SC2220: Gender StudiesLecture 11: Gender Issues in Singapore<br />Eric C. Thompson<br />Semester 2, 2010/2011<br />
Where We Have Been…<br />History of Gender Studies<br />Sex/Gender Distinction<br />Becoming Male or Female<br />Gender socialization; paths to learning gender.<br />Gender Systems<br />Masculinity/Femininity<br />Gender as systems of beliefs and behaviors<br />
Where We Are Going…<br />Gender in Popular Culture<br />Gender in Advertising<br />Popular Culture<br />Gender in Social Relations<br />Gender and Power<br />Gender and Work<br />Gender, Here and Now<br />Gender in Singapore<br />YOU ARE<br />HERE<br />
Gendered Issues in Singapore<br />Is Singapore a “Patriarchal Society”?<br />National Service: What is at stake?<br />The “Flight from Marriage”<br />Importing Female Labor<br />Emergence of “Transnational Patriarchy”<br />
Singapore: Patriarchal Society?<br /><ul><li>When people (& government) say that Singapore is a “patriarchal society”, what do they mean?
Men: Fathers and Husbands as “head-of-household” and primary provider; Eldest son as lineage head.
Women: Wives, Mothers and Obedient Daughters-in-Law; focused on domestic work.
Do Singaporeans in fact follow these patterns?</li></li></ul><li>Is Singapore a Matriarchal Society?<br />Many laws in Singapore appear to create equal opportunity for women (in education, employment); while others treat them as a “protected” class (e.g. the Women’s Charter, domestic abuse).<br />For example, in Singapore and elsewhere domestic abuse of men by women is not taken seriously and men are not protected:<br />http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hn-wL6hPq8<br />On balance, does the law empower women more than men? Is Singapore “matriarchal” in that sense?<br />
Matrilineal Filial Piety?<br />Is Filial Piety in Singapore matrilineally-skewed?<br />Under the Maintenance of Parents Act (1995), parents are legally entitled to claim maintenance from their children.<br />The Women’s Charter (1961) legally obligates husbands to (financially) maintain their wives during marriage and after divorce.<br />Therefore, a husband is legally obligated to maintain his wife and she is obligated to maintain her parents; but no such reciprocal obligation exists (in which a woman is legally obligated toward her parents-in-law). <br />
Is Singapore a “Patriachal Society”?<br /><ul><li>Yes… and No
Generalized “male-biased” policies; but more powerful “human resource” policies that provide a lot of support for women (provided that they are Singaporean citizens… and especially if ‘highly educated’).
Confucian ideology of patrilocal, patrilineal ‘classic’ patriarchy; BUT… no longer (never was!) an agricultural society. (Disconnect between culture and economy.)
Substantial emergence of “transnational patriarchy” (foreign brides, not to mention maids!)
Female citizens are ‘freed’ (to a substantial degree; not fully) from patriarchy; imported “third world” women take their place to maintain “patriarchal privileges”.</li></li></ul><li>National Service: What is at Stake?<br />National Defense<br />Citizenship<br />Masculinity<br />All three issues appeared in the controversy around the picture above (March 2011)<br />
National Service as Rite of Passage<br />Is National Service a Singaporean Male Initiation ritual?<br />NS incorporates males into society.<br />It marks a passage from boyhood to manhood.<br />It gives men higher status and a stronger claim on society than women.<br />
Gendered State Rule in Singapore<br />Teo You Yenn, Sociology, NTU<br />2007 “Inequality for the Greater Good: Gendered State Rule in Singapore,” Critical Asian Studies 39(3):423-445 (2007)<br />2009 “Gender Disarmed: How Gendered Policies Produce Gender-Neutral Politics in Singapore,” Signs 34(3):533-557<br />2010 “Shaping the Singapore Family, Producing State and Society,” Economy and Society 39(3):337-359<br />Heng and Devan (1995) “State Fatherhood”<br />Chan (2000) “The Status of Women in a Patriarchal State” <br />
Gender and State Policy<br /><ul><li>12 weeks maternity leave for women; 3 days for men.
Until recently (2004), only male civil servants received benefits for spouses and chlidren.
Foreign maid levy tax relief only for married or divorced/widowed working women.
Women are singled out as being doubly responsible – to be both economically productive and socially (& biologically) “reproductive” (make babies & ‘reproduce’ the society).</li></li></ul><li>“Housing-Marriage” Process<br />Typical marriage proposal –<br />“Do you want to apply for a (HDB) flat?”<br />Ties social benefits to conformity to creating “appropriate” families. (Mainly around a “nucleus” of husband-wife-children.)<br />
Effect 1: Creating “Singaporeans”<br /><ul><li>The ideological “success” of the policies…
The gendered policies create a strong sense of “what it means to be Singaporean” (sense of Singaporean “uniqueness”).
Gendered policies produce degendered (and deracialized) “politics”…
Singaporeans are made to feel primarily members of ‘families’; (not primarily men or women; or primarily Chinese or Malay).</li></li></ul><li>Effect 2: Opting Out<br /><ul><li>The practical “failures” of the policy…
Little or no impact on fertility. Many couples get married, but remain DINKs (double-income, no-kids).
Despite the incentives of HDB housing and other benefits, the intense pressures of living up to the “ideal” of Singaporean woman-hood plus the benefits of a professional career as a single, lead many highly-educated women to forgo marriage.
Broadly equal educational and employment opportunities plus a culture of hypergamy (women “marrying up”), leaves large numbers of ‘least eligible’ bachelors unmarried.</li></li></ul><li>The Marriage Market(Figures from Singapore’s 2000 Census)<br />Large numbers of the most educated women and least educated men are unable (or unwilling) to get married; lack of “appropriate” marriage partners.<br />Source: Jones, Gavin W. (2005) “The ‘Flight from Marriage’ in South-East and East Asia,” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 36(1):93-119<br />
Importing Female Labor<br />Foreign labor in Singapore is deeply gendered.<br />Male migrant labor – in construction, shipping, etc.<br />Female migrant labor:<br />Foreign Domestic Workers<br />Sex Workers<br />Foreign Brides<br />Unlike male migrant labor, female migrant labor “competes” in domains traditionally related to heterosexual marriage (domestic work, sex, reproduction).<br />
Foreign Brides andTransnational Patriarchy<br /><ul><li>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</li></li></ul><li>“Are Singapore Women Hard to Love?”<br /><ul><li>Get Real. Series 2, Episode 27, Channel News Asia, 2005.
The producers solicited the following as “typical comments” by Singaporean men:</li></ul> “Some Singaporean females are simply arrogant, especially those with high education levels.”<br /> “Singaporean women demand the 5C’s – condo, car, credit card, country club and cash.”<br /> “Foreigners make better wives, because they are more domesticated, less arrogant or materialistic.”<br />
The Foreign Bride Option<br />Source: Jones, Gavin W. and Hsui-hua Shen (2008) “International Marriage in East and Southeast Asia: Trends and Research Emphasis,” Citizenship Studies 12(1):9-25.<br />
Thai Wives and Transnational Patriarchy<br /><ul><li>Rattana Jongwilaiwan and Eric C. Thompson in press with 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. </li></li></ul><li>Escaping “Liberation” in Thailand<br /><ul><li>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).
Men “travel around” (paithaiw) gaining experience and fortune.
Women are “tied to the land”.</li></li></ul><li>Matrilineal, Matrilocal Residence<br /><ul><li>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 “nakleng” (men seen as extremely pious or extremely ‘rough’).
The female ideal was that of dutiful daughter and nurturing mother.*</li></ul>*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.<br />
Modernity & Loss of Status for Women<br /><ul><li>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.)</li></li></ul><li>Contact Zones<br />Thai women and Singaporean men (some, not all) meet in “contact zones”: entertainment venues of Bangkok, Hat Yai, Singapore.<br />Singaporean men seeking women (first for sex, but also for companionship).<br />Thai women seeking “mia farang” status (to marry a foreigner… “Farang” is Westerner… but Singaporean will do, lah!).<br />
Negotiating Marriage-Migration<br /><ul><li>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).</li></li></ul><li>Leveraging Flexible Citizenship<br /><ul><li>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.</li></li></ul><li>Clashing Cultural Scripts<br /><ul><li>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.</li></li></ul><li>Cultural Conflicts<br />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?).<br />Conflict between Thai women’s ‘dutiful daughter’ role and Chinese Singaporean men’s (and family’s) expectations of a ‘filial daughter-in-law’.<br />
Perceptions of Thai Wives<br /><ul><li>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.”</li></li></ul><li>Commodification of Women’s Work<br /><ul><li>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).
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.</li></li></ul><li>Classical and Transnational Patriarchy<br /><ul><li>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).
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.*</li></ul>*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”.<br />
Gender Issues in Singapore<br />There are many other gender issues in Singapore.<br />What do you think are important gender issues not covered in this lecture?<br />Please email or post to the Wiki!<br />Next Week: Final Lecture “Gender and You!”<br />Reflections on what we can get from Gender Studies<br />Discussion of the final exam (Mugging Gender 101)<br />