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INTERLOCKING SYSTEMS OF OPPR ESSION AND THE PARADOX OF PRIVILEGE: AN APPLICATION OF PATRICIA HILL COLLINS AND ALLAN JOHNSONS THEORIES TO MAID IN AMERICA AND MAID IN MANHATTAN BY FREDERICK ALEXANDER GUADALUPE MEDINA A Thesis Submitted by the Division of Humanities New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of t he requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Prof. Maribeth Clark Sarasota, Florida May, 2009
ii Dedication There is only one person in this world that deserves to be in this page. This person gave birth to me, and inspires me to be nothing less than everything I can during every second of my life. All I want to say in this dedication is: Thank you! Thanks for accepting me for who I am Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me. Thank you mom for holding me when I was very little and scared, sometimes you still hold me, and ever y worry in the world goes away. Much, much love, Fred
iii Acknowledgements It is very important for me to thank everyone who has helped me along the way. I never thought I w ould get here, but, here I am! First and foremost, I would like to thank my first advisor Prof. Sarah Hernandez. Thank you for grabbing my hand and taking those first sociological steps with me. Second, Dr Brain thanks, my Urban Sociology evaluation during my first semester at New College was so reaffirming and you did believe I had the potential to be a good sociologist. That meant a lot! The following people are the ones who were there for me during the whole thesis process: Dr. Bashant Thank you for looking for alternatives to my project. Without your guidance I would not have a thesis today. Prof. Clark Thank you for believing in me, sponsoring me, understanding the way I felt during the process. Prof. Dungy Thank you so much fo r jumping on my BACC! You were the one person who told me a year before I even thought about my thesis that you would be willing to be part of my committee! Thank you for making time to role play with me for my BACC! Thank you for adding your perspective to the BACC! I was so happy to have you in my committee! Prof. Savin Thank you for taking a chance on an unknown kid!
iv Finally, three people stand out. Prof. Wheeler You are so patient!!! God Bless your patience with me! Thank you for helping my writing! T hank you for sharing your ideas with me! Thank you for getting mad at me! Giving me a reality check but also knowing when to console my heart. Harlan Lieberman-berg You have l aughed about my thesis all along. You know that has been very mean. Still thank you for all the late nights at Perkins thanks for driving! Thank you for listening to me when I had a paper I should have written 10 days ago. and made me realize that I should have been stressing all. Best of wishes for your starting New College career. You are nuts but I love you! Steven Duane Maness I dont know how you got hereI dont know why either, but you are and I hope you ar e here for a looooong time. Thank you for being here hugging me, telling me things will turn out well, fighting with me, and all those things you do well. You have been an excellent companion for the end of this journey!
iv Table of Contents Dedication..ii Acknowledgments....iii Table of Contents.iv Abstract..vi Chapter 1: Introduction to Interlocking syst ems of Oppression an d the Paradox of Privilege..1 Patricia Hill Collins: Evoluti on of Knowledge and Dichotomous Thought Systems............ .................... ................ .................... ............................ ..........1 Different Methods of Learning....4 Emphasis on Categorization to Execute Privilege..9 Allan Johnson: Experiencing Privilege and the Paradox of Privilege.11 Conclusion...16 Chapter 2: Race, ethnicity, and the Paradox of Privilege in Maid in America ....17 Collins dichotomous way of thinki ng: How Telma and her employer think differently about the problems of race.19
v Maid in America and Johnson: Levels of social exclusion and inclusion for the maids Maid in America and Collins: Individual and collective action: community and legal organization Johnsons Paradox of Privilege: Eva, white and educated..27 Conclusion...28 Chapter 3: Levels of Privilege in Maid in Manhattan .................. ................ ..........29 Setting the tone for the film: Alice Millers The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for True Self ...30 Collinss dichotomous way of thinking: How Marissa, her mother, and her co workers think about categorization..31 Johnsons levels of exclusion and inclusion and Marissas situation. Maid in Manhattan and Johnsons Paradox of Privil ege: Marissa, privileged?....40 Conclusion...41 Conclusion...42 Works Cited.
vii INTERLOCKING SYSTEMS OF OPPR ESSION AND THE PARADOX OF PRIVILEGE: AN APPLICATION OF PATRICIA HILL COLLINS AND ALLAN JOHNSONS THEORIES TO MAID IN AMERICA AND MAID IN MANHATTAN Frederick A. Guadalupe New College of Florida, 2009 ABSTRACT This thesis utilizes the t heories of Patricia Hill Collins and Allan Johnson to analyze two films: Maid in America and Maid in Manhattan. Through the combination of Collins and Johnson discussed in the first chapter, we see race and class from a unique perspective in both films. These theories can be used as lenses to examine categorization, the different levels in society where we experience privilege, and the paradox of privilege ideas that Collins and Johnson explore. These films are directly opposit e in their setup and purpose. Chapter 2 presents the film Maid in America a documentary, about t he situation of Latin American illegal immigrant workers in Los Angeles, showing the typical days of three maids. Chapter 3 focuses on a popular film, Maid in Manhattan, which intends to entertain. With Maid in America, I will show that there are real limitations that prevent individuals in this country from accessing privilege. In Maid in Manhattan, we learn that there are always li mitations, but for those in the second or third generations, it is oft en simply categorizat ion and fear that prevents them from getting hold of the privilege they have earned or can earn.
viii We conclude with a discussion of the comple xity of privilege as it is linked to race, class, gender, and the ability of individuals to earn privilege through generations of hard work. Dr. Maribeth Clark Division of Humanities
Guadalupe | 1 Chapter 1: Introduction to Interlocking Systems of Oppression and the Paradox of Privilege This thesis focuses on the theories of tw o sociologists: Patricia Hill Collins and Allan Johnson. Collins speaks about the oppressive systems in our society known as the interlocking systems of oppression. To understand the interlocking system of oppression, we will look at knowledge and how we understand, create, and value some types of knowledge more than others. We will also see through Collins how kno wledge evolves through time and action, even though we still have a need to ca tegorize people as different, and those who do not agree with the majority as inferior. To understand the process through which these decisions of inferiority or superiori ty work, we will look at Johnson, who explains different levels at which people experience this inferiority or superiority that is discussed as parti cipation in privilege. Ultimately, we will understand, as Johnson explains, that t here is a paradox of privilege. This paradox makes it very complicated for people to create new knowledge together. Patricia Hill Collins: Evolution of knowledge and dichotomous thought systems. Patricia Hill Collins, a social theorist, has focused her research on examining issues of race, gender, and social class, sexuality, and nationality. In 2008, Collins became the first female African-American president of the
Guadalupe | 2 American Sociological Association (ASA). Her first book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (1990), won many recognitions including the Je ssie Bernard Award, of the American Sociological Association, for significant scholarship in gender, and the C. Wright Mills Award of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Collins reflects on the ongoing struggles of minorities in the acquisition of their own voice presenting and uniting the complexity of ideas that exist in bot h scholarly and everyday life. This book acknowledges the silence of individuals in society w ho are a part of socially denigrated categories. However, it not only speaks to the necessity of individual voices but seeks both individual and colle ctive voices. This enables the book to link the personal and political and t he changing relationship between these concepts through time. In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hills Collins contributes to feminist thought as well as sociological theory by addressing the individuals relation to greater society. Collins speaks of oppression; however, she emphasizes the importance of knowledge in empowering oppressed people. Knowledge is important for these individual s to contribute to change. Social change is not only achieved by individuals but is a joint effort as political and social institutions need to be part of change as well. At the center of her analysis are Bl ack womens experiences. Collinss theory acknowledges race, class, gender oppression simultaneously, and emphasizes the need for a humanistic view of community. The unique focus
Guadalupe | 3 provided by her theory sets up a paradigm t hat force us to think differently about oppression. Collins describes this new m odel as the Interlocking Systems of Oppression. The Interlocking Systems of Oppressi on is composed of the Matrixes of Domination. Collins explains that all c ontexts of domination incorporate some combination of intersecting oppressions, and considerable variability exists from one matrix of domination to the next as to how oppression and activism will be organized (228). The point for Collins here is that even though the structure of oppression might vary within social classes and countries the matrix of oppression is still a universal form of ex plaining intersecting oppressive forces that a particular group or individual might face. For example, regardless of the particularities of any oppressive system it requires that one side be privileged while the other denigrated. Therefore, privilege is defined because of its relation to the denigrated. In the US for example, we have se rious dichotomous ways of thinking about race, class, and gender. For in stance, Collins suggests that one is either male and privileged or female and dependent. However, it is not that simple as there are many different ca tegories that a person can have. These complexities can be exemplified by indivi duals that are Hispani c, female, working class, and illegal or a female who is a second generation immigrant, and lower middle-class. To reach a common understanding t hat would free us all from the Interlocking Systems of Oppression, three major points are useful for our
Guadalupe | 4 analysis. First, there are different methods of learning that depend on our social, historical, and cultural background, and t hese methods of learning evolve over time. Second, both collective and indivi dual actions are necessary to create new common knowledge. Third, some sets of knowledge are more privileged than others which bring about difficulties in achieving common knowledge and raise new questions of privilege. Different methods of learning In chapter 5, Collins points out the necessity and complexity of gaining new knowledge: Offering subordinate groups new knowledge about their own experience can be empowering. But reveal ing new ways of knowing that allow subordinate groups to define their own realit y has far greater implications (117). Subordinate groups do have ways to under stand their experience. However, those ways are not within the constr aints of the majority. Our general understanding of society and our place within it is conveyed through formal education. Formal education does not necessarily mean higher education but may be as simple as parental education in regard to table manners. Therein lies the major problem with minority groups with disadvantaged socioeconomic status and those who might not be a minority group but still face socioeconomic disadvantage: class separation, peopl e need ways of understanding what separates them from the other.. Po ssessing these common understandings, both formal and informal, allows for ef fective interaction between people.
Guadalupe | 5 One example, which occurred Nove mber, 25, 2000 in the US, of a situation where different viewpoints, and ultimately knowledge, resulted in difficulties is that of a six-year -old boy named Elian Gonzalez. Elian was found floating on an inner tube off the Florida c oast (BBC News). The Cuban family of Elian, some of them in the US and others in Cuba, had contrasting opinions about whether Elian should stay with his fa mily in the US or return to Cuba with his father. Beyond familial ties, and the obvious desire of a father to have his son close to his side, this situation illustra tes the redefinition of a groups reality. Elians family in the US thought that E lian was best served by the US protections and by the socioeconomic system here. His family in Cuba thought he would be better served in their country. The way both groups depicted the situation, Elian would have been best served in the location t hey preferred. Ultim ately, it became an issue of politics and Elian was sent back home to Cuba with his father. This conflict shows that Elians family, the same group of people, can split by geographical location and experience in their understanding, and the complexity of privilege. Both sides believed t hat Elian would have been better served at their location. This raises some ques tions, as to why would Elian be better served in either location. For instance, in Cuba Elian received the support and knowledge of his Hispanic cult ure. In the US, Elian receives economical progress without the strong Cuban culture. I recall my high school physics class in Puerto Rico when a teacher called upon us to recapture our Hispanic cultural identity. The biggest factor was our development of a rich understanding of the Spanish language. This was
Guadalupe | 6 necessary because we had been focusi ng and placing extreme importance on developing our English language skills. We did so because we understood those skills to be necessary to be successful in society. However, being skilled in both languages and cultures would enable an even deeper understanding of both. Our teacher explained this in a most peculiar way. She told us that no one else would care about our identity if we did not. Furthe rmore, she told us that the other side was not trying to learn Spanish. In sum, she told us we would be twice as strong if we understood both, as we would se rve as a bridge and common ground for two worlds. Every groups set of general kno wledge changes over time. This can occur to be more inclusive of other gr oups knowledge. Lets take the example of law schools across the country and one of the major changes they have had over the past twenty-five years. During t he beginning of the 1980s, the American Bar Association made a public commitment to as sure full public opportunities for minorities in the legal profession. As of 2005, total minority enrollments have risen to their highest point in history which constituted 22% of all law school enrollments in the country. This is an extremely significant figure since it constitutes a drastic change since 1980 when only 8% of the total enrollment in law schools of the US was com posed of minority groups (AALS). The change in enrollment indicates a change in policy by the ABA but, more importantly, is the catalyst for a c hange in the field of legal scholarship. Due to this change, a significant number of minority students w ho enrolled in law
Guadalupe | 7 school have pursued teaching careers. Since they had the opportunity to attend law school, they became law professors. In turn, many of these professors saw a need for change in the curriculum. As Willia m Hines, the current president elect of the Association of American Law Sc hools (AALS), explains in Ten Major Changes in Legal Education over the Pa st 25 Years: Faculty diversity necessarily trails student diversity during an era of rapidly changing demographics within the student body becau se nearly all law teachers are law graduates (2). Although a slow process, the teaching population finally began representing the newly found diversity of the student population by 2005. This means that the percentage of minority teachers in law school is drastically different from the percentages of 1980. In 1980, full-time total minority faculty composed only 8% of all la w schools. By 2005, total minority faculty professors compose 18% of all faculties. Therefore, the number of minorit y professors within the legal field has more than doubled. This impacts the legal profession in a very simple way. Today we live in a world where not only the American Bar Association is asking the AALS to in crease diverse student population in law schools but one in which the AALS declared one of its core values necessary for schools membership to the AALS: seek to have a faculty, staff and student body which are diverse with respect to race, color and sex (2). In the previous example, we witness ed how the knowledge of a group can change over time. We are also able to see that both the ABA as well as independent law schools took charge in ch anging the minority enrollment in law
Guadalupe | 8 school. This impacted individuals who also took charge and became teachers, changing the curriculum and knowle dge of law professionals. With this example and the example of Maid in America, the subject of Chapter 2, we can see that both individual and group actions are necessary for change. A good illustration of a group trying to achieve common social goals and knowledge is seen in the documentary Maid in America In this documentary, we follow three Hispanic illegal immigrant fema le maids in their search for a better life in the US. All three maids differ in t heir opinions of the possibility of upward social mobility in the US. However, one of them is part of a cooperative. The cooperative consists of other illegal immi grant maids who have found a legal way to conduct their business in the US. By fo rming a cooperative, they pay taxes as a business; there is no employer liabili ty as their employers are not paying an immigrant worker but a business. Their gr oup actions and, more importantly, their individual decisions to fo rm part of this organization create the possibility of becoming a US residents in t he future. If there were ev er a period of immigration amnesty in the future, they will be able to prove that they have been productive and respectful citizens in the US. Theref ore, we see a group of people who play an important role in legal citizens lives yet due to their illegal status have no recognition under the law. However illegal and unwelcomed they might feel they prepare their case to form legal par t of US society in the future. Knowledge which for these purposes is defined as familiarity gained through experience or association is exem plified by the previous examples. The
Guadalupe | 9 examples allow for the generation of new knowle dge by demonstrating differences between groups and how those groups can work together or choose not to work together. Now, these actions and the potential for the evolution of knowledge, are not all that is needed to have new common knowledge. Our system is much more complicated. This is why it is harder for some groups to accept new knowledge than others. Overa ll, in US society, we have privilege. Within this overall state of privile ge there is a hierarchy among groups and individuals. Some groups have a more re spectable standing, so their knowledge is more respected. Even though in this c hapter we will not dwell on privilege, and we will mostly simply illustrate stratifica tion and categorization in our society, the next chapter will focus on Johnsons explanation of what exactly privilege is. Emphasis on categorization to execute privilege. Collins explains the need for societys emphasis on categorization: One must either be black or white in such thought systems persons of ambiguous racial ethni c identity constantly battle with questions such as what are y ou, anyway? This emphasis on quantification and categor ization occurs in conjunction with the belief that either/or cat egories must be ranked (233) A contemporary example of a person facing these questions is President Barack Obama. During his run for presidency, everyone, from journalists to other politicians, questioned both his ethnic and racial identity. Those who questioned
Guadalupe | 10 his racial identity wrote things similar to those written by Stanley Crouch in a New York Daily News column entitled What Obama Isn t: Black like Me. Crouch was illustrating the same thought that Collins describe in this first sentence quoted above, which is that we have very di stinct thought systems in which you are either black or white. In our societ y Black means those descended from West African slaves. For some, it is simply too difficult to understand that Obamas mother is white. Those who questioned his ethnic identity sounded like Joe Biden. Biden essentially questioned Obam as authenticity as a black man as he called Obama the first mainst ream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy. Of cour se this set Obam a completely apart from all the other Blacks and, essentially, set him apart from any ethnic connections to being Black. As Collins further elaborates on t he need to quantify and categorize, we understand that in order for us to make s ense of the world we tend to put things in categories and place those that are harder to categorize in the nearest possible category. Another example us ing President Obama again demonstrates our need to categorize. An article in Time (February 7, 2007) explains Obamas life, but towards a different end: Back in the real world, O bama is married to a black woman. He goes to a black church. He's worked with poor people on the South Side of Chicago, and still lives ther e. This type of analysis places Obama in the category of Black for whatever purpos e: to elevate him in the minds of the African-Americans or to put him back in his place for Whites concerned about his potential to gain privilege.
Guadalupe | 11 Therefore, citizens constantly battl ed with the possibility, during Obamas run for candidacy, of having a Black president. At this point, not because he was Black, or white, or even biracial but rather because although he had great qualities, he still associated with Black peo ple. This makes people uncomfortable because it becomes more difficult to m easure whether or not he deserves to be privileged. Those from certain groups who do not possess certain qualities are simply not supposed to be privileged. Allan Johnson: Experiencing privilege and the paradox of privilege. Allan Johnson is a sociologist who focuses on issues of privilege, oppression, and social inequality. Afte r 30 years of teaching, Johnson now devotes himself to writing and public speaking. In Privilege, Power, and Difference (2006), he examines the systems of privilege and difference in our society. The main strength of this book is how he links theory to examples that enable the reader to underst and the nature of privilege and its consequences. The previous section ended with the discu ssion, inspired by Collins, of the need for society to categorize and quantif y. This discussion, reflecting two different ways of viewing President Obama as he campaigned for office, inevitably provoked questions of privilege, mainly because, to categorize, it is necessary to have categories, and in order to define categories, there have to be differences. In society, these differences are raci al, socioeconomic, gender, or ethnicity. Those who have because of their socioeconomic, gender, and racial classification access to advantage are privileged.
Guadalupe | 12 Johnson explains privilege as a situation that exists when one group has something of value that is denied to ot hers because of the group they belong to, rather than because of anything theyve don e or failed to do (21). Therefore, being part of a group that is denied something constitutes privilege for another group. People experience inclusion or excl usion from privilege at many different levels of society. Johnson has defined three levels of privilege. The first level, personal biography, is composed of a persons exper iences. It assumes that each person has a unique set of experiences, values motivations, and emotions (557). At this level, the creation of new individua l knowledge is important. In Collinss analysis, she explained that individuals who have more knowledge have power over those who have less, although this leve l holds distinct individual points of view. The next level, the group or community level, impacts people on an individual basis regardless of their personal convictions. This is the case because it is almost impossible to form part of a group where one agrees completely with everyone elses convictions. The group or community level is formed by the conglomeration of personal biographies. Communities serve the purpos e of validating and providing further meaning to the personal biography. The co mmunities do this by holding common values such as racial, socioeconomic, and even gender similarities. The group takes its common traits and turns them into a culture. Their culture becomes the way of validating thought processes, and standards that serve to evaluate
Guadalupe | 13 individual attitudes and behaviors. This is true for dominant groups as well as oppressed or denigrated groups. Dominant groups have the power over the third level of the domination structure. At this leve l, individuals are exposed to the dominant view, and interests of the dominant group. Often, these institutions promise individuals skills such as literacy or other individu al empowerment skills. Nevertheless, they require docility and willingness from indivi duals to accept the beliefs of the institutions they are admitting themselves into. Even though individuals, who have a separate set of values, form part of social institutions which may have differ ent values, some views dominate. This means that, regardless of individual valu es, as part of an institution its members carry out the dominant view of the institution, which is not necessarily the view of the individual. This is part of the paradox of privilege. The par adox of privilege is that, for instance, males do not acquire privilege because of who they are, but, rather because of the group they belon g to. Privilege becomes even more complex as it relies on individual appear ing to belong to t he privileged group. Simply put, if this male does not behave like a man, or fails to look like one, then male privilege would not be given to him. Furthermore, the paradox of privilege explains the difficulty faced by people who belong to less privileged or more than one category in society. Some categories are denigrated while others are pr ivileged. An indivi dual might be part of one privileged category while also being part of a denigrated category. A clear
Guadalupe | 14 example is a white female. She participates in the white categor y, a category that has privilege, but she is also a female. Be ing female is not a position of privilege in society. Therein lies the true paradox, as you can be privileged and not privileged at the same time Some people simply do not feel privileged because they are not purely privileg ed but are part of many ca tegories. The systems of privilege work in interesting ways. Our social systems are organized ar ound privilege. Dominance is part of privilege in a system of pr ivilege. Dominance means that positions of power are occupied mostly by people of a cert ain group. Power within the group is identified with the people who dominate the group. Therefore, it seems natural for people with those characteristics to dominat e the group. Johnson illustrates how the system views people as problem atic when they do not have the characteristics of the dominant group: When Margaret Thatcher was prime minist er of Great Britain, for example, she was often referred to as the Iron Lady. This drew attention to her strength as a leader and the need to mark it as an exception. There would be no such need to mark a strong male minister, because his power would be assumed. (91) Such and observation sheds on Obamas run for pres idency. Earlier in this chapter, we saw the difficulty those in the system of politics encountered understanding his status. Biden specific ally said that he was the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bri ght and clean and a nice
Guadalupe | 15 looking guy, making him almost part of the group of dominant white males; nevertheless, the need to point it out is important. He did not call him Iron Black or Iron Man which he very we ll could given the criticism Obama faced, but he did mark the fact t hat for a Black candidate he was, indeed, different and possessed some traits of the dominant group. To be part of a system of privilege, you must be ident ify with privilege. Johnson provides another great ex ample as he talks about college campuses, their students, and the workplace: On most college campuses, for example, students of color feel pressure to talk, dress, and act like middle-class whites in order to fit in and be accepted. In similar ways, most workplaces define appropriate appearance and ways of speaking in terms that are culturally associated with being white. (95) Therefore, to be part of a system of privilege individuals must behave in accordance with its norms. These norms are based on those who hold dominance. These norms render people outsi de the system, especially those in the system who do not comply with the norms, invisible. This is the case with the female who is unable to go up the corpor ate ladder until she shows that she is, indeed, just like one of the guys. One difficulty in most situations of privilege within a system is that people end up in a double bind. They want to acquire the benefits of the system yet may feel the need to gi ve up who they are.
Guadalupe | 16 In this chapter, we see privilege de fined as an advantage a group has that another does not based solely on normative rules. We also understand how there are different levels in which people exper ience privilege; as we get closer to the overarching levels, we see that they are overridden by those in the dominant position. This means that those who aren t part of the group need to try to be part of the group then give up their convictions And finally, we explain the paradox of privilege and take a closer look at how privilege works within our systems. Conclusion In this chapter, we have looked at two sociologists whose theories are complementary. Collins has provided an overview of both reason and the responsibility for the creation of new joint knowledge, and dichotomous thought systems that limit and prov ide different degrees or importance to people in society. This is called the Interlocking System of Oppression by Collins and is complemented by Johnson with his explan ation of privilege and the paradox of privilege. Johnson explains to us that people experience inclusion or exclusion at different levels of society. Furthermore everyone at higher levels is subject to the norms of the majority However, this does not mean that oppression or privilege is as simple as most people face oppressive and unprivileged situations in their lives simultaneously.
Guadalupe | 17 Chapter 2: Race, ethnicity, and the Paradox of Privilege in Maid in America The second chapter of this thesis will look at the film Maid in America through the lens of Johnson s and Collinss theories. Maid in America by Anayansi Prado, who was born in Panama and came to the US as a teenager, is her debut documentary that pr esents the lives of three illegal Hispanic domestic workers in Los Angeles, Ca lifornia. The film contrast s the viewpoints of these three maids to capture their impression of what is possible to achieve in the US. The beginning of the film is prefaced by a close-up of a woman cleaning a toilet. This maid, Judith, responds to a question explaining her view towards the American Dream Towards an American Dr eam? No, no, I would not go in that direction. Because, as I say, it is pr etty to dream but here we have to live the reality of what we are. Who she is in th is film is an illegal immigrant, she is not a citizen, therefore, her right are unprotected. The film present the limitations these maids face, and the hope that keeps them going related to the desire to have a better life, and to share that better life with their families, and other domestic workers around them. At the beginning of the films the title: MAID IN AMERICA, each word written respectively in, red, white, and blue, the colors of the flag of the US.The colors of the flag in the title represent freedom, democracy, and the ability to have a new start and be
Guadalupe | 18 anything you work to be. It also proposes the real limits on those who are not citizens. The song, heard at the beginning and ending of the film, introduces the overarching reality of these maids as they need to come to terms with their possibilities in their adopted country the US. Robert F. Trucios, a Hispanic composer and singer native to Californi a, sings Yo soy pobre bueno, no pido mas que lo necesario, yo soy pobre bueno, no pido mas que lo necesario. [Im a good poor person, and dont ask for more than is necessary]. As this first line is sung, we see figures of the number of domestic workers in Los Angeles, California: 100,000. The camera passe s across the Hispanic side of Los Angeles. In this part of the city, we see Hispanic women waiting for the public bus, as well as the first street, named after Cesar E. Chavez, a MexicanAmerican farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers According to their followers, th is association brought numerous improvements to union laborers. As the film continues and the first line of the song repeats, the camera passes to s how Hispanic women boarding the public bus. One of them is resting her eyes as we see letters spelling out Hollywood on the hill. Soon, we arrive at Beverly Hills: right before this, Robert Trucios however, sings La vida es dura pronto se acaba, el sufrimento no paga nada[ Life is hard, it will soon end, and suffering pays nothing]. The second view we get of Beverly
Guadalupe | 19 Hills are two females power walking, hol ding water bottles and their cardboard coffee cups which closely resemble Starbucks cups. The bus continues on its way, and we see the contrasting view of the pristinely kept gardens at a Beverly Hills mansion with the view of the maids inside the bus. Finally, one requests a stop. As the song ends, we see a Hispan ic maid strolling along a park, pushing a carriage holding a white baby dressed as el egantly as if he were going to the country club. The sound of the music contrasts with t he lyrics. It is directly opposite as the melody is cheerful and fairly fast. Ho wever, the lyrics explain exactly the contrary. The lyrics explain that there is suffering in life and that you must be willing to accept it. When you accept suffering you have the potential for change even thought this change might never be actualized. This part of the film exemplifies the overarching t heme: The maids limitation is their illegal i mmigrant state; even those who are most educated face the reality of being an illegal immigrant in America. Therefore, even those who do achieve part of the dream do not think it will come true for years to come. Collins dichotomous way of thinki ng: How Telma and her employer think differently about the problems of race. After Telma drops off Mickey, her empl oyers child, at his first day of school, we see her cleaning the dust off some family pictures. As we see the black familys different pictures of va cations, graduations, and many other family
Guadalupe | 20 events, Telma tells us in a slightly uncomfortable tone: Want me to tell you something? Everyone one of my employ ers has been black. Ive never worked for peopleahaeven the women I clean for are all black. And they are all good people. As Telma places the clean family pictures back where they belong, we wonder if Telma thought that a black employer would not be nice to her. Most importantly, we witness that she does draw a distinct ion between being black and white. Preceding this scene, we see bot h the wife and the husband speaking of their awareness of their families experienc e in this country as black people. The husband says: as a black family, coming fr om where I come from, I mean, Im from the south. I know that my people did a lot of dom estic work. As he finishes his sentence, we see black and white photographs of black females in rags. He continues to observe that black people were the previous domestic workers. As we see more pictures of black females tending to white families, he continues the history of his family and his great gr and-mother, and how he knows they were domestic workers. In his words, he believe s that this work for Hispanics is just a stepping stone. He believes that people like Telma will have a better future; nevertheless, he still thinks they ar e separate, different from him. Maid in America and Johnson: Levels of social exclusion and inclusion for the maids. The first level for these maids, as Johns on explains, is the individual level. Every one of the three maids in this film has a different view of what she wants to
Guadalupe | 21 achieve in America. They all want to progress, but each defines progress in her own terms. The second level Johnson explains is the group level. At this level, every maid has a group that she feels she belongs to. Some are part of a co-op; others feel like they are part of an American family. All of these maids are excluded at the third level, the greater institutional leve l, as under their current immigration status they will never be citizens. For Telma, the idea of achieving the American Dream is something that she will never aspire to. Telma came to t he US in 1990; as s he describes it, she came to the US without knowing if I w ould be able to work or where.but I did feel I was coming to make progress. O ne of her cousins introduced her to a family for whom she has been working for approximately six years. For Telma, the idea of inclusion into the general US soci ety is null. At an individual level, she feels that she did not get to the US to work in what she likes, but what she has to. Telma feels like she is part of her em ployers family, the Marbury family. Elliot Marbury, the father, expresses his satisfaction with Telmas services as he claims that without her he would have to work five jobs and Carol would have had to stay home if we could not find so meone who we could trust. The mother, Karol Marbury, explains happily how Telma is so attentive to her childs every need. Indeed, we see Telma going with t he parents to his firs t day of primary school, and as she cries when he says goodbye, she says now that he will be all
Guadalupe | 22 day at school my day will be long. I know the baby will miss me as well, we will play less, go out less, and there will be more responsibilities for him. As Telma picks up Mickey from school, s he explains to us how grateful she is that she is still working for this family because most families let you go once a child starts school. She explains to us as her eyes water, I grab him, hug him, and tell him, you are my rent and my food because its true. What can one do without a job? She understands that sh e has two to three more years of work. Mostly she seems grateful that she feels so welcome and part of their home. Even the mother of t he family explains to us that Mickey used to call Telma Mommy when he was younger. As we see Telma giving Mickey a bath, she explains to us: When the boy was small, he used to call me Mommy, when the mom would get her and he would say mommy, and his mom would respond to him, he would say Im not talking to y ou, Im talking to Telma. In essence, Telma does all the functions of a mother: she does homework with him, carries him, cooks for him, bathes him, and plays with him. Finally, during the familys yearly Mothers Day celebration, Telma explains Ive been offered other jobs earning more money, but I dont care, thats not important. For Telma, success and progr ess are measured by being been treated well by her employer and having a job. Being included by greater society is not important for her. Judith, our second maid, claims that I did not come to the US to clean bathrooms, but, at the same time I have no option here. The main goal of Judith,
Guadalupe | 23 as expressed by her, is to provide a better life for her daughters. For this, she is willing to sacrifice, as she left her daughters back in Guatem ala and works hard to give them a better future. As Judi th organizes the myriad games for her employers children, on thei r living room table, she says us, that are parents of children, go into a house like this and say, oh how pretty what they have, well I am going to sacrifice myself, so that when I go back home or have my children here, I will decorate like this as well, and give them a life like this. At the group level, Judith feels excluded but seems to be very much in touch with the Hispanic group in many ways. Judith misses her family, her mother, her sister, and her daughters. Judith also feels this way because as she explains she sends half of whatever s he earns over there every fifteen days. She seems very devoted to the sacrifice she is making for her daughters, and as she tell us about it, she has some noodle soup for lunch along with half a dinner roll. She asks God for her sacrifice is wo rth it. Even so, she is part of the Dynamic Workers Co-op and part of a loca l Catholic Church where she baptized her first son. Judith, who became pregnant in the US, has gotten sick towards the end of her term. She claims her employer does not understand that she is a person and gets sick, and they should help her. Judith continues to miss her daughters back home. After she gives birth to her only boy, whom they named Everest, she feels that she can no longer leaver her other daughters back in Guatemala; either she brings them with her or moves back home again.
Guadalupe | 24 Her definition of progress is to earn more money, learn new things, and be able to provide for her family. Nevertheless, it is more important for her to take care of her elderly mother and to see her daughters; in Everest, she sees a way for all of them to gai n American citizenship. Eva, the third maid, claims that w hen she came to the US she never planned to be a house cleaning lady, but any other employer always require work permit, social security number. Eva is college educated and has tried to keep up by taking certificate courses and belie ves her future will be better than her present. Eva says when hard days come I think about staying away from my family.is it worth or not? At a group level, Eva has difficulties in that she feels t hat she has many skills that enable her to have a better job; after all, she speaks English, so why isnt she surrounded by people at her level? The other maids are not fluent in the English language and have no traini ng other than house work. Even though Eva does seem to find a li ttle bit of group shelter within some members of the community and engages in a co mmunity play, this is not her real goal. Her real goal is to be part of the great er society. This, for her, as well as for every other maid, is hard. Neverthele ss, she does not give up hope or even mention leaving the US. Maid in America and Collins: Individual and colle ctive action; community and legal organization
Guadalupe | 25 As individuals, each of these maids wakes up every morning to make what they hope to be a better future for themse lves. Judith, Telma, and Eva work hard to earn their money. Individual ly, their hard work is the best action they can take to be able to take collective actions that could over the long run, and sometimes in the present, create change. One morning, Eva, the educated maid, surprises us by going for the first time to the domestic day worker celebrat ion. This celebration is held by the Coalition for Humane Immigr ant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). She claims that she is interested in knowing more about it and seeing what its all about. During the celebration, we see people dancin g to Latin American tunes. We also have the opportunity to listen to Ross ana Perez, CHIRLA Coordinator, speak about the struggle to ensure that domestic workers are treated as real workers. To be recognized as such, they decided t hat a good starting point would be to try to convince an assembly member in Los Angeles to pass a resolution recognizing Domestic Worker Day. Fort unately, it was introduced to the Citys Senate, and it passed. Eva begins to understand the purpose of the union while having some food with the other domestic wo rkers. She says: This is very special, since we work in so many different places, we would have never met and talk about what we want to do, that we want to make changes, just one big voice. As we leave Eva getting acquainted with ot her domestic workers, we see Judith walking into a house.
Guadalupe | 26 Judith goes into a house full of other Hispanic females. She begins to explain, I got to this co -op when it was just being fo rmed. I told them I knew nothing about cleaning; they told me they would train me. Thats how the co-op, Dynamic Workers, was formed and everyone ones a part in this business. This is how the co-op works: they have a w eekly meeting, and all the employers pay the business instead of the individual work ers. From there, after paying their group medical insurance and Dynamic Wo rkers cell phones, they split the profits. After their staff m eeting, we meet Linda Kite, the coordinator of Dynamic Workers. She further explains to us t he legal benefits of Dynam ic Workers and its structure: In this country, we have very strict laws against hiring immigrants who may not be documented, so in order to comply with those laws, we came up with this other structure, what this does is takes them away from an employee status and just make them one of the owners of the business. One of the reasons, according to her, why they choose to do this was because they have hope that there will be immigration amnesty some day, and by paying taxes as a co-op they can show they have been responsible residents all along. Eva also decided to join a group of i mmigrants to do a play to raise awareness of employers who abuse illegal do mestic workers. In this play, Eva plays the role of the Super Domestica, or super maid. The super maid not only saves the maid being abused from being taken away by immigration but also explains that maids have rights as work ers in the US, and rights as human being in the whole world. She hopes her partici pation in the play will help people raise awareness of the abuse of domestic workers.
Guadalupe | 27 Johnsons Paradox of Privil ege: Eva, white and educated. Eva, a white college-educated Mexican, came to the US thinking that she would get the job that she went to college for. She studied public accounting at the University of Mexico; however, without a Social Security Number, or work permit, she cannot find a job in the US. Since she is fluent in English, she has taken some courses at the local universities in hope that this will help her ge t a job locally. One of the courses she took was to be a tax accountant which he lped her find a seasonal tax accountant job. Since she found the job, she started cleaning houses in the mornings and working at the office in the afternoon. Eva herself recognizes t he paradox of privilege faced in her life, as she explains, My accounting clients, they dont even imagine that in the morning I go clean houses. I look more like an office woman than a cleaning houses lady. When see her in the office, and with a c lient, we can tell that she does manage herself properly in the office. Even t hough she claims that when you clean houses you tend to forget simple office things like typing fast, she does remember how to do her work. Regardless of Eva being white, educ ated, and extremely optimistic, she encounters real barriers when it comes to her immigration status. After her seasonal employment was over, she failed to secure another job and returned to cleaning houses full-time.
Guadalupe | 28 Conclusion Discussing both Collins and Johnson enabl ed us to analyze this film from a unique perspective. Collins allowed us to understand how these maids and their employers think about race and ethni city and how and why they mobilize for social change. Johnson provided us with t he ability to go a little bit further in understanding their complex di fficulties: the levels in which they are able to mobilize for social change and the paradox of privilege which explains why even the most privileged of maids is still a maid.
Guadalupe | 29 Chapter 3: Levels of Privilege in Maid in Manhattan The third chapter of this thesis looks at the film Maid in Manhattan through the lens of Collinss and Johnsons theories. Maid in Manhattan presents the lives of minority hotel maids in New Yo rk City. Directed by Wayne Wang,through the eyes of Marissa Ventur a, the protagonist, it shows us the limitations that second generation minority immigrants have in the US. Marissa Ventura who is starred by Jenifer Lopez provides an interesting twist to this film because she appeals to black, white, and Hispanic audiences. Even though this is a popular film and a modern day Cinderella story, a series of intriguing moments leads to a sociologically significant message. The message is that through work and time, second and third generation immigrants can achieve levels of privilege. However, one drawback to success is the fear of failure, and the acceptance of the lack of privilege. I begin my analysis with a description of the first three minutes of the film, an almost completely typical, New York City movie morning. This morning begins by portraying the class contrast between those who live in Manhattan and Brooklyn. As the camera takes us toward s the island of Manhattan, we pass Ellis Island and the Statue of Liber ty. We start to see all of the massive corporate buildings drift by as the camera moves us toward the highways that lead away from the city and the train that takes us to the Bronx. The ornate architecture of
Guadalupe | 30 Midtown is replaced with functional build ings that seem to house thousands of people. The streets here are dirty, and the walls have gra ffiti on them. Here we see all the smaller businesses opening up in the morning. As the camera passes toward the buildings teaming with people we begin to hear children talking and yelling playfully. In one of these buildings Marissa Ventura lives with her son Tai. Once outside and on their way to school and work, Marissa asks Tai to practice the speech he will give at school later. Ta i is absorbed by his tape player and his Simon and Garfunkel tape. Marissa is st ill concerned with the speech and having him practice it enough to be secure enough to give it later. After Marissa drops Tai off at school we begin to see people in the subway that leads to Manhattan. We see all of the businessmen, elderly people, and people from seemingly all walks of life, all reading the New York Journal whose cover speaks of politics, and of, Chris Marshall a senatorial candida te and his love interests whom we meet later in the film. Ho wever, Marissa sets a sharp contrast because she is reading a book, a very serious book, instead of the New York Journal Setting the tone for the film: Alice Millers The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for True Self. Marissa reads The Drama of the Gifted Child is a psychology text that focuses on the healing process that fo llows an abusive childhood, defined as growing up in an environment where the child was forced to sacrifice to the emotional needs of his/her parents. By doing this, these children ignored their
Guadalupe | 31 emotional and developmental needs but develop the gi ft of an adequate defense system. As Miller writes: "I was amazed to discover that I had been an abused child, that from the very beginning of my life I had no choice but to totally comply with the needs and feelings of my mother a nd to ignore my own"(viii). In this book Miller explains that children who are belittled and manipulated by parents are damaged much like those who ar e physically brutalized. The adults described in this book ar e indeed smart, but feel conflicted between their need to satisfy other peoples norms and their own developmental needs. This establishes the issues for the rest of the f ilm Marissa Ventura struggles with life and we can assume from the book that her struggles are not only because of her social limitations. As the film shows us the Marissa struggles with issues of privilege, gender, and et hnicity. Her struggles, however, beg a different level of analysis. In this discu ssion that follows the complex limitations encountered by second, and third generation immigrants are examined. Collinss dichotomous way of thinking: How Marissa, her mother, and her co workers think about categorization The first encounter in the film that we have with categorization is one of Marissas co-workers telling her that an assistant manager has been promoted. In this conversation, we witness how Marissa and her co-worker appear to think differently about categorization in the workplace: Co-worker: You know what this mean?
Guadalupe | 32 Marissa: Yeah, it means that som eone else is going to be busting my ass on the second floor. Co-worker: Wrong, it means th at they are going to need a new assistant managerand she cont inuesYo Marissa do you hear? Marissa: Can I finish getting dressed please? Co-worker: You are the one who keeps on talking about being a manager, alls Im saying is, it could be you. Marissa: Give me a break; they are not going to make a maid a manager. Co-worker (with a slight smile): Why not? Today is a new day, anything is possible. You know what Im saying? For Marissa, there seems to be a clear di stinction as to what her level and category is. Maids do not become managers. From her co-workers and friends point of view, the story is more complicated. She can sense something else; one of those things is that Marissa seems to yearn for this opportu nity. Interestingly enough, that same morning during their mo rning service staff meeting, it is announced that not only is there an assist ant manager position vacant but it is also the hotels intent to fill the posi tion in-house personnel. The man making the announcement suggests perhaps a butler. Marissas co-worker interrupts the meeting and asks can a maid apply? The response is wellummtechnically
Guadalupe | 33 if an employee has been here for three cons ecutive years he, or, indeed, she is qualified to applyso sure. Marissas co -worker hands her an application. At this point, it seems that Marissa has no excuse not to tr y for her desire. Marissas mother has a different view as she seems to have very strict views on categorization. One day after work, as Marissa and her mother are walking towards the subway to watch Tais speech, Marissas purse falls to the floor. Since Marissa is busy chatting on the phone, the mother picks up the purse from the floor. One of the things that fall out of her purse is Marissas management application. As they settle in the subway, Marissas mother asks her, in regard to the application, This fell out of your bag, is it yours? Marissa responds Yeah, thanks. Her mom says as she looks at her downwards, and almost with pity, Management, ahfancy. Marissa asks What? Her mother responds Im not saying a word. At this point, it is apparent that her mother does not want her not to succeed but rather believes that she should stay in her category and not risk failing. Collins explains categorization as limiti ng, however, in t he next paragraph, I complicate this notion with Marissas particular psychologic al situation; we finally see how Marissa and her co-worker each want Marissa to break the categorization, at least at her workplac e. Her co-worker does not seem to be scared about the possibility of Marissa fail ing she just wants her to go after her dream. After she finds out that Marissa never applied for the management job, she fills out the application for her. Im mediately after Marisssa finds out, she
Guadalupe | 34 goes to confront her; Marissa asks Do you know what you have done? Her coworker says, I did you a favor. For two years you have been yapping about getting out of that uniform and what ideas you have...I filled out the application. I figured if they considered you, you woul d be happy, and if they dint, you would not know the difference. So sue me. Her co-workers next st atement illustrates what she really feels about categorization These are the golden years. We have to prove our mothers wrong. Dont waste them! She truly does feel, opposed to Marissas mother that Marissa needs to pursue her goals. Her co-worker feels this ways because youth is also provides a level of privile ge and energy. The Golden Years for her are the early years of life when people have a lot more energy. After an incident that leads to Marissa being fired from her job, she has the final confrontati on with her mother. This confront ation not only explains what her mother feels but also Marissas deci sion to confront her abusive childhood, develop herself, and achieve her goals: Marissas mother (speaks in a dem anding tone): Rosaline from personnel called, we expected you hours ago. (As Marissa ignores her and begins to talk to Tai, her mother continues ,) She told me what happened. I dont know what to say. Will you look at me? Marissa: No (to Tai), Im going to take a bath.
Guadalupe | 35 Marissas mother ( follows her to t he bathroom): What were you thinking going out with someone like that? Marissa: Someone, like what? Mother: Chris Marshall. You had to pretend to be someone else so that he would go out with you? Where is your pride, Marissa? Marissa: People like you make people like him into some kind of god. Why, because he is rich, white, he has things that we dont have, that we dont even want to dream about? It must really burn you that I think I have the right to go out with him. Marissas mother: You dont. Marissa responds: What happened to you? Marissas mother: Dont you dare speak to me like that. I am not the one who lost her job today. Marissa: No, I did. I messed up. Ok, its all my fault, but you know what, its alright. Im going to be fine. Marissas mother Yes, you are because tomorrow we are going to call Sra. Rodriguez, she owes me a favor. Marissa (frustrated and tearful): No, ma. Im not going to Sra. Rodriguez. I love you, ok. I do, but I dont want to clean houses. Theres nowhere to go from there.
Guadalupe | 36 Marissas mother:Hasnt this t aught you anything Marissa? Wake up, little girl! You have responsibilities, and they come every month like clockwork. You want to end up ba ck in the projects? Keep dreaming dreams that will never happen. You want to put food on the table? Call Sra. Rodriguez. Marissa: Youre right mom, Im a good cleaning lady. Ill start over, but not with Ms. Rodriguez. Im going to fi nd a job as a maid in some hotel. After some time passes, Im going to apply for the manager program, and when I get the chance to be a manager and I will, ma. I know I will. Im gonna take that chance wit hout any fear, without yo ur voice in my head telling me that I cant. In the last part of the confrontation, we clearly see how Millers theory applies. Miller speaks of belittled child ren who have not only been denigrated but also sacrificed their needs for those of their parent. Clearly, Marissa feels that she has been constantly diminished by the voice of her mother telling her that she cant do it. Her mother has made her believe that she can only be part of a single category in society and that she will only be included at this level. Johnsons levels of exclusion and inclusion and Marissas Situation Johnson speaks of three levels at which people in society experience acceptance into privilege or exclusion from it. In this section, we will speak about
Guadalupe | 37 Marissas three levels: the individual, t he group, and the greater social level to examine how she is included and excluded. As Johnson explains, the first level at which people in society experience inclusion or exclusion is the individual leve l. For Marissa, this level includes her family, her co-workers, and Chris Marshall. For Marissa, her family includes of her mother, and her child, Thai, a boy with a sweet demeanor. During the morning, we witness this: as she rushes him to get to school and kisses him at school, he is not rebellious but rather swee t, shy, and affectionate. In Tai, she has inclusion at the first level. Marissas mother includes her in the family, but conditions her approval based on Marissa behaving according to the limitations of the category that her mot her decides Marissa belongs in. At her second level, we have the fr iendships she has with he co-workers. As Marissa walks through Manhattan we s ee her arrive at her workplace, the Beresford Hotel. As she goes down the stai rs into security to stamp her arrival, we start to see how her co-workers include her in their day-to-day life. While she stamps her time card, she speaks to Keith, the security man fo r the building; his main duty is to oversee all the cameras in the building to ensure that there are no troubles in the building. Keith enjoys sharing with Marissa all the funny things that happen to people staying at the hot el. Marissa has a smile and a good relationship with everyone she works with and for. At this same level, Marissa has t he minority group attachment that she feels towards her co-workers (working cl ass). During the first morning, as she
Guadalupe | 38 picks up her uniform for the day, we see one of the upper managers explaining to new maids what they should strive for according to the hotels philosophy: A Beresford maid is expedient, a Beresfor d maid is thorough, a Beresford maid serves with a smile, and above all a Beresfor d maid strives to be invisible. At this point one of her co-workers listeni ng to the manager tells Marissa maybe we could all disappear one day, t ogether. This proves to be a comical line in the film, but it reveals a level of exclusion that the maids face as a group from the hotel and from the hotels guests. They s hould strive to be invisible. These maid do work extra hard to make sure they please even the most exigent of guests. For instance, guest Caroline Reed told the Beresford hotel that she liked the smell of lavender in her room. Marissa was the maid assigned to this room so she went the extr a mile and got natural lavender. The pieces of lavender she neatly tied and placed on top of her p illow. Upon Carolines arrival, she lays on the bed while she chats on her cell phone and proceeds to throw the fresh lavender to the side. This shows the lo w level of awareness the guests have that someone is working hard to please their ever y desire. Therefore, at a group level, as a maid, she is excluded from any other function outside of expedience, thoroughness, charisma and invisibility. The third level in this film is clouded by the fairy tale ending. It revolves around her work life and her love life. Due to the daring actions of her friend, she is finally considered for the management training program at the hotel. When she is called into the general managers office to speak to her about the application, she still did not know her friend f illed out the application for her.
Guadalupe | 39 General Manager: Do you know what t he foundation of a great hotel is? Marissa responds: Location? General Manager: Loyalty and trustwould you say these are qualities you possess? Marissa: Yes, I would. General Manager: Miss Burns agrees, and shes urged me to consider you. Miss Burns (to Marissa) :We had no idea you were interested in management until Miss. Kippo brought us your application. By the way, you forgot your social security number, and your mothers maiden name. If you just fill them in and sign, right there. They had no idea that she was interested in management. Following their explication about why they were going to speed the process due to over-booking and understaffing, the general manager sa ys to Marissa, Soyou see Miss Ventura, sometimes, when life shuts one door it opens a windowso jump. This illustrates the inclusion that her hotel has for her; even though she is only a maid, her good work has gotten her noticed, and pr ovided that everything goes well, she will be compensated.
Guadalupe | 40 Maid in Manhattan and Johnsons Paradox of Privil ege: Is Marissa privileged? If we start at the beginning of the film we see that Marissa lives in the Bronx. However, among the extremely dirty streets and immens e buildings that look like the projects, she lives in one of the nicer apar tment complexes. In her two-story building and the inside of her home is decently fu rnished. All in all, her living conditions, even though not in Manhattan, seem to be comfortable and nowhere near poverty. Marissa holds a job, even though it is not prestigious. She has job stability for most of the film. When she does lose her job, it is because of her own behavior, not because of her position in the lower class. Prior to this incident, she had high possibilities of having a career at the Beresford hotel. For Marissa, life is a little easier because she possesses privilege. One of her privileges is beauty as she is very attractive. There are many physical attributes that make here pleasing to the eye as they satisfy our cultural norms in regards to beauty. For instance, she has a light skin, curvy figure, large eyes, and long wavy hair. Therefore, she fulfills stereotype of female beauty. If we go back to her co-workers statement she also is also in her golden years and this provides advantage. Johnson to recognizes that some people might be privileged and not realize that they are; people of differ ent background in society deal with this
Guadalupe | 41 situation. However, we see that for t he most part we all have some level of privilege. For Marissa, it is her beauty, her stable job, and her housing conditions. She is in a disadvantaged position in some ways but overall has a good life. Conclusion Maid in Manhattan, an interesting popular film, conveys several messages that illustrate both Collinss and Johnson s theories. We see how everyone close to Marissa categorizes her. They all tell her where she should stay in society and express everything from fear to disappointment when Marissa crosses these lines. Collins tells us that people do this to make sense of the world. Often, it is hard for people to decide what is right or wrong for their category or even what their category is. For Marissa and her mother this constant struggle has led her mother to belittle her in the hope of nev er seeing Marissa hurt because she tried to be someone she can never be. Towards the end of this chapter, we s ee the levels of society in which Marissa faces exclusion and inclusion from certain groups, as well as briefly discuss the privileges that Marissa has. We find that people categorize her and therefore exclude her from different groups. Finally, we discuss Marissas paradox of privilege. Overall, we find that privile ges are slowly gained through generations and that often when groups are faced with possibilities they are concerned with failure and are adverse to risk.
Guadalupe | 42 Conclusion In this thesis, we discussed and integr ated the theoretical work of Collins and Johnson. To shed light on the films Maid in Manhattan and Maid in America Collins aided in grasping the complex rela tions that race, class, and gender have in our society. For Maid in America this meant that we could see how black people thought of Hispanic people and how white people interacted with Hispanics in the context of childcare and cleaning. It was clear that Collins concepts of categorization applied to t heir thinking about race, and class. Johnsons theory allowed us to underst and why some people were privileged and why the maids had very different goals ev en though all of them came to the US to progress. Finally, in this film, we are able to witness true class barriers that inhibit upward mobility. At the end of the film however, there is hope as Judith give birth to a son in the US and tells her other daughters w ho are in Guatemala that he will be able to claim them and bring them to the US after the son turns 18. In Maid in Manhattan, we see these barriers lifted because the protagonist Marissa is a second-generation immigr ant. Not being an illegal immigrant, she has the possibility to access privilege in our society. However, in Marissa we view a host of different social situations that prevent her from realizing privilege. Her mother thinks that she should stay within the category her family has belonged since they moved to the US. Her co-workers want her to pursue her career goals but do not see any other so cial advancement as possible. Towards
Guadalupe | 43 the end of this thesis, my conclusion wh ich has been fueled by the theories, and by the two films is that we do live in a very complex racial, and class system that is oppressive; however, through generations, it is possible to access privilege. In Maid in America, we see this when Telmas black employer argues that his people the previous house workers. In hi s mind, it is possible for Hispanics to also move up in the social ladder. In Maid in Manhattan, we witness this in Marissa; regardless of all the difficulties she faces she is on her way up the social ladder. In Maid in Manhattan, we are able to see the common understanding about rapidly gaining privilege. In this t hesis, I am not saying that privilege is impossible; rather, it is possible th rough hard work and, most of the time, generations of work.
Guadalupe | 44 References Allan Johnson. (2001). Privilege, power, and difference Carl, R. F. (1920). The path to empire. Yale University Press. Claire Andre, Manuel Velasquez, and Tim M azur. Affirmative action: Twenty-five years of controversy. Santa Clara University: Markhula Center for Applied Ethics, Hill Collins, P. Black feminist thought: Know ledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. N. William Hines. (2005, Ten major changes in legal education over the past 25 years. ALLS Newsletter, Sharkey, P. (2008). The intergener ational transmission of context. American Journal of Sociology, 113(4), 931-969. Stanley Crouch. (2006, What obama isn't: Black like me. New York Daily News, Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates. (February 1, 2007, Is obama black enough? Time,
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