroll taxes on most of these cash payments. A recent report among Austin construction workers found that at least $8,618,869 of federal and state unemployment taxes were lost in 2009 due to employers’ misrepresentations of worker income and failure to pay payroll records.48

When it happens to the least of us, it also happens to us all. It is like a domino effect, cascading throughout the entire economy at the local and the national level. Worker exploitation, racism, and classism is nothing new, and even though The Help, as a movie, treated it as new revelations for majority white audiences, at least it is helping start a conversation about domestic labor.

One scene in the movie that I keep thinking about is of Aibileen in the bathtub, with her tired hands over the edges of the tub as her voice narrates about how much she earns per month, which is a paltry $182 dollars, for all the work she does for that wealthy white family. The scene shows her going to work, in her uniform, and working around the household. It is eerily similar to the scenes I see everyday on the border of Latino women waiting patiently by bus stops in the hot Texas heat, with their neatly pulled back hair, gnarled hands, and hoping to make it home safely without being killed, raped, or mugged by the drug cartels. They do this every morning, and they get shafted by wealthy and middle-class American households when it comes to their wages.

We need to treat domestic workers in this country like they deserve to be treated: with respect, human dignity, and pride in the work they do. They deserve to be compensated well. It is all too strange that we undervalue the work of those who work physically hard at menial labor, by paying them shit wages, like those child care workers who take care of our children for just $8.75 an hour, our teachers who have had their pay cut by state legislatures, and our construction workers who see no hope in a morose housing industry. They do so much of the work while the wealthy and the middle-class get paid for the ideas they produce, the computer work they do, and the kind of jobs that do not require hard, physical labor.

This is a topsy-tursvy world we live in. We all deserve better than this present economy, and politicians that put their own selfish needs ahead of our own. Change no longer can come from the top down, but must come from the bottom up.

Workers of the world are organizing, and we in America need to organize. We’ve got to do a better job at it. We are far too complacent, too involved in our lives, and politicians regularly lie to us into complacency. It’s time to expose the truth about how we value work in America, the systematic wage theft that is going on from Wall Street to Main Street, and how we value human lives and human families.

Originally posted to ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:21 AM PDT.

Also republished by The Amateur Left, Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and Team DFH.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (151+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, papa monzano, Lefty Coaster, bibble, Gooserock, Lady Libertine, miguelmas1, triv33, corvaire, Sandy on Signal, psychodrew, googie, frandor55, Aaron Krager, dannyinla, jfromga, gooderservice, litoralis, Jazzenterprises, Major Tom, geomoo, millwood, Debbie in ME, Dixiedemocrat, nyceve, icemilkcoffee, Alexandra Lynch, zenbassoon, jnhobbs, karmsy, sailmaker, Clarknt67, Tyree, Geekesque, kathny, jessical, Egalitare, churchylafemme, glendaw271, keirdubois, theunreasonableHUman, ridgerunner, implicate order, m00finsan, icebergslim, SneakySnu, JClarkPDX, viet vet, Anton Bursch, MKinTN, banjolele, Dancing Angel, emal, luvmykona, mofembot, catilinus, ubertar, rb608, LucyandByron, Ellid, MartyM, Ace Nelson, roses, xanthippe2, NearlyNormal, Gowrie Gal, merrily1000, flowerfarmer, Bluesee, KibbutzAmiad, boofdah, cskendrick, cooper888, middleagedhousewife, kml, FindingMyVoice, alguien, zedaker, poligirl, prettygirlxoxoxo, Preston S, cassandracarolina, One Pissed Off Liberal, lostinamerica, puakev, lupinella, sockpuppet, sallyfallschurch, grollen, Themistoclea, Snud, Unknown Quantity, JupiterSurf, Geminijen, nokkonwud, ZhenRen, EntrWriter, blueoasis, legendmn, Actbriniel, valadon, Dretutz, mlharges, cRedd, Joieau, UtahLibrul, DavidHeart, Shockwave, Ginger1, Sparkalepsy, Book of Hearts, swampyankee, Xapulin, sb, JanetT in MD, StellaRay, lineatus, willibro, Garfnobl, second alto, Dopeman, thenekkidtruth, Cronesense, Quilldriver, dark daze, randomfacts, maxcat06, mrkvica, Dvalkure, poe, ladybug53, ColoTim, wishingwell, Mlle L, cv lurking gf, RabidNation, TexMex, priceman, Tonedevil, S C B, dotsright, Marihilda, CA Nana, Portlaw, alnep, Dallasdoc, evergreen2, TiaRachel, Land of Enchantment, splashy, AdamSelene

    I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:21:02 AM PDT

  •  Even though The Help has (52+ / 0-)

    its justified criticisms about the actuality of racism within it, and the white perspective, it has helped in starting conversations about domestic workers, and how we value them in our society.

    I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:22:21 AM PDT

    •  Indeed, and a much needed conversation. (16+ / 0-)

      Great diary. T&R'd.

    •  Bob Somerby wrote favorably about this today too (9+ / 0-)

      especially in reaction to the scathing Melissa Harris-Perry ("the professor" referred to in the blockquote below) review on Lawrence O'Donnell the other day. Harris-Perry could barely make it through the movie:

      "I think MSNBC is going to have to give me worker’s comp for putting me through this."

      Somerby, however, evokes Mark Twain and his description of popular entertainment and its effect on an audience.

      We’d say the crowd was seventy percent black. (Emerging, we even saw some blackandwhitetogther!) And uh-oh! Despite the professor’s scruples, the crowd adored the film. They laughed and laughed at the film’s central joke, every time it reappeared (which was often). At the end of the film, the crowd applauded; we don’t see that happen a lot. We couldn’t help thinking of Brother Twain, describing the joyful noise of that circus crowd in wildest Arkansas. At one point, “everybody clapped their hands and went just about wild,” the narrator of Twain’s famous tale reports. He describes “the whole crowd of people standing up shouting and laughing till tears rolled down…and everybody just a-howling with pleasure and astonishment.”

      http://www.dailyhowler.com/

      I haven't yet seen the movie, but I found Harris-Perry's critique of the movie so offensively highbrow that I can't help but think I will end up siding with Mark Twain.

      •  I think there are many different views about the (16+ / 0-)

        movie in the African American community (and in other communities).  Different folks see different things.  

        The critcism can enlighten even if one does not totally agree with it.

        The American people must wise up and rise up!

        by TomP on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:38:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Many of the scenes in the movie were funny (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        googie, m00finsan, emal, boofdah, second alto

        in the sense that the racist bully, Hilly, got her comeuppance, and the scenes that involved Celia Foote were funny as well.

        I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

        by slinkerwink on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:40:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Offensively highbrow? (6+ / 0-)

        I grew up a generation after this book/film are set. My grandmother had an African-American maid who was the only person in the household who was ever nice to me. She was treated like a workhorse, expected to laugh at all the racist humour and when she got terminally ill near the end of her life, she was 'let go' with no insurance or financial support.

        Later, when my grandmother died, papers turned up that proved she was my grandmother's daughter, my aunt. You see, my grandmother's father was half African-American [another closely guarded family secret], & genetics being what they are....

        My grandfather was the owner of the biggest agricultural company in the county. He utilized slave labor by keeping undocumented people from impoverished countries such as Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam & later Central/South America trapped on his property. Yes, he technically paid them, but then charged them usurious fees for food, housing, etc.
        I remember, as a young child, seeing pre-school aged children working in the fields, because the amount of work that people were supposed to do in a day was beyond the ability of a single person - frequently whole families worked these fields.
        As to what the women had to face... it was common knowledge that anyone [predominately white men] who worked in management saw these women as 'stress relievers'. Until I was older I had no idea that meant they considered these women to be available to be raped on demand.

        I consider every word Professor Harris-Perry said, tweeted and e-mailed to be spot on. I LOATHE the use of the 'magical white hero' to tell the tales of others.
        Plus, people who are separated enough from their family's past to be able to find such tales amusing: may I suggest that has more to do with the fact that it is much harder to get published when one tells autobiographical tales of POC who suffered, than it is to tell the tale of their brave, white hero.

        My other car is a Tardis.

        by lupinella on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 12:33:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you for your (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lupinella, evergreen2

          comment.

          Professor Melissa Harris Perry, from mediaite:

          “it’s really easy to frame an African-American woman feminist talking about a feel-good happy race movie with a critical eye as a killjoy,” and wanted to make clear that the acting and immediate story was entertaining. It was the periphery of that story that Harris Perry took issue with, arguing that “the African American domestic workers become props” for the white protagonist, and that it reduced the struggles of laborers in the South to light Hollywood fare.

          “This is not a movie about the lives of black women,” she clarified, as their lives were not, she argued, “Real Housewives of Jackson, Mississippi… it was rape, it was lynching, it was the burning of communities.” She then explained that it was, to her, completing the work started by the Daughters of the American Confederacy when they “found money in the federal budget to erect a granite statue of Mammy in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial,” which happened while the same Senate contingency failed to pass the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. “It is the same notion that the fidelity of black women domestics is more important than the realities of the lives, the pain, the anguish, the rape that they experienced.”

          “It’s ahistorical and deeply troubling,” she argued, to make the suffering of these laborers a backdrop for a happy story.

          We must use what we have
          to build what we need. -Adrienne Rich

          by Xapulin on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 01:33:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Great response (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Trakker, Tonga 23

          and this is why we have critics and criticism. However, my problem with Harris-Perry is exactly her highbrow approach. The movie she WANTS to see is not the movie that exists. "The Help" is a Hollywood movie made by Chris Columbus who has also graced the film world with "Home Alone" and "Mrs. Doubtfire." Harris-Perry and I'm sure countless others have a problem with "The Help" because it is not the political statement that they agree with - a statement I generally agree with. But almost NOTHING that comes out of Hollywood fits Harris-Perry's criteria. It's al highly-polished, neatly-packaged and pandering.  Why would any of us expect anything different?

          Her tweeted film criticism dismisses the fact that the movie may, in reality, speak to a wide swath of moviegoers about race relations in a way they CAN understand and feel. "The Color Purple" ain't "Bamboozled"... but the movie directed by the white director reached a wide audience and opened a dialog in this country about the black experience (and, as a side note, it's a movie I don't care for) and the movie directed by the black director was barely seen, alienated audiences, and preached only to the converted.

          If "The Help" opens some eyes, then more power to it. But NO ONE should be expecting from Hollywood a realistic probe into the dark side of domestic help in the American South. Or maybe we can expect it, but we shouldn't flip out on MSNBC when we don't get it.

          •  You calling it a 'Highbrow Approach' (0+ / 0-)

            Is something I simply do not understand. I am quite the fan of Prof. Harris-Perry, and find her very good at parsing out why commentary is problematic. I don't believe she takes a highbrow approach simply because she puts issues into historical perspective. If anything, I feel she is brilliant at explaining the layers of privilege in an approachable way that is easily understood.

            The fact that 'The movie she WANTS to see is not the movie that exists.' - it's 2011 - 'Mammy' films, quite simply, are completely anachronistic!

            I'm not going to talk to Hollywood's output, except in regards to your comparison, because I think we would both agree that discussion is another several journals - especially as I'm quite the: anorak, nerd, geek - fill in the blank with whichever - in regards to early Hollywood.

            As to 'The Color Purple' vs. 'Bamboozled' - not a fair comparison. One is based on an amazing story written by Alice Walker, so thus a white man's vision of a tale told BY a black, female author. The other is satire - problematic and deeply troubled in its telling, but at times managing to painfully skewer the images of African-Americans that are still 'acceptable', to white culture.

            My biggest problems in 'The Color Purple' were the complete excision of the lesbianism so inherent to the plot of the book and also Nettie's tale of gender disparity. I'm not a huge Speilberg fan, but let me point out again this was adapted from the Alice Walker novel. So it does, as its origin, draw from a WOC.

            I feel that 'The Help' contains characters more at home in a satire than in a representative fiction. [Though not in that PARTICULAR satire.]

            The idea that 'The Help' could open some eyes? To what? A white person's vision of the experiences of POC? 'To Kill a Mockingbird' was AMAZING in its day, but is it still necessary to have a white, privileged avatar to allow us to see the struggles of people without power? The fact that the portrayals of the characters in 'The Help' could 'speak to a wide swath of moviegoers about race relations in a way they CAN understand and feel' says so much about why Hollywood continues to excrete this type of film, and why so many of us find it troubling.

            Prof. Harris-Perry didn't dismiss the film in her actual criticism. She mentioned a positive aspect as to Skeeter's coming-of-age story. [Don't have the transcript, so I cannot quote that section.]

            Also, couldn't people have their eyes opened at James Craig Anderson's recent murder in MS.? The fact that in 2011 a group of young white men just killed a man because of his race is a lot more relevant than the fantasy that is 'The Help'.

            The idea that she 'shouldn't flip out on MSNBC' - the very last thing I would call her response is 'flipping out'. She also explained why she wanted to calmly talk about the film. To call her response flipping out is adding a layer of anger that has a very different kind of baggage when applied to a WOC.

            My other car is a Tardis.

            by lupinella on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 06:25:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I appreciate the well-reasoned response (0+ / 0-)

              I too, and something of a geek when it comes to movies and am hyper-aware that movies are made for varying audiences and varying reasons... and that they will never appeal to all viewers.  There are so many layers to this discussion that I can't go on any further. Suffice it to say that I agree with many of yours points and disagree with many others.

        •  Let me guess, you haven't read the book (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          doroma, second alto, Trakker

          You really don't know what it's about other than comments you've picked up on, so you don't realize how close the book comes to telling parts of the story you just told.

          •  Actually (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe, evergreen2

            I'm generally not a fiction fan, but this book was loaned to my partner from a well-meaning work friend. Because she has dyslexia & I'm a book-a-holic, she gave it to me asking if I'd like to read it first.

            As I started reading, I became furious. I DID read some of the criticism on the social justice blogs I frequent.
            Then I went back to the book.

            The more I read, the angrier I became. Between the negative depictions of the African-American men, the glossing over of the dire threats of violence that forced POC to live to live in fear - especially the threat of sexual violence against 'The Help' & the fact that this white woman wrote so many black voices in 'Mammy' patois whilst having her white characters speak 'normally'. [As a southern woman, let me clarify that those stereotypes, in both cases, are wrong.], I felt justified in not finishing the book.

            What I DID read of the book [over half] was more than enough for me to make a pretty fair judgement as to the author's intent and voice.

            Now, feel free to judge me for not finishing the book before I deigned to make comment. I am perfectly comfortable putting down a book that has the condescending lesson that WOC, in the end, NEED a white woman to give them agency.

            As to the book telling parts of the story I told - utterly untrue. A great deal of what I was pointing out is that the exact same situations exist today and have always been more dire, repulsive and horror-filled  than this coming-of-age tale would have one believe.

            People have got to realize that a dialogue on race can only be started when POC are listened to, not had fictionalized tales woven around their lives. I would NEVER assume I could write anything from the viewpoint of my Aunt Barbara Jean, nor the families that my grandfather 'employed'. It takes an arrogance beyond my ken to understand how someone like Ms. Stockett couldn't take the time to examine their place of privilege and come to the realization that she actually knew very little about what those women felt - ranging from their TRUE feelings for their charges to Medgar Evers assassination.

            Also, you could have simply asked if I had read the book rather than make an assumption based on your experience reading this novel.

            My other car is a Tardis.

            by lupinella on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 04:04:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You are right - I should not have assumed (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              emal

              I also understand some of the objections to the story and/or the author being the one to tell it; although I don't fully understand the angry vehemence over a work that has at least opened up an opportunity for reflection and discussion for those who might not otherwise have taken such an opportunity.

              As I've noted in another comment I did not take away the idea that the WOC "needed" a white woman to give them a voice (or agency) - in fact I took away that the Skeeter character was awakened by what she was learning from the black women and that thehe needed them to give her a voice.

              Of course, we all bring our own background and experiences to any work, including a piece of fiction. I am white, I was a child in the times this story was set in, did not live in the south except for a very brief period when I was about 4, and was not even living in the US during some of the active years of the civil rights movement.  

              So, in that context, I found the book giving a useful snap-shot of a time/place that I had glimpsed only edges of. I saw strength and courage and community from "the help", and a shallow self-centeredness in their employers. Much of that rang true to more recent experience and observation as an adult.

              •  Some common ground. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Catte Nappe

                To look it as Skeeter's coming-of-age story, and her learning how to achieve her voice IS a completely different story. That is actually something I might've found interesting if not for the backdrop of Jackson in the early 1960s and the author calling the book 'The Help'.

                The reason so many people are vehemently angry [I'm fully including myself in that category.] is multi-layered. Here's some of mine:

                I do TRULY DESPISE 'the white hero' trope. Whether 'The Last Samurai', 'Dances With Wolves' or 'Avatar', I feel that white people don't have to see a representation of themselves to enjoy a film. The fact that 'The Blind Side', 'The Lost World' and 'Step Up', et al. are still so prevalent in modern times, says much about Hollywood's desire to cater to subconscious racism or self-congratulatory liberalism.

                The 'villain' of the film set in mythical 'Jackson, Ms.' is a white woman who is rude to her help. As opposed to Jackson, Ms. where the reality was that the villains were the people who demeaned, raped & killed POC. The truth of the time is a lot more dramatic and certainly more problematic to an audience.

                By calling the book 'The Help' Ms. Stockett sets up a presumption as to who was speaking in the book. From what I read, she should NOT have presumed to understand these women's experiences. She does use them as background to her white heroine. As the book went on I found myself wondering if she'd ever truly talked with a WOC & not managed to bring the discussion back to being all about her.

                One of the white heroes is a man who personally opposes segregation, yet stands shoulder-to-shoulder against it. Because of the fact that his voters expected it of him. Yet this character was set up as a 'good' man'.

                The prominent African-American men in the book are horrible: abandoning their families, drunk and/or abusive. When we live in a modern society that has a huge disparity in our arrest & conviction rates according to race, to portray so many MOC as dangerous, it's as close to pandering to the worst racist beliefs as to be repulsive.

                'The Help' themselves are made into asexual 'Mammies' who note, at one point, that the white children they raise grow up to be racist, but yet 'love' these children. In some cases seemingly more than their own.

                I could go on, but am in my third week of pneumonia & tend to [looks up at posts] get a bit wordy when I feel so strongly on a subject.

                My background is that I am a southern, mixed-race woman who does not, however, feel I could ever be a voice for WOC because the fact that I'm part African-American & part Cherokee simply doesn't read to people until I've told them. Then they look past my skin color to see what they assume are my 'ethnic' features. I've never been pulled over for driving-while-black or had anyone do a racist chant at me. I have seen both of those done to others.
                Our backgrounds do define us until we defy them. When my family found out that we were part African-American, which I mentioned in my first comment, my father, who'd had a stroke, told my mother - in front of me - that if he was well & didn't need us to care for him he'd, 'Take out a gun and kill you and all of your children.' He was not exaggerating. His brother, when I was in pre-school, had spent mere months in jail for shooting an African-American man. I'm not certain as to why he did this, because, in our family at that time, that was reason enough.

                As I mentioned in my earlier post, what I saw from my grandparents was during the late '70s through the late '80s. The fact that Ms. Stockett wrote about this time/place as if it was a sad piece of history truly disgusts me because there is nothing done to POC in 'The Help' that is not currently done to many people in our country today. And it, past and present, is FAR worse than this woman's idealized reminiscing. Thus my vehement anger.

                My other car is a Tardis.

                by lupinella on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 08:13:33 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Thoughtful writing on this at Salon (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Catte Nappe

                  Two lengthy pieces on the film and the reaction to it. One from Andrew O'Hehir:

                  In fairness, even most critics who like the movie would agree that its principal audience is white people, and that it's a mainstream Hollywood entertainment package that's intended to reassure and uplift its viewers, not to challenge them directly. As we'll see later, the question of how you interpret that undisputed fact is central to your reaction to the film.
                  http://www.salon.com/...

                  And this one from Mary Elizabeth Williams:

                  When a story becomes a hit, it's because it's struck a particular chord. And one of the more absurd aspects of the criticism of "The Help" is irritation that it's a success in the first place. "Why this?" its detractors wail. "Why this, when there are other books, written by actual black women, to be read?"http://www.salon.com/...
    •  I'm reminded of the "Nannie Diaries" (7+ / 0-)

      I read the book after my wife did, and my first reaction to her was "If they are willing to treat people pretty close to their 'station in life' so terribly and dismissively, why should we expect them to act any better with those of us who they consider even more inferior?"

      The so-called "rising tide" is lifting only yachts.

      by Egalitare on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:02:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I had a lot of problems with the book (6+ / 0-)

      And so did my roommate, who is African-American and has family in Alabama.  She HATED the book as yet another condescending story of self-righteous politically correct white folks giving a voice to the poor, oppressed minorities.

      Me?  I wanted to mulch the copy I read, only it was a library book.  I hope the movie tanks at the box office, but I have this awful feeling it's going to be nominated for a fuckton of awards and probably win several even though it's based on a cliched, condescending, ultimately racist book.

      •  Do you know of any books on this subject written (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RainyDay

        by African American authors that you can recommend to us?  (no snark).

        I've got my spine, I've got my (DKos) orange crush, we are agents of the free.....R.E.M.

        by FlamingoGrrl on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:57:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  "Ultimately racist"? Why? (4+ / 0-)

        Because it is written by a white woman or because it is politically correct? I'm genuinely confused, probably because you don't articulate why it is racist. Just that it is.

        On a similar note, Tavis Smiley's blog has a thoughtful article about white authors being entitled to write about the black experience.

        “Until the lions have their own historians,” begins an African proverb, “the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s worth noting that the African American experience has often been chronicled by whites. Do such accounts, in effect, glorify the hunter at the lions’ expense? And if so, is the solution to declare Black history off limits to “white hunters?”

        According to the author, 20% of the African American respondents agreed that white authors should not write about the black experience.

        Given that 20% of these African American respondents reject on principle a white author’s legitimacy in writing Black history — without reading a word of what he wrote — anyone who calls this a non-issue or a question that doesn’t need to be asked is celebrating Black History Month by wearing a blindfold. It’s something that must be discussed, if only to dispel the myth that “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” If the historian is honest and true to his trade, the color of his skin should not matter. http://www.pbs.org/...

        •  Several reasons (8+ / 0-)

          But the big one?  Because once again it's a white woman (in this case, a pretty young girl) being shown as the way the poor oppressed black folks find their voice and achieve some sort of liberation.  It's the same trope you see over and over and over again in popular culture:  it takes white people to liberate the oppressed.  It denies the oppressed their own voice and their own take on the story, and allows well meaning white people to identify with the white liberation character so they can thin and of course would have been nice to their maids, when none of us know what we would have done.

          Kathryn Stockett almost certainly didn't intend this, and she's probably not happy that there's been so much controversy.   And if it opens up conversations about race and class, well and good.  But I'd be willing to bet money that the conversations will die away, and this movie and book will be remembered as yet another "female bonding" movie when the inherent inequality between Skeeter's position and the maids' position precludes that from ever happening, at least in Mississippi in the early 1960s.

          •  Sstockett lost me in the book by giving all the (7+ / 0-)

            maids dialects and the whites none.  In the South?  It seemed to "normalize" and center whiteness.  Another feel good for white folks since the white girl saves the day. They can identify themselves as innocent of racism.  

            •  Good point (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wishingwell

              Hadn't considered that point.  The author of this diary makes a great point about the same thing going on today that I hadn't considered either.  I liked that in the book Skeeter shares the profits of the book with the "Help" and I wondered if Sockett has done the same thing.  Shared with her former maids family or set aside a large portion for scholarships or something like that.

          •  Too easily dismissive of past works (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lgmcp, Tonga 23

            While I agree that there are too many instances of the black experience being told through the eyes of whites, it is too simplistic.

            For starters, no one is denying "the oppressed their own voice." That is patently ludicrous.

            Moreover, American history's cinema, literature and music is filled with white artists giving rise to black voices. From Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Melville's "Benito Cereno" and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" to record producer Ahmet Ertugen's role in the rise of black music in the 1950s and 60s to such movies as Stanley Kramer's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?", Norman Jewison's "In the Heat of the Night" and "Glory" and Spielberg's "Amistad".

            To dismiss a work of fiction as "racist" on no other basis than it being created by a white person is wildly misguided.  

            The movie may or not be crap. It may or may not be another saccharine Hollywood depiction of the American family (familiar terrain from director Chris Columbus who also gave us "Mrs. Doubtfire"). But to be racist by its very existence of being a story of black life penned by a white seems way to easy.

            •  Chris Columbus didn't direct "The Help". (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              second alto, dannyinla

              Tate Taylor directed it.

              I like to hide mine in the crack of a turkey.

              by DoobyOne on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 02:29:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Uh...I must point out (0+ / 0-)

              That several of the books you cite were written in the 19th century, when an African-American who dared to write the truth about his/her life might well be in danger of being lynched.  And Harper Lee wasn't writing in the voice of an African-American.  She was writing in the voice of a white child.  

              As for Amistad - same problem.   The star of the movie isn't Djimoun Honsou, playing the slave who led the rebellion.  It's Anthony Hopkins, playing a white former President.  And I will bet anyone that the person from the cast of The Help who's nominated for Best Actress next spring is either Emma Stone or Bryce Dallas Howard, not Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer.  

          •  I read a different book (11+ / 0-)

            In the book I read an unattractive white woman, finding no place in her community (and under constant criticism from her mother) is gradually awakened to the reality behind her world. And through those interactions, and observing the courage of the black women she comes to know, she is liberated and finds her voice. In addition, seeking answers about the disappearance of the only woman who ever loved her unconditionally, she learns some very ugly truths about her own mother, and the society she was raised in.

      •  The movie is better than the book (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        emal

        the flaws in the book are less obvious in the movie.

        Here's the take of Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell.  

        For obvious reasons, I had expected to dislike “The Help.”

        Kathryn Stockett is a white woman and her writing a book about black women having to “Yes ma’am,” and “No ma’am” their lives away didn’t sit well with me.

        What gives her the right to tell this story in the first place?

        To make matters worse, Stockett is profiting off the painful plight of black women who lived and died in a racist world.

        But after watching the film version of “The Help,” which opened in movie theaters this week, I forgot all about the hand that penned this work.

        Thanks to the insightful direction of Tate Taylor, and the acting of Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, and Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, I walked out of the theater with a greater appreciation for the black women who bore this burden.

        Because of Davis’ and Spencer’s emotional performances, “The Help” became more than a movie about a white woman’s (Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan) struggle to find her place in the world, and white redemption.

        She's right.  Skeeter's a lot less of the story in movie than she is in the book.

        sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

        by stivo on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 04:01:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting comment (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        denise b, Catte Nappe, emal

        Having read the book I can fully understand why an African American, especially from the south, might see condescension from the writer.  I'm white, was raised in the north but spent one summer in Florida in 1955 when I was 10, and I saw Jim Crow first hand.  I had no desire to ever go back.

        Kids today, at least in the north, have little idea how ugly and incredibly cruel Jim Crow was in the south, and for that reason I was pleased in the past year to find that The Help, Warmth of Other Suns, and the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks all made it onto the bestseller's lists.  They all in their own way expose younger readers to the reality of the Jim Crow era.

        While the movie The Help might offend some because the white writer got the credit for the maid's stories, the movie has some redeeming qualities in my opinion.  Most of all it showcased two incredible actresses, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.  You say you have an awful feeling this movie might win some awards?  I hope so, Davis and Spencer (especially Spencer) were superb and deserve to be recognized.  I went back a second time just to watch those two again (and Jessica Chastain who was also remarkable).

        I might also mention that my wife, who is African American and can spot condescension a mile away, fully enjoyed the movie.

        Though I agree, the book (and especially the movie) was cliched, and could be viewed as condescending, I fail to see how it was racist.  Personally I saw it as a love story where Skeeter wrote the book as a tribute to the maid who raised her, mothered her, loved her, and encouraged her to be be comfortable being herself instead of becoming a racist Junior Leaguer like all the other rich white girls her age.

    •  Right, the book was not intended to be historical (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      evergreen2

      from what I have read about it. The movie is not a documentary but it gives a simple glimpse of the past. It also opens up the conversation about the actual people who are "the help" in so many homes, today.

      People from foreign countries can speed up their chances at immigration and citizenship in Canada by serving one year as a domestic servant. There have been so many abuses of this system, with workers being held as virtual prisoners. Because of those abuses there are societies springing up to champion these women. These abuses have been going on quietly for years since the workers are frightened of losing their immigration status if they protest.  Some workers are so isolated they don't even know where to turn.

      This book and movie might shine a light on these present day conditions of domestic workers.

      Thanks for the diary!

      This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

      by Agathena on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 12:10:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right, Just like "To Kill A Mockingbird" ... (0+ / 0-)

        It's a nice story that doesn't  make White people uncomfortable.

        And it tells about  the Jim Crow South in the 60s about the same way The Diary of Anne Frank deals with the Holocaust.  It takes the truly Hellish ... as in, "unclean spirits inflicting eternal unspeakable torment"  -- and reduces it to being merely "a little heck-ish".

        I can see how that would make people angry.

    •  Daily Howler had good thoughts (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      emal

      on the movie today:

      http://dailyhowler.com/...

      We went to the 3:50 show at the Rotunda, where tickets cost $5 all day on Tuesdays. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones chasing the five-dollar ducat in these imperfect times. When we arrived, the theater was packed. We grabbed a seat in the third row, between a black couple who may have been sixty and a pair of white women in their seventies.

      We’d say the crowd was seventy percent black. (Emerging, we even saw some blackandwhitetogther!) And uh-oh! Despite the professor’s scruples, the crowd adored the film. They laughed and laughed at the film’s central joke, every time it reappeared (which was often). At the end of the film, the crowd applauded; we don’t see that happen a lot. We couldn’t help thinking of Brother Twain, describing the joyful noise of that circus crowd in wildest Arkansas. At one point, “everybody clapped their hands and went just about wild,” the narrator of Twain’s famous tale reports. He describes “the whole crowd of people standing up shouting and laughing till tears rolled down…and everybody just a-howling with pleasure and astonishment.”

      Our professors may not admire the pleasure of hicks. But Twain found much to like there.

  •  Herself's Union Card Arrived Today; My Application (22+ / 0-)

    is in the mail to me so I'll be in next month. We're joining retiree wing of AFSCME in Ohio as we'd been public employees in the past. No need to have been in the union as a worker previously.

    More boomers should see if there is a union retiree arm they can join.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:26:44 AM PDT

  •  Yes, there are many political flaws in (23+ / 0-)

    the movie, but I enjoyed it as a movie.  In the sense that Skeeter exploited the stories of African American domestics to make her career, that seems a rather realistic depiction of the times.  She wanted their voices heard, was sympathetic, but was not willing to do anything to change the oppressive system in which these people lived.  

    Like I said, many flaws in depiction, but I did like seeing the domestic workers being actors and not just acted upon.  And how many movies focus on domestic workers from those days.  And I liked how it showed the various emotions and resentments the domestic workers felt.  I think of the scene when the teenager is going off for her first job and the mother is telling her not to sass the white people.  It showed how people had to change to survive.  

    Mississippi in that era was not a good place.

    I, of course, agree with this:

    Workers of the world are organizing, and we in America need to organize. We’ve got to do a better job at it. We are far too complacent, too involved in our lives, and politicians regularly lie to us into complacency. It’s time to expose the truth about how we value work in America, the systematic wage theft that is going on from Wall Street to Main Street, and how we value human lives and human families.
    .

    The American people must wise up and rise up!

    by TomP on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:28:08 AM PDT

    •  thank you, TomP. I agree with you (8+ / 0-)

      that it was a good movie, but there were definite flaws in its depiction.

      I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

      by slinkerwink on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:29:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Writing the book was doing something; (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Possiamo

      it was giving a voice to people who had none.  

      •  but you see, it really wasn't written (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Xapulin

        by those women. It was written by a white author who made it seem like it was a memoir of these women.

        I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

        by slinkerwink on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:54:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is all fiction, right? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          boofdah, Pennsylvanian, wishingwell

          No one really published a book on The Help in the 60s.

          The American people must wise up and rise up!

          by TomP on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:00:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, this is all fiction. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TomP, boofdah

            I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

            by slinkerwink on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:04:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  But it isn't. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              evergreen2

              Stockett stole from the life of her brother's maid, who challenged her in court, but sadly lost because of the statute of limitations.

              The name of the brother's maid?

              Aibleen Cooper.

              My comment downthread refers to it... here.

              "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

              by Diogenes2008 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 04:32:01 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Writers of fiction (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                emal

                steal stories from everyone and anyone. How could fiction exist otherwise?

                We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

                by denise b on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 05:14:34 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  So... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  evergreen2

                  It's okay that she stole the woman's name and changed it slightly? Stole her stories without any compensation, although her book talks about compensation for the stories that were used? She's a hypocrite making money off the back of her brother's maid and you're okay with that?

                  The woman was asked if she was okay with it and said "NO".

                  You maybe be happy with this, but I'm NOT.

                  "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

                  by Diogenes2008 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 05:23:15 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Okay in what sense? (0+ / 0-)

                    I don't actually know the facts in the case. Is the author an honorable person? If she really made and broke promises, maybe not. But that wouldn't mean that the promises were enforceable or that she was required to have made them in the first place.

                    You can't "steal" someone's name. Names are not owned.  Neither are incidents in people's lives, nor physical descriptions of them, nor basic biographical facts.

                    The same story can be told an infinite number of ways by different writers. Hundreds of novels could be written around the same basic outline, and they could all be very different from each other. A creative work, unless it copies another creative work, doesn't deprive anyone else of anything. No one has been prevented from telling her own story.

                    I believe there is a high burden on the plaintiff in a lawsuit such as this to prove both that the character is identifiable as a real person and that the person was harmed by the representation. Thank God for that, or writers of fiction would be severely constrained. This would not be a good thing at all.

                    We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

                    by denise b on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 07:38:12 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  Like Studs Terkel and oral history (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TomP, blueoldlady

          That is the way I view it.  She compiled and edited and wrote one story about herself.  She tells their stories.  As the character said toward the end, I have one more story and it's mine.  The others belong to the women who contributed.

          •  See the damage, you've already confused it (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lupinella, wishingwell

            with history. It's fiction. We can begin there.

            We must use what we have
            to build what we need. -Adrienne Rich

            by Xapulin on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 01:43:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No Harm Done. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Catte Nappe

              If you'd read my other comments you'd know I don't confuse this with history.  I thought of Terkel, mostly because of his book Working, which is a compilation of interviews with people about their jobs.  There was an interview in Working with a maid, who had lived in the South and the North.  Skeeter's process in the book seemed similar.  Although a better analogy is obviously Dickens or Steinbeck or Stowe or one of the novels about social conditions.

              The social commentary value of this book and film may depend upon its accuracy and since I wasn't born and haven't read any history of this, I don't know for sure.  Have you read any on point history?  I'd like to know because I'm not aware of any.

              I will say, this book,  it felt genuine.  And I liked the fact that it prompted me to think about it, and others, obviously to talk about it.

              That is valuable, don't you think?  

              •  I guess that the best place to start would (0+ / 0-)

                be Susan Tucker's book, which I understand Stockett references somewhere in her acknowledgments.

                The discussion that this might prompt is valuable, yes. However, I think that Ellid's view is accurate.

                We must use what we have
                to build what we need. -Adrienne Rich

                by Xapulin on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 08:34:19 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  Abilene... (31+ / 0-)

    didn't work for a wealthy family.  She worked for a middle class family.  This distinction is important to note because it shows the degradation in which black women found themselves that middle class folks, sewing their own clothes, unable to afford new furniture, living in small homes - were able to afford "help" - women that worked full-time six days a week.  

    This shows you how unequal the system was.  Wealthy people had multiple slaves.  The wage for black women was so low that working class, middle class folks could afford "help."

    I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

    by princss6 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:32:05 AM PDT

    •  Indeed, and it remains unequal today (13+ / 0-)

      there are many middle-class households that take advantage of domestic workers' immigrant status by underpaying them, and looking the other way when these workers end up missing.

      I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

      by slinkerwink on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:37:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I can testify to this. (20+ / 0-)

      My white family ate because the grocer kept letting my mother run up bills.  But a maid came a couple of times a week.  Every white household I knew employed at last some AA domestic help.

      I believe it is important to view these problems as systemic more than as a mere sum of individual racist attitudes.  I used to drive our maid home sometimes.  She would get in the back seat, leaving me embarrassed alone in the front seat.  I once naively asked her to ride in the front with me.  She said she was alright back there.  Only later did I realize clearly that her riding in the front seat with me would have been suicide for us both.

      Intelligent manipulation of the masses is the invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country. - U.S. propagandist Edward Bernays

      by geomoo on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:40:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  To clarify my naivete. (13+ / 0-)

        I was not unaware of the danger of bucking prevalent attitudes.  What I mean by naive is that I thought the maid and I could treat one another with respect as equals independent of the racism in which we lived.  It turns out, this is a nearly impossible task.  We are all complicit in the atrocities in which we participate, despite our own personal good will in individual instances.  I will point out that we each share the same kind of complicity in the continuing war crimes of the USG.

        Intelligent manipulation of the masses is the invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country. - U.S. propagandist Edward Bernays

        by geomoo on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:01:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And you can't see how it's not both (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wishingwell

        systematic and a sum of individual racist attitudes or even ignorance?

        "The bottom line is, we've got to wake up. We can't allow our disappointment in Obama to lull us into allowing a truly dangerous strain of conservative philosophy to gain any more traction than it already has." --ObamOcala 4/5/11

        by smoothnmellow on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:05:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No thanks. I won't put those words in my mouth. nt (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gooderservice, rb608, ZhenRen, Xapulin

          Intelligent manipulation of the masses is the invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country. - U.S. propagandist Edward Bernays

          by geomoo on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:11:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So is that a no or yes. (0+ / 0-)

            "The bottom line is, we've got to wake up. We can't allow our disappointment in Obama to lull us into allowing a truly dangerous strain of conservative philosophy to gain any more traction than it already has." --ObamOcala 4/5/11

            by smoothnmellow on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:27:35 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't believe the topic admits of yes or no (7+ / 0-)

              answers, nor do I have any interest in being trapped by a self-appointed cross-examiner on some imaginary witness stand.  I have thoughts on the topic, and they are not simplistic.  Believe it or not, you don't know my thoughts and you are unlikely to discover them by peppering me with yes or no questions.

              Of course, there is an agenda at work here involving more than addressing race relations.  It was a mistake of me to comment on this topic, given my strongly held belief that these issues cannot be discussed fruitfully on dailykos.  I have given it a few attempts; the results have been unequivocal.

              This painful, deep-seeded, difficult issue is polluted with motivations to protect the reputation of the first black President.  It would be difficult enough to discuss these matters without this fatal complication.  In fact, I believe that it would be impossible to make progress, even under good circumstances, without being face to face.

              So, I'm sorry I teased by posting a comment.  It was an act not consistent with my beliefs as stated in this comment.

              Intelligent manipulation of the masses is the invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country. - U.S. propagandist Edward Bernays

              by geomoo on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:40:59 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  That is interesting. (5+ / 0-)

      I see people with servants (or domestic workers) as rich, but think about the houses, many of them were upper middle class.  (Mississippi was a poor state then and now).  They were well off, but not wealthy as we see it.

      South Africa apparently was like that.

      I don't know if this follows:

      The wage for black women was so low that working class, middle class folks could afford "help."

      I'd have to see statistics to know if white blue collar workers in Mississippi had maids in those days.  Considering it was a non-union state, they could not have made much money.  I just don't know.  It would be interesting to see the level of domestic workers in those days.

      Clealry an artifact of slavery and exacerbated by Jim Crow.

      The American people must wise up and rise up!

      by TomP on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:42:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It depends on how you define working class... (14+ / 0-)

        in the book, Abiline worked for the Leefolts.  The husband was an insurance salesmen and his business was struggling.  Mrs. Leefolt stayed home.  They used the money they were saving for their kids college education to build a separate bathroom, only have two bathrooms in the home.  They lived in a small ranch style home and the important contrast that the author drew, was when the Leefolt wife went to visit her sister.  The sister lived in Hollywood and WAS wealthy.  They described her home, how she ate out everyday, etc.  

        When I say working class, I mean work for a living, like I do.  One income home with a struggling insurance man does not make wealthy or upper class.  

        I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

        by princss6 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:54:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Looks like I should read the book then. It sounds (7+ / 0-)

          more interesting than the movie.

          I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

          by slinkerwink on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:56:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It is much richer... (9+ / 0-)

            I've not seen the movie but yes, I always read books before seeing the movie.  It feels in so much more than what Hollywood captures.  

            I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

            by princss6 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:03:13 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I just got my copy in the afternoon mail. (4+ / 0-)

              I had not heard of either the book or the movie til I saw it
              see-ing it discussed here.
              I would rather read the book,then see the movie-I have always found it so much more textured.
              I also think all the discusions I have read here,of this book will enrich my reading of it.

              Conservatism is killing this country. Jayden

              by swampyankee on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 01:54:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I can't slight her... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                blindyone, swampyankee

                on the texture in the book.  I'm withholding final judgement until I'm finished reading it.  We can compare notes when you are done!  :)

                You might beat me because I only read on my commute!  

                I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

                by princss6 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 03:17:34 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I would enjoy that. I have'nt started it yet- (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  princss6

                  A friend is coming over to watch a movie she has'nt seen yet,but I have,so I shall start it then.
                  I hope I have enough sense to put it down and go to sleep when I start getting cross-eyed!

                  Conservatism is killing this country. Jayden

                  by swampyankee on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 05:10:18 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, definitely read the book (9+ / 0-)

            I've read the book and liked it, haven't seen the movie yet.  In the book Abilene actually does write out her own stories.  Even though it is fiction written by a young white women it does inspire curiousity and discussion about that period of our history and how dangerous it was for black men and women to speak out.  Even if imperfect, it's a way to make the period alive for those who didn't live through it.

            •  Skeeter empowered Abilene to write (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wishingwell

              This is a much stronger theme in the book than it was in the movie.

              At one point, Skeeter recognizes that Abilene is a more constant writer than she is.

              That in the 1960s it would have taken a white woman to pull all the stories together and get them published is something I can entirely believe.

              "He not busy being born is busy dying" -- Bob Dylan

              by Kascade Kat on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 12:01:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Hmm... (11+ / 0-)

                I know this diary is about much more than the book or movie so I don't want to sidetrack it but, it is a little more nuanced than that.  Abilene wrote everyday.  Skeeter got the idea to write the book because Abilene told her about her son writing about book about his experience of being a black man in MS.  This was inspired by the book, The Invisible Man, which the son had read.

                The other black women joined as a result of Hilly getting another maid sent to prison for stealing a ring so she could send her twin boys to college.

                My take - Skeeter empowered herself to look under the lid of her world.  Abilene's son inspired both Skeeter and Abilene to write a book about the life of blacks in Mississsippi.

                I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

                by princss6 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 12:25:23 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Yes read the book too (7+ / 0-)

            There are slight differences in the plot line a bit too....(I won't give them away)

            I just saw the movie yesterday with friends and the make up of the audience was similar but there were some men...?spouses? And in the group I went with, none of  us had help ...ever in our lifetimes...but  perhaps we're from a different region of the country and perhaps a different socioeconomic demographic too ?

             I think there was a greater ability in the book that expanded upon the time it took to get Abilene and for that matter all the other maids to finally talk to Skeeter, and the extent they went to not get caught talking to each other...because they were so fearful of the retribution that might come from it not only from the community, their families, but because of the nature of the era (Jim Crowe-KKK) in the deep south.

            I came away from both with many insights that I did not have prior to reading it a few months ago or from viewing the movie yesterday. Mostly my own ignorance of the era, and the time (especially that region). So in that sense I appreciate that "The Help" educated me in many ways...and opened my eyes to what it was like during that era ...unfortunately.

            I truly think  the Minnie character  was excellent (she was also a victim of domestic violence/abuse from her spouse) . And I like how it portrayed her as the true brains of the group...figuring out their insurance policy for when "The Help" was published by anonyous in their community.

            I wonder if there are individuals around now, similar in age to one of Minnie's daughters who was one of "the help" (she was around 14 during the early 60's in the book)  to discuss it truly from that perspective...and not through the author.

            "So don't call Obama a moderate. Don't call him a centrist. Don't call him a blue dog. Call him what he is...a Republican." OPOL

            by emal on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 12:11:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I hear you. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LucyandByron, sockpuppet, evergreen2

          In the 60s, that likely was upper middle clas sin Mississippi, but I see your point.

          It would be interesting to look at data from those times.  

          For example, before WWI, I think 20 to 25% of English folks were in service.  

          In Mississippi, you had segregation and job discrimination that forced women to enter "service" if they were to have jobs at all.   This downward pressure on wages may have allowed some whites to have housekeepers who would not otherwise have had them.

          I wonder how it is now there.  

          I have driven through Mississippi before but have little feeling for the cultures there.  

          The American people must wise up and rise up!

          by TomP on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:58:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The Leefolts... (8+ / 0-)

            couldn't afford a membership to the pool.  They weren't upper middle class.  That's all I'm saying.  

            I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

            by princss6 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:04:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I understand. (5+ / 0-)

              It's a fictional book, but I wonder how the reality was.  She wrote them as middle class I guess.  

              I bet there are statistics out there.  If I get time I'll look.

              It would make a good Ph.D thesis for a historian.  Determining the levels of service and how (or if) segregation and discrimination enabled some whites to have maids that they would not otherwise have had.  

              It fits concepts of herrenvcolk democracy in which whites have a rough equality and rights, a rough equality dependent on subordinating African Americans.  

              It would be fascinating research.  if only I had time.

              The American people must wise up and rise up!

              by TomP on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:11:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'd be interested in seeing them... (5+ / 0-)

                yes it is a fictional book.  Middle class people today, depending on where you live can afford someone to come in and "help."  

                But while we wait for stats, I'm comfortable going on what has been said here and for some time even before this book that having "help" isn't and wasn't an upper middle class or wealthy thing.  

                To slinkerwink's point, it still goes on today that people who are not upper middle class or wealthy can afford "help."

                I also lived in Texas, so I know that exploitation TODAY lends itself to making "help" affordable to not only the upper middle class or the wealthy but to the working middle class as well.  

                I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

                by princss6 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:17:14 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  That would really be (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TomP, emal

                fascinating research.

                Pick a roughly equal demographic - factory workers, middle management, etc. - in various areas. NE, south, LA, SF, TX, Chicago - and compare the types of help they had or didn't have.

                It would be interesting, to say the least.

                •  I think it may be more of a southern (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  texasmom, effervescent, wishingwell, emal

                  or SW thing (exploitation of immigrants).

                  I grew up with an auto-worker father and secretary mother in the 60s and we never had servants.  We'd have laughed if it were suggested.

                  The American people must wise up and rise up!

                  by TomP on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:55:13 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The places where we've lived (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    TomP, lgmcp, princss6, wishingwell

                    many two-income families have help cleaning once a week and sometimes help with the heavy yard work.  None of them (us) ever considered them servants, though.  Most of us consciously trade off something (like restaurant lunches & overpriced coffee)  in order to afford the extra help.  

                    This only applies from the mid-70's on, though.

                    The truth always matters.

                    by texasmom on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 12:55:02 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Interesting. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      texasmom, wishingwell

                      We hire teenagers to do grass cutting.  

                      Just different I guess.

                      I would feel really weird to have cleaning help.  

                      The American people must wise up and rise up!

                      by TomP on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 01:13:31 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Not mowing - I even do that (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        TomP, princss6

                        I'm talking about light tree-trimming, digging up extra "shoots" where we don't want more bushes and occasionally digging up volunteer trees so I can try to transplant them & keep them alive.  Not much success with that this year.   A few times a year we hire the same guys, who do it on the side.  One of them is a fireman.

                        The truth always matters.

                        by texasmom on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 01:23:39 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

              •  Military personnel abroad (4+ / 0-)

                When I was a child, even the enlisted men's families could afford some help at foreign postings in countries with sufficiently depressed economies.  

                As I recall, most of them were awful to them.  I assumed at the time it was because the "help" were "natives/the Occupied" and thus at the bottom of the totem pole.  The wives of the senior officers were beastly to my mother, and their kids were beastly to my sister and me, more because of rank than because we were Asian (we heard those words from civilians).  The whole culture followed the Abusive Father Model to me.  My mother's theory was that most of the officer corps had no idea how to treat people because (sorry, but this is her opinion) they were underclass types taking vengeance for all the "betters" who'd ever made them feel worthless, by jacking around Third Worlders who had no recourse (plus they had no manners, full stop.)  Ugly never washes out ugly, any more than blood washes out blood.  And it's ugly no matter who does it.  

                BTW, some people managed to be decent, like my father's commander, so my mother wasn't going to cut anyone any slack for "what they'd gone through."  

                "A city for sale and doomed to speedy destruction if it finds a purchaser!" -King Jugurtha of Numidia

                by LucyandByron on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 01:34:46 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yes... (0+ / 0-)

                  I think that is key...the depressed wages due to societal factors makes hiring "help" affordable.  The flip side is that the wages are so low that they are many times, not livable wages.  

                  I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

                  by princss6 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 03:22:57 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  The book is much better (8+ / 0-)

    than the movie.

    No one ever died from laughing too often

    by googie on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:34:05 AM PDT

  •  In the book Aibileen *is* a writer (30+ / 0-)

    A very good one - and she ends up helping with the writing and editing of the rest of the stories, too. At the end of the book, when Skeeter is leaving for NY, she has to give up her job at the newspaper, and persuades the editor to let Aibileen take her place (as long as nobody knows its her, of course)

  •  I Haven't Seen Movie Yet... (8+ / 0-)

    ...so I will withhold views of it.
    Domestic workers are invisible in most films and TV shows, maybe this movie will help change that.

    Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past, present, and future.~~~ Susan Sontag

    by frandor55 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:37:56 AM PDT

  •  It would be interesting to do an anonymous poll (4+ / 0-)

    on DKos to see how many of our fellow Kossacks have a domestic 'help', either legal or illegal.

    I bet you there are more than a few.

  •  For all the wonderful costume dramas about (5+ / 0-)

    wonderful butlers, gentle-hearted maids, and sassy cooks, the reality of domestic help is far from the English countryside.

    Let's hope this movie, as well as the book, starts a conversation.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 10:52:13 AM PDT

  •  This movie sparked interracial dialogue (10+ / 0-)

    at the viewing I went to. It was a mostly female audience (no surprise there) of black and white women. We all laughed, clapped and cheered throughout.

    The most interesting thing was that afterward, women of both races started talking to one another about their impressions, their histories and their stories. We all knew that it's naive to think these kinds of attitudes don't occur today. But it was great to hear it from all sides.

    I remembered the African-American woman who worked for us for 13 years as a baby-sitter for our (white) children. She had a wonderful relationship with our family, and I think she would agree that we paid her fairly, gave her paid vacations and a nice retirement bonus.

    Yet I remembered hearing her talk to her friends, telling stories about how they would never work for so-and-so again (another white woman of my acquaintance) because of the way she treated baby-sitters. I also remembered white friends who would complain about their baby-sitters for what seemed to me trivial issues ("She wouldn't even empty the dishwasher! I had to fire her!")

    I, too, was surprised by the vehemence of Melissa Harris-Perry's reaction. I doubt she read the book. I think the screenwriter tried so hard to get things into the movie that some parts were given short shrift, and thus seemed more stereotypical. But any movie that fosters interracial dialogue can't be all bad.

    •  Molly, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, nokkonwud, wishingwell

      Please, if the woman took care of your children full time, or over full time, she was your nanny; a babysitter is someone who takes care of your children on an occasional basis. Yes, I realize it is a picky point, but it is important, because it adds to the lack of respect child care professionals receive, because a babysitter is looked on as being a teenager with no training.

                            Just my two cents,
        as someone who worked as a professional for 12 years,
                                   Heather

      Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.

      by Chacounne on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:54:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  She wasn't full time (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp, evergreen2

        More important, she would never call herself a "nanny." In her eyes, that's for Mary Poppins. And none of her AA friends would ever have called themselves a nanny, either.

        Getting paid and treated fairly was more important in my eyes than what she was called.

        •  Absolutely getting paid and being treated fairly (0+ / 0-)

          was more important than what she was called.

          If she wasn't full time, then perhaps she was more of a babysitter in what she was actually doing ?

          Interesting that she didn't call herself a nanny and none of her African American friends did either. I wonder if it was a difference in what they were doing, or a difference in passed down terminology ?

                          Thanks for the reply :)
                                    Heather

          Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.

          by Chacounne on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 12:24:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Read the Book; Saw the Movie; (9+ / 0-)

    Still sorting it out in my mind.  But I will say, the crowd where I saw it was both black and white.  But not many younger people.  I wonder if the younger generations want to ignore this because there is a stigma associated with being a maid.  No one wants to own it.  

    These women deserve to have their stories told and talked about.    We shouldn't forget.

    •  Our crowd was mostly older & white (0+ / 0-)

      My wife and I saw it in a Santa Barbara theater and we were the youngest people there (we're early/mid 30s).

      There was one black family, 2 seniors and their adult son. They didn't seem to dislike the film but other than them, the audience was all white.

  •  You are right about AA women don't want to see (8+ / 0-)

    "The Help".  I was speaking to my aunt this weekend and she said that she has no intentions to see a movie like that.  My aunt said, "I was "The Help" back in the 50s and don't need a movie to remind me of that mess."

    So, I definitely can feel many AA women who don't want to see this movie.  And I can see a parallel now with much of the latino help that many take for granted here in this country.

    •  I can definitely appreciate that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lupinella

      My sister-in-law's mother (both women are from Mexico but have lived here for 25 years) was a nanny here in SoCal. She's never too interested in talking about that period of her life.

    •  I'm not planning on watching it. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Renee, wishingwell

      I might be more interested in seeing The Help if it was a truly bifurcated story told by and through the eyes of one of the maids, and by and through the eyes of one of the wives that hired them.  But I perhaps unreasonably compare it to that Sandra Bullock movie (can't remember the name) where a white Georgian woman found her calling by adopting a black high school football player.  Not only does Sandra Bullock give me the creeps but the whole premise of the movie gave me the creeps - it seemed to be about this feisty white woman with an emotionally damaged very large black adopted son, playing a supportive role almost like a prop.  More about her, less about him.  

      Will read a novel instead for my book club - Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas.  Seems also to be about the delicate ground in interactions across racial divides, in this case a black father with a white ex-wife. Anyone read it?  
       

      "Sedimentary people stay in one place. They only interact with other sedimentary people."

      by ivorybill on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 02:13:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You might try reading the book The Help. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        second alto, ivorybill, emal

        I wanted to hate it, but instead I think she did a good job of being honest about cultural divides and what it meant and continues to mean to people. I will not be going to see the move because I'm afraid it's more of a feel good experience.

        "My plan reduces the national debt, and fast. So fast, in fact, that economists worry that we're going to run out of debt to retire." - President George W. Bush, February 24, 2001

        by Renee on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 03:33:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The Movie was The Blind Side and n that case, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, evergreen2, ivorybill

        it was a true story.   I do not think that movie or book would have been a hit had her adopted son not become a very successful football player who plays in the National Football League.  

        The problem with the movie is that it does not tell the story of the young man but it is about the mother who adopted him. They movie tries to make a heroine out of a wealthy, right wing Christian women , who takes this boy off the streets and adopts him.  

        The women sacrificied nothing at all except her country club friends disapproved of her bringing a black boy into her home because she had a white teenaged daughter.  
        Yes she told them off but that was about it.

      •  and In that movie, I was more troubled by the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ivorybill

        fact that the boy she adopts has to go to this Christian School and go to their church and basically become white and play football..in order to be fully accepted into their family.

  •  This movie was an emotional roller coaster ride (7+ / 0-)

    for me. With all due respect to the Association of black women writers (yes), who advocated boycotting the film, the fact that this sparked a  conversation nationally, means that it's touched a nerve.
    And 90% of the people I know (black and white )who watched it simply raved about the story line, the heart of it behind all the ugliness and the acting! Superb. Ms Viola Davis, I see an Oscar coming your way.
    The 10% that said that they didnt like it had either not even watched it or went in already convinced they were not going to like ( AS was the case of Ms Harris).
    I highly recommend it to everyone (bring tissues !)

  •  I have seen the same thing here (5+ / 0-)

    in my so called "progressive" city. People hired by the wealthy do do construction, landscaping, house work. These workers arrive in cars that barely function while the families they work for have no need unmet.

    As far as I'm concerned it's just labor arbitrage on a local level. The attitude around here seems to be that workers should be happy I hired them at all. The fact is, many democrats do not identify at all with labor or what is going on in the labor market. They are as blind to inequity as their republican counterparts.

  •  Haven't seen the movie, but I loved the book and (11+ / 0-)

    spoke with many AA women who loved it, too.  It gave me a clear perspective from a worker's point of view in the South at that particular point in time and it was entertaining and enlightening and inspiring.  Can't wait to see the movie.

    I have Latino domestic help in my home twice a month and pay way above minimum wage and do everything I can to show respect and admiration for all the work she does for me.  I keep my home clean, but scrubbing floors, vacuuming and climbing footstools to reach ceilings is beyond my capacity.  I've done it for pay, myself, so I know how hard it is.  I have nothing but admiration for women who have to do this sort of work and I give my "help" a generous Christmas bonus and make sure she knows she's appreciated each day she's in my home.

    In L.A., Latino immigrants are the norm.  They build houses, apartments, roads, do the gardening around all these locations, clean homes, send their children to school, pay taxes and work harder on all these jobs than any white person I've ever seen.  Without Latino workers in Los Angeles, this city would come to a standstill.  They are part of the fabric of this city and when my original helper had to move back to Mexico because she couldn't find enough work in L.A., we both cried and I gave her extra money to help her move.  She told me I was like a part of her family and I miss her still, but I know she's safe, living with her sister, who has a good job.

    Everything isn't black and white.  Just sayin'...

    Best. President. Ever.

    by Little Lulu on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:13:07 AM PDT

    •  In DC, I had domestic help. She was (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      middleagedhousewife, evergreen2

      an independent contractor by the name of Glenda. She was white, and she was an awesome maid. She was in her 60s, but did domestic help for most of the tenants in my apartment building. I had her referred to me from another tenant. She told me that she charged $45 per cleaning session. I told her that I'd pay her $55 per cleaning session. Every holiday, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'd give her a bonus of $150. And this was when I was barely cracking 30K a year as a congressional staffer.

      I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

      by slinkerwink on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:24:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Your criticism of the movie does not equal the (11+ / 0-)

    book.  In the book it was evident that Abileen was going on to write as her new job.   Abileen and Minnie were never just subjects in the book.  All three women had equal view points in the book.  The movie eliminated 2 of the 3 points of view.

    I especially liked the way Stockett moved to omniscient in the chapter of the party where all 3 points of view contained in her novel were in the same room.

    I like the way your diary moved from the 60s to now to talk about the plight of household workers of a different race.

    Have you ever seen the movie El Norte  1983?

    . . . from Julie, Julia. "Oh, well. Boo-hoo. Now what?"

    by 88kathy on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:14:55 AM PDT

  •  Well said. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Renee, evergreen2

    My main problem is that re-hashing and "solving" safe battles of the past does nothing but give us a false sense of morality.

    We are still surrounded by invisible women who are cleaning our homes, hotels, etc. In some ways (although I don't want to start a "which kind of racism was worse" argument) they are in a worse position than the women portrayed in the book/movie: language barriers, threats of deportation (for themselves or family members), etc.

  •  Bathroom manners (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nokkonwud

    The Help showed that in stark relief.   Sometimes they are untouchables, sometimes they're not.

    How can people who really believe that others are so dirty and contagious they can't share facilities, have those same people breast feeding their babies and cooking their food?

    They don't.  They hate and they are hypocrites.  The Help shows them for what they are.

    . . . from Julie, Julia. "Oh, well. Boo-hoo. Now what?"

    by 88kathy on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:23:45 AM PDT

  •  Excellent review and diary--like you, I haven't (0+ / 0-)

    read the book, but a few of my friends and relatives have read it and want to see the movie, so I am hoping I can check it out soon. It will be interesting to see the audience demographics and how they react to the film (as you related in your experience).

    Thanks for sharing. :)

    Support American workers and unions. Buy American goods.

    by boofdah on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:26:20 AM PDT

  •  Every time I see this book/movie referenced (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp

    I keep thinking of

    song starts about 6:58, kind of an interesting piece by Allen to start with though.  I always liked Allen for his willingness to earnestly try to come to grips with reality.

    I Know a place where a Royal Flush never beat a Pair" T. Waits

    by NearlyNormal on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:48:41 AM PDT

  •  I want to read the book first since (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Unduna, Tonga 23, evergreen2

    it is said to be more from the Black women's perspective. It is a work of fiction so I won't expect historical accuracy. I think it is an endeavor to begin a conversation, one that could lead to understanding.

    The Book

    The job of fiction is to inhabit someone else. Argue, if you will, that Stockett didn't do a credible job -- but don't bother taking offense that she ambitiously took on the challenge in the first place. Don't assume that only the Toni Morrisons or Alice Walkers or Sapphires of the world have permission to write in the voice of African-American women. Or, for that matter, that members of any group should only write about their own.

    The Movie
    Why "The Help's" critics are all wrong

    One of the most repeated images of "The Help" is a simple tableaux of two women of different backgrounds and colors, just talking. Asking questions. Trying to understand. And that, to me, is the heart of the film. It's not about the big news stories of the early civil-rights era -- it's a story about having difficult and necessary exchanges about race. Skeeter may be a noble budding crusader, but her appeal is in her realization that she wants to understand. I'd like to believe that the fact that "The Help" has touched off such intense debate, such vehement criticism, is a good thing, because it says that we're doing just that still. As Owen Gleiberman astutely wrote this week on Entertainment Weekly's website, "It shows us the form that activism could take among women who weren't activists."

    On Monday afternoon in Times Square, the audience for "The Help" was surprisingly packed and unmistakably diverse. For a few hours, a variety of young people and older matinee goers, men and women, black and white, sat down together and watched a movie about what happens when black and white people sit down together. Then, as Viola Davis walked down a Jackson street, the lights came up. And for every member of the audience, an opportunity for conversation began.

    This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

    by Agathena on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 11:49:31 AM PDT

  •  Great diary on an important issue. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dannyinla, wishingwell, evergreen2

    Your point about Latino Service Domestic Workers could also be about Haitian Service workers  here in Florida.  They are also treated poorly.

  •  I could rehash my review, Slinkerwink (9+ / 0-)

    But with respect to the movie, we're going to have to disagree - though only nominally.  This is, however, coming from an African-American male's perspective who lived in Selma, Ala. in the late 1970s and whose grandmother, a woman from the Atlanta, Ga. metro area, worked as a domestic in Shaker Hts., Ohio.  The link:

    http://www.examiner.com/...

    With all due respect, there are far too many young African-Americans disconnected from their history.  This was part of it.  While I would prefer that it come from an African-American perspective, I believe that the director tried to incorporate as much as that as possible.

  •  I grew up with Latinos (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evergreen2

    In Puerto Rico and Los Angeles. For years, most of my friends were Latinos from Mexico, central and south America. Many of the immigrants I knew would proudly do any work they could get to survive once coming to the states.

    Most white Americans would not survive in similar circumstances, which would have been way outside their pampered comfort zones. I've never known more hardy and resourceful people, who are vastly underestimated in skill and intelligence.

    I was often insulted as well. I spoke Spanish 100% of the time with my Mexican wife, and people in California and even Mexico often mistook me for a light-skinned Mexican. In U.S. shops and restaurants, people did treat me differently when I was with my wife speaking Spanish than when I was alone or with English speaking company. I felt the resentment... such as "why can't they speak English?"

    Anyway, working at the moment, can't say more than I have.

    Thoughtful diary. Well done. You contribute important things to this site.

  •  Her name was Aibileen ... not Abileen (7+ / 0-)

    Although I agree with much of what you say, I also think that you miss some of the important points.  

    Although it seems a small thing (and it might even be a typo), getting her name right is important to the whole ... it means you see her s a person worthy of her own name and not one that is easier for you to say and remember.

    You are young and did not live through the times of the movies so it might be hard for you to understand the empowerment of the women to be able to tell their stories. They did not even tell them to each other becasue you never knew the repercussions. The empowerment was not for themselves but for their children ... did you miss the part where Minnie said her children never went back to working for the white women?  And Aibileen was published, even if not under her own name -- which was dangerous, and frankly impossible.  The dream was Skeeter's and the voice they used was hers, but it was their story and she acknowledged that when she split her advance with all of them.  Remember, it was also a huge risk for Skeeter ... she lost her boyfriend and most of her childhood friends.  So it also the story of her own struggle to greater consciousness.

    For many of us at the time, the hope and sense of empowerment was not only for ourselves but also for our family and our community.  Granted, I grew up in South Texas and am brown instead of black (and as a friend's child said "Hmmm.... a very light brown").

    I sometimes think that our attitude to civil rights and feminism is skewed when we don't remember the roots.  We cannot disrespect the effort because now it seems so small ... it felt huge then.  But now we fight the next battle as you so rightly state.  Just please honor the little battles that had to be fought so the big ones could be successful.

    And yes, the movie is a feel good piece ... what else would sell in the present economic atmosphere when people need hope and empowerment?   But when I went to see the movie, I finally got in the third time because it had been sold out the other two times I tried.  And half the sold out theater was filled with people of color -- Native American and African American and me.

    "Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe." Robert Browning in 'Ceuciaja'

    by CorinaR on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 12:27:02 PM PDT

  •  Hey Slinker, I appreciate your point of view (8+ / 0-)

    As one of those 50 or 60 year olds, I can say this: The Help in my life transformed me as a person.They were there for me when my mother wasn't.  Off being her white-ass self in Raleigh, NC in the early 1960's.

    I would not be who I am without them filling my heart to bursting. All for 50 cents, not 95, an hour. Watching that, I felt real shame. As I should.

    They gave me the greatest gifts of all. Love and tenderness. Caring. Kindness.

  •  We don't have domestic cleaning help on principle (6+ / 0-)

    The principle is not that it is inappropriate to hire domestic cleaning help - that's legitimate employment for people who may need a job, as long as the wages and condiitions are acceptable.  Instead, it was about how having such help might affect us.

    We're lucky enough to have had enough income for the past 20 years or so to afford help, but we felt it was necessary to teach our children how to clean, and the only credible way to do that was by doing so ourselves. Since our kids were about 4-5, they have known how to clean bathrooms and other parts of the house.  Sunday is generally cleaning day, and we all had our assigned chores (with rotation from week to week).  This even went into the college applications of our two oldest children. Now our youngest is about to start his senior year of high school, so a year from now - who knows?

    The one semi-exception to this rule was a decade ago when my youngest son was diagnosed with Leukemia.  Friends showed up one day when we were at the hospital and cleaned our house.  And they came back the next week, and so on for the first too months.  That was the most amazing gift that has me crying as I remember it nearly ten years later to the day.

  •  I read this book this weekend (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel

    If you had you would understand that Aibileen was an author who wrote down her prayers each day and that Skeeter used this mostly word for word in the book and Skeeter divided the profits equally among the women who told their stories.  At the end of the book Aibileen is hired as the writer of the newspaper column on cleaning.  Patronizing? No, but the idea that racism, classism, and the way women treat each other can only really be understood through the view of the black women in the story is patronizing.

    The book and the movie are historical fiction whose heart and liberal values are in the right place.

    I do think the patriotic thing to do is to critique my country. How else do you make a country better but by pointing out its flaws? Bill Maher

    by gtghawaii on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 02:49:42 PM PDT

    •  Not quite (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sberel, evergreen2

      Read my comment above...

      Here's a portion of it:

      But if Skeeter raised money through writing and gave it to the maids, real life Stockett failed to live up to her fictionalized self. She was sued for $75,000 by Aibleen Cooper, the maid of her brother for taking her name and biographical details to create the character Aibileen Clark in The Help. Aibleen and “Aibileen” share a name, a gold tooth and life-events but Judge Tomie Green dismissed the case because it was filed after the one-year statute of limitations. Outside the court, Cooper aimed her disgust at Stockett. “She’s a liar,” she said. “You know she did it and everybody else knows she did it!” So much for life imitating art.

      "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

      by Diogenes2008 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 03:49:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  great piece Slink! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VA Breeze, evergreen2

    (((((Slink)))))

    me, a short brown Mexican American.

    Went to the Holocaust museum yesterday, it scalded my soul.

  •  I must admit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evergreen2

    I couldn't understand when I had our daughter, I had to go with my white Mom in law to see Aunt BeeWee the old retired maid of her best friend and show off the baby. We went into a neighborhood I never had gone in to. San Antonio then was very segregated, White part, brown part, black part. I was 18 and didn't know anything about the relationships between whites and blacks in old San Antonio. Blacks served Whites and we Browns were across town on the westside.

  •  I am in the 50-60 yo age range and liked the book (0+ / 0-)

    but it sure made me angry.

    Now, I asked one of my older aunts (white)  in her 80's if she wanted to go see the movie and the answer was a definite no.

    There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it. ~Author Unknown

    by VA Breeze on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 04:42:21 PM PDT

  •  In terms of what constitutes "fair (0+ / 0-)

    pay" for someone who works in the underground economy: there's a robust market so the concept of fair is irrelevant. If you move to a new city and want to hire full-time or live-in help, you learn that it pays $300-$350 or whatever the range is in your market. And that's what you pay. Maybe you pay a little more, but nobody says "well, that's not fair, I insist on paying you $700 because that is what you deserve in my opinion". That's just not going to happen, and even if it did it wouldn't change the rest of the market. The point is - you can't "set" the wage range in a (by-definition) unregulated market.

    I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

    by doc2 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 05:25:22 PM PDT

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