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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Are Maids Considered Cattle?

Walking to work yesterday, I espied a matrona who seems to have made Victorina from Noli Me Tangere her model and aspiration: Despite having Filipina features, I wager she must have ingested at least 10 bottles of Glutathione pills (the alabaster tone of her skin was discolored and seemed...artificial), the hair piled up and colored in copper brown, and was dressed in what I can sumrise to be very expensive clothing.

Tagging along with her in hand was her daughter (she called the older woman "Mom" so this isn't conjecture on my part) who was in a rather skipping, jovial mood, dressed in her school uniform.

And behind them was their maid.

(Photo courtesy of

Dressed in an all white uniform - collared, ironed well, short sleeved, buttoned in front, with matching white pants, and white shoes, the maid was carrying around six shopping bags, plus the child's school bag, and Victorina's handbag. (The maid wasn't more than 5'2" and would give Kate Moss a run for Emaciated Look of the Year.)

I just find the uniform so pretentious.

I can't find a way to justify around or over my assessment: It seems to me that the uniform is a form of cattle branding, a way to say to everyone in public, "This is our maid, and yes, the uniform means she's ours."

The maid doesn't go into an office with hundreds of other employees, so the line that "it's for identification purposes" is a big bag of hooey.

I've seen these uniformed maids in restaurants, malls, etc.; in one particular instance, the entire family was seated on a round table, with a lazy Susan serving meals, and the maid was standing beside the infant in the group, feeding him, while she herself didn't get any food. (They arrived later than our party and left earlier so I knew for certain that she wasn't fed.)

And even for those families who do "allow" their uniformed maids to eat and sit with them, the uniform is a sticking point - remember that song from Sesame Street, the one that goes "One of these things is not like the others..."? The uniformed maid stands out conspicuously with the label "our helper".

Would it be so hideous and unthinkable if maids were allowed to dress themselves freely?

Why the uniforms?

Can anyone tell me any reason that will change my mind about this phenomenon being a modern form of "ownership"? (Not to mention something reeking of the nouveau riche label all over it.)

I'm almost expecting the next uniformed maid I see to have a bell around her neck and mooing to her "owners".

This is one time I really hope to be proven wrong.


  1. and this, my dear joey, is why i love you-you are so clear-eyed about the basics. there was a time in my life when my beloved helpers HAD to be in uniform. i cannot apologize enough for this except to say i was such an unevolved pretentious snot. until i had a helper who refused--REFUSED!-this indignity. and made me THINK.

    i have friends i love dearly, who are the nicest human beings on earth who MUST have their helpers uniformed (and maybe cosseted, malay ko ba). and to them i say, 'traveling mercies.'

    we are all on different journeys but my journey took me to where THAT uniform that i insisted my helpers wear mirrored so much of what was ugly inside me: my pretentious shit.

    thank you joey for this!

  2. For the first topic -- Uniforms.
    I agree. The reason why uniforms are worn is to brand the people who wear them. What they brand them as is the question. You can look at it two ways. One is similar as to why prisoners wear prison uniforms. I guess that the way you look at it. But another is to show the position and respect awarded to the person wearing it. This pertains to soliders, policemen, and the like. These people have been given responsibilities and have positions of trust. That's why they wear these uniforms, I think maids, particularly yayas, should be treated this way. We entrust to them our kids, their health, their upbringing and, in part, their future. I think it matters not if they wear a uniform or not but how we treat this people who serve us.

    Second, I take particular issue about you commenting about yayas not eating with the family. Until you stand in the shoes of those who have kids and yayas for their kids, I ask you not to judge us so harshly. Normally, if we go out and we are the ones paying for the food -- why not? We let our yaya eat with us. It's not a problem. But when we talk about going to family parties where we are only guests and somebody else is paying? That is where the problem lies.

  3. if it is really respect one wants to foster in making the maids wear a uniform, why is it then that the uniforms that they are forced to wear are the cheapest fabric available? Why not have it tailored, designed better with a better material.

  4. in a party with yaya??? why tag along a yaya in the first place?

  5. this is inhumane.

  6. I think den misunderstood about the part of the family having lunch/dinner wherein the maid wasnt fed. It wasn't a party. As what i understand with joey's statement, they had their usual lunch/dinner at a restaurant and didnt feed the maid. But i agree with you that if it's a party its a different game. But i think that's why we have RSVP now but sadly people does not realize the importance of it. :)

  7. Waitress girls in restaurants also wear uniform, it's up to the employer. If a housemaid girl, nanny girl or au pair girl is abused, that's another issue. Employers just have to follow the employment laws of the country they live in.