Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help

August 12, 2011
By

By Duchess Harris, PhD, JD.

I did not attend Wednesday’s movie release of “The Help” from DreamWorks Pictures, based on the New York Times best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett.  Why, you ask? Because I read the book.

Last week New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni saw an advance screening of the movie and referred to it as  “…a story of female grit and solidarity — of strength through sisterhood.”  He wrote, “The book’s author, Kathryn Stockett, told me that she felt that most civil rights literature had taken a male perspective, leaving ‘territory that hadn’t been covered much.’” What neither Bruni nor Stockett acknowledge is that the real territory remaining uncovered is civil rights literature written by the Black women who experienced it.

I recently read The Help with an open mind, despite some of the criticism it has received.  I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are.  The novel opens on the fourth Wednesday in August 1962, at the bridge club meeting in the modest home of 23-year old, social climbing Miss Leefolt.  The plot unfolds when her “friend” and the novel’s antagonist, Miss Hilly, the President of the Jackson, Mississippi Junior League, announces that she will support legislation for a “Home Help Sanitation Initiative,” a bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. (10)

We learn early on that Miss Skeeter, the only bridge club lady with a college degree and no husband, opposes the idea.  By page 12, she asks Miss Leefolt’s maid Aibleen, “Do you ever wish you could…change things?”  This lays the groundwork for a 530-page novel telling the story of Black female domestics in Jackson.

The first two chapters were written in the voice of a Black maid named Aibileen, so I hoped that the book would actually be about her.  But this is America, and any Southern narrative that actually touches on race must focus on a noble white protagonist to get us through such dangerous territory (in this case, Miss Skeeter; in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch).  As a Black female reader, I ended up feeling like one of “the help,” forced to tend to Miss Skeeter’s emotional sadness over the loss of her maid (whom she loved more than her own white momma) and her social trials regarding a clearly racist “Jim Crow” bill.

What is most concerning about the text is the empathy that we are supposed to have for Miss Skeeter.  This character is not a true white civil rights activist like the historical figure, Viola Liuzzo (April 11, 1925 – March 25, 1965), a mother of five from Michigan murdered by Ku Klux Klan members after the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama.  Instead, Skeeter is a lonely recent grad of Ole Miss, who returns home after college, devastated that her maid is gone and that she is “stuck” with her parents.  She remarks, “I had to accept that Constantine, my one true ally, had left me to fend for myself with these people.” (81) Constantine is Miss Skeeter’s Black maid, and it’s pretty transparent that Stockett is writing about herself.  We learn this in the novel’s epilogue, “Too Little, Too Late:  Kathryn Stockett, in her own words.”

“My parents divorced when I was six.   Demetrie became even more important then.  When my mother went on one of her frequent trips[…] I’d cry and cry on Demetrie’s shoulder, missing my mother so bad I’d get a fever from it.” (p. 527)

“I’m pretty sure I can say that no one in my family ever asked Demetrie what it felt like to be black in Mississippi, working for our white family.  It never occurred to us to ask.  It was everyday life.  It wasn’t something people felt compelled to examine.  I have wished, for many years, that I’d been old enough and thoughtful enough to ask Demetrie the same question. She died when I was sixteen.  I’ve spent years imagining what her answer would be.  And that is why I wrote this book.” (p. 530)

It would have behooved Stockett to ask her burning question of another Black domestic, or at least read some memoirs on the subject, but instead she substitutes her imagination for understanding.  And the result is that The Help isn’t for Black women at all, and quickly devolves into just another novel by and for white women.

But when the novel attempts to enter the mindset of the Black women, like Aibleen or her best friend Minny, suddenly we enter the realm of the ridiculous.  Although Stockett’s writing shows her talent, her ignorance of the real lives of the Black women bleeds through.  Her Black characters lack the credibility reflected in Coming of Age in Mississippi, a 1968 memoir by Anne Moody, an African American woman growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1960s.  Moody recalls doing domestic work for white families from the age of nine. Moody’s voice is one of a real Black woman who left her own house and family each morning to cook in another woman’s kitchens.

So instead of incorporating a real Black woman’s voice in a novel purported to being about Black domestics, the Skeeter/Stockett character is comfortingly centralized, and I can see why white women relate to her.  She is depicted as a budding feminist, who is enlightened and brave.  But in reality, she uses the stories of the Black domestics in the name of “sisterhood” to launch her own career, and then leaves them behind.  In my experience, the Skeeters of the world grow up to be Gloria Steinem.

In a certain sense, The Help exemplifies the disconnect many Black women have felt from Feminist Movement through the second wave.  For 20 years, I read accounts of Black women who were alienated from that movement primarily populated by middle-class white women.  Black women have asserted their voices since the 1960s as a means of revising feminism and identifying the gap previously denied by the movement and filled by their minds, spirits and bodies. Yet, because I was born in the midst of the second wave and the Black Feminist Movement, I never felt alienated, myself, until the 2008 Presidential election.

It started with the extremely unpleasant showdown between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris Lacewell, (now Perry) surrounding Steinem’s New York Times op-ed about then-Senator Barack Obama. This was followed by the late Geraldine Ferraro’s dismissive comments that Senator Obama was winning the race because he was not White. “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. … He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

And even now that we have an elegant Black First Lady, I’m troubled that our popular culture obsession is with the “largely fictional” book, The Help.  Sounds like an opportune moment for second wave feminists to engage in some serious deconstructionist critical analysis.

Or maybe not.

Once again, it seems that the sisters who make up the “sisterhood” are left to fend for themselves, while second wave feminists like Salon.com writer Laura Miller give a tepid analysis of the legal controversy surrounding the novel.

In February, Ablene Cooper, an African-American maid and babysitter working in Jackson, Miss., where “The Help” is set, filed suit against Stockett. Cooper accused Stockett of causing her to “experience severe emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation and outrage” by appropriating “her identity for an unpermitted use and holding her to the public eye in a false light.”  In her article, “The Dirty Secrets of The Help,” Laura Miller writes:

“Cooper’s lawsuit does manage to unearth two remarks from the novel in which Aibileen seems (arguably) to disparage her own color, but they are tiny scratches on an otherwise glowing portrait.”

Here’s one of those “tiny scratches” posted on ABCnews.com.

“That night after supper, me and that cockroach stare each other down across the kitchen floor,” Aibileen says in the book. “He big, inch, inch an a half. He black. Blacker than me.”

Laura Miller sees no problem with this, and focuses more on the depiction of the white women in the text:

“Although it’s difficult to believe that anyone would feel “outrage, revulsion and severe emotional distress” at being identified with the heroic Aibleen, her employer, Miss Leefolt, is another matter. A vain, status-seeking woman married to a struggling, surly accountant and desperately trying to keep up appearances in front of fellow members of the Jackson Junior League, Miss Leefolt is the one who insists on adding a separate “colored” bathroom to her garage. She does this partly to impress Miss Hilly, the League’s alpha Mean Girl (and the novel’s villain), but she also talks obsessively about the “different kinds of diseases” that “they” carry. Furthermore, Miss Leefolt is a blithely atrocious mother who ignores and mistreats her infant daughter, speaking wistfully of a vacation when “I hardly had to see [her] at all.” Like all of the white women in the novel (except the journalist writing the maids’ stories), Miss Leefolt is cartoonishly awful — and her maid has almost the same name as Stockett’s sister-in-law’s maid. Fancy that!”

Of course, Miller insinuates that the real life Aibleen lacks the agency to have initiated the lawsuit, and that Stockett’s sister-in-law surely coerced her.

I have never met the real-life Aibleen, but if she went to the grocery store yesterday, she would have seen that The Republic of Tea introduced its new limited-edition The Help Tea – Caramel Cake Black Tea, and despite her educational background, she would have understood that she won’t get a cent of the royalties.  According to the website, The Help Tea – Caramel Cake Black Tea, is inspired by Aibleen’s best friend Minny’s famous caramel cake. The tea is being marketed to drink with friends in celebration of a movie where a “remarkable sisterhood emerges.”

What no one wants to acknowledge is that the fictionalized Skeeter leaves the Black domestics in the South—similar to the white freedom riders during the Civil Rights Movement.  In real life, after appropriating the voice of working class Black women, profiting, and not settling out of court, Kathryn Stockett admits in a Barnes and Noble audio interview that even her own maid was not fond of the novel:  “My own maid didn’t really care for it too much, she said it hit a little too close to home for her,” Sockett reports seven minutes and 35 seconds into the 10 minute interview with Steve Bertrand.  So, in the end, The Help and the lawsuit are about white women who don’t want true sisterhood.  They just want Help.


Duchess Harris, Ph.D., J.D., is an Associate Professor of American Studies at Macalester College, and an Adjunct Professor of Race and the Law at William Mitchell College of Law. She is author of Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Obama, and co-editor with Bruce D. Baum of Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity.

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244 Responses to Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help

  1. Matari on August 11, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for this – I have read various accounts about this book and, being a white woman, I completely agree that white women cannot presume to speak for black women in any way. Also, this particular area is so very sensitive for so many reasons that you would think a white woman wouldn't go near it. But I suppose because of the author's background, she is demonstrating the very (arrogant) privilege that put a black woman in a maid's uniform in her life in the first place.

    Meanwhile, I especially like your comment 'I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are.'. As a working class woman, 'racially problematic' is replaced with 'a smug middle-class narrative' or 'a load of sexist crap'.

    • Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:23 am

      I agree with your terms "arrogant" and "privilege"

      Nail meet head!!

  2. Matari on August 11, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for this – I have read various accounts about this book and, being a white woman, I completely agree that white women cannot presume to speak for black women in any way. Also, this particular area is so very sensitive for so many reasons that you would think a white woman wouldn't go near it. But I suppose because of the author's background, she is demonstrating the very (arrogant) privilege that put a black woman in a maid's uniform in her life in the first place.

    Meanwhile, I especially like your comment 'I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are.'. As a working class woman, 'racially problematic' is replaced with 'a smug middle-class narrative' or 'a load of sexist crap'.

    • Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:23 am

      I agree with your terms "arrogant" and "privilege"

      Nail meet head!!

  3. Matari on August 11, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for this – I have read various accounts about this book and, being a white woman, I completely agree that white women cannot presume to speak for black women in any way. Also, this particular area is so very sensitive for so many reasons that you would think a white woman wouldn't go near it. But I suppose because of the author's background, she is demonstrating the very (arrogant) privilege that put a black woman in a maid's uniform in her life in the first place.

    Meanwhile, I especially like your comment 'I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are.'. As a working class woman, 'racially problematic' is replaced with 'a smug middle-class narrative' or 'a load of sexist crap'.

    • Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:23 am

      I agree with your terms "arrogant" and "privilege"

      Nail meet head!!

  4. Matari on August 11, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for this – I have read various accounts about this book and, being a white woman, I completely agree that white women cannot presume to speak for black women in any way. Also, this particular area is so very sensitive for so many reasons that you would think a white woman wouldn't go near it. But I suppose because of the author's background, she is demonstrating the very (arrogant) privilege that put a black woman in a maid's uniform in her life in the first place.

    Meanwhile, I especially like your comment 'I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are.'. As a working class woman, 'racially problematic' is replaced with 'a smug middle-class narrative' or 'a load of sexist crap'.

    • Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:23 am

      I agree with your terms "arrogant" and "privilege"

      Nail meet head!!

  5. the help « hld6 on August 12, 2011 at 2:47 am

    [...] dialect and from the point of view of black characters. Over at The Feminist Wire, Duchess Harris calls out the book for its “focus on a noble white protagonist,” likening it to To Kill a [...]

  6. the help « hld6 on August 12, 2011 at 2:47 am

    [...] dialect and from the point of view of black characters. Over at The Feminist Wire, Duchess Harris calls out the book for its “focus on a noble white protagonist,” likening it to To Kill a [...]

  7. the help « hld6 on August 12, 2011 at 2:47 am

    [...] dialect and from the point of view of black characters. Over at The Feminist Wire, Duchess Harris calls out the book for its “focus on a noble white protagonist,” likening it to To Kill a [...]

  8. the help « hld6 on August 12, 2011 at 2:47 am

    [...] dialect and from the point of view of black characters. Over at The Feminist Wire, Duchess Harris calls out the book for its “focus on a noble white protagonist,” likening it to To Kill a [...]

  9. Bernice L. McFadden on August 12, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Bravo and bravo again!

  10. Bernice L. McFadden on August 12, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Bravo and bravo again!

  11. Bernice L. McFadden on August 12, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Bravo and bravo again!

  12. Bernice L. McFadden on August 12, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Bravo and bravo again!

  13. A White Liberal Book on August 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Thank you for this excellent antidote to the "feel-good" hype surrounding this movie/film. Nothing about this author (and American history in general) inspires confidence that Sockett would tell the stories of black working class southern women with any authenticity — or ethics.

    The tired trope of the one noble white character who enables the story of black women to be told — haven't we seen this a million times? The character who serves as such an obvious projection of the author's (and white reader's) own wishful self, and a salve for her own racial guilt…

    If it never occurred to young Sockett to ask her "beloved mammy" what her life was like, perhaps instead of presuming to fill this blank space with her imagination (since she basically she just admitted her own profound lack of understanding), she could have researched black women's lives and white women's privilege, or even better, used her privilege to get existing narratives by black women into wider print.

    I am off to buy Anne Moody!

  14. A White Liberal Book on August 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Thank you for this excellent antidote to the "feel-good" hype surrounding this movie/film. Nothing about this author (and American history in general) inspires confidence that Sockett would tell the stories of black working class southern women with any authenticity — or ethics.

    The tired trope of the one noble white character who enables the story of black women to be told — haven't we seen this a million times? The character who serves as such an obvious projection of the author's (and white reader's) own wishful self, and a salve for her own racial guilt…

    If it never occurred to young Sockett to ask her "beloved mammy" what her life was like, perhaps instead of presuming to fill this blank space with her imagination (since she basically she just admitted her own profound lack of understanding), she could have researched black women's lives and white women's privilege, or even better, used her privilege to get existing narratives by black women into wider print.

    I am off to buy Anne Moody!

  15. A White Liberal Book on August 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Thank you for this excellent antidote to the "feel-good" hype surrounding this movie/film. Nothing about this author (and American history in general) inspires confidence that Sockett would tell the stories of black working class southern women with any authenticity — or ethics.

    The tired trope of the one noble white character who enables the story of black women to be told — haven't we seen this a million times? The character who serves as such an obvious projection of the author's (and white reader's) own wishful self, and a salve for her own racial guilt…

    If it never occurred to young Sockett to ask her "beloved mammy" what her life was like, perhaps instead of presuming to fill this blank space with her imagination (since she basically she just admitted her own profound lack of understanding), she could have researched black women's lives and white women's privilege, or even better, used her privilege to get existing narratives by black women into wider print.

    I am off to buy Anne Moody!

  16. A White Liberal Book on August 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Thank you for this excellent antidote to the "feel-good" hype surrounding this movie/film. Nothing about this author (and American history in general) inspires confidence that Sockett would tell the stories of black working class southern women with any authenticity — or ethics.

    The tired trope of the one noble white character who enables the story of black women to be told — haven't we seen this a million times? The character who serves as such an obvious projection of the author's (and white reader's) own wishful self, and a salve for her own racial guilt…

    If it never occurred to young Sockett to ask her "beloved mammy" what her life was like, perhaps instead of presuming to fill this blank space with her imagination (since she basically she just admitted her own profound lack of understanding), she could have researched black women's lives and white women's privilege, or even better, used her privilege to get existing narratives by black women into wider print.

    I am off to buy Anne Moody!

  17. LaJuliet Yvette on August 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Just as I thought a white womans interpretation of a black womans experience. That is why for me this is a MUST MISS…in all forms.

    • Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:22 am

      I love it "Must Miss"

  18. LaJuliet Yvette on August 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Just as I thought a white womans interpretation of a black womans experience. That is why for me this is a MUST MISS…in all forms.

    • Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:22 am

      I love it "Must Miss"

  19. LaJuliet Yvette on August 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Just as I thought a white womans interpretation of a black womans experience. That is why for me this is a MUST MISS…in all forms.

    • Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:22 am

      I love it "Must Miss"

  20. LaJuliet Yvette on August 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Just as I thought a white womans interpretation of a black womans experience. That is why for me this is a MUST MISS…in all forms.

    • Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:22 am

      I love it "Must Miss"

  21. massai on August 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    excellent expose Duchess.

  22. massai on August 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    excellent expose Duchess.

  23. massai on August 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    excellent expose Duchess.

  24. massai on August 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    excellent expose Duchess.

  25. Hortense Spillers on August 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    If I'm not mistaken, the Skeeter character in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," also adopted to screen, is the young daughter of Atticus Finch/Gregory Peck. Skeeter is the main narrator in the movie version and tells the story of the novel/film as an adult looking back at the child growing up in the small town that wants to lynch the Brock Peters character. It seems that Lee's example might be one that Stockett is following, and to that extent, these stories are both coming-of-age tales. If that is so, then they are not opposed by genre to Anne Moody's "Coming of Age in Mississippi" because all of them take up the crucial question of becoming a woman in the context of a society undergoing radical change. What would happen if we read and taught this trio of writing together as differing perspectives on the collapse of "Jim Crow" in the United States?

    • Me on August 28, 2011 at 10:30 am

      Why haven't more people responded to this comment? Sounds really interesting. Thank you professor Harris for the article and thank you professor Spillers for the comment.

  26. Hortense Spillers on August 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    If I'm not mistaken, the Skeeter character in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," also adopted to screen, is the young daughter of Atticus Finch/Gregory Peck. Skeeter is the main narrator in the movie version and tells the story of the novel/film as an adult looking back at the child growing up in the small town that wants to lynch the Brock Peters character. It seems that Lee's example might be one that Stockett is following, and to that extent, these stories are both coming-of-age tales. If that is so, then they are not opposed by genre to Anne Moody's "Coming of Age in Mississippi" because all of them take up the crucial question of becoming a woman in the context of a society undergoing radical change. What would happen if we read and taught this trio of writing together as differing perspectives on the collapse of "Jim Crow" in the United States?

    • Me on August 28, 2011 at 10:30 am

      Why haven't more people responded to this comment? Sounds really interesting. Thank you professor Harris for the article and thank you professor Spillers for the comment.

  27. Hortense Spillers on August 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    If I'm not mistaken, the Skeeter character in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," also adopted to screen, is the young daughter of Atticus Finch/Gregory Peck. Skeeter is the main narrator in the movie version and tells the story of the novel/film as an adult looking back at the child growing up in the small town that wants to lynch the Brock Peters character. It seems that Lee's example might be one that Stockett is following, and to that extent, these stories are both coming-of-age tales. If that is so, then they are not opposed by genre to Anne Moody's "Coming of Age in Mississippi" because all of them take up the crucial question of becoming a woman in the context of a society undergoing radical change. What would happen if we read and taught this trio of writing together as differing perspectives on the collapse of "Jim Crow" in the United States?

    • Me on August 28, 2011 at 10:30 am

      Why haven't more people responded to this comment? Sounds really interesting. Thank you professor Harris for the article and thank you professor Spillers for the comment.

  28. Hortense Spillers on August 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    If I'm not mistaken, the Skeeter character in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," also adopted to screen, is the young daughter of Atticus Finch/Gregory Peck. Skeeter is the main narrator in the movie version and tells the story of the novel/film as an adult looking back at the child growing up in the small town that wants to lynch the Brock Peters character. It seems that Lee's example might be one that Stockett is following, and to that extent, these stories are both coming-of-age tales. If that is so, then they are not opposed by genre to Anne Moody's "Coming of Age in Mississippi" because all of them take up the crucial question of becoming a woman in the context of a society undergoing radical change. What would happen if we read and taught this trio of writing together as differing perspectives on the collapse of "Jim Crow" in the United States?

    • Me on August 28, 2011 at 10:30 am

      Why haven't more people responded to this comment? Sounds really interesting. Thank you professor Harris for the article and thank you professor Spillers for the comment.

  29. Caroline on August 13, 2011 at 2:04 am

    I think, as you write, it's again the "white in shining armor" formula. Being a white southerner [with 1/4 Cherokee], it seems like we folks either demonize or romanticize our relationships with maids and mammies. I will concede that the first person point of view that is inherent in all writing is an obstacle to "the truth," yet there is some merit to the Faulkner perspective on American South black-white relationships; they were and are complex, as all relationships are.

  30. Caroline on August 13, 2011 at 2:04 am

    I think, as you write, it's again the "white in shining armor" formula. Being a white southerner [with 1/4 Cherokee], it seems like we folks either demonize or romanticize our relationships with maids and mammies. I will concede that the first person point of view that is inherent in all writing is an obstacle to "the truth," yet there is some merit to the Faulkner perspective on American South black-white relationships; they were and are complex, as all relationships are.

  31. Caroline on August 13, 2011 at 2:04 am

    I think, as you write, it's again the "white in shining armor" formula. Being a white southerner [with 1/4 Cherokee], it seems like we folks either demonize or romanticize our relationships with maids and mammies. I will concede that the first person point of view that is inherent in all writing is an obstacle to "the truth," yet there is some merit to the Faulkner perspective on American South black-white relationships; they were and are complex, as all relationships are.

  32. Caroline on August 13, 2011 at 2:04 am

    I think, as you write, it's again the "white in shining armor" formula. Being a white southerner [with 1/4 Cherokee], it seems like we folks either demonize or romanticize our relationships with maids and mammies. I will concede that the first person point of view that is inherent in all writing is an obstacle to "the truth," yet there is some merit to the Faulkner perspective on American South black-white relationships; they were and are complex, as all relationships are.

  33. Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:22 am

    I recall the exchange between Melissa Harris-Lacewell (now Perry) and Gloria Steinem..as well as my own study of second wave feminism.

    Bravo on your article it speaks truth in so many ways. I have a friend who actually quoted Hattie McDaniel..we have so moved past those times where Black actors have to take what is handed to them especially if it perpetuates stereotypes while sanitizing the truth of what really happened.

    In the time of an African American President and First Family, I stand with you in critique of this movie and what it stands for.

  34. Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:22 am

    I recall the exchange between Melissa Harris-Lacewell (now Perry) and Gloria Steinem..as well as my own study of second wave feminism.

    Bravo on your article it speaks truth in so many ways. I have a friend who actually quoted Hattie McDaniel..we have so moved past those times where Black actors have to take what is handed to them especially if it perpetuates stereotypes while sanitizing the truth of what really happened.

    In the time of an African American President and First Family, I stand with you in critique of this movie and what it stands for.

  35. Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:22 am

    I recall the exchange between Melissa Harris-Lacewell (now Perry) and Gloria Steinem..as well as my own study of second wave feminism.

    Bravo on your article it speaks truth in so many ways. I have a friend who actually quoted Hattie McDaniel..we have so moved past those times where Black actors have to take what is handed to them especially if it perpetuates stereotypes while sanitizing the truth of what really happened.

    In the time of an African American President and First Family, I stand with you in critique of this movie and what it stands for.

  36. Ginnette Powell on August 13, 2011 at 2:22 am

    I recall the exchange between Melissa Harris-Lacewell (now Perry) and Gloria Steinem..as well as my own study of second wave feminism.

    Bravo on your article it speaks truth in so many ways. I have a friend who actually quoted Hattie McDaniel..we have so moved past those times where Black actors have to take what is handed to them especially if it perpetuates stereotypes while sanitizing the truth of what really happened.

    In the time of an African American President and First Family, I stand with you in critique of this movie and what it stands for.

  37. Ben on August 13, 2011 at 6:35 am

    True enough on all counts, but that's the failure of much of fiction. Who has been openly critical of a man writing from the perspective of a sexually exploited young woman? (Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest et al.

  38. Ben on August 13, 2011 at 6:35 am

    True enough on all counts, but that's the failure of much of fiction. Who has been openly critical of a man writing from the perspective of a sexually exploited young woman? (Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest et al.

  39. Ben on August 13, 2011 at 6:35 am

    True enough on all counts, but that's the failure of much of fiction. Who has been openly critical of a man writing from the perspective of a sexually exploited young woman? (Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest et al.

  40. Ben on August 13, 2011 at 6:35 am

    True enough on all counts, but that's the failure of much of fiction. Who has been openly critical of a man writing from the perspective of a sexually exploited young woman? (Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest et al.

  41. “The Help” « The Hystorical Feminist on August 13, 2011 at 10:41 am

    [...] Another view on the subject. 36.153982 -95.992775 EmailFacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  42. “The Help” « The Hystorical Feminist on August 13, 2011 at 10:41 am

    [...] Another view on the subject. 36.153982 -95.992775 EmailFacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  43. “The Help” « The Hystorical Feminist on August 13, 2011 at 10:41 am

    [...] Another view on the subject. 36.153982 -95.992775 EmailFacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  44. “The Help” « The Hystorical Feminist on August 13, 2011 at 10:41 am

    [...] Another view on the subject. 36.153982 -95.992775 EmailFacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  45. Michele Lee on August 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I think the point is it's not that a white woman can't write about this, it's that Stockett didn't even try to be not condescending about it. She told yet another story that's purpose isn't to raise awareness or help the disadvantage, but merely a vehicle for another white woman to say "Look, I'm not like those other jerks being all racist. I care about you see because you do all this stuff from me…" By not including "the help's" voice as a part of the narrative and by focusing on the ways her life was less because of it, and then long after, launching a career off the back of "the help" without even a thank you or a dedication or anything, Stockett proves it isn't about connecting with Aibleen it's about whining. Or is that just me?

  46. Michele Lee on August 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I think the point is it's not that a white woman can't write about this, it's that Stockett didn't even try to be not condescending about it. She told yet another story that's purpose isn't to raise awareness or help the disadvantage, but merely a vehicle for another white woman to say "Look, I'm not like those other jerks being all racist. I care about you see because you do all this stuff from me…" By not including "the help's" voice as a part of the narrative and by focusing on the ways her life was less because of it, and then long after, launching a career off the back of "the help" without even a thank you or a dedication or anything, Stockett proves it isn't about connecting with Aibleen it's about whining. Or is that just me?

  47. Michele Lee on August 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I think the point is it's not that a white woman can't write about this, it's that Stockett didn't even try to be not condescending about it. She told yet another story that's purpose isn't to raise awareness or help the disadvantage, but merely a vehicle for another white woman to say "Look, I'm not like those other jerks being all racist. I care about you see because you do all this stuff from me…" By not including "the help's" voice as a part of the narrative and by focusing on the ways her life was less because of it, and then long after, launching a career off the back of "the help" without even a thank you or a dedication or anything, Stockett proves it isn't about connecting with Aibleen it's about whining. Or is that just me?

  48. Michele Lee on August 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I think the point is it's not that a white woman can't write about this, it's that Stockett didn't even try to be not condescending about it. She told yet another story that's purpose isn't to raise awareness or help the disadvantage, but merely a vehicle for another white woman to say "Look, I'm not like those other jerks being all racist. I care about you see because you do all this stuff from me…" By not including "the help's" voice as a part of the narrative and by focusing on the ways her life was less because of it, and then long after, launching a career off the back of "the help" without even a thank you or a dedication or anything, Stockett proves it isn't about connecting with Aibleen it's about whining. Or is that just me?

  49. Demalda Newsome on August 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I do not agree with you at all. Your view of the 60's seems to be confused with the present struggles. we were not fighting for a feminist recognition we were in fight to be treated as a human and not get killed by the KKK. I am African American from Mississippi and born in the 50's. I admire your educational (I mean that) achievements but the lessons from then were taught lessons not bought lessons every day was a struggle.

    • Duchess Harris on August 13, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      I think you might have misunderstood my comments, I actually agree with you. I am not just writing as an academic. My father was born in Alabama in 1934 and his mother was the help.

      I realize that Black women were just trying to survive. Some of his people were killed by the Klan.

      I am arguing that the white women in the 1960s who claimed to speak for ALL women did not; partly because they were at feminist rallies while their Black maids watched their children.

      That is why I say Kathryn Stockett (who grew up with a Black maid like my Grandma Lucy), is not my sister. My Grandma Lucy was "The Help," so I wouldn't have to be.

      • Jamie Frazier on August 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

        Professor Harris . . . I stand in solidarity with black women in calling this book/movie what it is . . . the fleecing of an unfinished work . . . the equality/liberation of black (wo)men.

      • Paula Behnken on August 14, 2011 at 5:21 am

        Prof. Harris,
        Your sweeping generalizations do no one any good in understanding this book, the author's intent or the state of race relations today.
        1. Any author who speaks for all women is a fool, and I don't see where Stockett even came close to speaking for all women, of any race, in this book.
        2. If we read the same book, 2/3 of the narrative was told from the point of view of black maids, albeit fictional ones.
        3. The point of the book, according to the author, was that we are all sisters and brothers under the skin. Not that one is better/smarter/holier/more deserving than the other.
        4. I don't know where you were, but I didn't know any women in DC in the 1960s who had maids of any color raising their kids.
        5. My white aunt was the help, until she married a rich tractor salesman and moved to Memphis. Maybe she became one of the white women in the book, but maybe not because that's not how she was raised. You remember that Celia wasn't raised that way, either, and she was shunned as an outsider.
        6. I was a white Freedom Rider in 1961. I was 17 years old, and came close to losing my life. Many white Freedom Riders went to jail, were beaten, lost a year or more of college and were shunned by their families and communities. Nobody said thank you to them either (until recently, since this year is the 50th anniversary of those events).
        7. As I recall, the rise of feminism was more pronounced in the 1970s than 1960s. The young mothers I knew expanded their vision and the reach of their lives a little at a time, trying on new roles in intimate relationships, the family circle, the workplace and in the community, while a handful of radical feminists were at the rallies you speak of. In other words, change came slowly to most, just as it did during the height of the civil rights movement, and just as it did to the characters in the novel (remember, it's fiction) you find so offensive.
        8. The best part of the book, for me, was the way the author had all the women dealing with various controversies — which on face value seemed quite petty — against the backdrop of the war going on outside in the larger society, with its beatings, killings, mass demonstration and legislation. The two levels of conflict and change were excellent foils to one another.
        9. All novelists take liberties, and many base their work on the people and situations they know. In fact "write what you know" is a mantra most writers follow.
        Someone I knew and loved portrayed me as an awful person in a work of fiction once, and I was devastated. Not only was I angry fir being exploited by a friend, but deeply humiliated because I knew many friends we had in common would know exactly who he was writing about. At some point,I realized I couldn't control what people thought of me, and can only be who I am.
        That being said, I agree that using someone's name in any work of fiction is irresponsible at best, vicious at worst, and Stockett should be penalized in some way for doing that, if she knew the woman. But if, in spite of the author's irresponsibility and in spite of the book's stylistic shortcomings (which are not unlike some literary devices used by Faulker, Twain and even Harper Lee), Stockett has written a book that opens the eyes of millions of readers, black and white, to the realities of life in the South before their lifetimes, and helps them understand how the inhumane laws and practices of Jim Crow America necessitated the civil rights movement, I say, thank you for writing this novel. Sometimes fiction has a more pronounced effect on people than reality, perhaps because a good read offers a composite of many lives and many circumstances, recounted in language and plot that can be understood within the context of the reader's life and times, and read in a safe place, far from the dangers and conflicts of the reality it depicts.
        9. I don't see how this one novel or any novel/film can damage the ongoing struggle for equality among all people, and it/they shouldn't. We all have to make sure the struggle for equal rights is not forgotten and the sacrifices made during the 1960s were not made in vain.

      • Layogenic on August 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm

        Oh Paula, Paula, Paula. First, thank you for your struggles, your efforts given for women over the years. Thank you for your sacrifices and your strength of will. Now for the rest:

        1. All works are iconic, and by expecting a reader to empathize with a protagonist is to say that protagonist speaks for them.
        2. It's much easier to make fictional people say things that fit a preconceived POV.
        3. There are fewer lies more damaging to the cause of equality than that of "Colorblindness." If we are all brothers and sisters, than this book would not be written.
        4. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There were (and ARE) many households, yes, even in the oh-so-tolerant North, with women of color as Help. The nationalities have shifted somewhat towards the Latino lately, is all.
        5. Your white aunt was most likely paid many times that of black help, never treated like black help, and was not, in fact, black help.
        6. Is it the Oppression Olympics already?
        7. Misrepresentation in fiction is still misrepresentation. The feminist movement is older than the 70s or the 60s and is not based in your experiences of it (though I salute and respect those experiences).
        8. Petty battles, while ubiquitous, are not indicative of (as mentioned above) the fact that most black women were fighting for survival, not comeuppance.
        9. Misrepresentation in fiction is still misrepresentation. Actually this whole "It's fiction, not srs bsnss!" seems to be a theme in your comment. I think you might need to think about what writing misrepresentative fiction tells a person–especially a person very different from the author who is nevertheless the supposed subject–about the writer and the writing. Yes, there should be more attention paid to the struggles of women, then and now. But rather than relying on (faulty, problematic) white guilt fantasies about the time, we should shine the light on actual events, actual memoirs, and actual essays by women. This book does nothing new.
        10 (yes, 10). If you cannot see how media influences opinion, struggles, and popular thought…I don't even know what to say.

  50. Demalda Newsome on August 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I do not agree with you at all. Your view of the 60's seems to be confused with the present struggles. we were not fighting for a feminist recognition we were in fight to be treated as a human and not get killed by the KKK. I am African American from Mississippi and born in the 50's. I admire your educational (I mean that) achievements but the lessons from then were taught lessons not bought lessons every day was a struggle.

    • Duchess Harris on August 13, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      I think you might have misunderstood my comments, I actually agree with you. I am not just writing as an academic. My father was born in Alabama in 1934 and his mother was the help.

      I realize that Black women were just trying to survive. Some of his people were killed by the Klan.

      I am arguing that the white women in the 1960s who claimed to speak for ALL women did not; partly because they were at feminist rallies while their Black maids watched their children.

      That is why I say Kathryn Stockett (who grew up with a Black maid like my Grandma Lucy), is not my sister. My Grandma Lucy was "The Help," so I wouldn't have to be.

      • Jamie Frazier on August 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

        Professor Harris . . . I stand in solidarity with black women in calling this book/movie what it is . . . the fleecing of an unfinished work . . . the equality/liberation of black (wo)men.

      • Paula Behnken on August 14, 2011 at 5:21 am

        Prof. Harris,
        Your sweeping generalizations do no one any good in understanding this book, the author's intent or the state of race relations today.
        1. Any author who speaks for all women is a fool, and I don't see where Stockett even came close to speaking for all women, of any race, in this book.
        2. If we read the same book, 2/3 of the narrative was told from the point of view of black maids, albeit fictional ones.
        3. The point of the book, according to the author, was that we are all sisters and brothers under the skin. Not that one is better/smarter/holier/more deserving than the other.
        4. I don't know where you were, but I didn't know any women in DC in the 1960s who had maids of any color raising their kids.
        5. My white aunt was the help, until she married a rich tractor salesman and moved to Memphis. Maybe she became one of the white women in the book, but maybe not because that's not how she was raised. You remember that Celia wasn't raised that way, either, and she was shunned as an outsider.
        6. I was a white Freedom Rider in 1961. I was 17 years old, and came close to losing my life. Many white Freedom Riders went to jail, were beaten, lost a year or more of college and were shunned by their families and communities. Nobody said thank you to them either (until recently, since this year is the 50th anniversary of those events).
        7. As I recall, the rise of feminism was more pronounced in the 1970s than 1960s. The young mothers I knew expanded their vision and the reach of their lives a little at a time, trying on new roles in intimate relationships, the family circle, the workplace and in the community, while a handful of radical feminists were at the rallies you speak of. In other words, change came slowly to most, just as it did during the height of the civil rights movement, and just as it did to the characters in the novel (remember, it's fiction) you find so offensive.
        8. The best part of the book, for me, was the way the author had all the women dealing with various controversies — which on face value seemed quite petty — against the backdrop of the war going on outside in the larger society, with its beatings, killings, mass demonstration and legislation. The two levels of conflict and change were excellent foils to one another.
        9. All novelists take liberties, and many base their work on the people and situations they know. In fact "write what you know" is a mantra most writers follow.
        Someone I knew and loved portrayed me as an awful person in a work of fiction once, and I was devastated. Not only was I angry fir being exploited by a friend, but deeply humiliated because I knew many friends we had in common would know exactly who he was writing about. At some point,I realized I couldn't control what people thought of me, and can only be who I am.
        That being said, I agree that using someone's name in any work of fiction is irresponsible at best, vicious at worst, and Stockett should be penalized in some way for doing that, if she knew the woman. But if, in spite of the author's irresponsibility and in spite of the book's stylistic shortcomings (which are not unlike some literary devices used by Faulker, Twain and even Harper Lee), Stockett has written a book that opens the eyes of millions of readers, black and white, to the realities of life in the South before their lifetimes, and helps them understand how the inhumane laws and practices of Jim Crow America necessitated the civil rights movement, I say, thank you for writing this novel. Sometimes fiction has a more pronounced effect on people than reality, perhaps because a good read offers a composite of many lives and many circumstances, recounted in language and plot that can be understood within the context of the reader's life and times, and read in a safe place, far from the dangers and conflicts of the reality it depicts.
        9. I don't see how this one novel or any novel/film can damage the ongoing struggle for equality among all people, and it/they shouldn't. We all have to make sure the struggle for equal rights is not forgotten and the sacrifices made during the 1960s were not made in vain.

      • Layogenic on August 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm

        Oh Paula, Paula, Paula. First, thank you for your struggles, your efforts given for women over the years. Thank you for your sacrifices and your strength of will. Now for the rest:

        1. All works are iconic, and by expecting a reader to empathize with a protagonist is to say that protagonist speaks for them.
        2. It's much easier to make fictional people say things that fit a preconceived POV.
        3. There are fewer lies more damaging to the cause of equality than that of "Colorblindness." If we are all brothers and sisters, than this book would not be written.
        4. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There were (and ARE) many households, yes, even in the oh-so-tolerant North, with women of color as Help. The nationalities have shifted somewhat towards the Latino lately, is all.
        5. Your white aunt was most likely paid many times that of black help, never treated like black help, and was not, in fact, black help.
        6. Is it the Oppression Olympics already?
        7. Misrepresentation in fiction is still misrepresentation. The feminist movement is older than the 70s or the 60s and is not based in your experiences of it (though I salute and respect those experiences).
        8. Petty battles, while ubiquitous, are not indicative of (as mentioned above) the fact that most black women were fighting for survival, not comeuppance.
        9. Misrepresentation in fiction is still misrepresentation. Actually this whole "It's fiction, not srs bsnss!" seems to be a theme in your comment. I think you might need to think about what writing misrepresentative fiction tells a person–especially a person very different from the author who is nevertheless the supposed subject–about the writer and the writing. Yes, there should be more attention paid to the struggles of women, then and now. But rather than relying on (faulty, problematic) white guilt fantasies about the time, we should shine the light on actual events, actual memoirs, and actual essays by women. This book does nothing new.
        10 (yes, 10). If you cannot see how media influences opinion, struggles, and popular thought…I don't even know what to say.

  51. Demalda Newsome on August 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I do not agree with you at all. Your view of the 60's seems to be confused with the present struggles. we were not fighting for a feminist recognition we were in fight to be treated as a human and not get killed by the KKK. I am African American from Mississippi and born in the 50's. I admire your educational (I mean that) achievements but the lessons from then were taught lessons not bought lessons every day was a struggle.

    • Duchess Harris on August 13, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      I think you might have misunderstood my comments, I actually agree with you. I am not just writing as an academic. My father was born in Alabama in 1934 and his mother was the help.

      I realize that Black women were just trying to survive. Some of his people were killed by the Klan.

      I am arguing that the white women in the 1960s who claimed to speak for ALL women did not; partly because they were at feminist rallies while their Black maids watched their children.

      That is why I say Kathryn Stockett (who grew up with a Black maid like my Grandma Lucy), is not my sister. My Grandma Lucy was "The Help," so I wouldn't have to be.

      • Jamie Frazier on August 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

        Professor Harris . . . I stand in solidarity with black women in calling this book/movie what it is . . . the fleecing of an unfinished work . . . the equality/liberation of black (wo)men.

      • Paula Behnken on August 14, 2011 at 5:21 am

        Prof. Harris,
        Your sweeping generalizations do no one any good in understanding this book, the author's intent or the state of race relations today.
        1. Any author who speaks for all women is a fool, and I don't see where Stockett even came close to speaking for all women, of any race, in this book.
        2. If we read the same book, 2/3 of the narrative was told from the point of view of black maids, albeit fictional ones.
        3. The point of the book, according to the author, was that we are all sisters and brothers under the skin. Not that one is better/smarter/holier/more deserving than the other.
        4. I don't know where you were, but I didn't know any women in DC in the 1960s who had maids of any color raising their kids.
        5. My white aunt was the help, until she married a rich tractor salesman and moved to Memphis. Maybe she became one of the white women in the book, but maybe not because that's not how she was raised. You remember that Celia wasn't raised that way, either, and she was shunned as an outsider.
        6. I was a white Freedom Rider in 1961. I was 17 years old, and came close to losing my life. Many white Freedom Riders went to jail, were beaten, lost a year or more of college and were shunned by their families and communities. Nobody said thank you to them either (until recently, since this year is the 50th anniversary of those events).
        7. As I recall, the rise of feminism was more pronounced in the 1970s than 1960s. The young mothers I knew expanded their vision and the reach of their lives a little at a time, trying on new roles in intimate relationships, the family circle, the workplace and in the community, while a handful of radical feminists were at the rallies you speak of. In other words, change came slowly to most, just as it did during the height of the civil rights movement, and just as it did to the characters in the novel (remember, it's fiction) you find so offensive.
        8. The best part of the book, for me, was the way the author had all the women dealing with various controversies — which on face value seemed quite petty — against the backdrop of the war going on outside in the larger society, with its beatings, killings, mass demonstration and legislation. The two levels of conflict and change were excellent foils to one another.
        9. All novelists take liberties, and many base their work on the people and situations they know. In fact "write what you know" is a mantra most writers follow.
        Someone I knew and loved portrayed me as an awful person in a work of fiction once, and I was devastated. Not only was I angry fir being exploited by a friend, but deeply humiliated because I knew many friends we had in common would know exactly who he was writing about. At some point,I realized I couldn't control what people thought of me, and can only be who I am.
        That being said, I agree that using someone's name in any work of fiction is irresponsible at best, vicious at worst, and Stockett should be penalized in some way for doing that, if she knew the woman. But if, in spite of the author's irresponsibility and in spite of the book's stylistic shortcomings (which are not unlike some literary devices used by Faulker, Twain and even Harper Lee), Stockett has written a book that opens the eyes of millions of readers, black and white, to the realities of life in the South before their lifetimes, and helps them understand how the inhumane laws and practices of Jim Crow America necessitated the civil rights movement, I say, thank you for writing this novel. Sometimes fiction has a more pronounced effect on people than reality, perhaps because a good read offers a composite of many lives and many circumstances, recounted in language and plot that can be understood within the context of the reader's life and times, and read in a safe place, far from the dangers and conflicts of the reality it depicts.
        9. I don't see how this one novel or any novel/film can damage the ongoing struggle for equality among all people, and it/they shouldn't. We all have to make sure the struggle for equal rights is not forgotten and the sacrifices made during the 1960s were not made in vain.

      • Layogenic on August 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm

        Oh Paula, Paula, Paula. First, thank you for your struggles, your efforts given for women over the years. Thank you for your sacrifices and your strength of will. Now for the rest:

        1. All works are iconic, and by expecting a reader to empathize with a protagonist is to say that protagonist speaks for them.
        2. It's much easier to make fictional people say things that fit a preconceived POV.
        3. There are fewer lies more damaging to the cause of equality than that of "Colorblindness." If we are all brothers and sisters, than this book would not be written.
        4. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There were (and ARE) many households, yes, even in the oh-so-tolerant North, with women of color as Help. The nationalities have shifted somewhat towards the Latino lately, is all.
        5. Your white aunt was most likely paid many times that of black help, never treated like black help, and was not, in fact, black help.
        6. Is it the Oppression Olympics already?
        7. Misrepresentation in fiction is still misrepresentation. The feminist movement is older than the 70s or the 60s and is not based in your experiences of it (though I salute and respect those experiences).
        8. Petty battles, while ubiquitous, are not indicative of (as mentioned above) the fact that most black women were fighting for survival, not comeuppance.
        9. Misrepresentation in fiction is still misrepresentation. Actually this whole "It's fiction, not srs bsnss!" seems to be a theme in your comment. I think you might need to think about what writing misrepresentative fiction tells a person–especially a person very different from the author who is nevertheless the supposed subject–about the writer and the writing. Yes, there should be more attention paid to the struggles of women, then and now. But rather than relying on (faulty, problematic) white guilt fantasies about the time, we should shine the light on actual events, actual memoirs, and actual essays by women. This book does nothing new.
        10 (yes, 10). If you cannot see how media influences opinion, struggles, and popular thought…I don't even know what to say.

  52. Demalda Newsome on August 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I do not agree with you at all. Your view of the 60's seems to be confused with the present struggles. we were not fighting for a feminist recognition we were in fight to be treated as a human and not get killed by the KKK. I am African American from Mississippi and born in the 50's. I admire your educational (I mean that) achievements but the lessons from then were taught lessons not bought lessons every day was a struggle.

    • Duchess Harris on August 13, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      I think you might have misunderstood my comments, I actually agree with you. I am not just writing as an academic. My father was born in Alabama in 1934 and his mother was the help.

      I realize that Black women were just trying to survive. Some of his people were killed by the Klan.

      I am arguing that the white women in the 1960s who claimed to speak for ALL women did not; partly because they were at feminist rallies while their Black maids watched their children.

      That is why I say Kathryn Stockett (who grew up with a Black maid like my Grandma Lucy), is not my sister. My Grandma Lucy was "The Help," so I wouldn't have to be.

      • Jamie Frazier on August 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

        Professor Harris . . . I stand in solidarity with black women in calling this book/movie what it is . . . the fleecing of an unfinished work . . . the equality/liberation of black (wo)men.

      • Paula Behnken on August 14, 2011 at 5:21 am

        Prof. Harris,
        Your sweeping generalizations do no one any good in understanding this book, the author's intent or the state of race relations today.
        1. Any author who speaks for all women is a fool, and I don't see where Stockett even came close to speaking for all women, of any race, in this book.
        2. If we read the same book, 2/3 of the narrative was told from the point of view of black maids, albeit fictional ones.
        3. The point of the book, according to the author, was that we are all sisters and brothers under the skin. Not that one is better/smarter/holier/more deserving than the other.
        4. I don't know where you were, but I didn't know any women in DC in the 1960s who had maids of any color raising their kids.
        5. My white aunt was the help, until she married a rich tractor salesman and moved to Memphis. Maybe she became one of the white women in the book, but maybe not because that's not how she was raised. You remember that Celia wasn't raised that way, either, and she was shunned as an outsider.
        6. I was a white Freedom Rider in 1961. I was 17 years old, and came close to losing my life. Many white Freedom Riders went to jail, were beaten, lost a year or more of college and were shunned by their families and communities. Nobody said thank you to them either (until recently, since this year is the 50th anniversary of those events).
        7. As I recall, the rise of feminism was more pronounced in the 1970s than 1960s. The young mothers I knew expanded their vision and the reach of their lives a little at a time, trying on new roles in intimate relationships, the family circle, the workplace and in the community, while a handful of radical feminists were at the rallies you speak of. In other words, change came slowly to most, just as it did during the height of the civil rights movement, and just as it did to the characters in the novel (remember, it's fiction) you find so offensive.
        8. The best part of the book, for me, was the way the author had all the women dealing with various controversies — which on face value seemed quite petty — against the backdrop of the war going on outside in the larger society, with its beatings, killings, mass demonstration and legislation. The two levels of conflict and change were excellent foils to one another.
        9. All novelists take liberties, and many base their work on the people and situations they know. In fact "write what you know" is a mantra most writers follow.
        Someone I knew and loved portrayed me as an awful person in a work of fiction once, and I was devastated. Not only was I angry fir being exploited by a friend, but deeply humiliated because I knew many friends we had in common would know exactly who he was writing about. At some point,I realized I couldn't control what people thought of me, and can only be who I am.
        That being said, I agree that using someone's name in any work of fiction is irresponsible at best, vicious at worst, and Stockett should be penalized in some way for doing that, if she knew the woman. But if, in spite of the author's irresponsibility and in spite of the book's stylistic shortcomings (which are not unlike some literary devices used by Faulker, Twain and even Harper Lee), Stockett has written a book that opens the eyes of millions of readers, black and white, to the realities of life in the South before their lifetimes, and helps them understand how the inhumane laws and practices of Jim Crow America necessitated the civil rights movement, I say, thank you for writing this novel. Sometimes fiction has a more pronounced effect on people than reality, perhaps because a good read offers a composite of many lives and many circumstances, recounted in language and plot that can be understood within the context of the reader's life and times, and read in a safe place, far from the dangers and conflicts of the reality it depicts.
        9. I don't see how this one novel or any novel/film can damage the ongoing struggle for equality among all people, and it/they shouldn't. We all have to make sure the struggle for equal rights is not forgotten and the sacrifices made during the 1960s were not made in vain.

      • Layogenic on August 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm

        Oh Paula, Paula, Paula. First, thank you for your struggles, your efforts given for women over the years. Thank you for your sacrifices and your strength of will. Now for the rest:

        1. All works are iconic, and by expecting a reader to empathize with a protagonist is to say that protagonist speaks for them.
        2. It's much easier to make fictional people say things that fit a preconceived POV.
        3. There are fewer lies more damaging to the cause of equality than that of "Colorblindness." If we are all brothers and sisters, than this book would not be written.
        4. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There were (and ARE) many households, yes, even in the oh-so-tolerant North, with women of color as Help. The nationalities have shifted somewhat towards the Latino lately, is all.
        5. Your white aunt was most likely paid many times that of black help, never treated like black help, and was not, in fact, black help.
        6. Is it the Oppression Olympics already?
        7. Misrepresentation in fiction is still misrepresentation. The feminist movement is older than the 70s or the 60s and is not based in your experiences of it (though I salute and respect those experiences).
        8. Petty battles, while ubiquitous, are not indicative of (as mentioned above) the fact that most black women were fighting for survival, not comeuppance.
        9. Misrepresentation in fiction is still misrepresentation. Actually this whole "It's fiction, not srs bsnss!" seems to be a theme in your comment. I think you might need to think about what writing misrepresentative fiction tells a person–especially a person very different from the author who is nevertheless the supposed subject–about the writer and the writing. Yes, there should be more attention paid to the struggles of women, then and now. But rather than relying on (faulty, problematic) white guilt fantasies about the time, we should shine the light on actual events, actual memoirs, and actual essays by women. This book does nothing new.
        10 (yes, 10). If you cannot see how media influences opinion, struggles, and popular thought…I don't even know what to say.

  53. Eric on August 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Question of grammar: Why the difference in capitalization when referring to race/color (i.e. Black people, white people)?

  54. Eric on August 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Question of grammar: Why the difference in capitalization when referring to race/color (i.e. Black people, white people)?

  55. Eric on August 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Question of grammar: Why the difference in capitalization when referring to race/color (i.e. Black people, white people)?

  56. Eric on August 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Question of grammar: Why the difference in capitalization when referring to race/color (i.e. Black people, white people)?

  57. The Help [Trigger Warning] « Writing My Wrongs on August 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    [...] ETA: No surprise, minutes after posting this I see a link on Dawn’s facebook about this very book/movie. Different perspective. Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help [...]

  58. The Help [Trigger Warning] « Writing My Wrongs on August 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    [...] ETA: No surprise, minutes after posting this I see a link on Dawn’s facebook about this very book/movie. Different perspective. Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help [...]

  59. The Help [Trigger Warning] « Writing My Wrongs on August 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    [...] ETA: No surprise, minutes after posting this I see a link on Dawn’s facebook about this very book/movie. Different perspective. Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help [...]

  60. The Help [Trigger Warning] « Writing My Wrongs on August 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    [...] ETA: No surprise, minutes after posting this I see a link on Dawn’s facebook about this very book/movie. Different perspective. Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help [...]

  61. Joyce on August 14, 2011 at 5:29 am

    This is an awakening novel from the perspective of a rather sheltered white woman in a very small town. Stockett is not trying to right racial wrongs, she does not claim to be a "sister", nor does she attempt to portray her character as a civil rights activist. Great literature? No. It was a good read and I will eventually see the movie.

  62. Joyce on August 14, 2011 at 5:29 am

    This is an awakening novel from the perspective of a rather sheltered white woman in a very small town. Stockett is not trying to right racial wrongs, she does not claim to be a "sister", nor does she attempt to portray her character as a civil rights activist. Great literature? No. It was a good read and I will eventually see the movie.

  63. Joyce on August 14, 2011 at 5:29 am

    This is an awakening novel from the perspective of a rather sheltered white woman in a very small town. Stockett is not trying to right racial wrongs, she does not claim to be a "sister", nor does she attempt to portray her character as a civil rights activist. Great literature? No. It was a good read and I will eventually see the movie.

  64. Joyce on August 14, 2011 at 5:29 am

    This is an awakening novel from the perspective of a rather sheltered white woman in a very small town. Stockett is not trying to right racial wrongs, she does not claim to be a "sister", nor does she attempt to portray her character as a civil rights activist. Great literature? No. It was a good read and I will eventually see the movie.

  65. My Name on August 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

    while I agree with you on 99.9% of what is written in this article. i have to inform you that the nation did and is caught up with breaking barriers by having a mixed man as their president, many like you focusing only on one thing, the shade of his skin rather than who he really may or may not be. it is my opinion that like most every other president before him, he is nothing more than a puppet groomed by the global elite for the American presidency. in his case specifically groomed by globalist Henry Kissinger. I suggest you become more wide eyed regarding all matters and not fall into the same race war as the media has set before you. if you can see that it's shit pie, why still lean in for a big bite of it? you are smart enough to see that Kathryn Stockett is parading as some kind of civil rights activist while being racist, so be wise enough to see thru the other illusions in life such as the trappings of our media and corrupt government.

  66. My Name on August 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

    while I agree with you on 99.9% of what is written in this article. i have to inform you that the nation did and is caught up with breaking barriers by having a mixed man as their president, many like you focusing only on one thing, the shade of his skin rather than who he really may or may not be. it is my opinion that like most every other president before him, he is nothing more than a puppet groomed by the global elite for the American presidency. in his case specifically groomed by globalist Henry Kissinger. I suggest you become more wide eyed regarding all matters and not fall into the same race war as the media has set before you. if you can see that it's shit pie, why still lean in for a big bite of it? you are smart enough to see that Kathryn Stockett is parading as some kind of civil rights activist while being racist, so be wise enough to see thru the other illusions in life such as the trappings of our media and corrupt government.

  67. My Name on August 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

    while I agree with you on 99.9% of what is written in this article. i have to inform you that the nation did and is caught up with breaking barriers by having a mixed man as their president, many like you focusing only on one thing, the shade of his skin rather than who he really may or may not be. it is my opinion that like most every other president before him, he is nothing more than a puppet groomed by the global elite for the American presidency. in his case specifically groomed by globalist Henry Kissinger. I suggest you become more wide eyed regarding all matters and not fall into the same race war as the media has set before you. if you can see that it's shit pie, why still lean in for a big bite of it? you are smart enough to see that Kathryn Stockett is parading as some kind of civil rights activist while being racist, so be wise enough to see thru the other illusions in life such as the trappings of our media and corrupt government.

  68. My Name on August 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

    while I agree with you on 99.9% of what is written in this article. i have to inform you that the nation did and is caught up with breaking barriers by having a mixed man as their president, many like you focusing only on one thing, the shade of his skin rather than who he really may or may not be. it is my opinion that like most every other president before him, he is nothing more than a puppet groomed by the global elite for the American presidency. in his case specifically groomed by globalist Henry Kissinger. I suggest you become more wide eyed regarding all matters and not fall into the same race war as the media has set before you. if you can see that it's shit pie, why still lean in for a big bite of it? you are smart enough to see that Kathryn Stockett is parading as some kind of civil rights activist while being racist, so be wise enough to see thru the other illusions in life such as the trappings of our media and corrupt government.

  69. My Name on August 14, 2011 at 6:42 am

    oh and for the Duchess and every other feminist on here….you need to wake up and realize that the feminist movementa is just another tool like racism, religion, etc. etc. used to disrupt the natural laws of man, woman, and child. you say the skeeters of the world eventually become Gloria Steinem and you couldn't be more right. you and many of your fellow Skeeters are the same as Gloria Steinem in so many blindingly obvious ways that it must be painful to live behind such lies as feminism. aren't you tired Duchess? don't you get tired of needing such a lie?

  70. My Name on August 14, 2011 at 6:42 am

    oh and for the Duchess and every other feminist on here….you need to wake up and realize that the feminist movementa is just another tool like racism, religion, etc. etc. used to disrupt the natural laws of man, woman, and child. you say the skeeters of the world eventually become Gloria Steinem and you couldn't be more right. you and many of your fellow Skeeters are the same as Gloria Steinem in so many blindingly obvious ways that it must be painful to live behind such lies as feminism. aren't you tired Duchess? don't you get tired of needing such a lie?

  71. My Name on August 14, 2011 at 6:42 am

    oh and for the Duchess and every other feminist on here….you need to wake up and realize that the feminist movementa is just another tool like racism, religion, etc. etc. used to disrupt the natural laws of man, woman, and child. you say the skeeters of the world eventually become Gloria Steinem and you couldn't be more right. you and many of your fellow Skeeters are the same as Gloria Steinem in so many blindingly obvious ways that it must be painful to live behind such lies as feminism. aren't you tired Duchess? don't you get tired of needing such a lie?

  72. My Name on August 14, 2011 at 6:42 am

    oh and for the Duchess and every other feminist on here….you need to wake up and realize that the feminist movementa is just another tool like racism, religion, etc. etc. used to disrupt the natural laws of man, woman, and child. you say the skeeters of the world eventually become Gloria Steinem and you couldn't be more right. you and many of your fellow Skeeters are the same as Gloria Steinem in so many blindingly obvious ways that it must be painful to live behind such lies as feminism. aren't you tired Duchess? don't you get tired of needing such a lie?

  73. Liz on August 14, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I don't believe white women will ever understand the humiliaton black women endured working in their homes and being treated as dirt. I know many older black women who worked as maids and I always hear two things. She never believes I am tired, with her there is always more to be done. She always believe I steal and she marks everything. Also, many black women had to defend themselves constantly against the white man who thought they could get sex on the side. I hope black women continue to educate themselves so they never have to go back to that life and I am concerned about the Hispanic women who have taken their place. In my opinion because of slavery and the period in history where the only work avaiable for most black women was as the help, there can never be sisterhood between black and white women.

  74. Liz on August 14, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I don't believe white women will ever understand the humiliaton black women endured working in their homes and being treated as dirt. I know many older black women who worked as maids and I always hear two things. She never believes I am tired, with her there is always more to be done. She always believe I steal and she marks everything. Also, many black women had to defend themselves constantly against the white man who thought they could get sex on the side. I hope black women continue to educate themselves so they never have to go back to that life and I am concerned about the Hispanic women who have taken their place. In my opinion because of slavery and the period in history where the only work avaiable for most black women was as the help, there can never be sisterhood between black and white women.

  75. Liz on August 14, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I don't believe white women will ever understand the humiliaton black women endured working in their homes and being treated as dirt. I know many older black women who worked as maids and I always hear two things. She never believes I am tired, with her there is always more to be done. She always believe I steal and she marks everything. Also, many black women had to defend themselves constantly against the white man who thought they could get sex on the side. I hope black women continue to educate themselves so they never have to go back to that life and I am concerned about the Hispanic women who have taken their place. In my opinion because of slavery and the period in history where the only work avaiable for most black women was as the help, there can never be sisterhood between black and white women.

  76. Liz on August 14, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I don't believe white women will ever understand the humiliaton black women endured working in their homes and being treated as dirt. I know many older black women who worked as maids and I always hear two things. She never believes I am tired, with her there is always more to be done. She always believe I steal and she marks everything. Also, many black women had to defend themselves constantly against the white man who thought they could get sex on the side. I hope black women continue to educate themselves so they never have to go back to that life and I am concerned about the Hispanic women who have taken their place. In my opinion because of slavery and the period in history where the only work avaiable for most black women was as the help, there can never be sisterhood between black and white women.

  77. Alonzo on August 14, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Dr. Harris,

    Try reading Telling Memories Among Southern Women,by Susan Tucker. The book is non-fiction, and actually has the memoirs of both black and white women. Please follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/Telling-Memories-Among-Sout…. I was able to secure a copy w/in 3 days at a B & N retail store.

  78. Alonzo on August 14, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Dr. Harris,

    Try reading Telling Memories Among Southern Women,by Susan Tucker. The book is non-fiction, and actually has the memoirs of both black and white women. Please follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/Telling-Memories-Among-Sout…. I was able to secure a copy w/in 3 days at a B & N retail store.

  79. Alonzo on August 14, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Dr. Harris,

    Try reading Telling Memories Among Southern Women,by Susan Tucker. The book is non-fiction, and actually has the memoirs of both black and white women. Please follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/Telling-Memories-Among-Sout…. I was able to secure a copy w/in 3 days at a B & N retail store.

  80. Alonzo on August 14, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Dr. Harris,

    Try reading Telling Memories Among Southern Women,by Susan Tucker. The book is non-fiction, and actually has the memoirs of both black and white women. Please follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/Telling-Memories-Among-Sout…. I was able to secure a copy w/in 3 days at a B & N retail store.

  81. Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Dr. Harris,

    Thank you for your excellent article. If one good thing happens because of this, yet another unfortunate "Outsider insight into black life," in any and all its forms, the "good" will be in calling attention to the ignorance, and inability to truly "see" and comprehend the stories and lives of those who can only be seen as "the other." As one who has tried to offer more of our story, as blacks and females, for more than two decades, the futility of it is wearing.

  82. Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Dr. Harris,

    Thank you for your excellent article. If one good thing happens because of this, yet another unfortunate "Outsider insight into black life," in any and all its forms, the "good" will be in calling attention to the ignorance, and inability to truly "see" and comprehend the stories and lives of those who can only be seen as "the other." As one who has tried to offer more of our story, as blacks and females, for more than two decades, the futility of it is wearing.

  83. Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Dr. Harris,

    Thank you for your excellent article. If one good thing happens because of this, yet another unfortunate "Outsider insight into black life," in any and all its forms, the "good" will be in calling attention to the ignorance, and inability to truly "see" and comprehend the stories and lives of those who can only be seen as "the other." As one who has tried to offer more of our story, as blacks and females, for more than two decades, the futility of it is wearing.

  84. Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Dr. Harris,

    Thank you for your excellent article. If one good thing happens because of this, yet another unfortunate "Outsider insight into black life," in any and all its forms, the "good" will be in calling attention to the ignorance, and inability to truly "see" and comprehend the stories and lives of those who can only be seen as "the other." As one who has tried to offer more of our story, as blacks and females, for more than two decades, the futility of it is wearing.

  85. Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    2. If we read the same book, 2/3 of the narrative was told from the point of view of black maids, albeit fictional ones.
    I apologize for not being able to post this reply with the proper name, above. This is the main objection that I,and many have of the book. The point of view, supposedly that of the black maid,is not that of a black maid, it is the interpretation of the white character on what she thinks the maid is and thinks.

    At age 16 I said to myself "every story I read about my people we are barefoot, pregnant,in the field, I never read about people like I know. I was not disparaging my people who were poor or rural. People do like to read about their own circumstances, and stories, and characters with whom they can identify. What I wanted was recognition that Negroes(yes) have diverse experiences. I said, "There are 400 girls on this campus (Bennett College) and we all wear shoes and speak English." I've written from my experience, only to be ignored, because the system wants barefoot, pregnant, in the field or ghetto. It soothes them.

    • Paula Behnken on August 15, 2011 at 4:03 am

      Gwendolyn,
      I understand what you're saying. This book is a novel, of course, and if you don't think it's realistic, then I guess you just don't like the book. But. I bet if you read any stack of novels taken off any library shelf, that revolved around any group of people — maybe pirates or cowboys or doctors or teachers or soldiers or teenagers — you would find authors who succeeded and those who failed at portraying their characters realistically. That's a mark of the skill or lack of skill of the writer. That's all it is. I don't think we need to extrapolate on that and blame an entire race, or age group, or any demographic on the failure of a single writer to do what s/he said she set out to do. So, don't buy the book or watch the movie! If you want accuracy, you have to read non-fiction.
      Like you, I found the dialect pretty jarring, too, but also found beauty, joy, a few laughs, a few tears and an overview of history unknown to many in the country, all of which made for a good read. If anything, I think Stockett's characters were well rounded and anything but stereotypical, which I imagine was her intention. Everyone in the book has strengths and weakness. There are no good guys or bad guys, just a whole bunch of people — mostly women — trying to enforce or overcome restraints put on them by a society that no longer exists, caught in a web of hate, blame, anger and fear. In many ways, it's a tragic tale because everyone suffers. At the end of the book, there's a hint of hope that change was in the air, not only for the main characters but for the country as a whole. And, in early 1964, it was! The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was right around the corner.

      • Charlotte Denise Aye on August 15, 2011 at 8:04 am

        Wow! I will have to read the book for sure now to develop my own assessment. Thanks for sharing.

      • Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 23, 2011 at 6:21 am

        As I try to say in my own essay at The Feminist Wire and in responses at "Reply," is, I view the word holistically. I accept the validity of everyone's experience.This is real, and natural. My concern, and complaint is,I think is similar to all who question "The Help." It is the paucity of variety that those who control access to information exert, and the subsequent nearly single-line information that readers-viewers-listeners receive.

        This is nothing new in human history. The rulers have always ruled. What is different, is the ability to broadcast to billions of people a single view, that, then determines their perceptions and actions in the world.

        If someone does not or does like something,there is a reason, in the mind and experience for the disposition.

        What we, as a society, are offered is, I assert, a form of manipulation,brain-washing, and,in the vernacular, "dumbing-down. When my niece called from NYC, and her first words were, "It was #one this weekend," she did not need to say "The Help."

        What I, and Dr. Harris, and all who are intellectually, and emotionally annoyed with is the single story with minor variations on the same theme–servants are black women, who have great emotional empathy for those who employ them. If this were so we would never have had the workers' union drive–that is now being destroyed.

        The average book reader and film viewer may not be aware of the subtle lessons that are imprinted in the brain by the experience of reading-seeing-hearing. I am.

  86. Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    2. If we read the same book, 2/3 of the narrative was told from the point of view of black maids, albeit fictional ones.
    I apologize for not being able to post this reply with the proper name, above. This is the main objection that I,and many have of the book. The point of view, supposedly that of the black maid,is not that of a black maid, it is the interpretation of the white character on what she thinks the maid is and thinks.

    At age 16 I said to myself "every story I read about my people we are barefoot, pregnant,in the field, I never read about people like I know. I was not disparaging my people who were poor or rural. People do like to read about their own circumstances, and stories, and characters with whom they can identify. What I wanted was recognition that Negroes(yes) have diverse experiences. I said, "There are 400 girls on this campus (Bennett College) and we all wear shoes and speak English." I've written from my experience, only to be ignored, because the system wants barefoot, pregnant, in the field or ghetto. It soothes them.

    • Paula Behnken on August 15, 2011 at 4:03 am

      Gwendolyn,
      I understand what you're saying. This book is a novel, of course, and if you don't think it's realistic, then I guess you just don't like the book. But. I bet if you read any stack of novels taken off any library shelf, that revolved around any group of people — maybe pirates or cowboys or doctors or teachers or soldiers or teenagers — you would find authors who succeeded and those who failed at portraying their characters realistically. That's a mark of the skill or lack of skill of the writer. That's all it is. I don't think we need to extrapolate on that and blame an entire race, or age group, or any demographic on the failure of a single writer to do what s/he said she set out to do. So, don't buy the book or watch the movie! If you want accuracy, you have to read non-fiction.
      Like you, I found the dialect pretty jarring, too, but also found beauty, joy, a few laughs, a few tears and an overview of history unknown to many in the country, all of which made for a good read. If anything, I think Stockett's characters were well rounded and anything but stereotypical, which I imagine was her intention. Everyone in the book has strengths and weakness. There are no good guys or bad guys, just a whole bunch of people — mostly women — trying to enforce or overcome restraints put on them by a society that no longer exists, caught in a web of hate, blame, anger and fear. In many ways, it's a tragic tale because everyone suffers. At the end of the book, there's a hint of hope that change was in the air, not only for the main characters but for the country as a whole. And, in early 1964, it was! The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was right around the corner.

      • Charlotte Denise Aye on August 15, 2011 at 8:04 am

        Wow! I will have to read the book for sure now to develop my own assessment. Thanks for sharing.

      • Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 23, 2011 at 6:21 am

        As I try to say in my own essay at The Feminist Wire and in responses at "Reply," is, I view the word holistically. I accept the validity of everyone's experience.This is real, and natural. My concern, and complaint is,I think is similar to all who question "The Help." It is the paucity of variety that those who control access to information exert, and the subsequent nearly single-line information that readers-viewers-listeners receive.

        This is nothing new in human history. The rulers have always ruled. What is different, is the ability to broadcast to billions of people a single view, that, then determines their perceptions and actions in the world.

        If someone does not or does like something,there is a reason, in the mind and experience for the disposition.

        What we, as a society, are offered is, I assert, a form of manipulation,brain-washing, and,in the vernacular, "dumbing-down. When my niece called from NYC, and her first words were, "It was #one this weekend," she did not need to say "The Help."

        What I, and Dr. Harris, and all who are intellectually, and emotionally annoyed with is the single story with minor variations on the same theme–servants are black women, who have great emotional empathy for those who employ them. If this were so we would never have had the workers' union drive–that is now being destroyed.

        The average book reader and film viewer may not be aware of the subtle lessons that are imprinted in the brain by the experience of reading-seeing-hearing. I am.

  87. Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    2. If we read the same book, 2/3 of the narrative was told from the point of view of black maids, albeit fictional ones.
    I apologize for not being able to post this reply with the proper name, above. This is the main objection that I,and many have of the book. The point of view, supposedly that of the black maid,is not that of a black maid, it is the interpretation of the white character on what she thinks the maid is and thinks.

    At age 16 I said to myself "every story I read about my people we are barefoot, pregnant,in the field, I never read about people like I know. I was not disparaging my people who were poor or rural. People do like to read about their own circumstances, and stories, and characters with whom they can identify. What I wanted was recognition that Negroes(yes) have diverse experiences. I said, "There are 400 girls on this campus (Bennett College) and we all wear shoes and speak English." I've written from my experience, only to be ignored, because the system wants barefoot, pregnant, in the field or ghetto. It soothes them.

    • Paula Behnken on August 15, 2011 at 4:03 am

      Gwendolyn,
      I understand what you're saying. This book is a novel, of course, and if you don't think it's realistic, then I guess you just don't like the book. But. I bet if you read any stack of novels taken off any library shelf, that revolved around any group of people — maybe pirates or cowboys or doctors or teachers or soldiers or teenagers — you would find authors who succeeded and those who failed at portraying their characters realistically. That's a mark of the skill or lack of skill of the writer. That's all it is. I don't think we need to extrapolate on that and blame an entire race, or age group, or any demographic on the failure of a single writer to do what s/he said she set out to do. So, don't buy the book or watch the movie! If you want accuracy, you have to read non-fiction.
      Like you, I found the dialect pretty jarring, too, but also found beauty, joy, a few laughs, a few tears and an overview of history unknown to many in the country, all of which made for a good read. If anything, I think Stockett's characters were well rounded and anything but stereotypical, which I imagine was her intention. Everyone in the book has strengths and weakness. There are no good guys or bad guys, just a whole bunch of people — mostly women — trying to enforce or overcome restraints put on them by a society that no longer exists, caught in a web of hate, blame, anger and fear. In many ways, it's a tragic tale because everyone suffers. At the end of the book, there's a hint of hope that change was in the air, not only for the main characters but for the country as a whole. And, in early 1964, it was! The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was right around the corner.

      • Charlotte Denise Aye on August 15, 2011 at 8:04 am

        Wow! I will have to read the book for sure now to develop my own assessment. Thanks for sharing.

      • Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 23, 2011 at 6:21 am

        As I try to say in my own essay at The Feminist Wire and in responses at "Reply," is, I view the word holistically. I accept the validity of everyone's experience.This is real, and natural. My concern, and complaint is,I think is similar to all who question "The Help." It is the paucity of variety that those who control access to information exert, and the subsequent nearly single-line information that readers-viewers-listeners receive.

        This is nothing new in human history. The rulers have always ruled. What is different, is the ability to broadcast to billions of people a single view, that, then determines their perceptions and actions in the world.

        If someone does not or does like something,there is a reason, in the mind and experience for the disposition.

        What we, as a society, are offered is, I assert, a form of manipulation,brain-washing, and,in the vernacular, "dumbing-down. When my niece called from NYC, and her first words were, "It was #one this weekend," she did not need to say "The Help."

        What I, and Dr. Harris, and all who are intellectually, and emotionally annoyed with is the single story with minor variations on the same theme–servants are black women, who have great emotional empathy for those who employ them. If this were so we would never have had the workers' union drive–that is now being destroyed.

        The average book reader and film viewer may not be aware of the subtle lessons that are imprinted in the brain by the experience of reading-seeing-hearing. I am.

  88. Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    2. If we read the same book, 2/3 of the narrative was told from the point of view of black maids, albeit fictional ones.
    I apologize for not being able to post this reply with the proper name, above. This is the main objection that I,and many have of the book. The point of view, supposedly that of the black maid,is not that of a black maid, it is the interpretation of the white character on what she thinks the maid is and thinks.

    At age 16 I said to myself "every story I read about my people we are barefoot, pregnant,in the field, I never read about people like I know. I was not disparaging my people who were poor or rural. People do like to read about their own circumstances, and stories, and characters with whom they can identify. What I wanted was recognition that Negroes(yes) have diverse experiences. I said, "There are 400 girls on this campus (Bennett College) and we all wear shoes and speak English." I've written from my experience, only to be ignored, because the system wants barefoot, pregnant, in the field or ghetto. It soothes them.

    • Paula Behnken on August 15, 2011 at 4:03 am

      Gwendolyn,
      I understand what you're saying. This book is a novel, of course, and if you don't think it's realistic, then I guess you just don't like the book. But. I bet if you read any stack of novels taken off any library shelf, that revolved around any group of people — maybe pirates or cowboys or doctors or teachers or soldiers or teenagers — you would find authors who succeeded and those who failed at portraying their characters realistically. That's a mark of the skill or lack of skill of the writer. That's all it is. I don't think we need to extrapolate on that and blame an entire race, or age group, or any demographic on the failure of a single writer to do what s/he said she set out to do. So, don't buy the book or watch the movie! If you want accuracy, you have to read non-fiction.
      Like you, I found the dialect pretty jarring, too, but also found beauty, joy, a few laughs, a few tears and an overview of history unknown to many in the country, all of which made for a good read. If anything, I think Stockett's characters were well rounded and anything but stereotypical, which I imagine was her intention. Everyone in the book has strengths and weakness. There are no good guys or bad guys, just a whole bunch of people — mostly women — trying to enforce or overcome restraints put on them by a society that no longer exists, caught in a web of hate, blame, anger and fear. In many ways, it's a tragic tale because everyone suffers. At the end of the book, there's a hint of hope that change was in the air, not only for the main characters but for the country as a whole. And, in early 1964, it was! The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was right around the corner.

      • Charlotte Denise Aye on August 15, 2011 at 8:04 am

        Wow! I will have to read the book for sure now to develop my own assessment. Thanks for sharing.

      • Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 23, 2011 at 6:21 am

        As I try to say in my own essay at The Feminist Wire and in responses at "Reply," is, I view the word holistically. I accept the validity of everyone's experience.This is real, and natural. My concern, and complaint is,I think is similar to all who question "The Help." It is the paucity of variety that those who control access to information exert, and the subsequent nearly single-line information that readers-viewers-listeners receive.

        This is nothing new in human history. The rulers have always ruled. What is different, is the ability to broadcast to billions of people a single view, that, then determines their perceptions and actions in the world.

        If someone does not or does like something,there is a reason, in the mind and experience for the disposition.

        What we, as a society, are offered is, I assert, a form of manipulation,brain-washing, and,in the vernacular, "dumbing-down. When my niece called from NYC, and her first words were, "It was #one this weekend," she did not need to say "The Help."

        What I, and Dr. Harris, and all who are intellectually, and emotionally annoyed with is the single story with minor variations on the same theme–servants are black women, who have great emotional empathy for those who employ them. If this were so we would never have had the workers' union drive–that is now being destroyed.

        The average book reader and film viewer may not be aware of the subtle lessons that are imprinted in the brain by the experience of reading-seeing-hearing. I am.

  89. Derrill Guidry on August 15, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Thank you Dr. Harris! As an English lit major I tend to read things a little differently than many in my close circles. As soon as I started reading the book, I knew that it was about the little white lady with a cause to pursue. The "Help" were characters to support the story of the protagonist…

    …in short, what YOU said…

    I just am saddened at the how those of us with less than popular opinions about the book and movie are criticized simply for sharing a very relevant perspective.

    Thank you again for your excellent article.

  90. Derrill Guidry on August 15, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Thank you Dr. Harris! As an English lit major I tend to read things a little differently than many in my close circles. As soon as I started reading the book, I knew that it was about the little white lady with a cause to pursue. The "Help" were characters to support the story of the protagonist…

    …in short, what YOU said…

    I just am saddened at the how those of us with less than popular opinions about the book and movie are criticized simply for sharing a very relevant perspective.

    Thank you again for your excellent article.

  91. Derrill Guidry on August 15, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Thank you Dr. Harris! As an English lit major I tend to read things a little differently than many in my close circles. As soon as I started reading the book, I knew that it was about the little white lady with a cause to pursue. The "Help" were characters to support the story of the protagonist…

    …in short, what YOU said…

    I just am saddened at the how those of us with less than popular opinions about the book and movie are criticized simply for sharing a very relevant perspective.

    Thank you again for your excellent article.

  92. Derrill Guidry on August 15, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Thank you Dr. Harris! As an English lit major I tend to read things a little differently than many in my close circles. As soon as I started reading the book, I knew that it was about the little white lady with a cause to pursue. The "Help" were characters to support the story of the protagonist…

    …in short, what YOU said…

    I just am saddened at the how those of us with less than popular opinions about the book and movie are criticized simply for sharing a very relevant perspective.

    Thank you again for your excellent article.

  93. Patrick Edmondson on August 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

    You are honest to start saying, "I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are. "
    Were you raised in Jim Crow South? If not, please sit down. It is a novel, not a documentary, and it gives a sense of the time that is real for all who lived it. The real racists hid behind Christianity and ruled by social and economic terrorism of both races to maintain the status quo of power for a Tea Party like elite.

    • Duchess Harris on August 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

      I am a descendant of the enslaved Africans owned by Alexander Spotswood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Spotswood
      Yes I am honest.
      My ancestry is why America is racially problematic for me.
      I will remain standing!

      • Henry Wilson on August 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

        "Alexander Spotswood (c. 1676 – 6 June 1740) was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army and a noted Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Alexander Spotswood was born in the Colony of Tangier, Morocco, Africa, about 1676. . . "

        Long time to be nursing hate.

    • Layogenic on August 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for defining real racism for us! Won't make that mistake again!

    • Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 23, 2011 at 6:29 am

      As I wrote in response to another reader, because of the lack of comprehensive education in "the common schools"/grades kgn-12 most people are not aware of the influences on development, thought and actions. "Birth of a Nation" was, supposedly, a fictive movie, entertainment. Not really–it was a film built from hate and it influenced the US of A until today. Do not minimize the power of anything on the lives of individuals and society. A good exposure to social psychology, and comprehensive history in the common schools–even a year– could alter the trajectory of this culture. I dream of a really comprehensive education that opens the door to real thinking among youth.

  94. Patrick Edmondson on August 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

    You are honest to start saying, "I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are. "
    Were you raised in Jim Crow South? If not, please sit down. It is a novel, not a documentary, and it gives a sense of the time that is real for all who lived it. The real racists hid behind Christianity and ruled by social and economic terrorism of both races to maintain the status quo of power for a Tea Party like elite.

    • Duchess Harris on August 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

      I am a descendant of the enslaved Africans owned by Alexander Spotswood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Spotswood
      Yes I am honest.
      My ancestry is why America is racially problematic for me.
      I will remain standing!

      • Henry Wilson on August 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

        "Alexander Spotswood (c. 1676 – 6 June 1740) was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army and a noted Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Alexander Spotswood was born in the Colony of Tangier, Morocco, Africa, about 1676. . . "

        Long time to be nursing hate.

    • Layogenic on August 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for defining real racism for us! Won't make that mistake again!

    • Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 23, 2011 at 6:29 am

      As I wrote in response to another reader, because of the lack of comprehensive education in "the common schools"/grades kgn-12 most people are not aware of the influences on development, thought and actions. "Birth of a Nation" was, supposedly, a fictive movie, entertainment. Not really–it was a film built from hate and it influenced the US of A until today. Do not minimize the power of anything on the lives of individuals and society. A good exposure to social psychology, and comprehensive history in the common schools–even a year– could alter the trajectory of this culture. I dream of a really comprehensive education that opens the door to real thinking among youth.

  95. Patrick Edmondson on August 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

    You are honest to start saying, "I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are. "
    Were you raised in Jim Crow South? If not, please sit down. It is a novel, not a documentary, and it gives a sense of the time that is real for all who lived it. The real racists hid behind Christianity and ruled by social and economic terrorism of both races to maintain the status quo of power for a Tea Party like elite.

    • Duchess Harris on August 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

      I am a descendant of the enslaved Africans owned by Alexander Spotswood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Spotswood
      Yes I am honest.
      My ancestry is why America is racially problematic for me.
      I will remain standing!

      • Henry Wilson on August 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

        "Alexander Spotswood (c. 1676 – 6 June 1740) was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army and a noted Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Alexander Spotswood was born in the Colony of Tangier, Morocco, Africa, about 1676. . . "

        Long time to be nursing hate.

    • Layogenic on August 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for defining real racism for us! Won't make that mistake again!

    • Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 23, 2011 at 6:29 am

      As I wrote in response to another reader, because of the lack of comprehensive education in "the common schools"/grades kgn-12 most people are not aware of the influences on development, thought and actions. "Birth of a Nation" was, supposedly, a fictive movie, entertainment. Not really–it was a film built from hate and it influenced the US of A until today. Do not minimize the power of anything on the lives of individuals and society. A good exposure to social psychology, and comprehensive history in the common schools–even a year– could alter the trajectory of this culture. I dream of a really comprehensive education that opens the door to real thinking among youth.

  96. Patrick Edmondson on August 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

    You are honest to start saying, "I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are. "
    Were you raised in Jim Crow South? If not, please sit down. It is a novel, not a documentary, and it gives a sense of the time that is real for all who lived it. The real racists hid behind Christianity and ruled by social and economic terrorism of both races to maintain the status quo of power for a Tea Party like elite.

    • Duchess Harris on August 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

      I am a descendant of the enslaved Africans owned by Alexander Spotswood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Spotswood
      Yes I am honest.
      My ancestry is why America is racially problematic for me.
      I will remain standing!

      • Henry Wilson on August 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

        "Alexander Spotswood (c. 1676 – 6 June 1740) was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army and a noted Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Alexander Spotswood was born in the Colony of Tangier, Morocco, Africa, about 1676. . . "

        Long time to be nursing hate.

    • Layogenic on August 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for defining real racism for us! Won't make that mistake again!

    • Gwendoline Y. Fortun on August 23, 2011 at 6:29 am

      As I wrote in response to another reader, because of the lack of comprehensive education in "the common schools"/grades kgn-12 most people are not aware of the influences on development, thought and actions. "Birth of a Nation" was, supposedly, a fictive movie, entertainment. Not really–it was a film built from hate and it influenced the US of A until today. Do not minimize the power of anything on the lives of individuals and society. A good exposure to social psychology, and comprehensive history in the common schools–even a year– could alter the trajectory of this culture. I dream of a really comprehensive education that opens the door to real thinking among youth.

  97. DMK on August 15, 2011 at 3:35 am

    It's fiction!… Can't we just enjoy it for the good piece of writing that it is?

    • Miss Pam on August 16, 2011 at 4:45 am

      Sure, it's a good piece of fiction. The problem is that people often think that fiction is an accurate depliction of who black women are. This book/movie is just another representation of that. There is no way Stockett knows what black women like my great grandmother went through in the 1960's. She just made it up in her head. And yes, I read the book. It was a good piece of fiction. Nothing real about it.

  98. DMK on August 15, 2011 at 3:35 am

    It's fiction!… Can't we just enjoy it for the good piece of writing that it is?

    • Miss Pam on August 16, 2011 at 4:45 am

      Sure, it's a good piece of fiction. The problem is that people often think that fiction is an accurate depliction of who black women are. This book/movie is just another representation of that. There is no way Stockett knows what black women like my great grandmother went through in the 1960's. She just made it up in her head. And yes, I read the book. It was a good piece of fiction. Nothing real about it.

  99. DMK on August 15, 2011 at 3:35 am

    It's fiction!… Can't we just enjoy it for the good piece of writing that it is?

    • Miss Pam on August 16, 2011 at 4:45 am

      Sure, it's a good piece of fiction. The problem is that people often think that fiction is an accurate depliction of who black women are. This book/movie is just another representation of that. There is no way Stockett knows what black women like my great grandmother went through in the 1960's. She just made it up in her head. And yes, I read the book. It was a good piece of fiction. Nothing real about it.

  100. DMK on August 15, 2011 at 3:35 am

    It's fiction!… Can't we just enjoy it for the good piece of writing that it is?

    • Miss Pam on August 16, 2011 at 4:45 am

      Sure, it's a good piece of fiction. The problem is that people often think that fiction is an accurate depliction of who black women are. This book/movie is just another representation of that. There is no way Stockett knows what black women like my great grandmother went through in the 1960's. She just made it up in her head. And yes, I read the book. It was a good piece of fiction. Nothing real about it.

  101. [...] from Kennedy to Clinton and Racially Writing the Republic. This post originally appeared on FeministWire. addthis_url = [...]

  102. [...] from Kennedy to Clinton and Racially Writing the Republic. This post originally appeared on FeministWire. addthis_url = [...]

  103. [...] from Kennedy to Clinton and Racially Writing the Republic. This post originally appeared on FeministWire. addthis_url = [...]

  104. [...] from Kennedy to Clinton and Racially Writing the Republic. This post originally appeared on FeministWire. addthis_url = [...]

  105. [...] to make of the book and movie. Some African-American scholars state that the movie is awful and Kathryn is not their sister and they are not their help. Other articles asked the question: Is The Help a condescending movies for white liberals? which [...]

  106. [...] to make of the book and movie. Some African-American scholars state that the movie is awful and Kathryn is not their sister and they are not their help. Other articles asked the question: Is The Help a condescending movies for white liberals? which [...]

  107. [...] to make of the book and movie. Some African-American scholars state that the movie is awful and Kathryn is not their sister and they are not their help. Other articles asked the question: Is The Help a condescending movies for white liberals? which [...]

  108. [...] to make of the book and movie. Some African-American scholars state that the movie is awful and Kathryn is not their sister and they are not their help. Other articles asked the question: Is The Help a condescending movies for white liberals? which [...]

  109. Paula Behnken on August 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Layogenic,
    I'd like to respond to your comments but am not sure I understand all of them. Maybe I'm just dense. Until I try a little harder, I think I should clarify why I spoke from my own experience and history. It was not to one-up anyone in an "oppression Olympics," if that's what you thought, but to point out why it's not a productive in a discussion to speak in broad generalities, especially when you're talking about real people, especially women, black or white. Nobody completely fits any stereotype. Real people are rarely so predictable that you can say — without hesitation — why they act the way they do. Somebody can always come back at you with an exception. As for every book being iconic, I'd say only the best ones attract enough readers to actually stand for anything that counts. I don't consider every mystery or romance or science fiction tale or tell-all memoir as iconic. But those that inspire discussion have the potential to affect people's lives in some way. It's too soon to say whether this book fits that category or not, but a lot of people have read it.

  110. Paula Behnken on August 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Layogenic,
    I'd like to respond to your comments but am not sure I understand all of them. Maybe I'm just dense. Until I try a little harder, I think I should clarify why I spoke from my own experience and history. It was not to one-up anyone in an "oppression Olympics," if that's what you thought, but to point out why it's not a productive in a discussion to speak in broad generalities, especially when you're talking about real people, especially women, black or white. Nobody completely fits any stereotype. Real people are rarely so predictable that you can say — without hesitation — why they act the way they do. Somebody can always come back at you with an exception. As for every book being iconic, I'd say only the best ones attract enough readers to actually stand for anything that counts. I don't consider every mystery or romance or science fiction tale or tell-all memoir as iconic. But those that inspire discussion have the potential to affect people's lives in some way. It's too soon to say whether this book fits that category or not, but a lot of people have read it.

  111. Paula Behnken on August 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Layogenic,
    I'd like to respond to your comments but am not sure I understand all of them. Maybe I'm just dense. Until I try a little harder, I think I should clarify why I spoke from my own experience and history. It was not to one-up anyone in an "oppression Olympics," if that's what you thought, but to point out why it's not a productive in a discussion to speak in broad generalities, especially when you're talking about real people, especially women, black or white. Nobody completely fits any stereotype. Real people are rarely so predictable that you can say — without hesitation — why they act the way they do. Somebody can always come back at you with an exception. As for every book being iconic, I'd say only the best ones attract enough readers to actually stand for anything that counts. I don't consider every mystery or romance or science fiction tale or tell-all memoir as iconic. But those that inspire discussion have the potential to affect people's lives in some way. It's too soon to say whether this book fits that category or not, but a lot of people have read it.

  112. Paula Behnken on August 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Layogenic,
    I'd like to respond to your comments but am not sure I understand all of them. Maybe I'm just dense. Until I try a little harder, I think I should clarify why I spoke from my own experience and history. It was not to one-up anyone in an "oppression Olympics," if that's what you thought, but to point out why it's not a productive in a discussion to speak in broad generalities, especially when you're talking about real people, especially women, black or white. Nobody completely fits any stereotype. Real people are rarely so predictable that you can say — without hesitation — why they act the way they do. Somebody can always come back at you with an exception. As for every book being iconic, I'd say only the best ones attract enough readers to actually stand for anything that counts. I don't consider every mystery or romance or science fiction tale or tell-all memoir as iconic. But those that inspire discussion have the potential to affect people's lives in some way. It's too soon to say whether this book fits that category or not, but a lot of people have read it.

  113. Linda K. Brown on August 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I guess some people area always trying to find the glass half full. The author was criticized for what she wasn't, and her personal growth and courage were dismissed outright. The most important change didn't come during confrontation of the streets but in the hearts of individuals.

  114. Linda K. Brown on August 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I guess some people area always trying to find the glass half full. The author was criticized for what she wasn't, and her personal growth and courage were dismissed outright. The most important change didn't come during confrontation of the streets but in the hearts of individuals.

  115. Linda K. Brown on August 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I guess some people area always trying to find the glass half full. The author was criticized for what she wasn't, and her personal growth and courage were dismissed outright. The most important change didn't come during confrontation of the streets but in the hearts of individuals.

  116. Linda K. Brown on August 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I guess some people area always trying to find the glass half full. The author was criticized for what she wasn't, and her personal growth and courage were dismissed outright. The most important change didn't come during confrontation of the streets but in the hearts of individuals.

  117. Sharon on August 17, 2011 at 8:28 am

    In creative writing classes, they tell you to know your audience and to write what you know. She wrote Skeeter's story, and for those of us who didn't grow up in the South, it was a painful book and movie. The only "colored people" during of childhood in East San Diego County were Mexicans. The woman leaving the theater in front of me could not stop crying. I'm sorry you're offended by the book and movie, but I think Stockett reached her target audience. The Tea Party is a thin guise for racism. We whites need to remember that it was and *is* still with it.

    • starr G on August 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      you are sooooo right. and i certainly appreciated the movie i did not read the book but the movie certainly was a powful dipiction of america during that era

  118. Sharon on August 17, 2011 at 8:28 am

    In creative writing classes, they tell you to know your audience and to write what you know. She wrote Skeeter's story, and for those of us who didn't grow up in the South, it was a painful book and movie. The only "colored people" during of childhood in East San Diego County were Mexicans. The woman leaving the theater in front of me could not stop crying. I'm sorry you're offended by the book and movie, but I think Stockett reached her target audience. The Tea Party is a thin guise for racism. We whites need to remember that it was and *is* still with it.

    • starr G on August 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      you are sooooo right. and i certainly appreciated the movie i did not read the book but the movie certainly was a powful dipiction of america during that era

  119. Sharon on August 17, 2011 at 8:28 am

    In creative writing classes, they tell you to know your audience and to write what you know. She wrote Skeeter's story, and for those of us who didn't grow up in the South, it was a painful book and movie. The only "colored people" during of childhood in East San Diego County were Mexicans. The woman leaving the theater in front of me could not stop crying. I'm sorry you're offended by the book and movie, but I think Stockett reached her target audience. The Tea Party is a thin guise for racism. We whites need to remember that it was and *is* still with it.

    • starr G on August 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      you are sooooo right. and i certainly appreciated the movie i did not read the book but the movie certainly was a powful dipiction of america during that era

  120. Sharon on August 17, 2011 at 8:28 am

    In creative writing classes, they tell you to know your audience and to write what you know. She wrote Skeeter's story, and for those of us who didn't grow up in the South, it was a painful book and movie. The only "colored people" during of childhood in East San Diego County were Mexicans. The woman leaving the theater in front of me could not stop crying. I'm sorry you're offended by the book and movie, but I think Stockett reached her target audience. The Tea Party is a thin guise for racism. We whites need to remember that it was and *is* still with it.

    • starr G on August 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      you are sooooo right. and i certainly appreciated the movie i did not read the book but the movie certainly was a powful dipiction of america during that era

  121. Charlie Cobb on August 19, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Re: "the real territory remaining uncovered is civil rights literature written by the Black women who experienced it."

    May I suggest: Hands of the Freedom Plow, Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)

  122. Charlie Cobb on August 19, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Re: "the real territory remaining uncovered is civil rights literature written by the Black women who experienced it."

    May I suggest: Hands of the Freedom Plow, Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)

  123. Charlie Cobb on August 19, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Re: "the real territory remaining uncovered is civil rights literature written by the Black women who experienced it."

    May I suggest: Hands of the Freedom Plow, Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)

  124. Charlie Cobb on August 19, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Re: "the real territory remaining uncovered is civil rights literature written by the Black women who experienced it."

    May I suggest: Hands of the Freedom Plow, Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)

  125. [...] Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I’m Not Her Help by Miriam Harris http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/ [...]

  126. [...] Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I’m Not Her Help by Miriam Harris http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/ [...]

  127. [...] Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I’m Not Her Help by Miriam Harris http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/ [...]

  128. [...] Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I’m Not Her Help by Miriam Harris http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/ [...]

  129. [...] Seriously, I won’t watch The Help. Stop asking me about it. [...]

  130. [...] Seriously, I won’t watch The Help. Stop asking me about it. [...]

  131. [...] Seriously, I won’t watch The Help. Stop asking me about it. [...]

  132. [...] Seriously, I won’t watch The Help. Stop asking me about it. [...]

  133. steve hoog on August 23, 2011 at 5:05 am

    It's a shame you didn't see the movie. I haven't read the book, in fact I hadn't heard of the book at all until being dragged to the movie. It seems to me that the book takes a decidedly different tack, in fact the character of Skeeter is quite secondary, certainly to the characters of the maids, and almost to the antagonist social climbers.

    But, begrudging the language? Have you been in public schools lately? Have you been anywhere and listened to people speak? Not just blacks, for that matter. "Me and that cockroach" is comparatively eloquent. Remember the brouhaha over "ebonics" some years back? It's alive and kicking still. Dr Harris, listen. Look. Hear and see. You're missing something. Maybe the book isn't perfect; in fact, if your description is correct, I would agree it has major problems. But depiction of the language is not one of them.
    And, if there hasn't been a non-fiction work truly telling the story of black maids in white southern homes, why not tell it? Someone should. Though quite flawed, this is a start.

    • Layogenic on August 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      "And, if there hasn’t been a non-fiction work truly telling the story of black maids in white southern homes, why not tell it? Someone should. Though quite flawed, this is a start."

      It seems you may have missed quite a lot of the last decade in press. Black women DID and DO tell these stories, but it's women like Stockett who get their stories published large and, of course, optioned. Without even going to far as to include these real voices, these real experiences, and these real pieces in her work.

  134. steve hoog on August 23, 2011 at 5:05 am

    It's a shame you didn't see the movie. I haven't read the book, in fact I hadn't heard of the book at all until being dragged to the movie. It seems to me that the book takes a decidedly different tack, in fact the character of Skeeter is quite secondary, certainly to the characters of the maids, and almost to the antagonist social climbers.

    But, begrudging the language? Have you been in public schools lately? Have you been anywhere and listened to people speak? Not just blacks, for that matter. "Me and that cockroach" is comparatively eloquent. Remember the brouhaha over "ebonics" some years back? It's alive and kicking still. Dr Harris, listen. Look. Hear and see. You're missing something. Maybe the book isn't perfect; in fact, if your description is correct, I would agree it has major problems. But depiction of the language is not one of them.
    And, if there hasn't been a non-fiction work truly telling the story of black maids in white southern homes, why not tell it? Someone should. Though quite flawed, this is a start.

    • Layogenic on August 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      "And, if there hasn’t been a non-fiction work truly telling the story of black maids in white southern homes, why not tell it? Someone should. Though quite flawed, this is a start."

      It seems you may have missed quite a lot of the last decade in press. Black women DID and DO tell these stories, but it's women like Stockett who get their stories published large and, of course, optioned. Without even going to far as to include these real voices, these real experiences, and these real pieces in her work.

  135. steve hoog on August 23, 2011 at 5:05 am

    It's a shame you didn't see the movie. I haven't read the book, in fact I hadn't heard of the book at all until being dragged to the movie. It seems to me that the book takes a decidedly different tack, in fact the character of Skeeter is quite secondary, certainly to the characters of the maids, and almost to the antagonist social climbers.

    But, begrudging the language? Have you been in public schools lately? Have you been anywhere and listened to people speak? Not just blacks, for that matter. "Me and that cockroach" is comparatively eloquent. Remember the brouhaha over "ebonics" some years back? It's alive and kicking still. Dr Harris, listen. Look. Hear and see. You're missing something. Maybe the book isn't perfect; in fact, if your description is correct, I would agree it has major problems. But depiction of the language is not one of them.
    And, if there hasn't been a non-fiction work truly telling the story of black maids in white southern homes, why not tell it? Someone should. Though quite flawed, this is a start.

    • Layogenic on August 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      "And, if there hasn’t been a non-fiction work truly telling the story of black maids in white southern homes, why not tell it? Someone should. Though quite flawed, this is a start."

      It seems you may have missed quite a lot of the last decade in press. Black women DID and DO tell these stories, but it's women like Stockett who get their stories published large and, of course, optioned. Without even going to far as to include these real voices, these real experiences, and these real pieces in her work.

  136. steve hoog on August 23, 2011 at 5:05 am

    It's a shame you didn't see the movie. I haven't read the book, in fact I hadn't heard of the book at all until being dragged to the movie. It seems to me that the book takes a decidedly different tack, in fact the character of Skeeter is quite secondary, certainly to the characters of the maids, and almost to the antagonist social climbers.

    But, begrudging the language? Have you been in public schools lately? Have you been anywhere and listened to people speak? Not just blacks, for that matter. "Me and that cockroach" is comparatively eloquent. Remember the brouhaha over "ebonics" some years back? It's alive and kicking still. Dr Harris, listen. Look. Hear and see. You're missing something. Maybe the book isn't perfect; in fact, if your description is correct, I would agree it has major problems. But depiction of the language is not one of them.
    And, if there hasn't been a non-fiction work truly telling the story of black maids in white southern homes, why not tell it? Someone should. Though quite flawed, this is a start.

    • Layogenic on August 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      "And, if there hasn’t been a non-fiction work truly telling the story of black maids in white southern homes, why not tell it? Someone should. Though quite flawed, this is a start."

      It seems you may have missed quite a lot of the last decade in press. Black women DID and DO tell these stories, but it's women like Stockett who get their stories published large and, of course, optioned. Without even going to far as to include these real voices, these real experiences, and these real pieces in her work.

  137. Movie Review/Rant: The Help « sunshineisland on August 23, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    [...] On one hand you have the reviews of outrage: http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/#…. [...]

  138. Movie Review/Rant: The Help « sunshineisland on August 23, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    [...] On one hand you have the reviews of outrage: http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/#…. [...]

  139. Movie Review/Rant: The Help « sunshineisland on August 23, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    [...] On one hand you have the reviews of outrage: http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/#…. [...]

  140. Movie Review/Rant: The Help « sunshineisland on August 23, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    [...] On one hand you have the reviews of outrage: http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/#…. [...]

  141. the help « An Unlimited Pie on August 25, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    [...] don’t I plan on it? Because women of color from Ida E. Jones to Duchess Harris to AfroLez have written some of the best film criticism (and feminist criticism, and anti-racist [...]

  142. the help « An Unlimited Pie on August 25, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    [...] don’t I plan on it? Because women of color from Ida E. Jones to Duchess Harris to AfroLez have written some of the best film criticism (and feminist criticism, and anti-racist [...]

  143. the help « An Unlimited Pie on August 25, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    [...] don’t I plan on it? Because women of color from Ida E. Jones to Duchess Harris to AfroLez have written some of the best film criticism (and feminist criticism, and anti-racist [...]

  144. the help « An Unlimited Pie on August 25, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    [...] don’t I plan on it? Because women of color from Ida E. Jones to Duchess Harris to AfroLez have written some of the best film criticism (and feminist criticism, and anti-racist [...]

  145. [...] and the clothes were to die for. I’m still not sure about the story, I have heard so many conflicting views. But, I do know that watching it has made me want to read the book, and to find books about [...]

  146. [...] and the clothes were to die for. I’m still not sure about the story, I have heard so many conflicting views. But, I do know that watching it has made me want to read the book, and to find books about [...]

  147. [...] and the clothes were to die for. I’m still not sure about the story, I have heard so many conflicting views. But, I do know that watching it has made me want to read the book, and to find books about [...]

  148. [...] and the clothes were to die for. I’m still not sure about the story, I have heard so many conflicting views. But, I do know that watching it has made me want to read the book, and to find books about [...]

  149. shirley ann thompson on September 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    At age 15 I worked as a mother's helper for a family named Kiernan. They owned a H.J. Carroll Coal and Oil company. I was made to work 24 hrs a day, 7 day's a week for $15 a week. That's about $.09 an hour. I cleaned the house, did laundry, ironing, cooked breakfast and lunch and cared for three children and cleaned up after dinner. I was also asked to sew, set hair and give perms (no tip).
    I did this for two years. The second summer, I asked for a $2 raise. I got my raise but was told that I would have to do extra work. (There wasn't anything extra to do I always did it all.) However, this year I was told I would be paid by check at the end of the season.
    I was then gipped out of a week's pay. I confronted this, but as a child there was nothing I could do.
    I took full charge of a 2-3 year old named Cathy. I fell in love with this child. We were together every day. I never took my eyes off of her as I did my work. At the end of our time together, there was no weaning process.
    I then sat in my high school classes for months– missing her–and I heard she, me. So I called one day to talk to Cathy–I missed her so–. Her father quickly put an end to this–"GET OFF THE PHONE". This was the last I heard.
    You don't have to be black to be treated like trash.
    I also worked for a doctor's wife who asked my to do dishes for four hours one Saturday. Dr. Da' Joseph's wife never paid me at all. I often thought of getting a pair of glasses from him and not paying.
    My work included a Mrs. Daddona of Columbia Boulevard who told me not to use her son's towel. The husband tried to molest me.
    When I worked for my neighbors, they always paid more than the well-to-do.
    The movie hit home. I left with tears in my white-girl eyes.

  150. shirley ann thompson on September 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    At age 15 I worked as a mother's helper for a family named Kiernan. They owned a H.J. Carroll Coal and Oil company. I was made to work 24 hrs a day, 7 day's a week for $15 a week. That's about $.09 an hour. I cleaned the house, did laundry, ironing, cooked breakfast and lunch and cared for three children and cleaned up after dinner. I was also asked to sew, set hair and give perms (no tip).
    I did this for two years. The second summer, I asked for a $2 raise. I got my raise but was told that I would have to do extra work. (There wasn't anything extra to do I always did it all.) However, this year I was told I would be paid by check at the end of the season.
    I was then gipped out of a week's pay. I confronted this, but as a child there was nothing I could do.
    I took full charge of a 2-3 year old named Cathy. I fell in love with this child. We were together every day. I never took my eyes off of her as I did my work. At the end of our time together, there was no weaning process.
    I then sat in my high school classes for months– missing her–and I heard she, me. So I called one day to talk to Cathy–I missed her so–. Her father quickly put an end to this–"GET OFF THE PHONE". This was the last I heard.
    You don't have to be black to be treated like trash.
    I also worked for a doctor's wife who asked my to do dishes for four hours one Saturday. Dr. Da' Joseph's wife never paid me at all. I often thought of getting a pair of glasses from him and not paying.
    My work included a Mrs. Daddona of Columbia Boulevard who told me not to use her son's towel. The husband tried to molest me.
    When I worked for my neighbors, they always paid more than the well-to-do.
    The movie hit home. I left with tears in my white-girl eyes.

  151. shirley ann thompson on September 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    At age 15 I worked as a mother's helper for a family named Kiernan. They owned a H.J. Carroll Coal and Oil company. I was made to work 24 hrs a day, 7 day's a week for $15 a week. That's about $.09 an hour. I cleaned the house, did laundry, ironing, cooked breakfast and lunch and cared for three children and cleaned up after dinner. I was also asked to sew, set hair and give perms (no tip).
    I did this for two years. The second summer, I asked for a $2 raise. I got my raise but was told that I would have to do extra work. (There wasn't anything extra to do I always did it all.) However, this year I was told I would be paid by check at the end of the season.
    I was then gipped out of a week's pay. I confronted this, but as a child there was nothing I could do.
    I took full charge of a 2-3 year old named Cathy. I fell in love with this child. We were together every day. I never took my eyes off of her as I did my work. At the end of our time together, there was no weaning process.
    I then sat in my high school classes for months– missing her–and I heard she, me. So I called one day to talk to Cathy–I missed her so–. Her father quickly put an end to this–"GET OFF THE PHONE". This was the last I heard.
    You don't have to be black to be treated like trash.
    I also worked for a doctor's wife who asked my to do dishes for four hours one Saturday. Dr. Da' Joseph's wife never paid me at all. I often thought of getting a pair of glasses from him and not paying.
    My work included a Mrs. Daddona of Columbia Boulevard who told me not to use her son's towel. The husband tried to molest me.
    When I worked for my neighbors, they always paid more than the well-to-do.
    The movie hit home. I left with tears in my white-girl eyes.

  152. shirley ann thompson on September 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    At age 15 I worked as a mother's helper for a family named Kiernan. They owned a H.J. Carroll Coal and Oil company. I was made to work 24 hrs a day, 7 day's a week for $15 a week. That's about $.09 an hour. I cleaned the house, did laundry, ironing, cooked breakfast and lunch and cared for three children and cleaned up after dinner. I was also asked to sew, set hair and give perms (no tip).
    I did this for two years. The second summer, I asked for a $2 raise. I got my raise but was told that I would have to do extra work. (There wasn't anything extra to do I always did it all.) However, this year I was told I would be paid by check at the end of the season.
    I was then gipped out of a week's pay. I confronted this, but as a child there was nothing I could do.
    I took full charge of a 2-3 year old named Cathy. I fell in love with this child. We were together every day. I never took my eyes off of her as I did my work. At the end of our time together, there was no weaning process.
    I then sat in my high school classes for months– missing her–and I heard she, me. So I called one day to talk to Cathy–I missed her so–. Her father quickly put an end to this–"GET OFF THE PHONE". This was the last I heard.
    You don't have to be black to be treated like trash.
    I also worked for a doctor's wife who asked my to do dishes for four hours one Saturday. Dr. Da' Joseph's wife never paid me at all. I often thought of getting a pair of glasses from him and not paying.
    My work included a Mrs. Daddona of Columbia Boulevard who told me not to use her son's towel. The husband tried to molest me.
    When I worked for my neighbors, they always paid more than the well-to-do.
    The movie hit home. I left with tears in my white-girl eyes.

  153. [...] or publicity, but I’ve been offered so many speaking engagements to discuss the movie since reviewing the novel, that I felt compelled to actually see [...]

  154. [...] or publicity, but I’ve been offered so many speaking engagements to discuss the movie since reviewing the novel, that I felt compelled to actually see [...]

  155. [...] or publicity, but I’ve been offered so many speaking engagements to discuss the movie since reviewing the novel, that I felt compelled to actually see [...]

  156. [...] or publicity, but I’ve been offered so many speaking engagements to discuss the movie since reviewing the novel, that I felt compelled to actually see [...]

  157. [...] The Help premiered earlier this summer, African American feminists bemoanedthe lack of civil rights narratives told by the black women who actually lived through the era. [...]

  158. [...] The Help premiered earlier this summer, African American feminists bemoanedthe lack of civil rights narratives told by the black women who actually lived through the era. [...]

  159. [...] The Help premiered earlier this summer, African American feminists bemoanedthe lack of civil rights narratives told by the black women who actually lived through the era. [...]

  160. [...] The Help premiered earlier this summer, African American feminists bemoanedthe lack of civil rights narratives told by the black women who actually lived through the era. [...]

  161. [...] The Help premiered earlier this summer, African American feminists bemoanedthe lack of civil rights narratives told by the black women who actually lived through the era. [...]

  162. [...] The Help premiered earlier this summer, African American feminists bemoanedthe lack of civil rights narratives told by the black women who actually lived through the era. [...]

  163. [...] The Help premiered earlier this summer, African American feminists bemoanedthe lack of civil rights narratives told by the black women who actually lived through the era. [...]

  164. [...] The Help premiered earlier this summer, African American feminists bemoanedthe lack of civil rights narratives told by the black women who actually lived through the era. [...]

  165. The Help | Digest Movies on September 11, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    [...] be the end of your thoughts on the matter.  Go see it, and then go read articles like this one or this one, that raise concerns about the portrayal of black women and the historical accuracy of this [...]

  166. The Help | Digest Movies on September 11, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    [...] be the end of your thoughts on the matter.  Go see it, and then go read articles like this one or this one, that raise concerns about the portrayal of black women and the historical accuracy of this [...]

  167. The Help | Digest Movies on September 11, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    [...] be the end of your thoughts on the matter.  Go see it, and then go read articles like this one or this one, that raise concerns about the portrayal of black women and the historical accuracy of this [...]

  168. The Help | Digest Movies on September 11, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    [...] be the end of your thoughts on the matter.  Go see it, and then go read articles like this one or this one, that raise concerns about the portrayal of black women and the historical accuracy of this [...]

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Arts & Culture

  • Remembering and Honoring Toni Cade Bambara Sanchez

    Sonia Sanchez: What are we pretending not to know today? The premise as you said, my sister, being that colored people on planet earth really know everything there is to know. And if one is not coming to grips with the knowledge, it must mean that one is either scared or pretending to be stupid.

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    feeling for a lonely brother with no language
    to lament, and you gave me more days, and
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    Grace, Bambara; they could have called you that.

  • Stroller (A Screenplay) Black families and community

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