Sc2220 lecture 10 2012

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Lecture 10: Gender in Singapore, Part 1 (2012)

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Sc2220 lecture 10 2012

  1. 1. Eric C. ThompsonSemester 2, 2011/2012
  2. 2. Where We Have Been… History of Gender Studies Sex/Gender Distinction Becoming Male or Female  Gender socialization; paths to learning gender. Gender Systems  Masculinity/Femininity  Gender as systems of beliefs and behaviors
  3. 3. Where We Are Going… Gender in Popular Culture  Gender in Advertising  Popular Culture Gender in Social Relations  Gender and Power  Gender and Work Gender, Here and Now  Gender in Singapore YOU ARE HERE
  4. 4. Gender Issues in SingaporePart 1: Social Change What is the “Flight from Marriage”? What are the effects of importing Female Labor? Is there an emergence of “Transnational Patriarchy”?
  5. 5. Is there a “Flight From Marriage”? Across Asia (e.g. Japan, Singapore, Thailand, etc.), marriage has gone from being an expectation to an option. More and more people, especially women, are opting not to marry. Cultures of female hypergamy (women ‘marrying up’) lead to skewed marriage markets and demographics.
  6. 6. The Marriage Market(Figures from Singapore’s 2000 Census)Education Women (40-44) Men (40-44)Level % Never Married % Never MarriedBelow 9.1% 21.1%SecondaryUniversity 26.7% 8.6% Large numbers of the most educated women and least educated men are unable (or unwilling) to get married; lack of “appropriate” marriage partners. Source: Jones, Gavin W. (2005) “The ‘Flight from Marriage’ in South-East and East Asia,” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 36(1):93-119
  7. 7. Importing Female Labor Foreign labor in Singapore is deeply gendered. Male migrant labor – in construction, shipping, etc. Female migrant labor:  Foreign Domestic Workers  Sex Workers  Foreign Brides Unlike male migrant labor, female migrant labor “competes” in domains traditionally related to marriage (domestic work, sex, reproduction) and “compensates” for the ‘flight from marriage’ among Singaporean women.
  8. 8. Foreign Brides and Transnational Patriarchy• Singaporean women, in large numbers, ‘opt out’ of marriage or leverage their education and employment resources for a “better deal” (professional working women; more than ‘traditional wives’).• Singaporean men, in large numbers, look to foreign brides as a means of maintaining “patriarchal privileges” (i.e. having a ‘traditional wife’).• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dnm1v3ju9w8
  9. 9. “Are Singapore Women Hard to Love?” • Get Real. Series 2, Episode 27, Channel News Asia, 2005. • The producers solicited the following as “typical comments” by Singaporean men: “Some Singaporean females are simply arrogant, especially those with high education levels.” “Singaporean women demand the 5C’s – condo, car, credit card, country club and cash.” “Foreigners make better wives, because they are more domesticated, less arrogant or materialistic.”
  10. 10. The Foreign Bride OptionYear Marriages to Marriages to Foreign Brides Foreign Husbands (as % of all (as % of all Marriages) Marriages)1996 19.1% 4.7%2005 27.2% 6.9%2007 32.8% (Not available)Source: Jones, Gavin W. and Hsui-hua Shen (2008) “International Marriage in East andSoutheast Asia: Trends and Research Emphasis,” Citizenship Studies 12(1):9-25.
  11. 11. Thai Wives and Transnational Patriarchy • Rattana Jongwilaiwan and Eric C. Thompson 2012 in Gender, Place and Culture • Example refers to specific experiences and conditions of Thai migrant wives… (but…) • Many of the general issues apply to other Foreign Brides in Singapore AND conditions in other “First World” countries (Japan, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, America, etc.) where wives are “imported”. • We argue that nation-states and globalization are creating a new “transnational” system of patriarchy.
  12. 12. Escaping “Liberation” in Thailand• Urban migration and industrialization have “liberated” rural Thai women from “confining” agricultural conditions.• Traditionally in Thailand – men have gained status as monks (and in the military).• Women have been daughters and mothers.• Men “travel around” (pai thaiw) gaining experience and fortune.• Women are “tied to the land”.
  13. 13. Matrilineal, Matrilocal Residence• The traditional pattern of North and Northeast (Isan) Thailand was “matrilineal, matrilocal” (similar, but not as strong as the Minangkabau matrilineal system).• Men left their families and “married in” to their wife’s families.• Daughters (esp. youngest daughters) and their husbands inherited property from her parents.• The male “ideal” was that of monk and “nak leng” (men seen as extremely pious or extremely ‘rough’).• The female ideal was that of dutiful daughter and nurturing mother.* *Debate between Keyes and Kirsch in American Ethnologist 1984-1985, as to whether this meant that women were “more attached” to the world and thus less pious, from a Thai Theravada Buddhist perspective.
  14. 14. Modernity & Loss of Status for Women • Devaluing of agriculture -> loss of women’s power and status based on ties to the land. • Large numbers of women migrate to cities (esp. Bangkok) in search of the than samay (modern) self (Mills, 1999, Thai Women in the Global Laborforce). • Thai women mostly enter the bottom rung of the ‘global assembly line’… grueling hours, little pay. • Many enter into the sex trade (unpleasant work, but more flexible hours and much higher pay). • Seek to be “dutiful daughters” by remitting money to support parents and other relatives. • “Cultural continuity” in the Thai sex trade: “Mother Sold Food, Daughter Sells her Body” (Meucke 1984; replicates pattern of Thai women in the market place; but different commodity.)
  15. 15. Contact Zones Thai women and Singaporean men (some, not all) meet in “contact zones”: entertainment venues of Bangkok, Hat Yai, Singapore. Singaporean men seeking women (first for sex, but also for companionship). Thai women seeking “mia farang” status (to marry a foreigner… “Farang” is Westerner… but Singaporean will do, lah!).
  16. 16. Negotiating Marriage-Migration• Relationships shift from that of sex provider – client; to potential mate; to wife-husband.• Men must display their ability to be providers.• Women display their willingness (and desire) to exit the sex trade and become “traditional wives”• Women seek to accelerate the marriage process; demonstrate that they are not only after money.• Men test the women’s truthfulness and faithfulness (e.g. monitor women’s activities by mobile phone).
  17. 17. Leveraging Flexible Citizenship• Singaporean men, even with relatively meager financial means, are able to leverage “flexible citizenship” (citizenship and semi-citizenship privileges, such as PR and LTSVP).• Thai women seek not only a financial provider but also the opportunity to live and work in a wealthy country.• “Transnational Patriarchy” refers to the establishment of patriarchal privilege on the basis of these “transnational” (cross-border) relations.
  18. 18. Clashing Cultural Scripts• Thai women do not see themselves as “gold diggers”; rather, they are fulfilling the cultural ideal of dutiful daughter and nurturing mother; marrying Singaporean men allows them access to wealth to remit home to their parents (and sometimes to children).• Singaporean men (and their families) expect Thai women to be “daughters-in-law”• These two ideals often come in conflict.
  19. 19. Cultural Conflicts Thai women frequently report disappointment… that their Singaporean husbands “only want a cheap maid” (but, is this because they are being asked to be a Confucian daughter-in-law?). Conflict between Thai women’s ‘dutiful daughter’ role and Chinese Singaporean men’s (and family’s) expectations of a ‘filial daughter-in-law’.
  20. 20. Perceptions of Thai Wives• Fon (47), “I think Chinese parents-in-law think that they can exploit Thai daughters-in-law easily. I used to argue back that I am not a Filipino maid.”• Dao (28), “I was very tired because I raised two nephews, did all the housework and looked after his parents. I could not go anywhere during two years of marriage. I never when shopping and just stayed home. He treated me like I was a maid rather than his wife. I think he married me because he wanted a cheap maid during the day and to become his wife in the night.”
  21. 21. Commodification of Women’s Work• Women’s work is commodified and subject to substantial rationalization and specialization.• Traditionally, one woman (wife) provides sex, babies and domestic work for men (husband).• With commodification and specialization: – Wives (mothers) provide babies. – Maids provide domestic work. – Sex workers (prostitution; pornography) provide sexual services. – Of course, not always in all cases! But, this follows from the “logic” of commodification and specialization.• This frees women to pursue their own careers; but also makes marital relationships more tenuous.
  22. 22. Classical and Transnational Patriarchy• Classical Patriarchal privilege maintained by – – Patrilineal inheritance: Men (sons) inherit property; women do not. – Patrilocal residence: Women (wives) leave their natal families, live with their husband’s family (cut off from natal family and social network support).• Transnational Patriarchy maintained by – – Territorial state sovereignty: nation states control borders; create zones of relative wealth and relative deprivation (“First” and “Third” Worlds) – “Flexible citizenship” – Men from the First World can leverage citizenship (PR and other status) as a resource to negotiate a “patriarchal bargain” with Third World women.*
  23. 23. Classical & Transnational Patriarchy Singapore has shifted from “Classical” to “Transnational” Patriarchy. Classical patriarchy has declined, with urbanization and industrialization. Transnational Patriarchy rests on citizenship and transnational mobility. Under “transnational patriarchy” women are more divided by class than united by gender (i.e. a woman who is a migrant wife, domestic worker or sex worker has very different experience and interests from a single, university-educated, professional woman).
  24. 24. Classical Patriarchy• Classical Patriarchal privilege maintained by:• Patrilineal inheritance: Men (sons) inherit property; women do not.• Patrilocal residence: Women (wives) leave their natal families, live with their husband’s family (cut off from natal family and social network support).
  25. 25. Transnational Patriarchy• Transnational Patriarchy maintained by:• Territorial state sovereignty: nation states control borders; create zones of relative wealth and relative deprivation (“First” and “Third” Worlds)• “Flexible citizenship” – Men from the First World can leverage citizenship (PR and other status) as a resource to negotiate a “patriarchal bargain” with Third World women.* *First world women can and occasionally do leverage citizenship as well in relationships with Third world men (see cases in the Carribean; Allen 2007); but generally, women do not. Why? Refer to “sexual exchange theory”.
  26. 26. Gender Issues in Singapore Question: Is Singapore a Partriarchal Society? More on this next week… There are many other gender issues in Singapore. We will discuss more issues in the next lecture… What do you think are important gender issues not covered in this lecture? Please email or post to the Wiki!

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