Marianne: In the collective imagination, the figure of the servant refers to the 19me century, to the novels of Balzac or Mirbeau and the rise of the bourgeoisie. However, his book shows that domesticity is still a reality in the 21st century. How are the servants today?
Alizee Delpierre: There is both a break and a continuity with the servitude of the XIX.me century. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was still possible to have someone in your service without being rich. At that time, the standard of living was lower and those called “servants” were poorly paid. The upper classes, aristocracy or upper middle class, had several full-time servants at their service.
After World War II, society changed. Women agreed to work other than domestic work and it became preferable to be something other than a housewife. In addition, the standard of living increased: having a servant at home was therefore more expensive. Then, there was a change in customs: it is less and less accepted to have someone at home to attend to us in the privacy of the home. Therefore, the domestic market has gradually turned into a part-time market, mainly for housewives and childminders. Finally, the servants themselves have changed. at the beginning of the 20thme century, the “maids” are, for many of them, white people, from the French countryside, for example from Brittany, who rubbed shoulders with other women from the Polish immigration. In the sixties, it was the turn of Portuguese and Spanish women.
Today, it is immigrant women from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa who constitute the majority. The 21stme century is characterized by the intensity of transnational flows of servants, probably never equaled until now, reflecting the increase in contemporary global inequalities.
Domestic workers are both victims and beneficiaries of certain ethnic prejudices. What are the most common biases and why do some servers harbor them?