Housemaid-Madam Relations in Black Households: Imagining Woman-to-Woman Exploitation in Two Zimbabwean Short Stories




domestic work, housemaid, madam, intra-gender, exploitation


Domestic work is, in most cultures of the world, still considered to be the preserve of women. This is the case especially in the conservative patriarchal cultures in Zimbabwe where most maids in black households are still women. I analyse two short stories written by Zimbabwean writers, Julius Chingono’s “Maria’s Interview” and Petina Gappah’s “The Maid from Lalapanzi,” to explore the precarity of housemaids in black households. The madams are presented as having the financial wherewithal to hire maids, while housemaids are uneducated, poor and unmarried women and girls. Housemaids’ roles at their workplaces are depicted as ambiguous. They do the essential house chores yet are treated differently on account of being maids. From this ambiguity, the texts allow the reader to discern the maid’s exploitation epitomised by poor remuneration and general ill-treatment by the madams. In this article, I am interested in how Chingono and Gappah draw the reader’s attention to the many ways in which the relationship between madam and maid is an exemplar of black woman-to-woman exploitation.


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How to Cite

Mangena, Tendai. 2023. “Housemaid-Madam Relations in Black Households: Imagining Woman-to-Woman Exploitation in Two Zimbabwean Short Stories”. Gender Questions 11 (2):16 pages .



Received 2022-12-09
Accepted 2023-04-17
Published 2023-12-01