Dec 102003
Authors: Joshua Pilkington

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.

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