Sc2220 Lecture 12 2009

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Lecture 12: States, Markets and Transnational Patriarchy (in Singapore)

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Sc2220 Lecture 12 2009

  1. 1. Lecture 12: Gender, States & Markets (Gender in Singapore) Dr. Eric Thompson
  2. 2. Gendered Trends in Singapore Society <ul><li>Is Singapore a “Patriarchal Society”? </li></ul><ul><li>The “Flight from Marriage” </li></ul><ul><li>Emergence of “Transnational Patriarchy” </li></ul>
  3. 3. Singapore: Patriarchal Society? <ul><li>When people (& government) say that Singapore is a “patriarchal society”, what do they mean? </li></ul><ul><li>Asian and “Confucian” Values </li></ul><ul><li>Patrilocal Residence & Patrilineal Inheritance </li></ul><ul><li>Men: Fathers and Husbands as “head-of-household” and primary provider. </li></ul><ul><li>Women: Wives, Mothers and Obedient Daughters-in-Law; focused on domestic work. </li></ul><ul><li>Do Singaporeans in fact follow these patterns? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Gendered State Rule in Singapore <ul><li>Teo You Yenn, Sociologist, NTU </li></ul><ul><li>“ Inequality for the Greater Good: Gendered State Rule in Singapore,” Critical Asian Studies 39(3):423-445 (2007) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Gender Disarmed: How Gendered Policies Produce Gender-Neutral Politics in Singapore,” Signs 34(3):533-557. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Gender and State Policy <ul><li>Twelve weeks maternity leave for women; three days for men. </li></ul><ul><li>Until recently (2004), only male civil servants received benefits for spouses and chlidren. </li></ul><ul><li>Foreign maid levy tax relief only for married or divorced/widowed working women. </li></ul><ul><li>Special “working mother child relief.” </li></ul><ul><li>Women are singled out as being doubly responsible – to be both economically productive and socially (& biologically) “reproductive” (make babies & ‘reproduce’ the society). </li></ul>
  6. 6. “ Housing-Marriage” Process <ul><li>Typical marriage proposal – </li></ul><ul><li>“ Do you want to apply for a (HDB) flat?” </li></ul><ul><li>Ties social benefits to conformity to creating “appropriate” families. (Mainly around a “nucleus” of husband-wife-children.) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Effect 1: Creating “Singaporeans” <ul><li>The ideological “ success ” of the policies… </li></ul><ul><li>The gendered policies create a strong sense of “what it means to be Singaporean” (sense of Singaporean “uniqueness”). </li></ul><ul><li>Gendered policies produce degendered (and deracialized ) “politics”… </li></ul><ul><li>Singaporeans are made to feel primarily members of ‘families’; (not primarily men or women; or primarily Chinese or Malay). </li></ul>
  8. 8. Effect 2: Opting Out <ul><li>The practical “ failures ” of the policy… </li></ul><ul><li>Little or no impact on fertility. Many couples get married (and get HDB housing and other benefits), but remain DINKs (double-income, no-kids). </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>Broadly equal educational and employment opportunities plus a culture of hypergamy (women “marrying up”), also leaves large numbers of ‘least eligible’ bachelors unmarried. </li></ul>
  9. 9. The Marriage Market (Figures from Singapore’s 2000 Census) Source: Jones, Gavin W. (2005) “The ‘Flight from Marriage’ in South-East and East Asia,” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 36(1):93-119 Large numbers of the most educated women and least educated men are unable (or unwilling) to get married; lack of “appropriate” marriage partners. Education Level Women (Age 40-44) % Never Married Men (Age 40-44) % Never Married Below Secondary 9.1% 21.1% University 26.7% 8.6%
  10. 10. Foreign Brides and Transnational Patriarchy <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’). </li></ul><ul><li>Singaporean men, in large numbers, look to foreign brides as a means of maintaining “patriarchal privileges” (i.e. having a ‘traditional wife’). </li></ul>
  11. 11. “ Are Singapore Women Hard to Love?” <ul><li>Get Real . Series 2, Episode 27, Channel News Asia, 2005. </li></ul><ul><li>The producers solicited the following as “typical comments” by Singaporean men: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Some Singaporean females are simply arrogant, especially those with high education levels .” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Singaporean women demand the 5C’s – condo, car, credit card, country club and cash .” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Foreigners make better wives, because they are more domesticated, less arrogant or materialistic. ” </li></ul>
  12. 12. The Foreign Bride Option 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. Year Marriages to Foreign Brides (as % of all Marriages) Marriages to Foreign Husbands (as % of all Marriages) 1996 19.1% 4.7% 2005 27.2% 6.9% 2007 32.8% (Not available)
  13. 13. Thai Wives in Singapore & the Production of Transnational Patriarchy <ul><li>Based on MA Thesis Research by Rattana Jongwilaiwan (Sociology, NUS, 2009); now in the process of rewriting for publication (with supervisor: A/P Eric C. Thompson) </li></ul><ul><li>Example refers to specific experiences and conditions of Thai migrant wives… (but…) </li></ul><ul><li>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”. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Escaping “Liberation” in Thailand <ul><li>Urban migration and industrialization have “liberated” rural Thai women from “confining” agricultural conditions. </li></ul><ul><li>Traditionally in Thailand – men have gained status as monks (and in the military). </li></ul><ul><li>Women have been daughters and mothers. </li></ul><ul><li>Men “travel around” ( pai thaiw ) gaining experience and fortune. </li></ul><ul><li>Women are “tied to the land”. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Matrilineal, Matrilocal Residence <ul><li>The traditional pattern of North and Northeast (Isan) Thailand was “matrilineal, matrilocal” (similar, but not as strong as the Minangkabau matrilineal system). </li></ul><ul><li>Men left their families and “married in” to their wife’s families. </li></ul><ul><li>Daughters (esp. youngest daughters) and their husbands inherited property from her parents. </li></ul><ul><li>The male “ideal” was that of monk and “nak leng ” (men seen as extremely pious or extremely ‘rough’). </li></ul><ul><li>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.
  16. 16. Thai Women – Loss of Status with Industrial Development & Urbanization <ul><li>Devaluing of agriculture -> loss of women’s power and status based on ties to the land. </li></ul><ul><li>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 ). </li></ul><ul><li>Thai women mostly enter the bottom rung of the ‘global assembly line’… grueling hours, little pay. </li></ul><ul><li>Many enter into the sex trade (unpleasant work, but more flexible hours and much higher pay). </li></ul><ul><li>Seek to be “dutiful daughters” by remitting money to support parents and other relatives. </li></ul><ul><li>“ 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></ul>
  17. 17. Contact Zones <ul><li>Thai women and Singaporean men (some, not all) meet in “contact zones”: entertainment venues of Bangkok, Hat Yai, Singapore. </li></ul><ul><li>Singaporean men seeking women (first for sex, but also for companionship). </li></ul><ul><li>Thai women seeking “ mia farang ” status (to marry a foreigner… “Farang” is Westerner… but Singaporean will do, lah!). </li></ul>
  18. 18. Negotiating Marriage-Migration <ul><li>Relationships shift from that of sex provider – client; to potential mate; to wife-husband. </li></ul><ul><li>Men must display their ability to be providers. </li></ul><ul><li>Women display their willingness (and desire) to exit the sex trade and become “traditional wives” </li></ul><ul><li>Women seek to accelerate the marriage process; demonstrate that they are not only after money. </li></ul><ul><li>Men test the women’s truthfulness and faithfulness (e.g. monitor women’s activities by mobile phone). </li></ul>
  19. 19. Leveraging Flexible Citizenship <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). </li></ul><ul><li>Thai women seek not only a financial provider but also the opportunity to live and work in a wealthy country. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Transnational Patriarchy ” refers to the establishment of patriarchal privilege on the basis of these “transnational” (cross-border) relations. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Clashing Cultural Scripts <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). </li></ul><ul><li>Singaporean men (and their families) expect Thai women to be “ daughters-in-law ” </li></ul><ul><li>These two ideals often come in conflict. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Cultural Conflicts <ul><li>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?). </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict between Thai women’s ‘dutiful daughter’ role and Chinese Singaporean men’s (and family’s) expectations of a ‘filial daughter-in-law’. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Perceptions of Thai Wives <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 .” </li></ul><ul><li>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></ul>
  23. 23. Commodification of “Women’s Work”: The Logic of “Neoliberalism” (Markets) <ul><li>Women’s work is commodified and subject to substantial rationalization and specialization. </li></ul><ul><li>Traditionally, one woman (wife) provides sex, babies and domestic work for men (husband). </li></ul><ul><li>With commodification and specialization: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Wives (mothers) provide babies. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maids provide domestic work. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sex workers (prostitution; pornography) provide sexual services. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Of course, not always in all cases! But, this follows from the “logic” of commodification and specialization. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>This frees women to pursue their own careers; but also makes marital relationships more tenuous. </li></ul>
  24. 24. “ Classic” (Kandiyoti 1988) and Transnational Forms of Patriarchy <ul><li>Classic: Patriarchal privilege maintained by – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Patrilineal inheritance: Men (sons) inherit property; women do not. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Patrilocal residence: Women (wives) leave their natal families, live with their husband’s family (cut off from natal family and social network support). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Transnational: Patriarchy maintained by – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Territorial state sovereignty: nation states control borders; create zones of relative wealth and relative deprivation (“First” and “Third” Worlds) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ 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></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”.
  25. 25. Is Singapore a “Patriachal Society”? <ul><li>Yes… and No </li></ul><ul><li>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’). </li></ul><ul><li>Confucian ideology of patrilocal, patrilineal ‘classic’ patriarchy; BUT… no longer (never was!) an agricultural society. (Disconnect between culture and economy.) </li></ul><ul><li>Substantial emergence of “transnational patriarchy” (foreign brides, not to mention maids!) </li></ul><ul><li>Female citizens are ‘freed’ (to a substantial degree; not fully) from patriarchy; imported “third world” women take their place to maintain “patriarchal privileges”. </li></ul>

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