Originally Posted by North_Of_60
From the sounds of it, Meg is probably just not familiar with what au pairs are, so hopefully this clears it up.
Thank you for hunting down those definitions.
Meg, you wanna talk class, we can talk class. And you wanna talk definitions of words, we can. I didn't get my Masters in Anthropology of International development for nothing, I can tell you. ; )
First and foremost, your issue with euphemisms is that they hide uncomfortable truths. Well, while I agree that this is the role of euphemisms, there also has to be an uncomfortable truth to be hidden.
Yes, women, especially of lower economic class, are often exploited, and traditionally in the areas of domestic and sexual labor. However, you cannot then turn around and say THEREFORE ALL women who perform that sort of labor are ALWAYS exploited. It just isn't true, unless you completely disregard the disparities of choices, opportunities and personal freedoms in the huge range of situations. Class trumps gender, pretty much every time (there are some exceptions, but they are notable in themselves). It is when class and gender together meet that you are likely to find exploitation - and add in race/ethic/sexual minority status and you have a trifecta.
So let's define exploitation, shall we, and see whether au pairs - a legal visa definition, mind you - meet the requirements.
To define exploitation, from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploitation
|the term "exploitation" may carry two distinct meanings:
1. The act of utilizing something for any purpose. In this case, exploit is a synonym for use. My note: I am assuming you are not using exploited to mean use - if so this is a completely pointless conversation
2. The act of utilizing something in an unjust, cruel or selfish manner for one's own advantage. It is this meaning of exploitation which is discussed below.
In political economy, economics, and sociology, exploitation involves a persistent social relationship in which certain persons are being mistreated or unfairly used for the benefit of others. This corresponds to one ethical conception of exploitation, that is, the treatment of human beings as mere means to an end — or as mere "objects". In different terms, "exploitation" refers to the use of people as a resource, with little or no consideration of their well-being. This can take the following basic forms:
* taking something off a person or group that rightfully belongs to them
* short-changing people in trade
* directly or indirectly forcing somebody to work for you
* using somebody against his will, or without his consent or knowledge
* imposing an arbitrary differential treatment of people to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others (as in ascriptive discrimination)
Or how about Allwords http://www.allwords.com/word-exploitation.html
1. An act or feat, especially a bold or daring one.
Thesaurus: accomplishment, achievement, feat, deed, adventure, stunt.
Form: exploits (usually)
verb exploited, exploiting
1. To take unfair advantage of something or someone so as to achieve one's own aims.
Thesaurus: capitalize on, take advantage of, misuse, profit by, use, abuse, manipulate, cash in on.
2. To make good use of something.
Bolding mine for emphasis.
Now, the critical definitional element is unfair advantage
. The wikipedia definition includes elements of theft, coercion, and prejudicial treatment.
Now, in a situation where each party is getting something out of the deal, and helped define the terms of that deal - even if what they gain is unequal - AND have options to negotiate or find better deals for themselves - and ultimately, each party can walk away if they think they are getting a raw deal, there is no exploitation.
The exchange may not be *equal*. It may not be fair (however we define that word. But it isn't exploitation unless there is theft or coercion. My employer bills my hours out at twice what I take home in pay. Am I being exploited? No, because I have the right and the option to walk away at any time. This is the deal I have negotiated. If I want a better deal, I need to negotiate a better one, or walk away.
Note, not everyone has the same abilities to walk away - when working for the only employer in town or held hostage by health insurance or other elements, then yes, exploitation can occur. But it isn't automatic.
The au pair is getting a free place to live, free food, a visa to work in the US*, catastrophic health insurance, educational benefits, round trip plane tickets, and a stipend - all of which which we pay for. We get in return 45 hours of childcare a week, no more than 10 hours a day, with guaranteed 1.5 days off a week and 2 weeks a year minimum (our au pairs normally get 3 days off a week and 4-5 weeks off a year).
I am certain legal nannies negotiate themselves very good deals - and if they don't they should because in most markets, they really can. In my area, ANY nanny will earn between $10-$15 an hour. Advanced degree, experience, etc and the price goes up.
Don't get me wrong. Exploitation happens. And yes, women can be party to their own exploitation - it is a common way for women to give themselves the appearance of power they don't really have. But at the end of the day, it is all about power. When power dynamics are too unequal - where one party has no options to walk away - exploitation occurs.
Exploitation is a very real, and very serious situation. Lets not dilute it by throwing the term around too loosely at any situation that seems unequal.
*which is priceless - trust me, my dh came here on the H1B visa which are not available any more - if someone wants to live legally the US, even with a family member/marriage to a US citizen, it can take YEARS to process the visa - and without that family member, good luck with the lottery unless you are an exceptional citizen - i.e. nuclear physicists or international supermodel - oh, and it costs thousands of dollars in immigration lawyers fees. Hell, he was more a hostage to his employer on his H1B because they could fire him at any time and he'd be deported within a month. If we decide we don't like our au pair, she at least gets the opportunity to rematch with another family.