Netflix's Maid Is Proof of How Often Women Are Unfairly Doubted

Netflix's Maid stars Margaret Qualley as a single mother who struggles to make ends meet in the face of abuse and gaslighting.

By Cydney Contreras Oct 08, 2021 7:00 PMTags
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It feels like an exaggeration to say that I can relate to Margaret Qualley's Maid character Alex. I've never known what it's like to be scared of my partner, or to leave my home in the dead of night as my daughter sleeps in the back of the car.

In fact, I don't even have a kid, nor do I have a boyfriend. 

But, after watching all 10 episodes of the Netflix limited series, I can confidently say that I've felt Alex's frustration. The kind that makes you doubt yourself and think, "Am I just being dramatic right now?"

In the premiere episode, Alex seeks help from the social services office so that she can find temporary shelter and support after leaving her abusive boyfriend Sean (Nick Robinson). But, having been a stay at home mom with no proof of income, she's told there's not much the office can do. As Alex puts it, "I need a job to prove that I need day care in order to get a job? What kind of f--kery is that?"

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My first brush with that "f--kery" happened in college. I was 18 and studying political science, because, at that time, I well and truly believed that civil servants were the ones who could enact change. I wasn't yet aware of the bureaucratic process that slows everything down, even in times of urgency.

I commuted to school and bought a student parking pass, which required me to park in the furthest corners of the campus, rather than the ones on site. The closer spots were reserved for staff and professors, and students were only allowed to park there after 6 p.m.


It feels like that half-mile walk took me 30 minutes, but at night, it felt even longer.

I say all this so people understand the anxiety I felt when I had evening classes. Because in my first year, someone was watching me as I went to and from campus. 

I'd park and go to class for the day, sometimes starting my mornings at 9 a.m. and leaving at 7 p.m. I'd return to my car, anxious to make it home, only to find a piece of paper on my windshield. The note would say something along the lines of, "You look beautiful today," and always ended, "Love, a secret admirer." 

Other times, the person wrote that they loved me and hoped I had a good day. It was funny at first, but when none of my friends fessed up to pranking me I began to get scared.

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After receiving three or four of these notes, I went to the campus police and asked to file a report, but, according to the officer I spoke to, they couldn't do anything. They told me that I could only file a report if it neatly fit the definition of stalking, but these notes were "nice" and it could be someone who is simply too shy to approach me on campus.

I was angry and asked what I should do if I'm scared, if this person persists? Their advice: Come to us if something happens. 

With no other option, I took matters into my own hands. I parked somewhere different everyday in the hopes that the person wouldn't be able to follow me. Some days I parked in the lot that was a mile away, others I stayed closer to campus. 

When the sun was out, I carried pepper spray but after dark I asked a friend or classmate to walk with me. 

My methods were somewhat successful, but the stalking only stopped completely when I studied abroad during my second year. After all, I was in another country.

Five years have passed and it's now just a story that I share with other people when we watch shows like Maid. We'll discuss the injustice of a system that's supposed to be a safety net, recalling our own experiences with public programs and griping about the hoops we had to jump through to get help. For me, it was my experience with a stalker, while my friends had to navigate unemployment and housing dilemmas.

The only difference between us and Alex is that we had family and friends to lean on, whereas Alex struggled to receive subsidized housing and food stamps, before ultimately returning to an alcoholic boyfriend because, from her point of view, at least he was offering something.


The difficulty of receiving help made Alex doubt that she was a survivor of domestic violence. But as Danielle points out in episode two, "Before they bite, they bark. Before they hit you, they hit near you."

Oftentimes, you need to someone to validate your own feelings before you can accept that you need help. 

So, as I watch Alex in Maid, I feel the smallest bit of comfort in knowing that I wasn't crazy to be walking around with pepper spray. And another viewer may realize that they're not being dramatic and it's not normal for their partner to control their finances or drink to the point of belligerence. Maybe they'll even leave that toxic partner.

And while Maid can't solve the problems within each safety net, it's shining a much-needed light on the problems, and that's a start.

For more information on domestic abuse or to get help for yourself or someone you love, visit the website for The National Domestic Violence Hotline ( or call 1-800-799-7233.