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Title: "Saints" and "Prostitutes" : sexual discourse in the Filipina domestic worker community in Hong Kong
Authors: Chang, Kimberly A.
Groves, Julian M.
Keywords: Domestic workers
Hong Kong
Overseas contract workers
Foreign domestic helpers
Issue Date: 20-Jun-1997
Citation: Forthcoming in Women's Studies International Forum.
Series/Report no.: Working Papers in the Social Sciences ; No. 20
Abstract: Feminists argue that sexuality as a locus of control between men and women. Sexual reputation and sex talk are important because they are commentaries on gendered power relations and the broader institutional arrangements that permit them. We examine sexual reputation among a particularly disempowered group of women—Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong. We look at how international migration policy, the conditions of domestic work, and Hong Kong culture have led Filipina domestic workers to be associated with the sex industry. In response, the women observe strict rules of sexual conduct within their own communities in order to distinguish themselves from prostitutes. Some domestic workers, however, see a contradiction within this response. They brazenly talk about sex, flaunt their sexuality, and mock their members in their all-female, church-based organizations by calling them “saints.” This discourse on prostitution and sainthood, we argue, is a commentary on unequal power relations between Filipinas and the broader community in which the women’s employability and economic standing depend upon their sexual complicity.
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