10 January 2008

A Human Placeholder

I had been meaning to write about this. Two days ago, I was at UOB at Novena Square. I observed a maid in the long queue. I was curious. After half an hour of queuing, it was finally her turn. At that moment, her employer, an auntie in her 50s, who was sitting on a bench nearby (all that time) came and took her place. The little maid had become a human placeholder. I thought this was demeaning.

Do you think this is demeaning? Opinions?


Ken Lee said...

Is it demeaning because the maid's services were paid for? Or was it because she was treated like an objcet?

What would you say if the situation was differnt, and the maid was replaced by, say, a young man, possibly the lady's son?

What is it you found demeaning? The task itself, or the fact that the maid is paid to perform said task?

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

That she became an object of sorts??

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

I don't know really, it felt demeaning. Besides, maids were hired as domestic help and I wondered if the job description included 'placeholder in a queue'.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

Ken, this case does seem on the borderline though. It bothers me somehow. That is why I asked for opinions. Is it wrong for me to feel that way?

Ken Lee said...

I think we are making a assumption, which may or may not be accurate: that there exists a master-slave relationship between the lady and the maid.

I think we can agree that there is a difference in power between the two, and this power differential is prominent especially in the case of maids and their employers.

I also think that we cannot argue that these maids are very underpaid for their services, essentially making them slaves. Their daily income is about S$10.

If you accept that it was demeaning for the maid in this instance, then I would argue that all other tasks would be equally demeaning . The power differential between the employer and the maid does not change.
The master-slave relationship still exists.

However, this is an argument that we can only make on a marco level, a statistical trend about the general situation of all maids

However, as in all stastics, there are always aberrations. And I do not know enough about this specific event to judge whether the employer was exerting power over the maid, or whether the task was undertaken willingly.