A Lesson to Be Taught

        Recall your first English professor. Probably you were eighteen or nineteen when you took your first college English class. One hopes that this professor enhanced your appreciation for the language. Perhaps your vocabulary was strengthened; you were better able to write a thesis; or you were able to express yourself more eloquently. If you had a good professor, you might want to thank him for a good class or have him write a recommendation letter . . . but imagine dating him. In the year  1956, that Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 Pygmalion, first appeared on Broadway, to be filmed in 1964 by George Cukor, starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, a young woman dating a man in authority might have been socially acceptable. But in 2009, Eliza might have thought twice about being in a relationship with Mr. Higgins, or I would hope so due to current policies and ethical standards. The two characters, Mr. Higgins and Eliza from the play My Fair Lady, would not be compatible lovers today because they would have a dual relationship.

        We see that dual relationships are inappropriate because they are often prohibited in the work force. The Social Work code of ethics states in 1.06 that a social worker cannot have a dual relationship with a client. This creates a conflict of interest and could be exploitative and harmful to a client. Although Professor Higgins was not Eliza’s social worker, he was in a professional position; and, like a social worker, he ran many risks by engaging in a relationship with a client. Was her willingness to marry him influenced by the fact that her status was dependant on him and he could give her lessons for free? Also, would the love and respect be parallel in the relationship? If Eliza thought of “Professor” Higgins as an expert who would teach her the right ways, would this role conflict with his duty to be her spouse and equal?

        If a person read this paper in 1956, he/she would be likely to disagree with my argument, he/she might question my idea of a husband and wife being equals or disagree that marrying a client would be unprofessional. Throughout the century however, women’s right and professional standards have been established; and many people today would consider their professional/romantic relationship to be unhealthy. Values and standards will continue to change, and it is important to look at historical works such as My Fair Lady to compare and contrast values and standards from that time period to the status quo.

Shauna Dillon