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Pathways: A Journal of Humanistic and Social Inquiry

Abstract

Existing literature has noted how a disproportionate percentage of Filipina women are employed in personal care and service positions, especially within caregiving positions (Ezquerra, 2007). Their relative invisibility and lack of access to adequate economic and labor protections potentially feeds into a black market of caregiving positions (Ezquerra, 2007). Due to their precarious status, these women are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and various types of harassment. While globalization certainly plays a role in Filipina women’s participation within this labor sector, this study explores the concept that colonial gender hierarchies are being reinforced through Philippine media, thus affecting how Filipina caregivers perceive their identities and their position in the caregiving work sector.

Filipina women’s contributions to the economy of the Philippines is substantial given current remittances rates. In popular media representations, the recurring image of the maternal OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) portrayed in TV campaigns and advertisements is testament to Filipina workers’ contributions. In this essay, I argue that these depictions may be amplified by a historical colonial mentality that has idealized life abroad, and simultaneously, idealized the role of caregivers. For this study, I conducted qualitative, semi-structured interviews with eight current or former Filipina caregivers born in the Philippines to examine to what extent colonial mindframes inform Filipina caregivers’ identity formation in the United States.

Results from this qualitative study suggest that participants derive empowerment from their work and familial duties, which reframe capitalistic ideas of caregiving. Drawing from Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales’ concept of Pinayism, I suggest the importance of amplifying how Filipina caregivers account for experiences of newfound agency and independence within their context in the United States, regardless of the nature of their work.

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