Here’s What You Won’t See About Domestic Workers on ‘Devious Maids’

Welcome to the not-so-sexy side of domestic work.

By Jamilah King Jun 27, 2013

Lifetime’s new show about Latina domestic workers finally made its debut, and it’s not doing so well. "Devious Maids" drew in two million viewers on Sunday, which is considerably less than other Lifetime dramas like "Army Wives" and "The Client List", shows that each had around 2.8 million inaugural viewers.

But ratings are only half the story. "Devious Maids" is packed with celebrities but has little punch. Its creator is Mark Cherry, the guy who brought us ABC’s long running drama "Desperate Housewives", which made Eva Longoria a household name. Longoria is executive producer of the new show, and its cast includes Ana Ortiz, formerly of ABC’s "Ugly Betty", and Judy Reyes, who’s most known for her role as a nurse on NBC’s "Scrubs."

While "Devious Maids" was originally in development with ABC, the network ultimately passed on it. Critics have panned the show for its reductive portrayal of Latinas. Author Alisa Valdez, who’s worked on developing pilots at the network, wrote a scathing, must-read op-ed at NBC Latino on why the problem of misrepresentation is much bigger than, but certainly not helped by, this one show. 

"It is not wrong to be a maid, or even a Latina maid," Valdez wrote. "But there is something very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be."

But since the show has brought the issue of domestic work to the forefront of our cultural conversation, we may as well take note of the not-so-sexy parts of the job. From the National Domestic Workers Alliance:

  • 70 percent of domestic workers are paid less than $13 an hour.
  • Less than two percent receive retirement of pension benefits from their primary employer.
  • 25 percent of live-in workers had responsibilities that prevented them from getting at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep at night during the week prior to being interviewed.