- 2017年05月19日11:19 来源：互联网
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Domestic work in the South——The Help, updated
Maids are no longer servants
UNDER seGREgation, black women were so rigidly excluded from good jobs that 60% of those who were employed in 1940 worked as maids. With so few other choices, their wages were lousy and their white bosses could treat them abysmally. In Kathryn Stockett's novel “The Help”, set in the early 1960s, a black maid is fired for using an indoor toilet rather than braving a tornado to use the outhouse; her revenge, involving a chocolate pie, is not for the squeamish.
Times have changed. In 1935, six out of ten urban white families above the poverty line in the South had a full-time domestic servant, compared with under 20% in the North. Now hardly anyone does. People who want help with the housework typically hire cleaners for a few hours a week, not as live-in flunkeys with whom they pretend to have a warm relationship. A cleaner arrives, blitzes the house with a Hoover and various chemicals and drives to the next job. Employers are less likely to be paternalistic and more likely to be absent, since women now hold half the jobs in America.
Thanks to labour-saving devices, maids are much more productive than in the old days. This is one reason why they earn far more, though they are still close to the bottom of the income scale. A typical Southern maid makes about 9.11 an hour, which is less than those in richer parts of the country. The metro area where the highest proportion of workers are maids is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a popular resort.
The demography of domestic service has changed, too. Mamie Garrett, whose family has run mortuaries in Greenville, South Carolina since 1952, remembers when other black women had few options besides becoming “a domestic”, but has herself employed help at home for decades. Some 44% of cleaners in America are Hispanic. Dalsi Lopez, a Guatemalan who tidies posh apartments in Atlanta, says many Latinas become cleaners because poor English bars them from other jobs. Nationwide, 27% of maids are illegal immigrants, estimates the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank.
According to the American Cleaning Institute, an industry group, just 12% of Americans had a regular cleaner in 2008. Some budget-conscious families use websites such as Yelp and Angie's List to hire temporary help only when they need it. Those with a little more money may opt for a concierge service such as Girl Friday of Alabama. Girl Friday's clients, 85% of whom are white, pay the agency to pamper them. For 17-30 an hour, it will send someone to cook a delicious dinner for visiting in-laws, buy a present for Uncle Hank or book the family holiday. Its founder, Jasmine Allen, has six employees who do most of the dirty work and a smart new office in a tech hub in Birmingham.
根据美国清洁协会这个行业组织的资料，2008年仅有12%的美国家庭雇佣一个长期的保洁工人。一些有预算意识的家庭若需要保洁服务，会通过诸如Yelp and Angie's List这样的网站雇佣临时的保洁工人。星期五女孩这样的服务网站的客户85%是白人，他们付费给中介为他们找临时保洁员。每小时只需付17至30美元就能叫来一个人帮他们做一顿美味的正餐或者帮助拜访一位姻亲或者为某位亲戚买个礼物，抑或帮他们预订一个家庭假期。该中介的创始人艾伦在伯明翰的科技港有一间大气的新办公室雇有六个吃苦耐劳不怕脏不怕累的员工。
Shelly Haines, a former teacher and pet baby-sitter in Miami, runs a firm called “Savvy Shelly” that caters to especially demanding customers. One called her late on a Sunday to ask her to send eggnog from a particular farm shop to Houston by overnight mail as a gift for a visiting brother. Another has her ensuring everything on board his boat is shipshape. Sometimes customers even want her to act “as some kind of therapist”, she sighs. The help can't answer every cry for help.