Maid: emotional abuse, precarious lifestyles and bureaucracy’s weaknesses

Maid is a scream from many categories of people with different problems, all combined in a single protagonist: those who try to escape from a difficult and violent marriage, the single parents with no money, those who ty to earn even a little with precarious and exploitative jobs, those who are obliged to ask for state subsidies but encounter an extremely difficult path to obtain a little help. By watching this TV miniseries, you can hear all these categories of people shouting and making themselves some space in this word.

Maid is a short tv series produced in the USA that appeared on Netflix in October 2021. Since that moment, it has gained an extraordinary success, winning a lot of prizes including three Golden Globes but, mostly, inspiring and moving thousands of spectators. The story is taken from the book Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land, in which the author puts into words what she had passed through during her life, being a single mom escaping from her partner and living with about $10 per day.

The emotional abuse

The story rotates around the character of Alexandra, a 25-years-old woman who in the first seconds of the first episode, decides to escape from the house (more similar to a shack) that shares with her partner, Sean, that is also the father of their child. She takes a couples of clothes, her daughter Maddy and a very few dollars, and leaves the house on her car, without looking back.

Her partner was not physically violent, but she couldn’t stand fearing him anymore from when one night, after he got home drunk again, he threw a glass against the wall and she had to remove pieces of glass from Maddy’s hair.

When she leaves, she doesn’t know yet she is a victim of violence, and here starts her long journey towards the awareness: she says “no”, when asked if she is a victim of violence; she thinks she is exaggerating when meets other women with the signs and the scars of the physical abuse by their partners; she starts to consider herself as guilty when Sean obtains the custody of their daughter and when he takes a path to stop drinking alcoholics; she eventually goes back to him but the situation turns out to be worse than before; she is isolated and has no one to count on. She finally frees herself only in the moment in which she sees the terror and the pain in Maddy’s eyes, the same Alex had when her own mother took her away from her father. Here, they escape again and she is able to understand that she has been a victim of emotional abuse.

The emotional abuse is just as important as the physical one, as often is the first step that later degenerates in violence. However, as the series explains, it is much more difficult to prove it in court – the general thinking is “no bruises, no violence” – and mostly because of the need for witnesses. However, one of the conditions of these victims is the isolation, the lack of a personal life and affections, and as we see in the series the only person that witnesses this kind of abuse decides to abandon Alex and stand on Sean’s side, without understanding the seriousness of the situation.


The American bureaucracy

One of the first obstacles that Alex encounters when she decides to get by on her own, is the difficulty in obtaining state subsidies. The bureaucracy asks people to be able to provide several guarantees when asking for governmental helps that often are not available to the requestor since the very beginning. Think for example, how difficult it can be to find a job for a person without references, with a few dollars for the car fuel, and with a daughter that can’t attend the kindergarten yet because they ask for parents with a job, a job that can’t be done if you need to look after a 3-years-old. The complex journey that Alex undertakes to be helped, underlines a bureaucracy and social services that aren’t really capable of helping who needs actual help, with nonsense and a bit of cruelty.

Being a maid

With the help of a social assistant moved by her story, Alex succeeds in finding a job as a maid. However, the conditions are not favorable: she needs to buy her own detergents with her money, she needs to drive to each house paying for her own fuel, she has few turns and if clients cancel or forget appointments she loses a day without any warranty, and, above all, the pay is miserable. However, she can’t find anything better in a short time and with her situation, since she needs the few pennies that she can get home daily, she rolls up her sleeves and put all her efforts into this job.

Despite cleaning houses is very challenging, she finds someone who unexpectedly becomes a friend and who will help her a lot through her journey. She also finds stories to write, that is her real passion, and this will allow her to realize her dream to be admitted with a scholarship into the University of Montana to study creative writing.

Key message

The keyword is resilience. Alex never gives up in her difficult situation and tries to do everything in her power to obtain a better life for her and her daughter, and she eventually does. Even with the difficult family situation, the lack of justice in the bureaucracy, a poorly paid job and no one on which she can really count on, she obtains help from some people who have the willingness to listen to her story, but mostly from herself. We also learn that there is no shame in getting some support whenever we need it. This is a TV series to watch to gain self-awareness, self-respect also some courage.


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