An interview with Ninotchka Rosca by Zara Majidpour
4- In a male dominated field like politics, Filipino women are very active. Since independence, the Philippines had four presidents of which two were women. Do women have respect and equal rights with men in the Filipino society?
The two women presidents of the Philippines owe their ascendance to power to the strength of the bedrock pre-Hispanic culture – which was women-centered and which remains strong, in a subliminal sense. We must also consider that the obverse side of the macho coin is actually dependency on women’s labor and care. One must point out though that the two presidents are basically stripped of their gender identity – that is, they did not have a pro-woman agenda but actually functioned to further the traditional definition of womanhood.
Any woman who must climb to political power in the Philippines, in whatever ideology, must undergo a process of de-genderization. So respect is unquantifiable. One must say that women in politics suffer a virulence of attacks, including sexual innuendoes, comments on their looks, etc., unlike that given their male counterparts.
5- Money sent home by overseas Filipino workers is a major factor in the economy. Occasionally there is news about domestic workers being physically and sexually abused. Are local media informing people about these dangers?
I think most everybody knows by now the danger of working overseas, especially for women. But the mindset is some kind of “exceptionalism” and fatalism – as in “it won’t happen to me,” “what will be, will be,” “God will take care of me,” etc. Again, I must return to the issue of self-empowerment and self-actualization. Women going overseas for a job are considered and consider themselves to be engaged in a “sacrifice” whereas men work overseas for self-actualization, professional fulfillment, etc. Hence, the mindset is that women are to be sacrificed and women consider themselves as sacrificial animals.
I can’t count how many Filipinas I have met whose lives were in a state of suspended animation as they worked 24 hours, 7 days a week, to sustain families back home – and a number of them were supporting their brothers’ children. Labor export, sex trafficking – these are enabled by an intense re-feudalization of the women’s consciousness and yet that is not addressed in discourses on the topic.
This interview was translated into Persian(Farsi) and published in Shahrzadnews Website