Friday, October 26, 2012
Maids and Mistresses
There are common themes running through most of Bea’s (and many other authors) CD stories, the dominating mature woman, an insecure male placed in a feminine environment, women who are determined to feminise the male no matter what, various punishments, little humiliations leading to bigger ones, sensuous female clothing of various fabrics and much more. One of the most popular and one which seems to trigger (in Bea’s phrase) our hot buttons is The Maid. Whether it is as the accomplice in seducing/feminising the male or being turned into one The Maid is for many of us the epitome of submissiveness and thus central to our fantasies.
What exactly is it that attracts those of us who have this particular leaning to this particular icon of submissiveness and not some other idea of servitude, a slave for instance or some other cipher? I don’t know about the rest of you but for me it is a combination of the idea that The Maid is by definition subservient to her Mistress and in order to reinforce this role she/he must be identified by wearing the traditional uniform black/grey dress, apron and cap. Some stories change the colour (pink, blue, red etc.) but for me this takes away from the very essence of being a servant. Bright colours are for the Mistress and her friends NOT for a lowly maidservant. I must be a traditionalist at heart. For the last few weeks there has been a documentary series on a BBC tv charting the history of servants, I missed the first one but have seen the other two and would highly recommend the series particularly the last episode. Having always had a keen interest in the subject, most of it I was aware of already but anyone who thought the drama tv series Downton Abbey portrayed the life of servants as realistic will have their eyes opened.
There was an interesting segment about the shortage of maids between WW1 and WW II and how women now felt working as a uniform wearing maid very demeaning. This caused great concern for a class so used to having maids dance attendance on them. There were magazines giving advice to Mistresses (yes the women referred to themselves as Mistresses) on how to entice women to work as maids (more attractive aprons and caps).One article advised “Mistresses whose maid resents “uniform” should try more dainty aprons and caps rather than the starched ones of previous years.” It seems women working as maids hated the uniform and in particular the maids cap which they saw as a symbol of their lowly status. This confirmed what I had read years previously in a history of domestic service in Ireland. Maids hated wearing a cap as it was seen as the ultimate symbol of servitude. Maids were seen by their Mistresses as a symbol of their own status and in the mid and post war periods in affluent suburbs they would often have the maid in attendance in the front room in clear view of the street outside so that passers-by could see their uniformed maid underscoring their own status.
If only the Mistresses knew that there were millions of potential maids more than willing to wear “uniform” and the more starched and humiliating the better, would wear any cap and apron of the Mistress’s choosing. These maids would even curtsy to the Mistress at every opportunity, something these modern servants flatly refused to do but sadly were unaware of our existence.
The closest I think some of us can come to achieving this are events like Belinda has described in such wonderful detail or Monica Graz actually working as a maid. For the rest of us we can only fantasise about being a capped and aproned maid in domestic service to a haughty, well groomed and elegant lady, serving her as a loyal and subservient housemaid or perhaps a ladies maid obeying her every command with a deference and an obedience that only a proper maidservant would understand.