Title page for ETD etd-03092002-233742

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Arnado, Mary Janet Madrono
Author's Email Address marnado@vt.edu
URN etd-03092002-233742
Title Class Inequality among Third World Women Wage Earners: Mistresses and Maids in the Philippines
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dunaway, Wilma A. Committee Chair
Bailey, Carol A. Committee Member
Ballweg, John A. Committee Member
Fuller, Theodore D. Committee Member
Rothschild, Joyce Committee Member
Wimberley, Dale W. Committee Member
  • Philippines
  • maternalism
  • gender inequality
  • domestic workers
  • class inequality
Date of Defense 2002-02-28
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation is geared toward a deeper understanding of the complexity of the multiple positions of women in the “Third World,” and on how these positions create, sustain, and reproduce inequalities. I examine class inequality among employed women in the Philippines in the context of mistress-maid employment relationship. Using feminist fieldwork approaches, my gatekeeper, Merly, and I conducted extensive interviews and focus groups with thirty-one maids and ten mistresses between May and August 2000 in a medium-sized city in the Philippines. Recorded interviews were transcribed and processed using QSR NUD*IST N4.

Domestic workers, who started as child laborers, live in their mistresses’ homes where they perform household chores and carework. Aside from their “job description,” they carry out additional tasks within and outside the household. The maids’ relationship with their mistresses is based on maternalism, in which the mistresses integrate them into the family, engage in gift giving, provide educational support, but at the same time, control their bodies, times, spaces, and relationships. Except in cases where maternalist behavior becomes violent, both maids and mistresses approve of maternalism. In looking at the factors that may contribute to the mistresses’ maternalist behavior, this study found that mistresses who are subordinate relative to their spouses and their workplaces are more likely than those who are not subordinate to engage in maternalist behavior with their maids. As maids prefer maternalist relationship with their mistresses, they accommodate their mistresses’ dominating tendencies. When reprimanded, they respond through culture-specific rituals of subordination. However, when their threshold of tolerance is breached, they apply a combination of subtle and blatant resisting strategies.

Younger maids perceive domestic work as a stepping-stone toward a more comfortable future, while older maids view it as a dead-end occupation. From a global standpoint, class mobility is examined based on the domestic workers dialectic positions within the international division of reproductive labor. Throughout this dissertation, women’s inequality in the context of mistress-maid relations were analyzed from various angles, shifting the analysis from micro to macro dynamics; from class to the intersection of gender, ethnicity, age, and class; and from local to global. In addition to providing a sociological understanding of this phenomenon, I put the varied voices of “Third World women” at the forefront of this study.

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