As human beings we experience trials and forces that contain us. Oppression is experienced by mostly everyone but as we see ourselves, or others see us as more diverse beings, oppression begins to layer. This is evident in The Help. The first layer is gender, whether you are a man or a woman you are immediately given roles to fulfill. During the times of The Help, the men provided for the family while the women were meant to be in the home. This crosses paths with class, lower class families had both parents working and middle and upper class families had just men working. Class, as a layer of oppression, dictates who works and what their work is in a family. The type of work done is often indicated by race, the third layer of oppression. In The Help, we see black women strictly as maids to white families. It is interesting to see the layers of oppression and how everyone is oppressed by different things.
Like these days in time, clothing plays a major role in the class and status of the characters in The Help. Now, we see clothing as a way of expression and reflection of who we are or who we wish to be. During the 1960’s there was not much choice in the matter according to societal status and line of work. In our class discussion about oppression, I pointed out how the maid’s uniform oppresses status and is an indicator of one’s line of work, oppressing the job of being a maid. They all wear the same uniform and I feel like the word uniform has been used so many times since we have been reading. Most of the time when Miss Skeeter did interviews, the maids were still in their white uniforms. Another example was how maids were invited to the white children’s weddings but they had to be in their uniform. This physically shows the class and status barrier that was being faced during their time. The black women were oppressed by their job as maids, it being their one indication of social status, and their uniform was the physical oppression they faced, having to wear it all the time. As for the white women in the story, their ability to wear anything they wanted and buy clothing for special occasions was an indication of their higher social and economic status. From Celia’s tight green dress to Miss Skeeter’s transformation from blue jeans and an untucked blouse to a new light blue Lady Day skirt and matching jacket for the Senator’s house, the author uses clothing to depict personalities of the white women as well as their oppression by societal standards; like how she also depicts the oppression of black women through the white maid uniforms. Clothing plays a vital role in creating the imagery of oppression in The Help.
I look forward to finishing The Help because I have enjoyed the reading so far and I enjoyed the movie. The Help gives us a humorous, sometimes light-hearted, and other times heavy-hearted, look at the community dynamic during the 1960s. From the prospective of our class, The Help gives us a nice look at a few different housewives as well as dynamic between housewives in a neighborhood community.
Miss Leeloft and Miss Hilly embody the typical white housewife during the 1960s: having other people raise their children and do the housework while they socialized with other housewives or dare I say, compete with each other to build their status in society. The people who raised their children are in a separate society or class, lower and “the help”. Within their community, they share housekeeping stories and gossip. I love how Aibileen’s ears “perk up” at lunch when they start talking about her best friend, Minny. As well as making up for where the white housewife lacks in domesticity, the black women also have to play the housewife, motherly role at their own home to their own children. Their job effects their home dynamic because they are not able to be motherly to their children like they are with the children they keep. But being help is just about the only job they can attain. It is a hard and frustrating subject to grasp and discuss.
Miss Skeeter is the fresh flower of hope and change for women in 1960s Mississippi. She embodies women and civil rights, she believes in equality, which is something that was few and far between at the time and place. I am interested to see what she does in the book, I have seen the movie and I know it will be similar but I am interested to see the differences.