Monday, June 06, 2011

What’s with NY maids?


Sexual harassment of chambermaids does not only happen in RM9,000 a night penthouse suites in the Big Apple. It happens everywhere.

WHAT’S with maids in New York City’s luxury hotels? Last week, another hotel maid was sexually assaulted. This time by Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar, the former head of one of Egypt’s biggest banks.

The 72-year-old Egyptian allegedly assaulted a 44-year-old maid as she delivered tissues he had requested to his room in a posh Manhattan hotel.

The banker’s arrest came two weeks after International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sex scandal. The 62-year-old Frenchman was accused of trying to rape a 32-year-old chambermaid in a luxurious Manhattan hotel.

Why were the maids sexually assaulted? Are maids downright irresistible? I don’t think so.

As I’m writing this article, I’m home alone with two part-time Indonesian maids cleaning my USJ Subang Jaya house. The two sweaty teenagers are on their knees, scrubbing the floor and I did not feel like doing a Strauss-Kahn on them.

Back to the question: What’s with maids in New York City’s luxury hotels?

Perhaps it is the chambermaids uniform (think French maid’s outfit)? Or perhaps hotel maids in New York City resemble Jennifer Lopez in the romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan.

According to twitterer@ATM2U, yeah they look like J Lo – only 100kg heavier.

Sexual harassment of chambermaids does not only happen in US$3,000 (RM9,000) a night penthouse suites in New York City. It happens everywhere.

A recent article by AP news service revealed the daily danger faced by hotel maids.

“Hotel housekeepers say they often feel a twinge of fear when they slide the keycard, turn the door handle and step into a room to clean it. What will they find?” AP reported.

At a luxury hotel in Toronto, housekeepers especially hated doing “turn-down” service (preparing beds for the night).

Some men would put money on the pillow, ask for sexual favours and tell the women they could take the money after they have left, according to the report.

“Others took a more circuitous route to the same end: they would inquire about a housekeeper’s home country and how many family members they were supporting,” it added.

“Then would come some sympathetic-sounding questions about how much the hotel paid them – followed by an offer of money for sex.”

Coincidentally, when I read about the Egyptian banker, I had just downloaded the May 30 issue of Time magazine on my iPad. The cover story was “Sex. Lies. Arrogance. What Makes Powerful Men Act Like Pigs”.

Now I know why I did not behave so badly with the two maids in my house. I’m not a powerful man.

It seems with power comes confidence. And with confidence comes a sense of sexual entitlement.

“If fame and power make sex more constantly available,” according to a study set to be published in Psychological Science, “it may weaken the mechanisms of self-restraint and erode the layers of socialisation that we impose on teenage boys and hope they eventually internalise.”

In the Time cover story, Nancy Gibbs wrote: “We know that powerful men can be powerfully reckless, particularly when, like DSK (Dominique Strauss-Kahn), they stand at the brink of their grandest achievement.

“They tend to be risk takers, or at least assess risk differently, as do narcissists who come to believe that ordinary rules don’t apply. They are often surrounded by enablers with a personal or political interest in protecting them to the point of covering up their follies, indiscretions and crimes.”

How do you stop powerful men from preying on hotel maids?

Female staff at the hotel where Strauss-Kahn allegedly sexually assaulted a chambermaid are now being allowed to wear trousers instead of skirts.

But that’s like faulting a woman for getting herself sexually assaulted. Plus Strauss-Kahn allegedly sexually attacked his second wife’s goddaughter even though she was wearing jeans.

The solution I favour is providing maids with portable emergency communication devices. If dirty old men try to be funny, just press the “panic button”.