When compiling the essays that make up “Global Women: Nannies,
Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy,” editors Barbara
Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild undoubtedly sought to
manifest to the general public the slave-like yolk under which
women of such occupations are bound. Essays that vary from migrant
maids to young women of Taiwan sold as sex slaves shed light on
disturbing subjects that often do not surface in the daily life of
a First World citizen. The essays have their holes and with the
exception of one or two, actual conclusions to the problems the
essays address fail to surface. After the awful plight of the sex
slaves, the most wrenching part of Global Women is the situation of
the Filipina mothers and their children. A series of essays (“Love
and Gold,” “The Nanny Dilemma” and “The Care Crisis in the
Philippines”) shed some light on this issue through disturbing
tales of mothers who have to leave their children to support them
and children who learn to love their immigrant nannies or maids as
mothers. Hochschild interviewed a nanny in the San Francisco Bay
Area who had to leave her own children two months after birth to
earn a living taking care of someone else’s.
“The first two years I felt like I was going crazy,” the nanny
said. “I would catch myself gazing at nothing, thinking about my
Hochschild describes such cases as a collective “global heart
transplant,” an image that suggests something about both the
recipients and the donors. The pain, however, is not limited to the
homeland of these nannies; it metastasizes up and down the line.
For example, the essay “The Care Crisis in the Philippines” by
Rhacel Salazar Parre�as, an assistant professor of Women’s
Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin
cites several of these.
One case is that of Theresa whose mother works abroad in Hong
Kong and can only visit intermittently.
“When my mother is home, I just sit next to her,” Theresa says.
“I stare at her face, to see the changes in her face, to see how
she aged during the years she was away from us. But when she is
about to go back to Hong Kong, it’s like my heart is going to
Though phone calls give her access to her mother’s voice,
Theresa says they lack tangibility.
“Telephone calls are not enough,” she says. “You can’t hug her,
kiss her, feel her, everything. You can’t feel her presence. It’s
just words that you have.”
For her part, Hochschild acknowledges the best answer is to
enable more Filipinas to work closer to home – easier said than
done. The Philippines has seen nothing but economic woes since the
late 1960s and United States policies like freer trade seem to do
more harm than good. Freer trade has only brought the country a
surge of agricultural imports, which depress farm prices and bring
more hardship to the countryside. Economic woes mean more need for
women to go abroad to support their family and essentially the
country. The United States protected its own markets for over 100
years while its modern economy took root. Third World nations,
especially agricultural ones, may need some more flexibility,
A little humility is in order regarding our prescriptions for
the world. Some may argue that these women should not have kids, or
that they should stay in their own lands to support them if they
wish to remain close, but as long as First World nations perpetuate
the demand of migratory workers, as long as people yearn for a
better life, as long as opportunity is so meager in Third World
nations, no one should tell a mother she cannot do what is
necessary for her kids. Instead of pointing the finger at the
mothers who leave out of necessity as opposed to want, changes
should be made to enjoy the full protection of the law in the
countries in which they work.
Why not allow these workers to gain legal status so they aren’t
so easily exploited? And why not allow them, after a brief
interval, to apply for citizenship and bring their husbands and
children over to join them? If we so desperately want their labor,
shouldn’t we be willing to pay the price?
Josh is the sports editor for The Collegian.