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Archive for April, 2008

As a Pinay feminist, should I be concerned with globalization in my homeland? With neoliberal economic development policies that address poverty in my country through privatization, trade liberalization, and integrating into a world economy controlled by the Group of Eight?

Hell yeah, this is a feminist issue.

Excerpts from a paper by Ligaya Lindio-McGovern:

[Trade liberalization] destroys local industries, creating import dependency for basic needs and ultimately resulting in food insecurity. Food insecurity hurts most poor pregnant women and children whose special nutritional needs are unmet. . .

Labor flexibilization. . .increases the exploitation of workers and poses obstacles to their militant unionization. . .In Export Processing Zones or Special Economic Zones. . .major international labels like Reebok, Adidas, Timex, Calvin Klein, Fujitsu, and Intel have a large share of their workforce subcontracted as contractuals, majority of whom are women and youth, forced to do overtime hours in 6-7 days a week in a period of 3-4 months at a time. . .

the concentration of Filipino female export labor in domestic service work reinforces labor segmentation in the host countries based on gender, race/ethnicity, and class– —consequently entrenching a transnational division of female labor where low-wage, low-prestige domestic work is generally assigned to migrant women from poorer countries. . .

How can my interests in issues such as globalization be a “distraction,” a dilution of feminist issues? If women’s needs were addressed as economic policies were being drafted, then perhaps we could have come up with more inclusive policies in the first place.

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Over at Racialicious, Latoya Peterson has a great post and discussion on whether feminism has to address race. I was thinking about this in the case of the Philippines, where I grew up and where first identified as a feminist as a teenager, almost two decades ago.

My feminism initially aimed to tackle issues like the gender gap in health and education. But since then, my feminism has branched out, to include concepts like colonialism and globalization. I learned much by listening to women like Zenaida Soriano and Teresita Vistro of AMIHAN (the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines), who explain here why globalization is a feminist issue:

We comprise the majority of the landless poor, 51% of the total female population in the region are employed in agriculture and we produce 60% of the food for the Asian region, yet our right to land continue to be denied.

As our right to land is continuously denied, so is our right to decent lives. As our rights are denied, so is our children’s right to a healthy lives and therefore of the lives of future generations.

Globalization is a social justice issue, it’s a feminist issue. To be a feminist in the Philippines means that one also has to take part in the struggle against export-oriented economic policies that deny peasant women their land.

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Yellow Road

When struggling against allies gets tiring, there’s nothing like a trail run in springtime.

trail

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molina bookIn Fit to Be Citizens?, Natalia Molina gives a thorough but engaging account of how public health discourse was deployed to exclude non-white immigrants and institutionalize racism in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Los Angeles. Clothed under the aura of scientific objectivity, she illustrates how “diseased” immigrants—starting with Chinese launders, then Japanese farmers, and then Mexican laborers—were systematically excluded from the social and political life of Los Angeles.

This exclusion was justified through racialized constructions of concepts such as health, hygiene, and cleanliness. Social and economic factors helped to direct which group would be targeted. Health was defined in terms of whiteness, and we have the historical images of an advanced, scientific American culture pitted against primitive Asians and Mexicans. The rosy American toddler contrasted with the tuberculosis-carrying Mexican baby. The proper white mother contrasted with the hypersexual, breeder Mexican mothers.

It is, unfortunately, a discourse that continues in many racist, nativist, anti-immigration forums to this day. While no longer as overt, the use of pathologizing language continues to be deployed against non-white immigrants. Anti-immigration fearmongers have appended the word “epidemic” to actions ranging from drunk driving to gang activity.

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Some highlights from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report for 2007:

“The Philippines (6) and Sri Lanka (15) remain distinctive for being the only Asian countries in the top 20 of the rankings. The Philippines is once again the only country in Asia to have closed the gender gap on both education and health and is one of only six in the world to have done so. The Philippines’s scores on political empowerment improved further, as did some of its economic indicators such as estimated income, labour force participation and income equality for similar work.”

Great news. Of course, there’s a but.

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During the lean times of his Manila childhood, my partner M remembers meals of rice sprinkled with a little toyo for flavor. His mom shares her own childhood memories of rice with coconut milk for lunch and dinner. Our cousin Kuya Jun remembers meals of rice and cononut meat.

These were meals during times of hardship. Other families have tales of eating rice flavored only with salt or Maggi seasoning. But the bottom line? There was always a plate of rice. Rice is life.

The Philippines is now facing the frightening prospect of a rice shortage.

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Forced abductions and disapperances were a staple of the Marcos dictatorship. These disappearances continue under the Arroyo government, a staunch ally of the Bush administration’s War Against Terror.

Today, April 12, marks that first year anniversary of the abduction of Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado, a former political detainee under the Marcos government. Luisa is the spokesperson for a human rights group and a critic of military and government abuses in her province of Panay. Witnesses say that Luisa, along with human rights workers Nilo Arado and Jose Ely Garachico, were abducted by heavily armed men. Jose Ely was shot and left for dead,survived their ordeal. Nilo, like Luisa, remains missing.

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