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Stop calling her your maid! Is maid a derogatory term?

I have heard horrendous things about calling someone a maid . It has been called uncouth , belittling and inside of me I have felt that maybe its uncultural to call someone a maid especially when they can hear you. Let’s get one thing straight though, a maid is someone who gets paid to clean, take care of children and sometimes cook in someone’s property . Basically,to do all the menial work in someone’s house. Questions arise now on whether it is deragotory to call someone a maid? Should I call her a helper? maid? housekeeper? domestic servant? babysitter?

Let’s get all the definitions out of the way.

A housekeeper is a person employed to manage a household.


Oxford Dictionary

On the other hand a helper is someone who assists you with an activity or activities, the synonym being an assistant . So, this term can be used anyhow whether referring to someone who assists you with cleaning ,taking care of children or organising your daily activities. Lastly but not least a babysitter is someone who looks after kids when the parents are out. Therefore, we can safely rule out the word babysitter as his or her chores do not involve doing menial tasks in the house.

Lest I forget that,

a domestic servant, ‘is a person who works within an employer’s household. The term “domestic service” applies to the equivalent occupational category. In traditional English contexts, such a person was said to be “in service”. Wikipedia

So, is your employee a domestic servant ? a housekeeper? a nanny? Certainly not a maid! Right?


Quite frankly, maid is just a term to describe what someone does. I don’t know why the term has become a swear word in our black culture. I’m not sure who started by hating it whether its how the employers say it or its what the employees hear when its said. Its pretty obvious why the word has drawn so much attention as its related to cleaning, doing laundry , running errands etc yet the worth of the work that these people do can not be valued.

I have seen these people represented differently in the world. Do you guys remember the movie ‘Maid in Manhattan’ featuring Jeniffer Lopez , yea that movie was dope! In that part of the world being a maid means wearing a uniform and staying cleer of the rich and famous who would have employed you. Jenifer Lopez represented Spanish and Mexican people and all other ethnicities that migrate to America looking for greener pastures. In the lower part of Africa, South Africa for instance, is made up of people from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi etc , including their own people from low income towns. In Zimbabwe, these people are from the countryside(Masvingo, Gokwe , Chivhu etc) looking for money to make a living.

In the colonial times, these people were so often looked down at. It was common practise for black people to work for the madams in the leafy suburbs of the city. They either stayed in their own little cottages at the back of the main house or commuted to work daily. They were not allowed to use the same crockery that their master used or even eat the same food. They wore uniforms and called their employers madam or sir. Hardly , would you find them sitting in a car infront with their master. That was certainly unheard of! Suffice to say the working conditions were rigid but these people commanded utmost respect from their maids.

After the colonial rule, the madams became black people. Some of them had grown up seeing how their own had been treated and so wanted to rectify the issue but I think it has only been made worse. They feel guilty in calling their employees maids because of the history of the word. They are ashamed of openly saying the word but secretly they ask each other if you have a good MAID or not. I wouldn’t be caught dead by mine saying it out aloud, I’m just chickenshit hahahahah!It also sounds weird calling them helpers, right? Right!

Nowadays people call them ‘aunty’, sisi (sister) in African native language or mainini(mini Mami) . I’m not particularly fond of the latter words. I favour ‘aunty’ as a most respectable and easier word to use. . Also, nowadays, a lot of black families have stay in maids. Unlike, during the colonial rule, these people stay with us in close proximity, They eat, sleep sometimes with our children if lucky in their own room or cottage , if not in a kitchen or sitting /dining/lounge room. If you are a stay at home mum or dad then you are likely to spend more time with them and they also spend most of their time in our homes and not theirs.

This has led to a lot of problems. Avoid making common  mistakes with your maid here

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