As I was sitting with some family members who were visiting my mother after a recent surgery, the issue of the “help” in Lebanon came up.
I sat and listened as the “grown-ups” spoke about the maids that entered their homes and left. One of my family members, however, had never had a maid. With her turning 40 and an increasing backache, she was considering the idea – especially with one being available at her disposal the moment she says yes to her sister’s offer.
But that woman was worried. The cause of her anxiety? She only had one bathroom at her house and God forbid the maid uses the same bathroom she uses.
I never thought the passages present in the book, The Help, would actually pop up in such dramatic fashion in a Lebanese society. I never thought for a moment the bathroom issue was actually an issue in Lebanon. Aren’t those maids cleaning the bathroom to begin with? Aren’t we, in 2012, at a level of culture and knowledge that is sufficient to know that, unlike popular belief, those maids are not bringing in with them a ton of foreign viruses the like of which Lebanon has never seen before?
I replied to my family member. I was strict and somewhat rude in my reply. I think she was offended but I didn’t care. I knew Lebanese society was racist but you never think it goes on in your family until it actually takes place in front of you.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Flash forward a few days later, I was having dinner with a couple of friends my age. And if you thought the older generation, with its minimal contact early in life with “the help,” may be justified somewhat in the racist ideas that swirl through their heads, then what “excuse” could you come up with when a twenty two year old agrees with my 40 year old family member about the bathroom issue? The justification given was: but they are “dirty.”
And it is then that the need for a Lebanese version of The Help became obvious to me. Many people had spoken about how that book, and movie, were very relevant to our society today. Most of those people had thought about that only fleetingly, for the few moments after having finished the book or the movie. Some had even blogged about its relevance
But then I thought, why not have an online version of The Help, adopted to Lebanese society, that tells stories of the maids that come to our homes, before something bad happens to them and their story becomes top news and activists get outraged at the injustice in our society when it comes to “the help.”
If you have your own maid story you want to share, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll start with telling the story of one of the maids that came into our home really soon.
An interesting article. When you say ‘racist’, what do you mean? Are the ‘maids’ of a different colour/race to their employers? But I hear you loud and clear. It doesn’t matter where maids exist, even if it is Africa, there will always be some kind of injustice, even if it is a black employer mistreating a black servant. The more you see such a thing, the more you realise it is to do with power and economics.
Yes the maids are usually black and Lebanon has mostly a white population. Some maids, however, are filippino or some other ethnicity and they are still treated poorly. It’s reflective on some men and women. And I agree – Lebanese employers think they own their maids with the $150 they pay every month as their salary.
I was at a Burger King with my toddler while my older girls were attending a birthday party. Got to chatting with a few domestic workers, and one of them just started opening up to me about her work. She was basically telling me her day to day and then mentioned that after her “Madame” uses the toilet, she calls this girl in to come flush for her. I had to stop her and have her repeat herself because I thought surely I must have mis-heard, but nope, that’s exactly what she said. I’m sure you’ll hear many stories like this and more…. good luck with your project!
That’s totally outrageous and disgusting. I wonder if that woman had someone do that to her, what would she have done?
Good luck Elie!
Thank you little miss 🙂
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My daughter has a Pretty little maid, and in her home or our home we treat her as if she was a sister or a daughter. She sits with us at the table, whether in our homes or in restaurants. When I see her whether on the street or in a shop or our homes, I always hug and kiss her and tell her that I love her and to her I am her Mamma. My daughter likes to see her well dressed, with makeup and whenever our little maid wants, my daughter takes her to the hairdresser to do what ever she wants with her hair. We buy her clothes and presents just like any member of our family. Our entire family love this little maid of ours. Unfortunately, we live in a town, as far as I am concerned, who a poor in mind, body and soul and do not know God, they are racist and think they are better than this little maid and any other maid that may be known to them. The people here are appalled at the way we treat our girl, in fact she uses our bathrooms, plus when she sleeps at my place she sleeps in my guest room with all the fluffy warm blankets and she has a room of her own at my daughters home, with all the comforts she might need. Who ever treats these little girls otherwise, are inhuman, snobby, arrogant, I won’t say any more, because I can keep going on for hours
A great story. Thank you for sharing it!
We should treat our maids as people. This is how you do so.