FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 14, 2022
New Report Shows Widespread Misrepresentation of Domestic Workers in Hollywood
‘Spotlighting Domestic Workers: Representation in Film & TV’ expands National Domestic Workers Alliance Suite of Services for Hollywood Creators and Writers
June 14, 2022 (New York, NY) — Today, National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) in partnership with USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center released a new study illuminating the widespread invisibility and dehumanization of domestic workers in popular culture. The “Spotlighting Domestic Workers: Representation in Film & TV” report showcases how portrayals of domestic work on screen, from the overrepresentation of white people in domestic work to the pejorative or misleading terms that undercut the skill, training, and duties required of these professions, and offers solutions on how popular culture can be used to change this narrative. The findings will be used by NDWA to aid in both their political advocacy and culture change work.
The report comes at a pivotal point for NDWA, the leading advocacy organization for domestic workers whose efforts to change the landscape of Hollywood have resulted in a national spotlight on the profession in recent years. The organization’s president Ai-jen Poo recently signed with ICM Partners, one of the leading talent agencies, to advance her work to change our cultural views around domestic workers. Additionally, NDWA this year launched its Pop Culture Worker Council, a collective of domestic workers that supports writers, directors, producers, and other entertainment professionals to ensure accuracy and authenticity in telling the stories of domestic workers.
“Telling authentic and complex stories of domestic workers has never been more important,” Poo said. “These are the nannies that take care of our children, the housecleaners that bring order to our homes, and the care workers, for seniors and individuals with disabilities, ensure our loved ones can live with dignity. In order to create safe and dignified workplaces for domestic workers, popular culture creators need to prioritize authentic representations of domestic workers and triumphs and struggles they experience daily.”
“TV and movies can be harnessed to show the full humanity of domestic workers and reveal their full and fulfilling lives outside of their careers – as mothers, women, partners, friends, etc.” NDWA Executive Director Jenn Stowe said. “There is also a huge opportunity for creators to portray not only the current experience of domestic workers, but show us what a society that values domestic work looks like. This means not only showing the stories of domestic workers who are struggling without proper wages, the lack of basic labor rights and protections, and without recourse for sexual assault and harassment.
It also means showing the value they bring to society. For example, showing how nannies and house cleaners can help ease the burden of women, who have reported increasing burnout due to their domestic expectations and responsibilities.”
“Mass media have an unparalleled power to shape our perceptions of the world. The Lear Center has been studying this for over 20 years. Entertainment narratives in particular have a tremendous ability to raise awareness about different causes and motivate people to action,” said Dr. Erica Rosenthal, Director of Research for the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center
There are more than 2.5 million domestic workers in the United States, who are predominantly women, women of color, and immigrants who have faced a long history of exclusion from basic labor protections, like minimum wage, safety and health laws and the right to organize. Many laws such as anti-discrimination and harassment laws exclude domestic workers by default, due to the non-traditional nature of the workforce.
In addition to examining domestic worker representations in entertainment and offering recommendations rooted in authenticity, NDWA also offers entertainment consulting services that include connections to domestic worker leaders and active domestic workers to advance just stories of domestic work in popular culture and inspire new stories that put domestic workers in the spotlight.
For more information on domestic workers and culture change, please visit domesticworkers.org.