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‘Travelling with Nannies’ Proves Controversial in Brazil

It's vacation time in Brazil. Children are away from school and parents are figuring out ways to amuse them. Recently a blog post [pt] on Viajando com Filhos (Travelling with Children), presented what was supposed to be handy tips for families travelling with their nannies. The post went viral, not because of its usefulness, but because some of it was downright pretentious:

 Em outras oportunidades em que vc quer que ela [a babá] coma antes porque o restaurante é caro ou porque vão outros casais vc pode dizer problemas, tipo assim, “hj vamos a um restaurante com a comidas muito diferentes que vai demorar ou muito caro e etc, então vamos passar pra vc comer em algum lugar, vc prefere pizza ou Mc Donals”, porque, lembre-se ela está trabalhando.

There will be moments when you need her [the nanny] to eat before either because the restaurant is expensive or because other couples will join you. You can allege issues like this: ‘today we are going to a restaurant that offers very unusual types of food, or it will take a while, or it is too expensive, and so on. So we are going to stop by for you to eat somewhere else. Do you prefer pizza or Mc Donals´ [sic], because you should bear in mind she is working.

Amidst economic growth and the rise of the middle ‘C’ class, Brazilian society is seeing a transition in domestic work. We have written before about this type of employment and its connection to issues like social inclusion, bad work conditions, social hierarchies, gender inequalities and empowerment. Blogueiras Feministas [pt], a feminist blog, posted this reaction:

A mulher que escreveu esse post não é a única que pensa dessa maneira, portanto, não adianta culpar e crucificar apenas essa pessoa. As relações com trabalhadores domésticos no Brasil tem estreita relação com nosso passado escravocrata. Assim como ela, há muitos homens e mulheres brasileiros que encaram os trabalhadores domésticos como pessoas que devem ter gratidão por estarem empregadas e por terem a chance de conviver com uma família de classe social alta. Isso, quando não os tratam como bens da família, sem permitir qualquer tipo de vida particular.

The woman who wrote this post is not alone in this line of thinking, therefore it is useless to blame and crucify her. Work relations regarding domestic workers in Brazil are linked to our past slavery. Same as this author, there are many men and women in Brazil who see domestic workers as people who should be grateful for having a chance to cohabit with a family with a high standard of living. Not to mention when those workers are treated as a family asset, with no right to a private life.

Focusing on the matter of nannies travelling along with employers, Blogueiras Feministas adds:

Trabalhadores que viajam a serviço recebem hora extra, diária para alimentação, transporte e não estão à serviço 24 horas por dia. Por que um trabalhador doméstico não estaria submetido as mesmas regras?

Employees who travel for work earn overtime, daily allowances for food, transport, and are not at service 24 hours a day. Why shouldn't  a domestic worker be subject to the same rules?

Reflecting on the role of parents and the debate around “high earnings” of domestic workers, Blogueiras Feministas writes:

Questiona-se não só o valor pago para babás e diaristas, um trabalho menosprezado, não intelectual e majoritariamente feminino, como também questiona-se a maneira que cada mulher exerce a sua maternidade. Como se “cuidar das crianças” fosse apenas sua responsabilidade e o companheiro não tivesse nenhuma participação nessa relação. Perdem patroas e empregadas. Perdem as mulheres como um todo, quando não entendemos que o exercício das funções internas e domésticas são responsabilidade de todos os membros da família, independente do gênero.

The amount of money paid to nannies and maids is questioned – [it doesn't require] qualification, its not intellectual and is mostly a female job – the same way each the role of mothers are questioned. As if ‘looking after children’ was her sole responsibility and the partner didn't share any part on this. Both employers and domestic workers lose. Women as a whole lose, as we don't understand that internal and housekeeping tasks are duties of all family members, independent of gender.

Ana Teresa Fernandez's sculptural instalation: "Carry On"

Ana Teresa Fernandez's sculptural instalation “Carry On” used with permission. “Through this installation, [Ana Teresa] Fernandez hints at a metaphor of immigrants within our society inconspicuously carrying the heavy workload of service and cleaning industries”.

In another reaction, BiDê Brasil [pt], a feminist a socialist blog, writes:

Como disse no começo do texto não acho ser possível uma mãe dar conta de ser mãe, trabalhar, estudar e – no meu caso – militar. Não dá para dar conta, é extenuante, mas uma coisa é você saber quais são os flancos importantes para dividir o bem estar da criança e outra é delegar completamente a criação dos filhos para outrém.

I don't think it is possible for a mother to be a mother, to work, to study and – in my case – to advocate. One cannot stand it, it is exhausting, but one thing is knowing the parts of your life that can be shared aiming at the child's well being; yet another one is to completely delegate your child's upbringing to someone else.

And she adds that there is a debate to be had regarding public facilities to be offered by the State, such as public spaces and libraries. And another one regarding workloads and free time so that men and women can have time to themselves. But nothing justifies treating nannies like assets:

Mas isso não justifica tratar alguém que te ajude como se fosse um “item” da bagagem a se levar nas férias ou nas viagens.

It is not justifiable to treat someone who helps you as a baggage “item” to be taken on vacation or on trips.

These and other reactions led the blog post to be taken down, as this revoke note [pt] states:

Prezados leitores, sentimos muito que o texto do post “Viagem Levando Babás” tenha ofendido tanta gente. O objetivo do nosso blog nunca foi ofender ninguém e, por causa disso, retiramos o post do ar. Considerando o feedback de todos, a partir de agora teremos mais cuidado com o conteúdo publicado no blog.

Dear readers, we feel sorry the post “Viagem Levando Babás” (Travel along with a Nanny) has offended so many people. The objective of this blog was never to harm anyone, and because of that, we have taken down the post. Considering everyone´s feedback, from now on we shall be more careful with the contents we post on the blog.

Classe Média Sofre [pt], a Tumblr page that “stimulates self-criticism” based on middle class stories and a share of Brazilian's very own “pettiness” did post a link to the blog post that originated the discussion, but later on, published a critique against some of the reactions:

mas é impressionante a facilidade com a qual pessoas que nem a conhecem já assumem imediatamente uma posição de superioridade moral e se arrogam o direito de fazer comentários fortíssimos que não se justificam (…)

but it is impressive how easy people who don't know her [the blog post author] immediately assume they are positioned on higher moral ground and have the right to post unjustifiably strong criticism (…)

Slapping with a velvet glove, the Tumblr page states:

jogar pedra na moça sem-noção que viaja com babás é a melhor maneira de não pensar na maneira como você trata seu porteiro.

throwing the clueless girl who travels with nannies to the wolves is a way of forgetting how you treat the doorman at your place.

  • http://twitter.com/Thalloula Thalia Rahme

    The more I read stories on GV the more I get the certitude that the world is the same despite all differences .. at first I thought this post was about Lebanon … then I realized it was happening thousands of miles away ..

    Well if we share the bad things .. Im sure there are many other nice ones we share as well :)

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