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Interpreting their powerlessness: the case of Filipino domestic workers in Vancouver Sanchez, Grace B. 1995

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Interpreting Their Powerlessness: The Case of Filipino Domestic Workers in Vancouver by Grace B. Sanchez B.A., Simon Fraser University, 1988 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of Anthropology and Sociology We accept this thesis as conforming to the reauired standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 1995 ® Grace Sanchez, 1995 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of Anthropology and Sociology The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada April 25, 1995 Abstract This thesis points to an oversight in the literature about foreign domestic workers. Foreign domestic workers have, too often, been portrayed as one-dimensional victims — a group of powerless women vainly struggling for a respectable place in Canadian society. This portrayal, however, while it can explain their disadvantage along class and gender analyses, assumes a concept of power which dismisses their ability to resist. This thesis argues that foreign domestic workers, although occupying a highly disadvantaged position relative to others in society, are not only victims but actors. This argument acknowledges that their lives in Canada are only part of their grander life histories. When foreign domestic workers are placed at the centre of analysis, as subjects rather than objects, I was able to investigate a multifaceted notion of power. Fifteen foreign domestic workers from the Philippines were interviewed and specific questions were asked about their day to day lives, their background, and their ambitions. Their answers reveal a profound understanding of who they are as women, and as domestic workers. Some clearly understand the connections between the economic crisis in the Philippines and their role in that crisis. The interviews also show that domestic workers contemplated their situations beyond the present, and that they recount their lives in episodes of opportunities as well as constraints. Finally, what is most revealing is the strategies they employ to get through their days. Overall, the interviews with foreign domestic workers illustrate that when they are viewed as active social agents, they articulate power at various levels corresponding with their overlapping social roles and multiple levels of struggle. ii TABLE OF CONTENTS Page Abstract ii Table of Contents i i i Acknowledgement iv Chapter One Introduction 1 Chapter Two Theory 17 Chapter Three Methods 43 Chapter Four Review of Domestic Worker Legislation and Related Programs 59 Chapter Five Agency and Power Among Domestic Workers 79 Chapter Six Conclusions 112 Bibliography j . 1 2 4 Table 1 Select Characteristics of Women Interviewed 131 Appendix A New Entrants to the F D M Program by Region of Origin 132 Appendix B Interview Questions 133 ii i Acknowledgement I am indebted to a number of people for their help with this thesis. For their support, patience and guidance, many thanks to the members of my supervisory committee: Dr. Neil Guppy, Dr. Gillian Creese, and Dr. Graham Johnson. Doug MacLaren, my husband, stood beside me the whole time. Without his love, understanding; encouragement and sense of humour, this work would not have been completed. I also wish to acknowledge my parents, Tomas and Josefina Sanchez, for their unfailing support. Finally, I am grateful for the help of the West Coast Domestic Workers Association, the Philippine Women's Centre, the Committee for Caregivers Rights, and all the women I interviewed who so selflessly shared their stories and wisdom with me. iv Chapter 1 Introduction This study is based on a series of in-depth interviews of Filipino domestic workers in Vancouver. My interviews reveal that Filipino domestic workers, as social actors, occupy a highly-disadvantaged position in Canada. While they are "powerless" in a lot of ways, they also have a number of outlets for resistance. To label them powerless only reinforces their disadvantage because it encourages society to view them as helpless victims. It denies these women their history of struggle. It undermines the efforts of this group of international migrant workers to improve their economic status, and trivializes the tremendous sacrifice these women have already made and the hardships they have already endured. This contention is not meant to make heroines out of these women, but to reveal a perspective from the other side of our viewing lenses. Key to understanding this perspective is an understanding of how Filipina1 domestic workers view their own powerlessness. The research I conducted reveals that Filipina domestic workers in Canada are social actors engaged in purposive acts designed to improve their longrterm social, economic, and political status. This thesis begins from the position that the perspectives and insights of Filipina domestic workers about their own subordination can contribute to further understanding of questions about social inequality and feminist social science research. The term "powerlessness" as used in this work is fraught with meaning and is a central issue in this thesis. It is clear that foreign domestic workers are oppressed. Makeda Silvera's book, Silenced, provides ample evidence that foreign domestic workers suffer grave injustices. At the local level, the office of the West Coast Domestic Workers Association2 has numerous surveys and anecdotal information which document the abuse endured by these women; Abuses were also cited to me during my interviews so I have sound reasons for believing that Filipina domestic 1FiIipina is the feminine form of the word Filipino. Filipina is used interchangeably with Filipino women. 2Also referred to as DWA, the West Coast Domestic Workers Association is a Vancouver-based organization committed to improving the lives of domestic workers through advocacy. workers are disadvantaged in many ways by the employment rules they abide by, and the patriarchal and racist system they encounter once in Canada. Having said this, I also recognize that power comes in many forms, and that foreign domestic workers who venture outside their own countries to work abroad engage in a form of risk-taking which can be interpreted as an assertion and expression of power. Coming to Canada as domestic workers offers economic and personal opportunities for Filipino women which they would otherwise not be able to attain. When foreign domestic workers are labeled powerless, the power relations in question are those between the actors in North American society. Foreign domestic workers however are engaged in multiple levels of struggle. In addition to facing the ones in this society, they also face power relations within their families and within their countries of origin. This study suggests that because Filipina domestic workers face multiple levels of power relations, they can also be seen as powerful and powerless at the same time. By beginning an analysis of foreign domestic labour from the perspective that foreign domestic are purposive actors, we can appreciate the complexities of the day-to-day struggles of women from poor countries with no citizenship rights living in a privileged society, and we can begin to redefine the nature of power as viewed by these women. The research question I explore is "How do disadvantaged groups endure their disadvantaged position society." I have chosen the case of Filipina live-in domestic workers and nannies because the conditions under which these women work and live render them socially, economically and politically disadvantaged in Canadian society. The increasing number of Filipina domestic workers entering Canada is also a recent phenomenon so this study is especially timely. As well, very little i has been written in the academic literature about this. My research is a small contribution to this gap in literature. This case study also integrates class, gender, race, and ethnicity issues together in an analysis. 3 Definition of Terms Feminism. There is not one single feminist approach. Whether liberal, Marxist, socialist, radical, or women of colour feminists, all argue that women are subordinated and that this oppression is wrong. This is the most basic position from which to examine problems of social inequality. Domestic worker means someone who has been allowed to enter Canada for the sole purpose of providing domestic services to a household during a probationary period. The Filipina domestic worker is someone who entered Canada under a special program run by the Department of Employment and Immigration between 1981-1992. As most Filipina domestics are also responsible for child care, I use the term domestic worker and nanny interchangeably. The Foreign Domestic Workers Program allowed women to work in Canada solely as a live-in domestic worker for up to three years, after which time, she can apply to become a landed immigrant or permanent resident. / During the probationary time of up to 3 years, domestics have no citizenship rights. The future of the domestic worker is entirely dependent on her employer and immigration officials who will later evaluate her desirability as a citizen. During the years that a domestic worker is in the home of her employer there are few legal outlets for speaking out against abuse. The situation is further complicated because laws which prevent abuse of the domestic by the employer are difficult to enforce. Disadvantaged position. I describe nannies under the Foreign Domestic Workers Program as being in a disadvantaged position in Canadian society for reasons relating to the circumstances of their employment. Most importantly, foreign nannies are called upon to perform labour which has historically been provided free by women, women's work having little economic worth. Secondly, foreign nannies are in disadvantaged positions because as workers they are dependent on character and work references from their employer. Thus, for Filipina nannies who register under \ 4 the program hoping to immigrate to Canada, their participation in the program often means they are likely to keep silent, even if abused, rather than formally complain in order to attain positive references with which they can satisfy immigratipn officials. As live-in domestic workers, the relationship between employer and employee in this situation is concealed in privacy. For example, the number of hours performed by the worker and type of responsibilities expected by the employer cannot be publicly monitored and checked. This condition works in every way to the advantage of the employer. The domestic worker loses or gains a great deal depending on how she negotiates her position in the employer-employee relationship. Another manner in which domestic workers are disadvantaged is tied to their status as "somewhere between immigrant and visitor." As Audrey Macklin writes: The foreign domestic worker occupies the technically non-existent category of "visiting immigrant." To be more exact, her application to enter Canada as a foreign domestic worker is assessed as if she had the intention of remaining in Canada permanently, but once admitted she is officially labeled a visitor unless and until she successfully applies for landed status two years hence. Immigrants must meet a higher threshold than visitors in order to enter Canada; visitors have fewer entitlements than immigrants once they are in Canada and fewer procedural protections against removal. In other words, it is more difficult to enter as an immigrant, and more difficult to stay as a visitor. What this means in practice for a domestic worker is that she bears the burdens of both immigrants and visitors..., and receives the benefits of neither.3 The disadvantaged position of domestic workers does not mean lack of power. Domestic workers are, after all, responsible for the care and security of their employer's children and the family home. An important part of my work investigated how the asymmetrical balance of power is negotiated between employer and employee. Class is defined in this work in Marxist terms, referring to the relationship to the means of production. Domestic workers who exchange the service they provide for a wage represent 3 Audrey Macklin, Assistant Professor, Dalhousie University, Foreign Domestic Worker: Surrogate Housewife or Mail Order Servant?, unpublished paper, 1991, pp. 30-31.1 found this paper in the Philippine Women's Centre in Vancouver with only the reference to the author and title. When I tried to reference this work properly, I phoned die author and was informed that this thesis was later published under the same title in the McGill Law Journal, Volume 37, No. 3, October 1, 1992. membership in a proletarian class triply disadvantaged due to their class, gender and race. Although the writings of Karl Marx fail to sufficiently account for women's work in the home, I will draw on Marxists-feminists who have re-interpreted Marx to include women's unpaid labour in the productive realm. Power is broadly defined as the ability to influence the outcome of events. It can mean something that an actor possesses which is valuable in itself (for example, social position), or may be useful for obtaining other valued things (for example, specialized skills with a high market value). Implied in this definition is the notion of domination or authority, since the use of power can be used to obtain compliance from others. Powerlessness, in turn, is the lack of influence over circumstances. In feminist literature, there is ongoing work on reconstructing the notion of power. Combined with Dorothy Smith's work on "standpoint," I explore this emerging view. This work is also inspired by bell hooks work' on the concept that the powerless can also be powerful. To hooks, poor and exploited women can exercise power by rejecting the powerful's definition of reality^." Nancy Hartsock's work also informs this alternative notion of power. She refers to the consciousness-raising exercises of the 1960's as having some important effects for feminists. She writes: "The realization that the social world is a human creation and that through our own activity we have already changed important aspects of that world leads to a sense of our own power and provides a source of energy for further changes. "^ Contributions of this Study This research study contributes to our substantive knowledge about paid domestic labour. It also illustrates how to apply what we have so far learned about feminist theories and methods into a research study. By acknowledging that Filipina nannies are skilled agents who bring over a set of 4bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to CentreiBoston. South End Press, 1984), pp. 90-91. 5Nancy Hartsock," Political Change: Two Perspectives on Power," Quest. Volume 1, Number 1, Summer 1974, p. 14. personal histories beyond their existence in Canada, this work contributes to a feminist social science. The study also hopes to dispel or reformulate the image of powerlessness which dominates the literature on domestic workers and migrant workers today. It seems a gap exists in the literature about this topic — the fundamental view of volition is omitted from existing works. As Anthony Giddens has emphatically reminded us in New Rules of Sociological Method: "the social world, unlike the world of nature, has to be grasped as a skilled accomplishment of active human subjects. This work contributes to theoretical work on conducting feminist social science research by illustrating how an "other" perspective can influence the conclusions of social science research. This case study demonstrates that the category "woman" is not monolithic, and that the manner in which "women" view the world is as varied as the types of women in it. As well, since I view feminism as a commitment to political action for improving all women's disadvantage, this study demonstrates how offering a forum for disadvantaged women to speak can lead to a broadened and different view of the social world. /" ' • • Finally, some of the insights that may be gained from this specific case study may be generalizable to all cases of disadvantaged groups thereby contributing to further understanding of the dynamics of our social world. In view of the increasing feminization of migrant workers, this thesis also hopes to make a contribution to understanding that phenomenon. Relevant Research Areas What struck me most when I began conducting my research was the paucity of material directly relevant to my subject group. Very little has been written in academic literature (in Canada, at least) about Filipino domestic workers other than the sensationalized cases in the media. There have been a few areas which mention domestic workers. As an introduction to the subsequent 6Anthony Giddens, New Rules of Sociological Method. (London, Hutchinson & Co., 1976, p. 155. chapters, I provide in this section a brief summary of the terms and relevant research areas that underlie the work. Domestic labour: Domestic labour debates stem from the 1960s clash between feminists and Marxists who disagreed on the position of women in society. Feminists expressed dissatisfaction with the exclusion of the women question from Marxist analysis which defines societal relationships according to one's relationship to the means of production. Women in Marxists analysis, its critics claim, only enter the discussion when subsumed under the family. This exclusion is, some would argue, because of Marx's limited definition of labour as paid labour. This automatically ignores women's contribution in the form of domestic labour to the family household economy. Although the debates were carried out in the name of the "universal woman," it was not until the early 1980's when "women of colour" perspectives emerged that the "universal woman" was reconceptualized as the reality of only the select few, that is, the reality, of white, Western, middle-class women. Disappointingly, the most militant of the feminists in these debates failed to foresee that once Western women are liberated from the drudgeries of housework, that other women from other parts of the world will be recruited to perform this unpaid, devalued work. Much work on domestic labour focuses on the feminist and Marxist debate. Shortly after the onslaught of the woman question in Marxism, the topic for discussion went.on to actual analyses of the condition of women. It was agreed that women have historically performed these domestic tasks for free and that when they entered the paid labour force, another group of labourers were needed to fill this gap. The role of the State then in responding to the needs of the citizens then comes into question. Historically, the State's response to women's demands may be said to have had the intention of placating rather than answering those demands. For example, some have argued that immigration laws for women have been tightened or relaxed according to the demands for female domestic labour (Calliste 1989, Devan 1989). I believe this action on the part 8 of the State circumvents the real questions relating to women's work and productive worth in society. Immigrant women: Feminist studies of immigrant women explore the way in which institutionalized systems reinforce the dependence of immigrant women when they arrive in Canada. Monica Boyd, for example, has written much on how competition for social-service resources, such as those for language training courses, have led to the reinforcement of dependency. The dependency and invisibility of immigrant women, she contends, are reinforced by certain institutional processes from their entry into Canada as "dependents." The implication is that the sexist system of considering immigrants as a category, according to analyses of immigrant women and work, hides the fact that men and women have different sets of experiences upon arrival in Canada. The research is also informed by Roxana Ng's work on the "social construction of immigrant women in Canada." Ng argues that the commodification of immigrant women, as defined by legitimate social institutions, demonstrates that ethnicity and gender are "constitutive features of productive relations^." That is, Ng suggests that ethnicity and gender are integral constituents in the organization of class in capitalist societies. Her ethnographic fieldwork during her stay at a counseling and placement agency for immigrant women formed the crux of her thesis. Another influence on this is the work of Pratibha Parmar on Asian women in British society. Parmar writes of how Asian women, despite major obstacles, have transformed stereotypical conceptions of Asian women. Parmar also succinctly points to the glaring gap in literature about immigrant women and their struggles. She contends that it is possible to view migrant women as courageous and that to not do so undermines the experience and hardships undertaken by 7Roxana Ng, "The Social Construction of'Immigrant Women' in Canada," The Politics of Diversity: Feminism. Marxism and Nationalism. R. Hamilton and M Barrett, eds, (Thetford: Thetford Press Ltd., 1987), p. 285. 9 from their entry into Canada as "dependents." The implication is that the sexist system of considering immigrants as a category, according to analyses of immigrant women and work, hides the fact that men and women have different sets of experiences upon arrival in Canada. The research is also informed by Roxana Ng's work on the "social construction of immigrant women in Canada." Ng argues that the commodification of immigrant women, as defined by legitimate social institutions, demonstrates that ethnicity and gender are "constitutive features of productive relations^." That is, Ng suggests that ethnicity and gender are integral constituents in the organization of class in capitalist societies. Her ethnographic fieldwork during her stay at a counseling and placement agency for immigrant women formed the crux of her thesis. Another influence on this is the work of Pratibha Parmar on Asian women in British society. Parmar writes of how Asian women, despite major obstacles, have transformed stereotypical conceptions of Asian women. Parmar also succinctly points to the glaring gap in literature about immigrant women and their struggles. She contends that it is possible to view migrant women as courageous and that to not do so undermines the experience and hardships undertaken by immigrant women workers in Britain."** Parmar's work ultimately argues that a history of oppression also documents a history of resistance. 7Roxana Ng, "The Social Construction of Immigrant Women' in Canada," The Politics of Diversity: Feminism, Marxism and Nationalism. R. Hamilton and M Barrett, eds, (Thetford: Thetford Press Ltd., 1987), p. 285. 8Pratibha Parmer, "Gender, Race and Clas: Asian Women in Resistance," The Empire Strikes Back. Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, 1992, p 252. 10 Foreign domestic workers: Studies on foreign domestic workers emerged from the very first spark of debate on paid and unpaid labour. Although little has been published specifically about Filipino nannies, literature exists on Caribbean domestics. Research on Caribbean domestics has focused on the relationships between demands for a reserve labour force, and racist and sexist immigration laws. An analysis of foreign domestic workers examined the manner in which "working class immigrant women of colour face a four-fold oppression," focusing on how their "immigrant status interacts with race, class, and gender. "9 Some researchers have also acknowledged a hierarchy of types of foreign domestic labour available in Canada. There is often mention of Filipino nannies in these works, but analyses are not specifically applied to them, but to all nannies/domestic workers. References are also made to English and other European nannies, as well as Australian and New Zealand au pairs. In the U.B.C. department of sociology, for example, two master's level theses are available as resources: David Pedlar's 1982 work, "A Study of Domestic Services in Canada" and Mary Devan's 1989 work titled "Social, Economic and Political Factors Influencing the Supply and Demand of Foreign Domestic Workers." According to Devan's study, the Caribbean nannies of the late 1950s and early 1960s have now been replaced by Filipino nannies of the 1990s to occupy the least paid yet most vulnerable position. This fact is easily substantiated with quantifiable data from Employment and Immigration Canada (Chapter 4). 9Agnes Calliste, "Canada's Immigration Policy and Domestics from the Caribbean: The Second Domestic Scheme," Race. Class, Gender: Bonds and Barriers (Toronto: Between the Lines, 1989), p. 136. 11 Feminist scholarship and feminist social science: This work draws upon an extensive line of feminists who articulate a "woman-centered" perspective on sociological issues. Feminism as a theoretical approach, in this view, is an acknowledgment of the oppression of women and an acceptance that this oppression is wrong. Although this theoretical approach offers a spectrum of epistemological assumptions within this common acknowledgment, there are commonalities within competing feminist viewpoints. A common concern in feminist scholarship is on how research and social science knowledge is constructed/conducted. M y proposed work will observe a feminist praxis as defined by Liz Stanley. Feminist praxis, according to Stanley, is "an indication of a continuing shared feminist commitment to a political position in which 'knowledge' is not simply defined as 'knowledge what' but also as 'knowledge for.' 1^ This, in my view, resonates with Dorothy Smith's idea of a sociology "for women," to which I am committed. One of Smith's theoretical contributions to the social sciences is her theory on standpoint. According to Smith, an analysis of the realities of the social world, including the kind of questions deemed problematic about that world, unfolds a different tale when the personal experiences of women are considered as an integral and constitutive part. Standpoint is that unique perspective of the world where the woman as a thinking, acting being is recognized as having legitimate and different sets of experiences as that which have been perpetuated in exclusive, traditional discourse. This theory is relevant to this study in a profound way. I take inspiration from it because it provides me with theoretical grounding upon which to explain the realities of how women from disadvantaged groups can simultaneously exhibit varying stages of having power and not having power. 1 0Liz Stanley, ed., Feminist Praxis: Research. Theory and Epistemology in Feminist Sociology. (London, Routledge, 1990), p. 15. 12 Another important criteria of feminist research is the step away from objectifying the research subject. This, too, was observed in this study. Furthermore, another feminist focus is to determine what the "facts" collected, mean to the subjects of the research. The "what," "how" and "why" of my proposed research would follow this feminist social science. Chapter 3, the discussion on research methods, presents these issues in greater detail. With reference to the method of the study, my thesis subscribes to the notion that invaluable information can be gleaned from the narratives of the domestic workers themselves. Personal narratives will place the findings of this work within a new context. The underlying belief is that the intersection of an individual life course and a specific historical moment will provide insight into the ways that particular lives take the shape that they do and how each woman makes sense of her world. A more succinct statement appears in the article "Conditions Not of Her Own Making": "Women's personal narratives also reveal the frameworks of meaning through which individuals locate themselves in the world and make sense of their lives." * * Assumptions The following assumptions inform my research: that domestic work is historically considered as women's work and therefore devalued; that the conditions of the Canadian government's Foreign Domestic Program created a disadvantageous system for Filipino women entering Canada as domestics; and 1 1 "Conditions Not of Her Own Making,," Interpreting Women's Lives: Feminist Theory and Personal Narratives,Personal Narratives Group, eds., (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1989), p. 22. 13 that despite difficult working conditions, women from the Philippines will continue to consider domestic service in Canada as an alternative for improving their own and their families' lives. My analysis includes insight to the following questions and issues: 1. As the point of this enquiry is to gain new insight into a sociological phenomenon such as the increasing numbers of Filipino women entering foreign domestic work, did the interviews challenge any existing notions or assumptions that would contribute to understanding issues of social inequality? 2. What are the fundamental elements of their domestic position that shape issues of power and domination? r. 3. Explain the impact of class, sex, race, ethnicity and "foreign domestic" status, to the disadvantaged position of Filipino nannies. 4. As skilled actors, what common factors influenced the decision to apply for domestic work positions abroad? In analyzing these related research questions, the focus was on identifying new insights gained through personal interviews. Patterns of social behaviour will be outlined and explained. Powerlessness cannot be explained without first clarifying the sources of power. The notion of power, therefore, is a central theme of the work. The thesis interprets power as the ability to influence outcomes. In this case, the sources of power of domestic workers will be explained as well as the reasons why they are usually viewed as powerless. The notion of powerlessness, 14 however, is challenged once the subjects of the study, the domestic workers themselves, are located as prominent, active players. I contend that we should not too quickly dismiss domestic workers as lacking in power. Interviewing Domestic Workers Although informed by and building on feminist debates, the emphasis of the study was on interpreting stories from Filipino nannies themselves. I conducted a series of in-depth interviews with 15 Filipino domestic workers. Issues addressed in the interviews include those which relay the historical, socio-economic, political, and cultural conditions specific to the interviewees which influenced their decisions to come to Canada as domestic workers. What I attempted to encourage was a self-evaluation of their own social conditions and impressions about being Filipino nannies in Canada. The questions pursued were on how they translated their own oppression and how they negotiated their rights. Specifically, I covered the following questions during the interviews: 1. What were your expectations when you signed up to be a domestic worker? 2. Did you plan to leave the Philippines in the long run, or did you have plans to return once you've accomplished what you set out to do? 3. How long did you expect to work as a domestic worker? 4. In what area were you trained in, or what level of education have you attained/hope to attain? 5. In what countries have you worked? (If Hong Kong, Singapore or Malaysia or Middle East or other countries other than North America.) Did you see those as end destinations or were you specifically interested in coming to North America? 15 The interviews were conducted in both English and Tagalog, the Philippine language spoken and understood by most Filipinos. I am fluent in both which proved to be an asset as it provided an opportunity for Filipino nannies to express themselves in their more familiar mother tongue. A reflexive type of interviewing was employed for this work. 12 The tools used in this study were observation and open-ended interviews. Hammersley and Atkinson in Ethnography: Principles and Practice write that the role of the interviewer in non-directive interviewing is to appear passive but somehow keep the focus of the research. These roles and tools for the ethnographer would guide the researcher in this participant-observation study. Concluding Remarks This thesis touches on a number of issues relating to studies of domestic work, foreign domestic workers, and immigrant women. The following chapters elaborate on specific aspects of the topic: Chapter 2 serves as a review of existing literature which relates to this topic. I explain the feminist theoretical stance to which I subscribe. This chapter also clarifies that this thesis was informed by a number of research areas. The objective of the research study was to interpret the "powerlessness" experienced by foreign domestic workers in Canada. Unfortunately, the existence of Filipino domestic workers in Canada is a relatively new phenomenon so very little of academic writing has been devoted to this. I have instead used the concepts I could borrow from studies which focus on peripheral areas. I looked at the literature on the "institutionalized subordination" of immigrant women, at the literature on domestic labour, and a small body of work specifically on "foreign domestic workers." 1 2 M . Hammersley and P. Atkinson, Ethnography: Principles in Practice. (London: Tavistock, 1983), p. 113. 16 In Chapter 3,1 discuss the research methods for the work. I begin this chapter by recognizing that an exploration of feminist social science theories and methods is currently underway. I express my hope that this thesis becomes a part of this exploration. Chapter 4 illustrates the institutional constraints faced by Filipino domestic workers in Canada. It expounds on the relevant domestic worker legislation and related programs and serves as a contextual background. It also shows one level of struggle for the domestic worker. I would argue that her day-to-day life experiences can reveal other complicated levels of struggle. Chapter 5 is a discussion of the concept of agency and power among domestic workers. Using material from the interviews with domestic workers, I attempt to identify patterns of behaviour from which I am then able to draw conclusions. Finally, Chapter 6 offers a brief discussion and conclusion to this thesis. This section notes that foreign domestic workers play many roles, and that these roles determine their strategies for coping with their daily hardships. Chapter 2 Theory To discover how a certain group of disadvantaged women understand their relative position of power, I framed this discourse to include these women, and begin analysis from their perspectives. I assume that this group of women, Filipino domestic workers, are active agents despite the subordinate relationship they may have with their employers. Another assumption is that being employed as a domestic worker is a choice, perhaps not so much because of its attractive benefits, but because of the more bitter alternatives. This rational choice by the domestic worker leads to questions about the other consequences the domestic worker may have been faced with. The theoretical background and literature review presented in this chapter will explain the theoretical grounding upon which the study is based. It will focus on how a feminist perspective has influenced not just the research question asked but also the consequent analysis. It will also locate foreign domestic workers as subjects of sociology. The theories of Anthony Giddens inform this study. Two concepts of Giddens are especially noteworthy: the pluralistic bases of power in society, and the assumption that members of society are actors operating within multiple levels of constraints and opportunities. Giddens' theory of structuration hinges on the idea that there are essentially three variable and dynamic classes in society according to the level of power and influence they have in society — one group made up of those who own most of the means of production, another which is made up of those who may not own productive property but have special education or skills with a market value, and another made up of those with only their labour power to exchange in the marketplace. Structuration is the dynamic phenomenon by which actors in society generate and reproduce these social classes, as 18 well as social structures. From this theory, Giddens makes clear that the role of the rational actor is an important part of social relations. In 1976, Giddens reinforces the role of rational, reflexive actors in Rule No. 2 in his New Rules of Sociological Method: "The production and reproduction of society thus has to be treated as a skilled performance on the part of its members, not merely a mechanical series of processes.1 Another theoretical concept which proved useful for analysis is Dorothy Smith's standpoint theory. One of Smith's contributions to sociological thought is that she offers a theory which explains the world as experienced by women. Her theory of a sociology for women begins from an argument that women have been located outside what is knowable in our society. She suggests that by expressing women's everyday experience as a conceptual or theoretical problematic, we can arrive at a different way of understanding the complexities of the social world. She writes: "Making the everyday world our problematic instructs us to look for the "inner" organization generating its ordinary features, its orders and disorders, its contingencies and conditions, and to look for that inner organization in the externalized and abstracted relations of economic processes and of the ruling apparatus in general."2 With regard to foreign domestic workers, it is precisely that "inner" organization which this study probes. Thus, a rationale can be made that by interviewing foreign domestic workers in Vancouver for a case study, we can demonstrate how a sociology for women as posited by Smith can reveal the complexities of the social world. 'Anthony Giddens, New Rules of Sociological Method. (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1976), p. 160. 2Dorothy Smith, The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 19870, p. 99. 19 A concern with a sociology for women is that different women are located at varying distances from the sources of power. Hence a discussion of how foreign domestic workers fit within the feminist framework as well as a discussion of power theories are also provided in this chapter . The domestic labour debate is used as an example of how earlier studies of women's lives do not necessarily inform us of all women's experiences. The literature review offered in this chapter reveals a further need for feminism as a theoretical approach to conceptualize a theory of power which can account for purposive action and the dynamic structuration of society. Feminism, Gender and Power "Before women can work to reconstruct society we must reject the notion that obtaining power in the existing social structures will necessarily advance feminist struggle to end sexist oppression. It may allow numbers of women to gain greater material privilege, control over their destiny, and the destiny of others, all of which are important goals. It will not end male domination as a system. The suggestion that women must obtain power before they can effectively resist sexism is rooted in the false assumption that women have no power. Women, even the most oppressed among us, do exercise some power. These powers can be used to advance feminist struggle......Women need to know that they can reject the powerful's definition of their reality —that they can do so even if they are poor, exploited, or trapped in oppressive circumstances. They need to know that the exercise of this basic personal power is an act of resistance and strength. Many poor and exploited women, especially non-white women, would have been unable to develop positive self-concepts if they had not exercised their power to reject the powerful's definition of their reality."3 In the last thirty years, in addition to theorizing about gender relations and inequities, feminists turned their attention to social theories of power. The challenge for feminists was to establish a link between gender, which proved to be a useful analytical concept for explaining differences between the sexes, and power, which seems privy only to men. 3bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre, (Boston: South End Press, 1984), pp 90-91. 20 Feminists therefore claimed that the traditional definition of power (generally speaking, the ability to influence an outcome) is inadequate because of its androgyny. The preoccupation of feminist thought then turned to exposing the gendered nature of power and conceptualizing a feminist definition. The more prevalent and classical conception of power is that it is a thing possessed and utilized in achieving gains, usually at another's expense. Or, as Steve Lukes wrote: The absolutely basic common core to all conceptions of power is the notion of the bringing about of consequences with no restriction on what the consequences might be or what brings them about. When used in relation to human beings in social relations with one another, it is attributed to persons or collectivities or, sometimes, to systems or structures within which they act.4 In feminist literature, this is often described as the "top-down" or "power-over." Feminists agreed that the malestream conception of power not only involved domination and subordination, but a top-down application of it. A gendered power structure, feminists claim, favoured men who are inevitably inclined to dominate women, either because they are biologically different or because they are structurally situated to be dominant (reinforced to be so by patriarchal systems) throughout the history of malestream thought. The concern for feminists was primarily to study women's experience of powerlessness and oppression. Some feminist theorists conceptualized two types of power (Hartsock 1974, French 1985, Yoder and Kahn 1992): "power-over" and "power-to." Power-over is power which is wielded by institutions or its legitimate arm, the State. On the other hand, there is power-4Steve Lukes, "Power and Authority," A History of Sociological Analysis. Tom Bottomore and Robert Nisbet eds, (New York: Basic Books, Inc). 1978, pp 634-635. 21 to, which is an internal source of strength during a situation of struggle, primarily of the personal kind. In the former, authority is a form of power, because authority is an enabling mechanism. As well, patriarchy in feminist literature is most often equated as power since patriarchy as the ideological system which relegates uneven values favouring the masculine gender over the feminine has proven to have enduring and disadvantageous effects for women. In the latter, power originates from the self, and if ideological consciousness occurs among several actors, "mutual empowerment" can occur, which in turn, can then be used to restructure and redefine the grander powers which order social life. In the convergence of the two powers, there is an implied assumption that once women gain the political power they seek, they will focus on the "power-to" aspects rather than "power-over." That is, some feminists believe that women will use power differently than men to correct the domination/subordination imbalance. To Nancy Hartsock, for example, "power-to," as a feminist concept, calls for women's empowerment without calling for men's subordination.5 The feminist contribution to social science theories of power is the insight that power is gendered. Using the domestic labour debates as an example, feminists proved that gender can not only be regarded as differences but also as power relations Unfortunately, gender, as an operative concept, only explained the range of inequities between men and women, the masculine and feminine, and inequities between the value of men's jobs and women's jobs. The gendered nature of power explained inequities between men and women, but not in-between women. Furthermore, it became quite clear later that women's groups were also capable of exerting power, and that among women, some were more powerful than others. 5Nancy Hartsock, Money. Sex, and Power: Toward a Historical Materialism. (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1983). 22 To complicate matters, while the different feminist positions can agree on the oppressed position of women, their solutions to attaining power differed widely. In general, liberal, Marxists, and socialists feminist accept structure and leadership as permanent features of organized groups. Liberal feminists however, insists on the right to equal opportunity for competing for positions in the organized state power. Liberal feminists do not see a need for reforming existing power structures, as the Marxists and socialist do. To liberals, electing more women in positions of power, will be a sufficient corrective. Radical feminists on the other hand, envision a matriarchal society free from coercive state power, war and domination, without truly explaining how this is to be attained. Radical feminists have, therefore, often been criticized as having a revolutionary albeit naive notion of power and power relations. The dissenting opinions gave Jill McCalla Vickers cause to note that feminism as a movement has "failed to come to grips with the character of power and power relationships except to assign normative labels such as 'problematic but inevitable' or 'male-devised and contaminating.' " 6 McCalla Vickers viewed power as central to the movement's progress and concluded that feminists must borrow from and tolerate one another's views in order to move forward. Thus, some concessions may have to be made by all camps. To McCalla Vickers, the belief that women have the potential to exert power differently, that women can lead with the endorsement of her peers, that somehow women can be processed through the rank and file of public office, are ideals within reach if feminists maintain a common goal. 6Jill McCalla Vickers, "Coming Up for Air: Feminist Views of Power Reconsidered," Canadian Women's Studies. Volume 2, 1980, p. 66. 23 There are several feminists who shared McCalla Vickers concern for a unified or universalist feminist view of power.7 Nancy Hartsock attempted to expand on a general feminist theory on gender and power by using the Marxist notion of class. To Hartsock, a more useful way of proceeding with feminist thought is to focus on the women's commonalities across race and class boundaries. Although more theoretically sophisticated, Hartsock's attempt suffers with the ailment ascribed to most other generalist theories: it overlooks too many differences. As one author noted, theoretical approaches within feminism that tend toward general explanations either have a tendency to "overlook differences" (as in Marxist approaches) or to "over-accentuate" them (as in Foucaltian discourse analysis).8 More recently, the direction of feminist thought has shifted. A generalist theory of power is being rejected. The two main criticisms of the generalist theory is that the alternatives proposed by feminists all seem, firstly, incapable of dealing with power as a multifaceted concept and secondly, unable to account for the presence of asymmetric access to resources by different players. As one theorist, Kathy Davis, notes: Feminist 'common sense,' both traditionally and in the present, tends to treat power within gender relations as basically top-down and repressive. Women are regarded as the inevitable victims of male supremacy, helpless and hapless at the hands of the evil-intentioned, omnipotent male. Power, by the same token, is automatically linked to relations involving domination and authoritarian forms of control or coercion, making it difficult to see it as anything but negative and repressive.9 7Other feminist theorists have expounded on a general theory which can not be covered here. I am referring to psychoanalysis which focused on inequality with respect to the issue of reproduction and sexuality. Aafke Komter's account in "Gender, Power and Feminist Theory," in The Gender of Power, Kathy Davis, Monique Leijenaar and Jantine Oldersma, eds., (London: Sage Publications), 1991, pp. 42-62, offers a useful overview. 8Komter, p. 49. 9Kathy Davis, "Critical Sociology and Gender Relations," The Gender of Power. Kathy Davis, Monique Leijenaar and Jantine Oldersma, eds., (London: Sage Publications), 1991, p. 79. .24 In short, if power can be simplistically conceptualized in terms of domination and subordination, why have women allowed this system to exist and to continue? Furthermore, how can we explain power relations beyond antagonistic interactions? How, for example, can feminists conceptualize power relations among friends or in colleagial settings. Davis and her colleagues offer a hypothesis. They suggest that the most promising link to feminist theories of gender and power to date, can be found in Anthony Giddens' work on structuration10. Giddens has been commended for his use of Marxist and Weberian concepts for explaining social inequality.11 Giddens' theory is that groups and collectivities are made up of structures which he defines as systems of interaction. To Giddens "to study structuration is to attempt to determine the conditions which govern the continuity and dissolution of structures or types of structure."12 This theory is important because it leads to Giddens' concepts of power. His assumption is that "processes of structuration involve an interplay of meanings, norms and power."13 Giddens thus conceptualizes power in a complex way. According to Kathy Davis in "Critical Sociology and Gender Relations," there are five dimensions to Giddens' concept of power: 1. Power is integral to social interaction. 2. Power is intrinsic to human agency. 3. Power is relational, involving relations of dependence and autonomy. 10This insight was presented by Kathy Davis and Aafke Komter in The Gender of Power. 1 •Edward Grabb, Theories of Social Inequality: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives, second edition. (Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada), 1990. 12Giddens, 1976, p. 120. 13Giddens, 1976, p. 161. 25 4. Power is enabling as well as constraining. 5. Power is processual.14 These concepts seem crucial in theorizing about power relationships. The attractive notion offered by these concepts is that power is not limited only to social institutions but appears in face-to-face encounters, thus linking purposive action and institutional norms. It thus accomplishes what previous feminist theorists were not able to satisfactorily explain: finding the logical intersection of personal empowerment and institutional power. Davis1 interest was in exploring how Giddens' theory of structuration deals with the multi-faceted complexities of everyday encounters between the sexes. Davis' study is an interesting one. By interviewing female patients, Davis had expected to find examples of how male doctors undermine women's control and authority over their reproduction. What Davis found however was that encounters between patients and doctors appeared as friendly encounters rather than a power struggle. Just as I had expected the doctors of my study to display the behavior of the powerful, authoritatively wielding the sceptre of control throughout the consultations, I was prepared to discover the patients scarcely able to hold their own, hapless and helpless in the face of the combined forces of institutional authority and male domination. Whereas it was undoubtedly true that the patients did not, when all was said and done, come out on top in the interactional power struggles, I could not help but notice they were not going down without a fight. It was abundantly clear that, just as male doctors could be nice and friendly while exercising control, patients were often surprisingly recalcitrant and rebellious. In fact, the patients routinely exercised power in all sorts of subtle, sneaky and even somewhat unorthodox ways. Although the consultations were conducted in a cooperative and - as previously mentioned - friendly fashion, patients could engage in activities that served to undermine the physician's authority over their problems as well as what was to be done about them. These power 14Kathy Davis, "Critical Sociology and Gender Relations," The Gender of Power. Kathy Davies et al, eds. (London: Sage Publications), 1991, pp. 70-75. 26 practices were not dramatic, but rather microscopic attempts to shift the power imbalance in favor of the patient.15 Because Davis' study was concerned with the intersection of gender and power, her insights cannot be automatically translated to relationships among women with different accesses to power. However, some of the promising concepts she found in Giddens' work provides theoretical grounding for my research problem. M y discomfort with describing domestic workers as "powerless" is that the word connotes the picture of hapless victims. Literature on foreign domestic workers have conveniently ignored the relationship between the lives and histories before and after their arrival in Canada. The situation of foreign domestic workers is not only of interest because it brings up questions on the relationship of class, race, and gender in analyzing social inequality. The situation also offers an illustration of the complexities of power relations when intersected by class, race, and gender. The split in social theory on action vs. institution was bridged by Giddens' work on structuration. Giddens work offers a solution for accounting for the transformative capacity of volition on the one side and the oppressive property of domination on the other side. This concept appears to have promise in explaining my discomfort with the "powerlessness of domestic workers." Interviewing Filipino domestic workers in Vancouver, I hope, will contribute to feminist theories on gender and power. In the following section, I introduce Dorothy Smith's theories in a sociology for women which uses patriarchy as an analytical tool. 15Davis, p. 74. 27 Standpoint of the Disadvantaged Having thus found theoretical grounding for the argument that agency is an instructive concept for my study, I turn now to how feminist theories and methods influence this work. I attribute the argument in this section to the works of Dorothy Smith and Sandra Harding in particular. These theorists provide the contextual background to the work. Harding's contributions is recognized in Chapter 3, the methods component of this study, so only a brief mention is offered here. Smith, on the other hand, is discussed here as argument for the type of theorizing possible if the position of the disadvantaged subject is made problematic. In The Everyday World as a Problematic. Smith argues that there is a "line of fault" which has been unacknowledged in traditional sociological work. This line of fault is where the rupture between the legitimate forms of knowledge and the illegitimate worlds of feeling, sensation, and perception intersect. Because of this rupture, she claims that women are excluded from the legitimate discourse in a patriarchal system. This is accomplished in this manner. First, patriarchy imposes a structure of authoritative control for discourse within the realm of the knowable. Secondly, women continue to use only legitimized concepts to explain their exclusion. Smith makes an important claim that women have been historically denied a language for expressing their oppression precisely because their experience have not been included in the formation of what our society considers rational thought. So, while feminists have been able to explore the world by studying women as subjects, the analytical tools used and the body of knowledge used for analysis continue to reflect the dominance of the ruling patriarchal norms, thereby abstracting women from the very problem which alternative forms of analysis have attempted to solve. 28 According to Smith, an "additive" approach to the practice of sociology (that approach which does not challenge the traditional discourse) is inadequate for the study of women's true experience in the social world . Women continue to be excluded from participating in } the disciplines which are used to explain their exclusion. The consequence is that the creation of knowledge through social organization of discourse remains unchallenged. The discourse of traditional sociology has determined what we are going to do with sociology. Smith likened this to entering the driver's seat of a car where you can choose the direction and destination but not the way in which the car is assembled, how it works and how it will structure your relation to the world. 1 6 To surmount the disadvantage faced by women, Smith champions a "sociology for women." Sociology for women is not just using women as subjects but creating a new structure and a new frame wherein women can decide what tools to use and how to use them. This also entails making the everyday world "problematic" in a theoretical sense. Asking questions which are important to women, using women's experiences, and interpreting women's lives are elements in this new sociology. Smith's concept of "social actors" is in many ways radically different from Giddens' concept. Smith's theoretical standpoint begins with patriarchy. Social classes are not just determined by access to material productive forces but also by a gendered societal authority already in control of much of those productive forces. This gendered societal order has the ability to systematically exclude and delegitimize women's experiences in the world of social relations. What she proposes is for feminist theorists to break free of the hegemonic order by establishing a strategy for dealing with established sociological frameworks which locates women in the center. 16Smith, p. 73. 29 Such a sociological enterprise presents an alternative conception of a science to that which depend upon a former theoretically located in an Archimedian, that is, a purely formal space. It is a sociology whose knowers are members of the society and have positions in it outside that abstracted ruling apparatus ... and who know the society from within their experience of it as an everyday world. 1 7 This new sociological enterprise then requires a new way of theorizing and analyzing social problems. Harding's concepts of a feminist methodology informs us how a feminist science like the one Smith advocates can come into being. Like Smith, Harding contends that issues raised by the concept of a feminist social science encompasses issues relating to moral philosophies as well as the philosophies of science and that this duality obscures a unified feminist science. One of the problems with a new feminist framework as proposed by Smith is that it involves reconceptualizing scientific methodology. It becomes confused when feminists do not justify their methodology according to existing epistemological beliefs but in new conceptions of what they consider methodology should be. "Feminism," after all, by its very definition, "is a political movement for social change"18 which clashes with traditional ideas of scientific methodology. So while, "standpoint" is instructive as a concept, it also raises other questions which cannot be dealt with in this chapter. As well, Smith's sociology for women while it revolutionizes a way of doing sociology can be faulted for encouraging a "universalist" view of women. Patriarchy, an important assumption of Smith's work, as a concept does not explain power differences between different women. Smith also dismisses "agency" too quickly because she assumes that "agency" is that power which only men as part of the ruling class is able to experience. She writes: 17Smith, p. 88. 18Sandra Harding, ed.. Feminism and Methodology. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 182. 30 In general, women's work routines and the organization of their daily lives do not conform to the "voluntaristic" model or to the model upon which an agentic style of sociology might be based. Women have little opportunity for the exercise of mastery and control. Their working lives are not structured in terms of a project of their own. 1 9 By eliminating agency, Smith brings us back to the classless-sex analysis which cannot be applied to the case of powerless foreign domestic workers. So, while Smith's standpoint theory and her sociology for women gives me feminist theoretical basis from which to begin an analysis, I cannot apply it to my case study without reference to Giddens' and Davis' theories. Filipina foreign domestic workers are not just disadvantaged because of their gender, but also of their position in uneven global capitalist relations. Their standpoint and their everyday experience are significant precisely because they are not just women, but highly disadvantaged women. Domestic Workers and Feminist Theories The conditions of the foreign domestic workers everyday experience are influenced by a number of factors, including class and gender. To appreciate the social position occupied by this group of women, a brief reference to the domestic labour debate is offered. The domestic labour debate also serves to illustrate how different women have different everyday realities and how feminist theories have explained or not explained these differences. The domestic labour debates of the 1960s revolved around the issues of how to conceptualize women's participation in both the paid and unpaid labour force. This issue provoked heated arguments from classic Marxist theorists and the growing feminist 19Smith, p. 66. 31 movement of the times. The debates were what Wally Seccombe termed an "attempt to generate Marxist answers to feminist questions."20 Opinions ranged from those who insisted that domestic labour is not value-producing labour, to those who attempted to incorporate women's unique participation in both paid and unpaid realms within Marxist political economy. I need not explore in detail the substance of the domestic labour debates. There are several volumes of material dedicated to this topic already, The Politics of Diversity being only one of many. What I find noteworthy from this debate is the healthy feminist theorizing to which it eventually led. The dissatisfaction of many feminists to either the sex- or class-blind analyses during the domestic labour debates led to exciting work in feminist theorizing. Attention shifted towards building theory which would ideally move beyond "classless sex of much feminist writing, and sexless class of most Marxist work, to a political economy that recognizes sexual divisions as integral to theoretical development."21 Angela Miles also called for a move for further theoretical work so that "the debate would then move beyond itself to the extent that it could no longer be called 'the domestic labour debate.'22 For feminist thought, this intense clash between Marxists and feminists forced a healthy arena from which to work. Within the context of the domestic labour debates, it became apparent that there are irreconcilable differences among feminists themselves. Different camps of feminists evolved based on alliances relating to differing world views. Although united in that all 20Wally Seccombe, "Reflections on the Domestic Labour Debate and the Prospects for Marxist-feminist Synthesis," The Politics of Diversity. Roberta Hamilton and Michele Barrett, eds. (London: Thetford Press Limited), p. 190. 2 1 Pat Armstrong and Hugh Armstrong, "Beyond Sexless Class and Classless. Sex: Towards Feminist Marxism," The Politics of Diversity. Roberta Hamilton and Michele Barrett, eds. (London: Thetford Press Limited), p. 208. 2 2 Angela Miles, "Economism and Feminism: A Comment on the Domestic Labour Debate," The Politics of Diversity. Roberta Hamilton and Michele Barrett, eds., (London: Thetford Press Limited), p. 179. 32 believe that male-dominant social systems are oppressive for women, and that emancipation is the ultimate goal, feminists nonetheless held a range of political approaches in interpreting women's oppression and in their preferred forms of intervention. Furthermore, fundamental differences in epistemology and ontology divided feminists according to liberal, Marxist, socialist, and radical categories23. The feminist labels, understandably, are not inflexible. As Jaggar cautions, there are several problems in trying to define the different feminisms: "Feminist theorists and activists do not always wear labels and, even if they do, they are not always agreed on who should wear which label. Moreover, there are differences even between those wearing the same label and, in addition, dialogue between feminists of different tendencies has led to modifications in all their views." 2 4 This dialogue between feminists has elevated the discussions to new heights. Attention to race and sexual orientation differences, for example, in addition to class and gender differences, is one cause for such dialogue in the later part of the seventies and early eighties. A significant development during this time period is that challenges from the margins (to borrow author bell hooks' term) are emerging. Women of colour perspectives and lesbian feminists started to actively question the applicability to their own lives, of these universalist feminist theories. These feminists were leaders in recognizing the different sources of oppression of women. There are some who emerged from this challenge wanting to unify a feminist stance with an inclusionist and pluralistic perspective. Several key works later emerged aimed at acknowledging the differences with a view of moving the discussions forward25. In England, the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1982 2 3 Alison Jaggar's Feminist Politics and Human Nature offers a useful description of the epistemological differences among these categories. 24Jaggar, p. 123. 25See Feminism from Pressure to Politics for a discussion of "integrative feminism." 33 offers a glimpse of this direction, where consciousness based on imperial values, in addition to class and gender, is problematized. In the United States, Angela Davis' Women. Race, and Class in the early 1980s and bell hooks' Feminist Theory from Margin to Center, are perhaps the most influential. In Canada, Still Ain't Satisfied, and the Politics of Diversity, printed in 1982 and 1986 respectively, are two noteworthy collections which illustrate the dialogue of different feminist perspectives. Other worthwhile Canadian collections such as Race. Class. Gender: Bonds and Barriers and Feminism From Pressure to Politics are equally influential works, although they did not appear until the late eighties. The theoretical development of feminist thought in Canada is perhaps best illustrated by the topics of interest over the last decade. Like the evolution of feminism in other parts of the world, the early concern of the Canadian feminist movement is to place women in the picture. Two goals are implicit in this goal. Firstly, to describe and assert women's experience and identify how it is different from men's, and secondly, to challenge the inequities related to those different gender experiences. The men's work vs. women's work segregation in the labour force and consequent inequity in pay is the choice topic of some theorists (Armstrong and Armstrong 1975) while some concentrated on the condition unique to one gender — the double day of the working woman who works for pay outside and also performs unpaid service inside the home (Meissner 1975, Luxton 1980, Benston 1980). Placing women in the picture served to illustrate the disadvantages encountered by women in society and provoked a further call for social change. -34 The diversity of women's experiences was another central theme of Canadian feminism. In addition to growing attention to issues relating to First Nations women26, there are other women in the fringes of society that received increasing attention beginning in the early eighties. There were noteworthy articles on the experience of immigrant women and the intersection of their day-to-day lives with unfavourable immigration laws and discriminatory labour rules (Arnopoulos 1979, Boyd 1975, Boyd 1988). In these discussions, the experiences of immigrant women in Canada elucidate the role played by gender, country of origin, and socio-economic characteristics in shaping their experiences upon immigration. There is also a recognition that immigrant women experience discrimination and hardship in Canada unevenly,27 as Monica Boyd found. Although many feminists complimented Boyd's groundbreaking topic, others took exception to the primacy of gender over race in her final analysis. To counter the thesis of Boyd, opposing views were held by feminists specifically dealing with the multiple-levels of inequality faced by visible minority working women. Of significant note is Roxana Ng's work on immigrant women. Her work, "The Social Construction of Immigrant Women in Canada" argues that there are social processes in place that locate a certain group of women within a historical and political context, this context which, in turn, defines them as immigrant women. Ng's ethnographic account of how an employment placement agency for immigrant women colludes with the state in defining "immigrant women" as a social category in the Canadian labour market lends to a better understanding of the dynamics of immigrant women's social participation. Ng conceptualizes ethnicity and gender relations as "fundamental to the organization of 26Unfortunately, I am unable to devote discussion to issues relating to First Nations women. As this research is intended to revolve around foreign domestic workers, I concentrate my work in the area of immigrant women and foreign domestic workers to argue a thesis. The disadvantaged position of Canada's first peoples, regrettably, exceeds the boundaries of what this paper can accomplish. 27Monica Boyd, "Immigrant Women in Canada," McLaren, Arlene Tigar, ed., Gender and Society: Creating a Canadian Women's Sociology. (Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman Ltd.), 1988, pp. 334-335. 35 production relations," not as "variables" but as "integral constituents in the organization of class."28 Thus, unlike Boyd, Ng conceptualizes gender and ethnicity as inextricable from class and class position in society. Labeled as "dependents" under immigration terminology, immigrant women inarguably occupy a disadvantaged position.29 Reports of the disadvantaged living and working conditions of foreign domestic workers, however, represent the most intense intersection yet, of the dynamics of state power, class- and gender-divided occupations, and racist and sexist social stereotyping. Work conditions are so glaringly unjust that it is no wonder feminist attention turned to improve the living and working conditions of one of the most disadvantaged women in Canadian society — visible minority women who are non-citizens who are performing historically devalued women's work. It is also no wonder that a serious challenge to the "universalist" notion of women would be posed. A discussion of the situation of foreign domestic workers merits close examination to illuminate the intricacies of their socially disadvantaged position. Class-based differences have historically divided the experience of women in the area of housework and child care. Industrialization and the concept of wage for labour brought about the double day dilemma of women,30 and paradoxically, for a time, industrialization and the inventions of the new modern world were also seen to hold promise for liberating women from the drudgeries of housework. This expectation however, failed to 28Roxana Ng, "Social Construction of Immigrant Women in Canada," in The Politics of Diversity. Roberta Hamilton and Michele Barrett, eds. (London: Thetford Press Limited), p. 285. 29Monica Boyd argues that treatment of immigrant women as "dependents" in the admissions process has far-reaching consequences. In addition to linking the woman's immigrant status to that of her spouse, the label also serves to exclude her from obtaining government-sponsored training and educational programs. 30Louise A. Tilly and Joan W. Scott in Women. Work & Family provides a useful account of the transition from family economy to family wage economy to family consumer economy. 36 materialize.31 A consumer culture which offered self-cleaning ovens, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners did not ease domestic work since the responsibility for maintaining the home, which includes cooking and cleaning, remained with the women.3 2 Furthermore, Meg Luxton's longitudinal analysis of domestic work in Canada33 found that women's increasing participation in the paid labour force did not increase men's contribution to domestic chores. For example, Luxton's study revealed that even when women entered the paid labour market and placed their children in daycare centres, the primary responsibility for getting the children ready for daycare, fixing lunches, and delivering and picking up, also remained with the working women. Also, when women working outside the home sought paid help to ease their domestic responsibilities, the daycare workers and domestic servants they turned to, were also women entering the paid labour force but whose education, skills and experience were more limited. The feminization of domestic service began in England and France, the countries which led industrialization in late 1800s34. The opportunities afforded by factory work in the urban centers altered society and the institutions within it. Industrialization and its effects — the changing familial relations, the shift to a wage economy, and the migration of rural populations to the urban centres — all contributed to the exploding middle classes of the cities. Opportunities for earning a wage were different for men and women. For girls and women, domestic service was a job they can perform readily. No special skills, other than what the girl would have already learned from her family responsibilities, were required. 3'See Adrian Forty's account of the "myth of the mechanical servant" in Objects of Desire. (New York: Pantheon Books), 1986. See also Stevi Jackson's account in "Towards a Historical Sociology of Housework," Women's Studies International Forum. Volume 15, No. 2, pp. 153-172. 32Stevi Jackson, "Towards a Historical Sociology of Housework," Women's Studies International Forum. Volume 15, No. 2, pp. 153-172. 33Meg Luxton, "Two Hands for the Clock: Changing Patterns in the Gendered Division of Labour in the Home," The Politics of Diversity. Roberta Hamilton and Michele Barrett, eds., (Thetford, Norfold: Thetford Press Limited), 1987. 34The early history of domestic service is informed by Tilly and Scott's work. 37 The movement of domestic workers from rural to urban, and later, from developing to developed worlds, followed the opportunities offered by capital. In the history of foreign domestic workers in Canada, the situation of the Caribbean domestics of the 50s and Filipino domestics in the 80s have been of particular interest to feminists (Epstein 1981, W. Ng 1982, Ramirez 1982, Epstein 1983, Silvera 1983, R. Ng 1986, Calliste 1989, Bannerji 1993). The Domestic Scheme (1955-66) and the Foreign Domestic Worker Program (1981-92) were devised by the Canadian government with the agreement of the governments of the British Caribbean and the Philippines, respectively, to recruit women for jobs as domestic workers in Canada. The two programs fulfilled the same goal. The programs filled the demand for housekeepers and nannies vacated by the entry of Canadian women into the paid labour force. Rather than give in to women's demands for adequate daycare, the Canadian government appeased the public by importing a cheap form of labour to undertake housework and child care in times of intensified need. The conditions of the two foreign domestic workers scheme are similar (discussed in further detail in Chapter 4). Women from the Caribbean (primarily from Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Antigua, and Barbados) and the Philippines were actively recruited. The women were employed as live-in domestic workers for a probationary period. The Domestic Scheme issued landed immigrant status to the domestic workers upon their arrival in Canada but the women were required to work as domestic workers for a year before they can seek other forms of work. For the Foreign Domestic Worker Program, Filipino women were also screened by Canadian immigration officials but were put on probation for two years as a domestic worker, after which time, they were allowed to apply from within Canada for a landed immigrant status. 38 Today's conditions of employment for foreign domestic workers if abided by, seems reasonable. The domestic workers are obligated to work standard eight hours, with two days off each week, and given at least the legal minimum wage. From the salary of the domestic workers, room and board and appropriate income and unemployment taxes are deducted. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors in the work situations of domestics that leave them powerless against abuses by employers. Long hours, inadequate pay, physical abuse, and isolation were just few of the problems faced by these women.3 5 These factors, in addition to the tenuous protection by the government and racist attitudes in society in general, adds another level of pressure which domestic workers must contend with. Referring to the situation of Filipino domestic workers, Devan offers an example of how social structures are created and reinforced: Characteristics ascribed to Filipino women who migrate as domestic labourers serve as justification for the work they perform and the status they receive. They are considered to have personal characteristics which make theme suitable for the most devalued of domestic tasks. The underlying causes of migration for these women are obscured. The Filipino domestic worker is constructed as appropriate for certain types of domestic labour as part of the social process.36 Similarly, Calliste, writing about Caribbean domestics concluded that: "Although the Domestic Scheme provided opportunities for some Caribbean women and their families to 35Makeda Silvera, in interviews with Caribbean domestic workers, best documents the difficult work conditions and abuses faced by the domestic workers. Makeda Silvera, Silenced.(Toronto: Sister Vision Press), 1983. 36Mary Devan, Master's Thesis, Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia, 1989, p. 91. 39 emigrate to Canada, it reinforced the racial, class and gender stereotypes about black women being inherently suited to domestic work." 3 7 In analyses of the situation of foreign domestic workers, many argue that the injustice must be understood as structural, rather than cultural (Epstein 1981 and 1983, Ramirez 1982, Makeda 1983, Calliste 1989, Devan 1989). The structural position of non-white women doing women's work under a state-endorsed program places them in a vulnerable position to become victims of multiple forms of oppression. More specifically, the powerlessness is due to the nature and type of work performed and the conditions under which the domestic workers perform their jobs. First, domestic labour, the work they perform is "woman's work" and therefore devalued in our society as evidenced by the minimum wage value attached to the labour. Secondly, the day to day realities of domestic work ~ lack of privacy, isolation, lack of options for lodging complaints of unfair treatment, dependence on the employer (for character references later on when applying for immigrant status) — works to the disadvantage of the women. Reinforced by other cultural variables such as racist stereotyping, the powerlessness is entrenched. The past and future of the domestic worker schemes illustrates the control the state holds over who performs domestic labour in Canada. The Canadian government decided to end the Caribbean domestic scheme because Caribbean women who came into the country under the scheme often upgraded their education and sought other forms of work after the required one-year of domestic service. Thus, the shortage of domestic workers continued to intensify. After the Caribbean domestic scheme, the government opted in 1973 to issuing only Temporary Work Visas, stripping the landed immigrant status from the conditions outlined in the domestic scheme. These visas were issued primarily to workers 37Agnes Calliste, "Canada's Immigration Policy and Domestics from the Caribbean: The Second Domestic Scheme," Race, Class, Gender: Bonds and Barriers. Socialist Studies. No. 5,1989, p. 150. 40 from the Third World, for a particular kind of job, for a specific employer, for a specified period of time. If the conditions of the visa are not met, the worker must report to Employment and Immigration or risk being deported. A number of these visas were issued to women for live-in domestic work. Intense political pressure by women's groups and former domestic workers by the early 1980s forced the government to replace Temporary Work Visas with another scheme. The Foreign Domestic Worker Program replaced it. Under this program, women can apply for landed immigrant status after their two-year stint at domestic labour. In 1992, however, the rules were changed again. The changes included tighter screening criteria (certain certification courses were required prior to admission) and the work permit is strictly for care-giving, not housework. Domestic workers today are still rallying against the changes to the Program. The slogan "Good Enough to Work, Good Enough to Stay" succinctly states their cause today as it did in the 60s when the Caribbean domestics first coined this battle cry. Concluding Remarks The theoretical work on foreign domestic workers indeed is an important one. The contributions of earlier writers in calling attention to the injustice faced by these women, and consequently improving their lot, are to be commended. With new insights gained from the feminist movement, however, new questions can now offer new perspectives. For example, the manner in which the domestic workers posses ability to resist the powerless position they occupy in "microscopic" ways is of particular interest. I am interested in how a feminist approach can explain how victims can also be actors, and how social structures can also offer opportunities, not merely constraints. In many ways the situation of the domestic is paradoxical. Our employers trust us with their children, their valuables, their household appliances, their 41 automobiles, the preparation of their food, their health and their safety. Yet, we are the lowest-paid workers in the United States.38 When I reviewed the literature on domestic workers, the term "powerless" became conceptually problematic immediately. It was easy to accept that foreign domestic workers occupy a vulnerable position, and that indeed, the abuses against them are real. Furthermore, I have no qualms that the low pay and lack of legal outlets they face are nothing short of intolerable. It was much more difficult for me however, to imagine a group of women who left their family and friends for an unknown land to better the chances for themselves and their children, as being "weak" or "helpless." Thus, while I can accept the fact that foreign domestic workers are "structurally powerless," I found it contradictory that they are also able to show signs of personal power. This view is also informed by anti-imperialist views of certain writers. Pratibha Parmar, for example, has convincingly argued that Asian women bring with them a rich and varied tradition of resistance and struggle. Writing on how South Asian women in Britain have coped with their disadvantage, Parmar offers another view to the common assumption of powerlessness: Migrant women, be they from the Caribbean, Ghana, the Indian subcontinent or southern Europe, have all had experience of fighting the hostile forces of imperialism in one form or another. Women from the Caribbean have a long history of struggle which goes back to the days of slavery; and many Portuguese women went through revolutionary struggles before coming to Western Europe. For the authors to assume that these women have no history of struggle and are only politically 'born' when they arrive in the metropolis, is to deny their historical experience of fighting back, and to devalue anti-imperialist struggles as a whole:39 3 8As quoted by Linda Martin and Kerry Segrave, The Servant Problem. Domestic Workers in North America. Jefferson, N.C. and London: McFarland and Company, Inc., 1985, p. 164. 39Pratibha Parmar, Gender, Race and class: Asian Women in Resistance, The Empire Strikes Back. Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, 1982, p. 252. 42 If feminists are to understand the complexities of the standpoint of non-white sisters, the study of the dynamics of class and gender must be explained with a stronger concept of power and power relations. In the situation of foreign domestic workers, the nature of power and power relations are necessary analytical concepts. Feminists have not satisfactorily reconciled the relationship between gender and power, and the case of foreign domestic workers illustrates this. 43 Chapter 3 Methods It is the concept of agency that this thesis intends to explore. Using domestic workers as a case study, I hope to build on theories about women which includes the complex combination of gender, race, class, and ethnic or cultural identity in the analysis. Giddens' theoretical work on social actors promises a means for advancing feminist thought (Davis 1991). I begin with an assumption that the subjects of my study, foreign domestic workers, are rational, reflexive actors who are able to give insight about their own situations. I also assume that there are multiple levels of power relations along with multiple sites of struggles for domestic workers and that by interviewing them in an semi-structured fashion, I can capture some notion of their complicated lives. As argued in Chapter 2, while feminist thought has made progress in analysing power differentials along gender differences, little has yet been made on power differentials along other-criteria. Different women are subordinated in different ways. As well, because the focus was on the subordination of women, the inadvertent concentration of previous theories has been on the theories of women as victims. Theories have been negligent in pursuing the possibility that women can be actors and victims at once in a dynamic social world with multiple sites of struggles. Empirical research on domestic workers has often taken a more structural or top down approach, highlighting differential power relations. The power of the employer or the employment agencies has been the dominant, if not exclusive focus. Again, the assumption based on those types of analysis is that domestic workers, whether or not they are treated as agents, are virtually powerless. If we are to look beyond the top down structures, what kind of picture do we get? If we allow women who are disadvantaged to speak, what will they say? My aim is to look at coping strategies and power relations from the domestic's point of view to help resolve these questions and elucidate another facet to being powerless. Following Kathy Davis' inspiration (Davis 1991) 44 the processual nature of power helps to demonstrate it as both an enabling and constraining concept with regard to Filipino foreign domestic workers. This chapter outlines my research methods. I offer in some detail how I conducted my work and the tensions, trials, and dilemmas I faced during the research process. Most of all, it outlines the assumptions and the choices I eventually made. The following will show that my assumptions and choices were not without personal and political compromise. This chapter will also show some of the contradictions that are currently the subject of a number of social science debates on methods. Some of the contradictions relate to social science in general, and some relate to feminist social science methods in particular. Just as there are a number of feminisms, it is not surprising that there would be different acceptable ways of conducting feminist research. While I cannot resolve the debates, I offer justification for my eventual stance. While more work is required in conceptualizing a feminist methodology, I subscribe to Dorothy Smith's theory that there is a need for developing ways of doing sociology by and for women. It should be assumed that the standpoint for this study is that of disadvantaged women. The rationale is that we will get an understanding of the social world by locating "powerless" women at the centre of the analysis. Having said this, the problems of taking a feminist stance on methods should necessarily be addressed. Sandra Harding's work on feminist methods is offered in this chapter to reveal the strengths and limitations of the methods employed for the study. One of these limitations is that despite the political aims ignited by Smith in developing a feminist methodology, in order to be part of this discourse we call sociology, I abided by the traditional rules and left epistemological questions unanswered. 45 Objective of the Study The objective of my research is largely exploratory. By exploratory, I use the term as explained by Babbie.1 He offers three purposes for exploratory studies: "to satisfy the researcher's curiosity and desire for better understanding, test the feasibility of undertaking a more careful study, and to develop the methods to be employed in a more careful study."2 The research question began as an investigation of an interesting issue. It was one way of satisfying my personal and academic curiosity. My chosen method for going about my research, that is, conducting interviews with domestic workers, in turn, brought to mind the limitations of exploratory studies. Because of the small sample size, the intention of conducting interviews would be simply to find illustrations of the views of domestic workers. Should another decide to undertake a wider study of the issue, this thesis can offer hints for overcoming or alleviating the limitations and trials. Finally, I had hoped that by undertaking this work, theory and methods can both be improved for further work in developing a feminist way of conducting social science research. This chapter will discuss how I conducted the interviews of domestic workers, and reveal the practical, theoretical and ethical issues I encountered. I begin my discussion with the reference to why I chose interviewing as an appropriate method for investigating the research problem. From there I delve into the specific aspects of the interview process including the languages used, strategies used for gaining acceptance, and the recording and analysis of the data. Finally, a discussion of ethical considerations is offered. ^arl Babbie and Theodore C. Wagenaar, The Practice of Social Research. Fifth Edition, (Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company), 1989. 2Babbie, p 80. 46 Why Interviews? Gathering evidence on how domestic workers act and react to societal structures and processes required using intensive interview. From interviews, I expected to get "thick description" from which I can, in turn, systematically analyse and categorise symbolic acts or expressions (Clifford 1988). The basis of this is that complex ideas can be revealed from social expressions. Since my central problem required the actors' interpretation of their powerless condition, interviewing the actors to ask them about their day to day lives, I had hypothesized, would give clues to a series of actions or expressions which can then be interpreted. Interviewing, in this case, is the method of choice for gathering the "thick descriptive" material essential to offering a more complete depiction of the lives of Filipino domestic workers. Gathering thick descriptive material is essential to finding clues on how foreign domestic workers conceive analytic concepts such as agency and power. I had anticipated that personal interviews will reveal stories which can then help define these concepts. Thus, while I did not expect the interviews to reveal the domestic workers definition of power, I had expected them to give me patterned sets of illustrations which would help in the analysis. The methods used in pursuing this work also takes inspiration from the American approach pioneered in the 1920s in-the study of a new group of immigrants. The research approach taken in the classic book by Thomas and Znaniecki, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, focused on the perspective of the immigrants using private letters, autobiographies and life history documents. Thomas and Znaniecki argued that: If a social theory is to become the basis of social technique and to solve these problems really, it is evident that it must include both kinds of data involved in them —namely, the objective cultural elements of social life and the subjective characteristics of the members of the social group — and that the two groups of data must be taken as correlated.3 -> 3William I Thomas and Florian Znaniecki, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America. Eli Zaretsky, ed., (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984)., pp. 57-58. 47 Amended slightly, I pose that the subjective characteristics and the subjective interpretations of the members of the social group in question, are indeed necessary for the understanding of social theory. Sampling and Recruiting Recruiting nannies for my interviews was not a difficult thing task. I found that the mere mention of my research project had a tendency of extracting suggestions for volunteers from my colleagues and peers. The common response to my work is "If you need to interview someone, I know so-and-so who is a Filipino nanny." There is no public list of Foreign Domestic Workers in Vancouver so it was impossible to interview a random sample. For a systematic method of recruitment, I then used a form of snowball sampling, fused five different starting points; and tried to obtain a representative sample in this manner. While the "sample" is really very small, I nonetheless took pains to be systematic about my recruitment. I began with five friends, who are strangers to one another, and asked them if they knew someone I could interview. This is how I obtained my first five names. After each interview, I asked each nanny for the names of other people that I could interview in a snowball sample pattern. This type of sample selection proved quite worthwhile for me. From the beginning I felt that in order to conduct my field work successfully, I needed to interview women with a range of experiences. For example, I wanted to interview some women who were new to Canada, and women who have been here a long time. Coincidentally, as I was conducting my fieldwork, the West Coast Domestic Workers Association released the results from a survey of domestic workers that revealed that length of time in Canada is a factor in the threshold of tolerance for abuse. The findings of the work reveal that the length of time the domestic worker has spent in Canada, as well as the experience with employers in Canada, has a direct influence on whether she tolerates infractions against her work contract. That is, a domestic worker who is new to Vancouver is less 48 likely to complain against abuse and is likely to be working longer hours than her counterparts. Further evidence is that domestic workers are more likely to tolerate abuses when they are with their first employers in Vancouver, than when they are with second, third or subsequent employers (West Coast Domestic Workers' Association 1993).4 While most of the Filipina domestic workers in Canada were single,51 knew that some are married. I wanted this mix in my interview sample to broaden the generalizability of the work as well. Marital status was also something I paid close attention to because this factor was a critical issue with the Caribbean domestic workers. It is generally believed that many Caribbean domestic workers in the 60s misrepresented their marital status because they believed that being married and having family responsibilities in their home countries were detrimental to their application to immigrate as domestic workers. In fact, some argued that immigration officials have given every encouragement if not actual advice to domestic workers to misrepresent their marital status so as to be considered for the program. (Calliste 1989, Makeda 1983) I wanted to test in my interviews whether this perception has endured with this new group of domestic workers. Finally, I wanted to interview some women who had affiliations with a community group and some who did not. This was done to minimize respondent bias towards any particular political orientation. Also, because community groups offer a stabilizing effect if not an empowering effect on an individual, I did not want to unnecessarily skew the data one way over another. For ease of reference, I have prepared a summary table of the domestic workers I interviewed and some of the characteristics I mention here as Table 1. In Chapter 5,1 refer once again to this table to reveal the significance and implications of these pre-interview choices. 4West Coast Domestic Workers' Association, Supporting Documentation for West Coast Domestic Workers' Association Brief to Employment Standards Act Review Committee, March 1993. 5Also acknowledged by the community and advocacy groups. . 4 9 Asking Questions In keeping with an informal method of interviewing, I chose an unstructured method. "An unstructured interview is an interaction between an interviewer and a respondent in which the interviewer has a general plan of inquiry but not a specific set of questions that must be asked in particular words in a particular order."6 From the interview experience, I found I tended to begin the interview in much the same way but veered off to different directions as I responded to the stories being shared with me. I have attached my questions as Appendix B , and, while I can report that I asked all the questions in my plan, I did not necessarily ask them in a prescriptive order. I was interested in the manner that things are said, the way comments are phrased, as much as I was with the content. Because I was concerned with the different orientations and predilections of the domestic workers, I wanted the personalities of the domestic workers to come out in the interviews. This, I felt was accomplished with the unstructured format. I also felt that this format helped in making the respondents feel more at ease with the interview — the format added, in fact, a "conversational" feel to the interview. Another reason for the having a semi-structured interview schedule is to accommodate the language skills of the domestic worker. When I first decided to undertake the work for this research study, I assumed that being able to speak Tagalog, the main language in the Philippines, was an asset. Admittedly, while I can understand and speak that language, actually using the language for the interviews was a bit awkward. In the first place, I wanted to be consistent with the phrasing of certain questions and to keep as much as possible with the schedule of questions I have submitted for my proposal. Secondly, I personally found it more natural to speak in English rather than Tagalog during the interviews. While Tagalog was my mother tongue, I have spent most of my life in Canada and, since I made no attempt to hide my length of stay in Canada (18 years), it would have been insulting to my informants to pretend that I am just like them. I also 6Babbie, p 270. 50 believe that my interviewees did not expect me to speak in Tagalog for the interview. When I sometimes ventured to ask them in Tagalog, they often responded in English. However, while I limited my use of Tagalog, I felt I sufficiently communicated my understanding by nodding encouragingly when they themselves spoke Tagalog, muttering "uh-huh" at certain points and by dropping a few phrases every now and again during the interview. I felt that anything more can be construed as "trying too hard." The women I interviewed after all accepted me as a Canadian researcher so I did not feel any pressure to speak in Tagalog even in one case where the English language skills of the woman was severely limited. A final point about conducting the interviews in both English and Tagalog: the mixed language of the interview also posed a small technical challenge during the transcription of the interviews. It was tempting to listen to the interview tapes and write up the translated version on my computer screen, however, I decided in the end to write out the Tagalog phrases or sentences, and type in the English equivalent immediately underneath it for my records. In taking the exerpts for writing out the results of the interview, however, I offer only the English version unless the literal Tagalog phrasing was relevant to the context of the work. Recording Material In 13 of the 15 interview settings, I used a microcassette to record the interviews. The two exceptions were due to two technical difficulties. In one interview, the microcassette did not work properly. To make sure that I had my information correctly, I wrote up my notes from the interview immediately following the interview and followed up quite intensively so that I got the details of her answers accurately. In the other case, I had to conduct the interview by telephone when it became apparent that it was very difficult to get together in person. Again, I wrote up my notes immediately after the interview and double checked my quotes. These two were the only exceptions to the way that I recorded material. In all other cases, I recorded, with their permission, my conversation with the domestic worker, and later transcribed the tape. 51 I used the microcassette for two main reasons. First, I wanted to give the women my undivided attention when I was interviewing them. I wanted to make sure that I understood what they were trying to say rather than focusing on the exact word or phrase that was used. By using the tape, I was reassured that I would be able to pull out exact quotes without losing the flow of the interview. Secondly, I wanted to use the casette because I wanted to catch what may be relevant unuttered expressions which would not ordinarily be captured on tape. For example, I wanted to be able to watch for change in facial expression, and other signs of body language and to use those as clues within the context of the conversation. The possible negatives for using a tape during the interviews, such as inhibiting the interviewee or distracting from the conversation, I felt were not an issue. It can be said, in fact, that the presence of the tape only drew attention for the first minute of the interview when I first turned it on, and at the end of the interview when I shut it off. The Physical Setting I had only one rule in mind as to where to hold the interviews: I conducted them anywhere that is most convenient to my interviewee. I conducted two interviews at the Philippine Women's Centre office, one in a public library, five in restaurants and cafeterias, and the rest in the domestic worker's home or their friend's homes. I gave the domestic worker the choice of location and took pains to accommodate their schedule. I informed them that I was most interested in speaking with them and that I would travel to their location of choice in order to meet and speak with them. Lack of privacy is a common complaint for live-in domestic workers. This was demonstrated to me in trying to find a place to meet for the interview. As a generalization, the women I interviewed in public places were those that are still living with their employers. The women that I interviewed in their homes were those who had their own apartments. Where I interviewed in a 52 friend's home, the friend was a former domestic worker who has her own apartment or is sharing one. I purposely did not offer my own apartment as a site for the interview. One reason is that I understood the constraints on the domestic worker's time, and I could not, in good conscience, ask them to drive or take the bus to my place. Obviously, I felt I was the one with the most to gain and felt it fair to inconvenience them as little as I possibly can, As well, I thought that interviewing them in my apartment is not an ideal situation because of the implied power relation. If I had them over as guests, I did not want them to feel coerced in any way. I wanted to give them the advantage. I did hot want them to respond to my questions simply to please me, although this of course, is a possibility with any interview. When I interviewed them in places where coffee is available, I paid for their cup of coffee. Other than that, I merely offered profuse thanks at the end of the interview. As part of a strategy to make my interviewees more at ease, I also opened myself to any questions they might have had. Some asked questions about my personal life, the most common being "where are you from" which, in the context means, "where is your home town in the Philippines." I allowed some time for their questions as part of a strategy to establish trust, but also to get to know their concerns and their interests. One expressed her interest in what I was doing and welcomed it, saying that perhaps when I finished my research that I can help speak for them. Ethics During a graduate seminar, I remember a colleague asking "why not pass yourself off as a domestic worker in order to get inside the community?" When the question was posed a few years ago, I remember quickly dismissing the issue. No, I did not consider the thought of posing as a domestic worker myself. The thought of borrowing someone's child to babysit and walking around parks to meet other domestic workers was deceit beyond my imaginings. Besides, my 53 rationale at the time was that I do not believe I could gain better insight by using deception rather than honesty. The question from my colleague, however, touched a sensitive part of my study, or any study which involves human subjects — that is, the question of ethics. I either introduced myself or was introduced by a friend to a friend as a researcher from UBC. It was interesting to note that whenever I was introduced by somebody else to a friend, I was always described as a "Filipina researcher." The weight of the ethnic identification cannot be measured, however, I believe my ethnic background proved to be an asset during the interview process and gave me easier access to subjects than I otherwise would have experienced. Before each interview, I introduced myself again ~ gave them my name and informed the subjects that I am a student at UBC studying the lives of Filipina domestic workers. I also told them the approximate time that the interview will take and reassured them that my questions are not right or wrong questions, and gave them the option to refuse to answer any that they wish not to answer. I also informed the subjects that while I will ask my questions in English, that they can speak Tagalog. In fact, during the interview, I asked the questions I wanted to ask in English but threw in some Tagalog phrases to remind them that I can speak and understand the language as well. After my brief introduction about myself, I showed the subjects my micro-cassette recorded and asked permission to use the recorder. When granted the permission, which incidentally, occurred in all instances, I asked the subjects to be patient with me while I tested the equipment. I then encouraged them to say their name and the date with the casette on, then rewound the tape to test if the recording was working properly and if their normal speaking voices were loud enough. There were few technical difficulties during the interview. In one interview, the batteries of the microcasette ran out after an hour and fifteen minutes. Luckily, most of the relevant interview had been recorded, and only the casual conversation after that was compromised. In another case, I missed turning the casette over and lost about five minutes of conversation. Finally, as already 54 mentioned, in one interview, it appeared that the microcassette batteries were not sufficiently charged, and the interview was not recorded at all. I also reassured my subjects that no one else will hear the casette tapes except myself, and that I will transcribe the tape but not use their real names. I assured their anonymity absolutely. In fact, I gave each one an alias so that I can easily refer to them in the analysis stage. I also reassured them that if there are uniquely identifiable incidents in their lives, that I will take care to omit that as well. Finally, I mentioned that if there are especially embarrassing or personal revelations during the interview that I will treat those with sensitivity in the writing it up. The details of my interview results will be covered in Chapter 5. As I had suspected, the insight I got from the interviews is that Filipino domestic workers view their oppression in a different way than how others have conceptionalized their powerlessness in the past. The Interviews I interviewed women who either were working as nannies or have worked as nannies in the past. Fourteen of the fifteen interviews were done personally, and one done over the telephone. Making appointments for the interviews was a tricky matter. The majority of the women I interviewed were still working as nannies, hence they have time constraints. For the ones who were not working as live-in nannies, they held two or more jobs, and spare time was considered a luxury. In fact, most of the interviews took place evenings and on weekends, when these women had some time to spare. The telephone interview became necessary when it appeared impossible to meet personally. In this case, we made three separate appointments to try and meet, and each one had to be canceled due to other responsibilities of the nanny. This was not a rare occurrence, in fact, I had to do it continually — rearrange my time to fit theirs — because their employer asked them to babysit that night, or they had to do an assignment for school. Despite the scheduling difficulties, the interviews went smoothly. 55 i • • • Most of the interviews took about an hour and a half, depending on the personality of the interviewee. Interviews were done mostly in English, but also partly in Tagalog. I made a point of stating at the beginning that they can speak in either language, and for the most part the interviewees took me up on the offer at one time or another during the interview. I was inspired by the women I interviewed because of the profound insights they shared with me. Often, after an interview, I would feel exhilarated from the encounter. I was thrilled with my conversations because they conveyed, not the voice of desperate women, but women who have taken charge of their lives, or perhaps more accurately, women who have endured hardships but have survived. While I kept some structure to the interview — I made it clear at the beginning that I had my list of questions to get through — for the most part, I allowed and encouraged the domestic workers to tell me their stories in their own way. However, as the reader will note from the excerpts in the next chapter, some were more articulate than others. This will be reflected in the quotes I selected in my analysis. While the interviews, in sum, provided insight, some interviews were more successful than others, and some domestic workers provided more informative words than others. I found that the nannies did not care to comment on their everyday life Very much. I usually had to prod as to how they spend their days. Short of asking them what they did hour by hour, the benign responses usually took the form of "cleaning" or "babysitting" with no further elaboration. For example, when I asked what kind of cleaning they did, the number of rooms in the house was usually mentioned as in "I have to clean a five-bedroom house and the living room and dining room — vacuuming and dusting." The nannies were most open and responsive when asked about their ambitions or what they would like to be doing in the future. Fourteen of the 15 interviews were highly successful and informative. M y least successful interview was so because I felt I was the one being tested. I felt 56 that she was practicing her limited English on me. In this case, I only managed to get basic information. Little other information about herself was volunteered. Analysis I pored over hours of tapes and transcribed the contents into hard copy. From the transcripts of the tapes I began to see patterns, such as the repetition of certain phrases and the repetition of certain themes. These patterns formed the basis of my material for Chapter 5. In preparation for writing up the results of the study, I also highlighted several quotes that I found to be particularly illustrative, interesting, and representative. By this stage of my work, I] did not yet have a clear idea that agency and power are the concepts to focus on. This only became apparent in writing up the thesis. Feminist Methods and This Research Study Many feminists concentrated in the 1970s on documenting passivity and on explaining why and under what conditions women submit. As women's labour force participation continued to grow and as feminists continued to develop a more sophisticated analysis, however, more and more theory recovered and analyzed women's struggles for change. Feminists have become increasingly concerned with understanding why, and under what conditions, women will resist, and who they will join with in their struggles.7 In "Women as Victims, Women as Actors" Pat and Hugh Armstrong argue that there is a need to develop theories which will connect the existing feminist theories of women's consciousness and with theories which will "lead to different forms of resistance."8 This exploratory research hopes to contribute to such a quest. Admittedly, like most exploratory research, this work satisfies this researcher's curiosity perhaps more than it can contribute to general theory-building. Certainly, 7Pat Armstrong and Hugh Armstrong, "Women as Victims, Women as Actors," Social Inequality in Canada: Patterns. Problems. Policies. 2nd Edition. James Curtis, Edward Grabb, Neil Guppy, eds. (Scarborough: Prentice Hall Canada Inc.), 1993, p 299. 8Armstrong and Armstrong, 1993, p. 308. 57 feminism made tremendous progress since the "add women and stir" approach three decades ago. The challenge for feminists now is, as Armstrong and Armstrong noted, to get beyond the description of the differences as a result of gender, but to focus on the grander goal which is emancipation. As well, Davis (1991) mentions a "multifaceted power" concept which is worthy of further exploration, and to which this research hopes to contribute. By assuming the standpoint of the disadvantaged women in this work, further knowledge about the social world is pursued. What renders this study feminist rather than non-feminist is that a political aim is acknowledged from the beginning. There is an expectation that the research question, the assumptions behind the research, the subject of the study, and the aim of the work is to reveal the complexities of a social world that have disfavoured women and women's ways of doing. While this aim was pursued, the study, nonetheless, was couched in discourse which would render it appropriate to this discipline we call sociology. Unfortunately, without this epistemological commitment, I don't believe it extends as far as Smith would prefer in her standards of a "sociology for women." I am reminded of Harding's observation in Feminism and Methodology that methods (the techniques for gathering evidence) and epistemological (how we know) issues are often confused in feminist social science precisely because feminist researchers are obligated to justify their results which may be in direct conflict with traditional assumptions and epistemologies. For this study, I have conformed to the standards of traditional sociology, while stating the political aim of the work. Standpoint epistemology, however, is still in further need of development. Harding acknowledges that feminist post-modernists have issues relating to the subjugated knowledge which cannot be addressed by standpoint theory. Standpoint theory can only account for felt, perceived, apprehended view of the world, but not those which operate at the level of meaning which semiotics, deconstruction, and psychoanalysis can decode. Standpoint theory is therefore only one solution to a feminist science. Standpoint theory also suffers from a universalist view of women's experiences which has, however unintentionally, undermined the differences between women. Thus, we are far from defining a feminist science, much less a feminist way of doing things. 58 The above discussion about the imperfections of doing a feminist social science research is therefore offered as a rationale for not fully defining a feminist method. With the dynamic developmental state of feminist theorizing today, I believe, there is room for studies such as this which challenges some aspects of feminist methodology while at the same time participating in "traditional" ways of doing. If this research study can be faulted for not stating clearly how exactly this is feminist, it is not for lack of theoretical grounding but because of the diversity in feminist theories and methods. The intentions of the study and the perspective it explores are therefore highlighted again for informing what I consider feminist work. In conducting this research, I paid close attention to the steps of social science research that traditional social science required, but with some variations. One of the contributions of feminism to research methods is to question the "interviewer as authority" theme in the past. I also wanted to validate the women's experiences as real, which is in keeping with a feminist stance. The choices I made, as far as picking the setting of the interview and the semi-structured way in which I proceeded with my questions, I hope, evidenced an acknowledgment of the power relationship between myself as interviewer, and the "other" as "subject." Certainly feminists are not the first to question these assumptions, a wide tradition of post-positivist thinking can get credit for this. But, while other traditions also acknowledge the power differentials between the researcher and the researched, I choose to align my work with feminism, because of personal and political commitments. It was very clear in my mind, that one of the reasons I chose to undertake this work was to contribute to emancipatory aims of feminism. It is beyond the scope of this paper to offer solutions to the feminist debates on how to conduct a feminist social science. I merely wish to acknowledge that I have attempted to live up to the feminist commitment of including women and validating their concerns. 59 Chapter 4 Review of Domestic Worker Legislation and Related Programs This chapter examines the institutional disadvantage of foreign domestic workers. This discussion is offered at this time to illustrate how the foreign domestic worker is disadvantaged at this site of struggle. Because I am interested in the complicated ways in which domestic workers manage their day to day lives, a contextual background on the constraints under which they operate should necessarily be explored. The power relations highlighted in this section are those between the foreign domestic workers, the State, employers, and the community groups which have formed to aid the domestic workers. I intend not only to present the contextual background but also to argue that most of the studies on foreign domestic workers have focused on struggles at this level. I begin by identifying the community group studied, that is, the community of Filipino domestic workers. I also outline the organizations which affect the domestic workers lives, from the nanny agencies which recruit these women to Canada to the advocacy groups involved in improving the lives of domestic workers in Canada. It will be explained how the foreign domestic workers lives are affected by these organizations. In addition, I will relate the present explanations for the powerless positions of domestic workers with particular attention paid to functions of employment legislation as it relates to the domestic workers' experience. As mentioned in Chapter 2, other writers have informed us about the disadvantaged position of domestic workers (Pedlar 1982; Epstein 1981 and 1983; Ramirez 1982; Devan 1989; Calliste 1989; Macklin 1991). Most of this information was based on the experience of the Caribbean domestics of the 1960's. With the Foreign Domestic Movement scheme, a new group of women have replaced Caribbean domestics at the infamous position on the bottom of the occupational and societal rungs. In 1990, 58.2% or 6,400 of entrants to the Foreign Domestic Movement 60 program were from the Philippines.1 Of the 10,731 entrants under the scheme, most (62.4%) were destined for Ontario, followed by 17.7% who were destined for B.C. (See Appendix A). On an international level, the governments of Canada and the Philippines are key to our understanding of the Filipino domestic worker phenomenon, however this requires discussion beyond my research focus here and I present only the important contextual material necessary to understand more fully the lives of foreign domestic workers. Because the Canadian labour market requires a steady supply of women to perform historically unpaid labour, the role of foreign domestic workers cannot be discussed without explaining the role of advocacy groups in Canada. Thus, considered here also is the role of national and local advocacy organizations in these discussions. In the local scene, I will examine the role of domestic worker organizations such as the West Coast Domestic Workers Association and (Intercede-affiliated) Committee for Caregivers Rights and their roles in the advancing the rights and powers of domestic workers. There are also informal social groups that domestic workers themselves form. These groups are the informal networks established by the domestic to communicate and exchange information. Although the focus will not be on the employers, discussion about the recruitment of domestics is also of concern. Thus, although not the central focus, the role of domestic worker placement agencies will be examined.2 These agencies are the gatekeepers for Filipina domestic workers and can be powerful shapers of the situation of domestic workers. And, as Devan (1989) discovered, agencies contribute to the perpetuation of certain stereotypes which create divisions among the domestic workers themselves. Lastly, the social support role of the Philippine Women's Centre in Vancouver will be explored. The role and influence of this organization will be reviewed to set the stage for subsequent chapters. 'From West Coast Domestic Workers' Association's "Supporting Documentation for Westcoast Domestic Workers' Association Brief to Employment Standards Act Review Committee, (March 1993), Section 7. 2Mary Devan's work offers interesting analysis of and excellent anecdotal insights from employment agencies. 61 Another necessary point of enquiry intothe lives of foreign domestic/workers is on the impact of legislation on their lives. Thus, a review of relevant employment legislation will also be undertaken. Thankfully, a number of research works already exist providing available background for what would have otherwise been a long bout of legal research. In 1982, David Pedlar wrote a statutory account of domestic service in British Columbia. Informed by Pedlar's work, as well as the ongoing challenges of the West Coast Domestic Workers Association relating to employment legislation, I will describe the unique legal position of domestic workers compared to other workers in B.C. I also provide an account of the working conditions of live-in foreign domestic workers to describe the kinds of disadvantages these women face. The "live-in" status prescribed by their employment condition underlies the injustice and abuse faced by these women. The isolation and ignorance of laws that affect them, the dependence on the employer, and the weak enforcement of laws to curtail abuses against them, are situations which cannot be properly explained without emphasizing the impact of the "live-in" status of the domestic worker. Domestic Workers In Canada In 1993, there were between 4,000-5,000 foreign domestic workers in B.C. living and working in their employers' homes.3 The West Coast Domestic Workers' Association based in Vancouver estimates that 58% of this figure is from the Philippines, with the rest mostly from the Caribbean and South America or other parts of Asia. The Foreign Domestic Worker Movement (FDM) program was an immigration scheme between 1981-1992 which allowed women to come into Canada and work as live-in domestic workers. After a two-year stint at this job, the person was allowed to apply for an Open Visa which then allowed her to seek employment beyond the 3Brief to Employment Standards Act Review Committee, by West Coast Domestic Workers' Association, March 1993, p. 5. 62 confines of a live-in domestic worker. The F D M is a thinly disguised version of two earlier programs which were used to recruit domestic labourers. Prior to the F D M , the immigrant program aimed at filling the Canadian housework and childcare needs was the Temporary Work Program (TWP), instituted between 1973 and 1981. A large number of women from the Caribbean entered Canada under this program. The TWP was much like the F D M wherein migrant workers were recruited to perform needed jobs in Canada for a specific period of time and for a specific employer. In addition to domestic labourers, seasonal farmworkers were also recruited heavily under this program. The temporariness of the job was perhaps most strongly stated by the visa requirements under the program. The employee under the TWP held a Temporary Visa which did not automatically offer her landed immigrant status at the end of her service. Prior to this program, there was one simply called The Domestic Scheme (1955-1966), which was used by the Canadian government to begin the targetted recruitment of Caribbean women.4 The Domestic Scheme gave the employee landed immigrant status at the end of her work term. It was stopped and replaced by the TWP because immigration officials discovered that most of the women who took advantage of this opportunity to come to Canada immediately left domestic work as soon as their landed immigrant status was granted. Thus, the shortage of domestic workers which the program was intended to address was inevitably left unresolved. The domestic worker scheme in effect today, replacing the F D M , is the Live-In Caregiver Program. In certain respects it is not too different from the F D M since it also specifies a two-year stint as a live-in domestic worker only, prior to becoming eligible to apply for landed immigrant status. However, two major differences stand out. One is that care-giving to children or the elderly is a prerequisite. Domestic workers can no longer just do housework. Another major difference is in the application requirements. The current program specifies Canadian Grade 12 4Workers from Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Europe were also recruited but with only limited success. 63 equivalency, formal training in caring for children or the elderly, and fluency and understanding of either English or French. Of these conditions, the first two, Grade 12 equivalency and formal training, have made it more difficult for women from the Philippines, the Caribbean and Latin America to come to Canada as domestic workers. In these countries, the education and training opportunities are simply not available, or if so, are often inaccessible. Advocacy Groups in Vancouver Three local organizations were especially helpful in proving information about Filipina domestic workers: the West Coast Domestic Workers Association, the Committee for Caregivers Rights, and the Philippine Women's Centre. These three are the most important advocates for Filipina domestic workers in Vancouver. These groups have, in common, the improvement of domestic workers lives in Canada, but political differences exist as well. The West Coast Domestic Workers Association (DWA) is a non-profit organization which has been operating in Vancouver, B.C. since 1986. The purposes of the Society are, basically, to organize, educate and support. The Society is working to organize a group of domestic workers with the purpose of helping these women. Education is also a priority for the group. The Society educates domestic workers and the public about the rights and issues about Live-In Caregivers. The support provided by the group includes counseling, both peer and legal, general support, and lobbying. Ultimately, the DWA, hopes to empower domestic workers. The D W A also states in an information brochure that they "stand up for domestic workers' rights." Specifically, they accomplish this by providing information and advice, by having a staff lawyer to handle legal cases involving wage claims, harrassment, abuses, and immigration problems, by training volunteers to counsel other domestic workers, and by providing social support. Their pamphlet also notes the following intention. "We want to let the people know why 64 the situation of the domestic workers is unfair. We work for change through education, legal action and lobbying." The D W A is funded by the provincial government and receives some revenue from membership dues. Domestic workers and former domestic workers pay $15 a year for membership. Non-domestic workers are eligible to be honorary members. Of the three organizations noted here, the D W A covers the largest geographic area and outnumbers the domestic worker representation of the other two. Another organization involved with lobbying for domestic workers' rights is the Committee for Caregiver's Rights. This B.C.-based committee of Intercede is another non-profit agency based in Vancouver, B.C. In an interview with a representative of the committee, Sheila5 noted they are different from the West Coast Domestic Workers Association because they are "more the grassroots organization - made up of domestic workers for domestic workers." This organization is a committee of Intercede, the Toronto advocacy association for domestic workers' rights. The group of women who started this committee in Vancouver were former members of the D W A but broke away from that organization because of dissatisfaction with the way the D W A is organized. Said Sheila, "We wanted to speak for ourselves, not have them represent us." When prodded, Sheila acknowledged that them refers to the white women lawyers which they perceive as guiding the direction of the D W A . 6 Because of the affiliation with Intercede, the Committee is linked to a range of other organizations at the national level, and have been involved with general employment issues other than those simply affecting domestic workers. The Committee, for example, was recently involved with anti-NAFTA lobbying activities. Of the three advocacy groups mentioned here, this is the only one with male membership. 5Not her real name. Sheila is a Filipina who entered Canada under the Foreign Domestic Movement Program. 6 A representative from the DWA explained that the break occurred over political and philosophical differences. 65 The Philippine Women's Centre in Vancouver is the third of the organizations rencountered during this research project. This group began in 1986 when it was first noticed that there was an increasing number of Filipina domestic workers arriving in Vancouver. The need for the group began because of the unique set of experiences encountered by Filipinas coming over as domestic workers. As noted in the PWC's annual report: As domestic workers and non-immigrants, they [domestic workers] are generally looked down (sic) by the Filipino Canadian community; they are considered as belonging to the lowest rung in the community social ladder.7 At the heart of the group's philisophy is the firm belief that the economic crisis and political corruption in the Philippines are among the major causes of the out-migration from the Philippines. Rather than limiting the mandate of the group to domestic workers, the group's approach was to set up a centre for Filipino women, since they recognized that Filipina domestic workers do not always remain domestic workers. The kind of services provided by the Centre include: educating the public and members about issues affecting women here and in the Philippines; supporting the integration of Filipina women into Canadian society; and encouraging inter-cultural understanding. This group has strong affiliations with women's groups in the Philippines and regularly receives literature from them, which in turn, were used for education purposes here. The Agencies Domestic worker agencies are key to satisfying the demands of Canadian families who are looking for domestic workers. The job of the domestic worker agency is to recruit domestic workers who meet the requirements of the F D M program. However, the agencies exert a great deal of influence over the domestic worker's life. As Devan (1989) discovered, the need of the Filipina domestic worker to stay makes it easier for others to exploit her. The seeming compliance of Philippine Women Centre of B.C. First Annual Report for the Period Ending December 31, 1991. 66 these domestic workers, in turn, are then translated by the agencies as natural tendencies and attributes: Agency 1: "The Filipinos tend to be quite domesticated in their upbringing...it's their whole nature. They are a little more subservient, whether families want to treat them like that or not it's their whole nature- so families like that - they like to know that they are going to have someone who's going to be hard working... They're [Filipinos] great with kids. They really like small children. They're very loving, they're very calm. A lot of families though with older children don't want Filipinos because Filipino's have a problem with discipline. They're too loving, they're not firm enough with the kids, but with young families they're great and so they have a big demand8." Devan found out from interviews with agencies that certain qualities are attributed to those who perform live-in domestic work. The Filipina domestic's intention for migrating as a foreign labourer, that is to seek immigrant status, was seen as justification by agencies to give them the worst possible conditions among all the levels of domestic work. The Legal Struggle The current legal struggle of domestic workers is being fought at both the provincial and federal levels of government. Provincially, the legal battle is being waged against the Ministry of Skills, Training and Labour which administers the Employment Standards Act, the law which covers most non-unionised workers in B C . 9 The provinces in Canada have jurisdiction over employment standards in Canada, however, most have excluded domestic workers and farm workers from the minimum standards. At the federal level is the struggle with the department responsible for immigration and employment issues, formerly called Employment and Immigration Canada, now called Human Resources Development. Schemes to allow foreign domestic workers into the 8Devan, p88. 9For an account of the history of domestic workers' legal rights, David Pedlar offers an exhaustive account up to 1982. As well, the West Coast Domestic Workers' Association has prepared a Brief to the Employment Standards Act Review Committee, dated March 1993, which summarizes the legal exclusion of domestic workers from the Act. 67 country are regulated by the immigration department. Minister's permits which allow those workers to remain in Canada are issued from the Canada Employment Centres. The Employment Standards Act in B C excludes domestic workers from an hourly wage. A daily minimum of $48 is used instead, calculated for an 8-hour day at $6 an hour. Domestic workers do not get overtime pay unless the domestic worker and her employer signs a contract stating so. From the basic pay received by the domestic worker, the employer can legally deduct income tax, unemployment insurance (UI), and Canada Pension Plan (CPP). As well, under the Foreign Domestic Movement Program and the Live-In Caregiver Proram, employers deduct room and board, which the government recommends as not exceeding $275 per month. At the time of writing, the monthly gross wage for domestic workers is $1,056, and after deductions and room and board rates, the minimum monthly net wage for domestic workers is $606.39. Under limited provisions by the Act, domestic workers are at a disadvantage for a number of reasons. The most obvious is the daily pay rate because most live-in domestic workers work more than 8 hours a day. As well, while the room and board deduction is part of the employment contract, the domestic worker often does not have control of her room's condition, nor the type of food she gets. The usual problems expressed by domestic workers about their working conditions are long hours and lack of overtime pay. In 1992-93, the West Coast Domestic Workers Association conducted a survey of foreign caregivers in Vancouver. They found that of the total 237 job situations from their survey, theaverage working day for the respondents was 9.9 hours. The same survey found that domestic workers are likely to work longer hours during their first employment situation. The average working day for first employment situations islO. 1 hours, but subsequent employment situations average at 9.6 hours a day. With regard to total hours worked per week, the survey showed that the first employment situation is when the domestic worker is most vulnerable to long hours. Twenty-nine per cent worked 51 to 60 hours per week in the first jobs, and 39 cent did so in subsequent jobs. This pattern also holds true for number of days worked per 68 week; that is, more domestic workers worked more days per week during their first employment situation than in their subsequent jobs. For example, the survey found that in first jobs, 16.1% worked 6 days per week and only 5.6% worked 6 days per week in subsequent jobs. The conclusions of the survey summarizes the disadvantaged position held by the domestic worker: The survey suggests that domestic workers are on average working long hours per day, and receiving far less than the provincial minimum wage. Among all reported employment situations, the conditions found in first jobs are as a whole poorer than those found in second and subsequnet jobs....The low incidence of overtime pay together with long working hours suggests that domestic workers often receive far less than the minimum wage, though at the same time they may receive gross monthly wages that meet provincial employment standards. When overtime hours are considered, only 26% of the surveyed domestic workers received the B.C. minimum wage, while 28% earned less than 70%. 1 0 The other government department with which the domestic worker deals is Human Resources Development. The Immigration department determines the eligibility requirements for domestic workers, as well as processes work authorizations during and applications for landed immigrant status at the end of the work term. Domestic workers also deal with the Immigration department for their visitor's visa, the type of visa given to domestic workers under the F D M and LIC programs. The eligibility requirements for foreign domestic workers are noted above, so a discussion of the conditions of the work permit are noted here. The work permit specifies that the domestic worker must only do domestic work, live in the employer's home, work full-time, and work only for the employers specified in the permit. Thus, if conditions of the permit change, for example the domestic worker changes jobs, she is obligated to inform Immigration. Applications for work permits cost $150, regardless of whether they are granted or not. Unlike the earlier domestic schemes, permission from Immigration to change employers is no longer required. While domestic workers can now change employers as often as 1 "Supporting Documentaion for West Coast Domestic Workers' Association brief to Employment Standards Act Review Committee, March 1993. Section 9, page 5. 69 they want in Canada, it is not preferred practice for most, not only because the general understanding of domestics (although this is legally false) is that Immigration tends to view extended service to a family as desirable history for a potential Canadian citizen,11 but also because the cost of applying for new permits equals approximately a week's net wage for the domestic. When things go smoothly for the foreign domestic worker in Canada, she comes into Canada to a good employer with the proper work permits. After her two-year stint, she can then apply for an Open visa while she applies for her permanent residence status. The Open visa allows her to leave live-in domestic work and pursue other jobs. Once she becomes a permanent resident, she can then sponsor her family to join her in Canada. The potential for problems,however, is likely to occur at several points in this scenerio. Because it is the Immigration department which makes a decision on her suitability as a landed immigrant, and because to a certain extent her work performance determines that suitability, domestic workers often weigh the personal cost of complaining about their employer or employment conditions. Most of the time, as evidenced by the testimonies of Caribbean domestic workers documented by Silvera (1983), the domestic worker places great worth on getting good references from employers and getting approval for their landed immigrant status. Domestic workers tend to assume that any unfairness against them during their probationary work permit days is accepted as part of the game. As well, any misrepresentation of the domestic worker in her application to the F D M program such as in her marital status or age, guarantees an encounter with Immigration when she applies for her landed immigrant status. Finally, even if the domestic worker successfully completes her F D M contract, when she applies for landed immigrant status, her dependents ~ elderly parents, spouse, or children in the Philippines — must successfully pass a 1 1 Immigration does not want to appear to be endorsing the domestics' continued stay in abusive work situations, so theoretically, the number of times domestic workers change employers should not be an issue in the domestic worker's assessment. 70 medical exam prior to the granting of her landed status. Even if the domestic worker has no intention of sponsoring said dependents to Canada, her status in Canada is decided by others around her. The Live-In Status It would be nice if we were allowed to rent a room On our own. Some of us would feel better about domestic work if we could come out of the home and go home to our home....After you are here a little time and you have friends, Manpower and Immigration should allow you to rent a place of your own. Because after you are here a little time and you make friends, then you want your own social life. You want to work in the days and go home in the nights like anybody else.12 —Molly. The unique legal position of the domestic worker in Canada illustrates that ignorance of laws that affect them (coupled with laws that lack teeth on matters that concern them) is a key element in the domestic workers disadvantaged position. The onus is on the domestic worker to make sure she is paid fairly and promptly. If she wants overtime pay, she must negotiate it with her employer. If her employer has taken advantage of her and not paid her several months worth of wages, she can take her employer to court. However, the most she can recover is six months' worth of back pay. The better informed the domestic worker is about her rights, the better she can improve her own working conditions. Getting informed, however, is difficult when the domestic worker is under her employers' roof, with very few chances for visiting or making friends. Needless to say, the isolation she faces as a live-in worker is directly related to her lack of knowledge about her rights. As a live-in worker without others to learn about what is just and normal, she is more likely to tolerate abuses purely out of ignorance. Her live-in status therefore contributes to her disadvantage. 12Silvera, p. 70 > 71 As noted, a specific condition of the woman's entry into Canada under the F D M is that she lives with her employer. Lack of privacy is the most common and obvious complaint of domestic workers against their living arrangement. As noted in the following examples, because there are no checks on the employers, the employers are solely responsible for ensuring that they provide adequate accommodations. The following testimonials, appended to the West Coast Domestic Workers' Brief to the Employment Standards Branch presentation, illustrates the many ways in which the domestic worker is taken advantage of. It should also be mentioned that the following domestic workers are paying for their rooms at rates set by the employer, with little room for price negotiation. During her days-off, they told her to come home before 9:00 p.m., or else get locked out, because they did not give her a key to the house. She felt it was very unfair. She was paying $250 a month for room and board but she couldn't even enjoy going out because she was too worried that she would get locked out of the house if she was late.13 — Farzi In the laundry room, Lisa slept in a double-decker bed, with the sink by her head, the dryer and the washing machine by her side. She kept her belongings in a small closet along with some of theirs. The top bunk was also filled with her employers' odds and ends. — Lisa Nora was given a little bedroom in the north wing of the house, a bedroom so small that there wasn't enough space to put her things in it. The clothes closet was filled with her employers' clothes. She had to keep her belongings under her bed — Nora Richie came to Canada from the Philippines in 1990, to work for a couple with two small children and two student boarders. She didn't mind so much that she had to work looking after four adults and two toddlers; what she minded was having no room of her own. Her employers' house had only three bedrooms in it, and each one was occupied. She had to share the bedroom with the children. — Richie 13Domestic Worker Stories, Brief to ESA Review Committee, March 1993, Domestic Workers' Association, Appendix 2. 72 Before she came to work for the family, she signed an agency contract that required her to do two babysitting nights every week for free, over and above her regular working hours. She did not know that babysitting jobs in the evening should be paid. Her other problem was that there wasn't enough food in the house and she usually went hungry. If there was any food in the refrigerator, her employer would take note of how much of it there was. She counted the eggs, the pieces of bread and the fruits, and made it known to Rohai that she had counted them. The food was practically rationed every meal. Sometimes Rohani had to resort to cooking whatever plants she found in the garden, usually flowering plants that look edible. — Rohani Perhaps most importantly, however, the live-in status isolates the domestic worker from others inhibiting her from learning about her rights. The stories told by women who participated in the West Coast Domestic Workers' brief to the Employment Standards Act Review Committee revealed that most women tolerate the injustice against them because they are ignorant of their rights. Inday Padua came to Vancouver from the Philippines in 1990. Her first employers were a family who owned a farm in the Fraser Valley area.. .In the evenings, she used to see other nannies going out together for a walk. Once, she asked her employer if she could go out with them for a while. The employer answerd: "No. Your work is not finished yet. We hired a live-in nanny beccause we wanted her to be available anytime we need her. It was my agreement with the agency."14 — Inday In this instance, Inday had enough sense to confront the agency, who in turn denied that this agreement existed. Inday eventually left that employer. Consider the case of another domestic worker: Kweelan had worked for her employers for three years in Malaysia before moving with them to Quebec in 1989. In Quebec, her employers took in two more of their nephews into the house.... There wasn't enough room for everybody so she had to share a bedroom with the children. Because there were so many of them to look after, Kweelan worked non-stop, from 7:00 a.m. until late into the night, when everybody had gone to sleep. She worked for an average of 15-16 hours a day. She had no breaks. She had no days off. For all that amount of work, she 14Domestic Worker Stories, Brief to Employment Standards Act Review Committee, March 1993, Domestic Workers'Association, Appendix 2. 73 received only $250 a month. Much later, when she discovered that there was a church close to their house, the family allowed her to get two hours off every Sunday so she could attend masses. After almost a year in Quebec, the whole family moved to Vancouver. Kweelan moved with them. When Kweelan went to the Canadian Immigration Office in Vancouver to renew her visa, she met another nanny who made her realize that she was being exploited in the worst possible manner. — Kweelan The above comments from the W C D W A Brief provide an important context for the interview material I present in Chapter 5. While the above examples represent the extreme cases, they nonetheless point to the potential for abuse and the domestic worker's ignorance which contributes to her abuse. It is interesting to note that living with her employer, that which renders her most vulnerable, has also been used to justify her exclusion from provincial labour standards such as the Minimum Wage Act and the Hours of Work Act. The argument is that once a domestic worker enters a family, she becomes a member of the family: Remember that a domestic has to be accepted into a family...This is the reason a domestic cannot keep time. You are accepted into the family as part of the family, and the principle that you have your time recorded doesn't work in the family scene...15 Live-in work often means being on-call and ready to respond to the needs of the employer 24 hours a day. The conditions of being a live-in domestic worker, the long hours, the poor pay, and the lack of privacy presents a complicated set of circumstances that test these women. I omitted case examples here of domestic worker rape by the employer, but these cases, also, can be documented — Silvera included one in her book, and the brief for the Employment Standards Act review committee also included testimony from a victim. There are, of course, examples of domestic workers who have been treated fairly by their employers. In fact, Imet some of them 15Hansard notes, p. 4173, August 22,1980 as quoted in Brief to Employment Standards Act Review Committe, March 1993, by West Coast Domestic Workers'Association, p. 4. 74 during my interview sessions. The intention of my interviews with domestic workers is to determine how they cope with their day-to-day lives. What is suggested is that domestic workers learn to employ sophisticated ways in which she negotiates her rights, and ultimately accomplish what she had sought to do as a domestic worker under the FDM. The Workplace as a Site for Struggle Some academic and popular attention has already been given to the disadvantage of foreign domestic workers at this level of struggle. As noted, advocacy and community groups have oganized in order to improve the situation of the foreign domestic workers in Canada. While we can get an appreciation of the domestic workers struggle at this realm, it is more difficult to learn specific aspects about their lives without detailed conversations with them. We can find out about the lives of foreign domestic workers by reading accounts written by supporters of foreign domestic workers, however, there is much more to be discovered. Similarly, while we know of the major obstacles faced by women working as domestic workers such as a their legally disadvantaged position, we know little about the intricacies of their day-to-day ways of coping with injustices. How do domestic workers view their seemingly paradoxical position? They hold very responsible jobs, inasmuch as they are responsible for the care of their employers' young children. However, these women must be painfully aware that they are not their employers' equal. As a live-in domestic worker, she is not in a standard employer-employee relationship. Her live-in status might give the illusion of being a member of the family, but there are occasions during their day-to-day realities which must contradict that. Similarly, the domestic worker as an employee could conceivably weild the threat to quit her job without notice. This, of course, could disadvantage and inconvenience the employer. As Macklin phrased it, In theory, the ability of a domestic worker to quit should go some distance toward equilibrating the bargaining power between employer and employee. After all, parents who suddenly find their domestic worker gone are in a very difficult situation. Unless they can hire a foreign domestic worker already in Canada, they 75 face a delay of anywhere from two months to almost two years in order to sponsor another.16 It would be an educated guess to say that not many domestic workers know they have a right to leave an employer with just a simple spoken notice. However, even if they did know, the desire to not make any waves, to endure her two years as quietly as possible with the best character and employment references possible, is often so compelling that threatening to quit her employer is only considered under the most dire situations. I had hoped that this research could somehow shed light on this threshold for domestic workers tolerance. As Appendix A shows, there is a growing number of Filipino women undertaking domestic work. Another way of furthering our knowledge about the lives of foreign domestic workers, however, is by asking questions such as why and how. Why are Filipino women doing domestic work in Canada? Why are they leaving their family and friends only to take care of someone else's children and to clean someone else's home? Furthermore, how is it that domestic workers are able to tolerate and endure mistreatment? By interviewing Filipino domestic workers about their own situations, I can capture the reasons for why they are performing the work that they do, and I can gain a better understanding of how they are able endure sensitive situations. There are a great deal of groups and people involved in the complex situation of foreign domestic workers. The role of the Canadian government in supplying Filipino domestic workers for Canadian homes works to the advantage of the both governments but to the detriment and hardship of the women under it. The Philippines, for example, depends on the remittances of the women working as foreign domestic workers abroad in order to service its crippling national debt. The Canadian government, in turn, is able to appease temporarily the demand for live-in domestic workers and caregivers. Between the two governments are the Filipina domestic workers, who pay taxes in both countries, and perform needed jobs, but jobs that are devalued in both societies. 16Audrey Macklin, Foreign Domestic Worker: Surrogate Housewife or Mail Order Servant?, unpublished paper, Dalhousie Law School, 1991, p. 86-87.. 76 Due to the inadequate protection of legislation, the domestic worker occupies a unique position in Canadian law, somewhere between visitor and immigrant. This situation is described by Audrey Macklin as insider/outsider17. An insider is someone with rights and an outsider is a"legitimate inferior" to the former. "In other words, domestic workers are exploited and oppressed at least partly because, as non-citizens, they are disenfranchised, and they are disenfranchised largely in order to facilitate their exploitation and oppression."18 There is also another way that the Filipino domestic worker is an insider/outsider. Discriminatory laws regarding their pay rate have been justified because the domestic worker is part of the family and does not keep time. However, it is a cruel irony that as a member of a particular family, she is nonetheless treated rather differently than other members, with less rights than the norm. Because the foreign domestic worker is not given sufficient orientation as to her rights in Canada, she enters this country with her preconceptions only and government brochures outlining the perfect job scenerio. To some, the contract she signed bears no resemblance with what they experience, as they struggle through their 12-hour work days with no overtime protection, 6 or 7 days a week. Only through the work of advocacy societies such as the West Coast Domestic Workers Association, the Committee for Caregivers' Rights, and the Philippine Women's Centre, is she able to learn of her rights. Unfortunately, the isolation of being a live-in domestic worker is a barrier to the likelihood of encounter with these helpful organizations. Thus, it is usually the ones who need help the most — the ones working the long hours and unable to make social networks with the community — who most likely will be the worst exploited. The structures under which a domestic worker functions works in every way to the disadvantage of the domestic worker. In her own country, the Filipino woman is displaced by a number of factors relating to her country's position in the global economy. She is forced to sell her labour 17Macklin, pp. 79. 18Macklin, p. 90. 77 abroad where there is a demand for a skill that through her experience as a woman and perhaps as a mother, she has already gained. At the other end of the world, Canadian women are entering the labour force at an accellerated rate thus creating demands for domestic work and child or . elder care. Domestic worker agencies have quickly filled the gap, motivated by profit and encouraged by the governments inadequate protection of this group of women's rights. Some have suggested that hiring foreign-born women as domestic workers is exploitative and therefore must be stopped (Macklin 1991). This statement is underscored by an assumption that working women who hire other women as domestic workers have aligned themselves with the patriarchal structures which have rendered housework and childcare as women's work. Speaking about a hypothetical situation with "Mary" as employer, Macklin writes: What I will say is that being a "good employer" does not vitiate Mary's role in the systematic subordination of foreign domestic workers any more than being a "sensitive male" extricates one from the web of patriarchy.19 Furthermore, it was argued that as long as private, individualized child care is the standard in Canada, there is no incentive to place a higher value on domestic labour. Proponents of this argument would suggest a boycott of the foreign domestic worker schemes in order to help women's cause in general and to force the state to accept responsibility for childcare in particular. I believe that if we look beyond the image of the powerless Filipina domestic worker, we can imagine an actor with purposive intents determined to make a better life for herself and her family. Not hiring domestic workers will not help the large numbers of women in the Philippines who are unable to find real life choices domestically. On the other hand, forcing the domestic worker schemes to end, while it may encourage the state to find alternatives to privatized childcare, also has the effect of closing opportunities for women from developing worlds. Imagine curtailing the 19Macklin, p 144. 78 immigration of any other ethnic or racial group because they would be forced to take jobs that are low-paying and devalued in society. It is no secret that historically, most new immigrants to a country have had to take the low-paying devalued jobs which the native-born have rejected. What I insist is that we view Filipina domestic workers like other immigrants who happen to be willing to jump through whatever hoops to gain that landed status. The criteria for their entry into Canada and for their immigrant status assessment (being financially responsible and the like) are criteria for their suitability as potential, responsible citizens not merely as care-givers. To improve the lots of domestic workers, nothing stops employers from rallying with domestic workers to gain employment rights for better pay, and better working conditions. In fact, nothing stops employers from paying domestic workers more than the recommended pay set out by Immigration. Furthermore, there is no compelling reason for keeping the live-in requirement. The Immigration department has always maintained that there is no demand for live-out domestic workers. In essence, this position really illustrates that no other group of women desires the extremely difficult work for less than minimum wage. Filipina women are interested in the Foreign Domestic Worker Program because it allows them to improve their lives economically, and perhaps, in a lot of ways, qualitatively. Is coming to Canada as domestic workers empowering Filipina women? The answer to that question is what I sought to answer with my interviews with them. 79 Chapter 5 Agency and Power Among Domestic Workers Between December 1993 and February 1994,1 interviewed a number of domestic workers and former domestic workers. Fifteen of these interviews form the main substance from which I draw my insight in this chapter. In addition, I spoke to countless others whom I met during the course of my work. While I kept no transcribed record of the latter conversations, I found them worthwhile in that I was able to glean some understanding about the personal lives of foreign domestic workers. Some of the comments I heard during these untaped conversations also provided me with inspiration for this work. Although I do not take any quotations from these discussions because they were not formally recorded, they nevertheless provide additional context which I draw upon for confirmation of the themes I did select from the formal interviews. My thesis is that Filipina domestic workers view their political and economic powerlessness in complex and often contradictory terms. I described the institutional constraints they face in the previous chapter. In this section, I describe how they confront those powerful institutions and how they recognize and takes advantage of tiny windows of opportunities available to them. The research shows that Filipina domestic workers take progressive steps to improving their lives as soon as they hear of available opportunities. Why did they apply to be a domestic worker? Because domestic workers are in demand in Hong Kong or Singapore and they can help their families. Why did they come to Canada? Because they heard it is better here. These actions are not random accidents of circumstance but rational decisions by thinking actors. Filipina domestic workers who deduced that there is no future for themselves and their families in the Philippines and who actively sought economic opportunities abroad, are exercising volition in choosing to move abroad. This volition by itself is evidence to their personal strength and contrary to the current stereotype of a helpless, powerless domestic worker. I contend that our knowledge about "what is a domestic worker," should be informed by the complexity of these women's experiences. 80 In this chapter, I focus on the coping patterns revealed by the interviews. A case is made that domestic workers despite their limited power, their limited access to resources, and their limited choices, are able to somehow resist everyday forms of domination. Generally, foreign domestic workers have little influence in the political decisions relating to their work status. Because they are isolated from each other and because they may not yet be Canadian citizens, it is difficult for them to organize politically. They must rely on community groups to a large extent. What they do have influence on is how they deal with their immediate circumstances. Domestic workers play numerous roles and they have varying levels of power according to their roles. As employees they bow to their employers' demands but as the major breadwinner for parents and siblings, they exert a great deal of power. My interviews with domestic workers illustrate a complex set of coping strategies which these women have found critical for their endurance. I found that domestic workers, tend not to openly engage in confrontational acts with their employers and are compliant to a certain degree during their day to day lives. However, this does not mean that they do not challenge authority in their own way. The careful balancing act of asserting their rights without antagonizing employers or Immigration Officials, is part of the cultural knowledge passed on by domestic workers to other domestic workers. I also discovered that the coping strategies are passed on as much as possible by domestic workers to others. The importance of the social and kinship networks formed by domestic workers, therefore, serve two main purposes: alleviate the homesickness and loneliness, and empower the domestic worker with the knowledge she requires to get through her daily life. To facilitate the social network, these women have also found ways of defining their own spaces. They have found ways of meeting other domestic workers ~ in parks, malls, and other public places. This is another coping strategy which they have devised to improve their lives. 81 Background: Why Did They Come To Canada? As noted in an earlier chapter, effort was exerted in recruiting domestic workers from a variety of backgrounds. The women I interviewed represented a range of experiences and backgrounds. The youngest domestic worker I interviewed was 24, the oldest, 63. One woman has only been in Canada for one month when I spoke to her, another has been here for 17 years. Prior to signing up as a domestic worker, one woman was working as a nurse, one a farmer, one an engineer, three were teachers, five were employed in office administrative work for various types of businesses, two were unemployed but caring for brothers and sisters, and the other two were recent university graduates searching for jobs. For the most part, while these background differences exist, the stories of these domestic workers are similar. It is noteworthy that of all 15 people I interviewed, only two came directly to Canada. The rest arrived in Canada after a stint working in either Hong Kong or Singapore. Of the two who arrived directly to Canada, one arrived 17 years ago, and the other only two years ago, coinciding with the windows of opportunity provided by the government's recruitment for domestic workers in Canada. Because of this situation, during the course of my interviews, it was necessary not only to ask "why did you come to Canada" along with "why did you sign up as a domestic worker" in order to get a sense of their purposive intents. The main motivation for signing up as a domestic worker, not surprisingly, was to earn money and/or to find work. This was expressed as the fundamental reason in all cases. It should be noted here that earning money is not necessarily for the immediate improvement of the domestic workers lives but for the improvement of the total family wage. For the domestic workers with post-secondary degrees or at least some post-secondary education, the lack of available work in their field was also cited specifically as a motivating reason. 82 I was working as a clerk before I came over here. Actually, I graduated as a civil engineer and waiting for my Board results... I was doing well in school and after I graduated, I tried to look for work in that area and I spent months looking with no possibility of work. For some reason, I couldn't find work. So my aunt came home from here (Canada) and she sort of told me that, "if you like, I can find you an employer." My thoughts were, you know, opportunities here are better, greener pastures, so I said, "Okay, find me one." "Find me an employer," so she did. — Carina1 I did not pass my CGFNS exams (Philippine national examinations for nurses) and I needed to earn money to help my family. Somebody told me "why don't you go and apply to be!a nanny." At that time, in Manila, they are looking for domestic workers for Hong Kong and they accepted me...I worked in Hong Kong from 1979 to 1983 and after that I did not want to go back to the Philippines. Somebody told me that they are looking for nurses in Alberta in Canada. But then there was a recession in the 80's and I was told by the people in Immigration that I can apply as a nanny because they are looking for nannies,- so I did. - Maria One domestic worker stated the reason for signing up as a domestic quite bluntly: We went out of the country because of the need. To work. For economic reasons...- Irene A couple of women interviewed noted that in addition to the economic need, another reason for signing up as a domestic worker was to get an opportunity to travel. Ever since I was young, I wanted to go to the States or to Canada. You know how they always tell you it is the land of milk and honey. You see it on T V and the movies all the time so you know it is better there. - Miranda When I finished university, I was just helping my dad managing a little store in the market. I was very happy doing that — helping the family business. The money was really easy for me. I get enough from the store. He was giving me a salary every month. He said, if you work for the government, you will get only a thousand, two or three thousand a month, yes, pesos. I need you to help me and then I want to give you a salary. So I said, alright. So I worked there for almost five years after university. I finished university in 1981. I'm very happy also, but I was also thinking I would like to go to other countries while I'm exploring. Then I was thinking I should apply to work in Canada. - Joy •This name and the names of the other women quoted here are aliases to protect the anonymity of my respondents. 83 While the motivating reason is generally the same, the actual prompt to go was triggered differently. Most heard from a friend, relative or acquaintance that domestic workers were being recruited by an agency and they pursued this opportunity. I was also told that advertisements by agencies appear regularly in daily newspapers. Others, like Carina above, knew of a relative that was working as a domestic worker in Canada who offered to find her an employer here. The agency recruitment was mostly for positions in Hong Kong and Singapore although one woman who arrived in Canada 17 years ago was recruited by an agency for a position in Canada. This pattern is consistent with the domestic worker opportunities for entering Canada. As noted, a prerequisite of the FDM Program was work experience in the area. Since most of the women leaving the Philippines were not working as domestic workers in the Philippines, going to Hong Kong or Singapore, where the screening criteria are different, poses a more likely chance of success. The domestic workers I interviewed who arrived via Hong Kong or Singapore said that they heard about Canada during their stint in Hong Kong and Singapore. In one case, however, I was told that her ultimate goal was to get to Canada and that she put in her time in Singapore as a stepping stone to coming here. I worked in Singapore almost two years and seven months as a stepping stone to come over here. So you didn 't want to stay in Singapore ? No, just only to get my application to get my papers to come over here. - Joy r Most of the domestic workers I interviewed were recruited by agencies for positions in Hong Kong and Singapore. The agencies arranged for a "fly now, pay later" plan which meant that the domestic workers paid for their flights out of their salaries once employed. Some, however, paid their way on their own, which most of the time meant borrowing money from family and friends to pay for the flight. Regardless of the method, domestic workers perceived the significant 84 amount of money for a plane fare, and the agency placement fee, as necessary consequences of their investment in themselves. Overall, my interviews confirmed that the reasons for signing up as a domestic worker and the reasons for coming to Canada have not changed since Makeda Silvera's 1983 book on West Indian domestics. In her introduction Silvera noted that "(t)hese women came to Canada to work as domestic workers with the hopes that they will make enough money to feed, clothe and educate their families back in the Caribbean."2 A noteworthy difference however, is that a majority of the Caribbean women Silvera interviewed (nine of the ten women she interviewed) had children in their home countries. From my small sample of Filipina domestic workers, only one woman has a child in the Philippines. Another Filipina is married but has no.children. The remaining domestic workers I spoke with were single and unattached. The ones who left boyfriends at home, informed me of breaking up their relationships shortly after they left the Philippines to go abroad. I have no statistical data on the distribution of married versus single women arriving in Canada as domestic workers. Anecdotal information from the domestic worker advocacy agencies and the nannies themselves, however, assures me that most Filipina women that entered through the Foreign Domestic Movement Program are single. Of those married to someone in the Philippines, I was told that the "marriages don't exist anymore." My informants phrased it this way: Those who have husbands at home, there is no more marriage. We all know what the husbands are doing at home — they have girlfriends and have moved on. -Miranda When the woman leaves, it's not good for the family. The family is wrecked. Usually when you return, he has a girlfriend already or something. No more marriage...Usually you will meet a lot here with spouses, but forget it — they are separated already because they have been away from home in so many years. -Carina 2 Si l ve ra , p.5. 85 Actually, everyone who leaves, most of them, their husbands look for other women. The results are broken homes. - Irene While the marital status,or the misrepresentation of marital status, is not an issue with the domestic workers I interviewed, it was for Caribbean domestic workers twenty years ago. An early version of the domestic worker scheme stated a preference for single women with no children. Because this was widely known, several domestic workers misrepresented themselves as single to enter Canada and once in receipt of their landed immigrant status, proceeded to reverse their statements and attempted to sponsor their husband and/or children. The case of the Seven Jamaican Women in 1975 is a milestone year for domestic worker struggles in Canada —seven women were sent back to Jamaica for lying about their marital status. The government's decision to deport them sparked the outrage which spread among a coalition of supporters who, in turn openly criticized the government's treatment of domestic workers. Expectations I also pursued questions on the kind of expectations the domestic workers held when they signed up as a domestic worker and the extent to which their experiences differed from those expectations. Unanimously, I was told that the reality did not meet their expectations. They knew or have heard that domestic work was difficult but the degree of difficulty was surprising. The dissonance between what was imagined and what was real, forms the first shock for the domestic worker. Back in the Philippines, they tell you: Oh, it's good to go abroad. And me, like an idiot, I really believed it was true.- Connie After my first day of work, I cried all night. You have no idea how hard I worked... My body ached, my knees, my hands... I wanted to go back home. -Miranda However, others did acknowledge that they were somewhat prepared for the hardship of long hours of physical, mechanical labour. When asked whether they knew about the problems of domestic workers abroad, these woman responded: r I've known about it. My mom already had an experience in Singapore. She told me. - Carina For me, I expected it to be very hard because during the training they said to us, "This is exactly what you'll be doing when you go. If you cannot take it, don't bother leaving because you'll just be wasting your money. So for me, I'm ready. My thought was, can I survive this for two years? And I think, deep down, I thought, maybe the employers are not really as bad as this. - Connie When you come from the provinces (outside greater Manila) you don't hear so much about the bad things...but when you get there (the destination), you hear it from others.- Irene Most of the domestic workers I interviewed expected a better life in Canada than their lives in Hong Kong or Singapore. When asked how they found out about Canada, most began their response with a variation of "I heard Canada was better and that you can earn more money so..." This was then followed with what actions they took to come here. There were a a Couple of ways in which domestic workers sought positions in Canada. Some applied through a nanny agency to get to Canada. When I was in Singapore, I heard that it was better here in Canada... I heard it from other nannies. They said the wages are better. Actually, it was the salary that interested me. We compared the salary... That's why I applied through an agency again. I paid another $2,000.. I borrowed money to get here and when I got here, I paid them all." - Connie For me, I was not really excited when I was working in Singapore because for me I was thinking of that as a stepping stone so that I can come over to Canada. I just did that to earn some money and save that salary and save that for something better to come over to Canada or somewhere else. So that is the main reason why I was in Singapore. Because from the Philippines, if you apply to Canada, it's very slow. —Sonia 87 In addition to signing with an agency, the domestic workers I interviewed also asked friends enroute to Canada to find them an employer here. Most of the women I interviewed had friends who successfully referred them to their employers here. This was the preferred route for a couple of reasons. For some, having a friend look for an employer makes the situation less threatening. It alleviates the stress of entering an unknown home. This in a sense, "screens" the employers for the domestic worker. With their more experienced friends' recommendation, they get a sense of security. Secondly, with a friend here already, the fear of being alone is somewhat alleviated. Some also mentioned that they went on to Canada because their friends did. For me, the money in Hong Kong was better because I could save to send my siblings through school and I then had some savings for me. But then I had a friend who went to Canada, and when she was here she said she could find me a job, so when she said that, Tapplied. Why not? - Irene Most mentioned that the decision to stay is not without second thoughts. When I left.. .of course you don't know what's here. I said I'll just make good and stay there and bring my family. - Carina Some people in their minds, they come here to live, to get out of the country and to stay... But I found out that once they get here, most of those people that have that idea, they change and want to go back to the Philippines. - Connie For the first time, for the few months in Singapore, you will say you want to just save money and go back in the Philippines but when the time comes... You meet other workers that go to Canada. So you think that maybe you will have a better future in Canada, so that's why we think that we can go there too. - Marites My first year in Hong Kong, I would like to go back home but I can't. Because, you know, if I went back home, I go home as a failure...I just hoped that it will be easier next year, that it will be much better...Back home, you would have spent lots of money in the processing of your papers. I borrowed some money from other people to pay my passport, the expenses to pay the agency. If I go home, it's the thought of owing this money to all these people. How can I survive if I go back to the Philippines? Where would I get the money to pay this back? So I might as well stay and make the adjustment, or just close my eyes... - Irene Once in Canada, the concern over money does not ease up. Some alluded to the complicated decision-making one must do. The dilemma of bettering their life in Canada, or bettering the life 9 88 of their families in the Philippines is a real problem. One woman's dilemma was whether to spend her money to set up a business in the Philippines or to spend her money to upgrade her education here. This woman was still doing live-in domestic work for "good employers" despite that fact that she's already received her landed immigrant status. Before I was just planning on making money, within 20 or 25 years, and save money and get lots of savings. Well, I really wanted to put up some business there in the Philippines, but now I'm starting to think about my situation. My main objective is to set up a business there, but I want to spend some of my money here also...to go to school. Right now, I hate going to studies. I'm only thinking that is my money. I need to ask first of all, what is my intention... So it is really very complicated for me sometimes. - Joy The money concern is also a barrier to leaving domestic work. As a domestic worker, she need not pay for rent or the bills, or pay for furniture. One woman, who has since left domestic work, has upgraded her skills, and now working as a nursing aid in a care facility said this: Never in my dreams did I imagine I will be paying rent here. Do you mean you just didn't think about it? . When I was in the Philippines, I never paid rent. When I moved to Hong Kong, I never paid rent. I had my own quarters in Hong Kong. The people I used to work with, they were rich. — Irene The money (from domestic work) is only good if you go spend it in the Philippines. But how about me? I live here. I don't spend pesos here. I spend dollars. - Sheila Another dilemma, which is one that all domestic workers must face at one point, is how to sponsor other family members to Canada. Money again is a factor in this decision making. I inquired about sponsoring, but I needed so much money in savings, and I need an annual income of more than $20,000, so I can't...I need a place to live, too. So I didn't hold out much hope that I'll be doing this, but maybe someday, who knows.-Imelda I would like to get them all (family) but I don't have any money...I'll start with my mother and we'll see. - Carina 89 So while these women are confident that they can and do make a difference in their family's lives in the Philippines by sending money, their assessment of their own situation in Canada is vague. While the majority of the women were determined to leave domestic work, the practicalities of budgeting often gets in the way in a Catch 22 situation. In order to leave domestic work, they must acquire another skill. If they leave live-in domestic work, they are then saddled with the burden of paying rent. With the additional expenses of keeping her own apartment, she must then take on a couple of jobs (usually low paying such as working at a fast food restaurant or a convenience store) to cover off the expenses. With two jobs, little time is left to go to school to upgrade her skills. The women I spoke to offered a number of ways of getting around the problem. I spoke to one woman who lives with her employer in North Vancouver during the week, while at the same time, she rents a room in a basement suite on Main Street in Vancouver (along with five other nannies) where she then spends her Friday and Saturday nights. This is advantageous because first, it gives her the chance to leave the confines of her live-in space and be completely away from her place of work during her days off. Second, this works well because it gives her an opportunity to build up a collection of household items, so that by the time she is ready to move, she at least owns her own bed and sheets, her phone, her radio. Another woman is also in a transition stage from domestic work. She continues to live with her employer, however, rather than pay rent, she barters her services as a cleaning woman for so many hours a week. At the same time, she has started a job at the local 7-11. These creative solutions offer these women ways in which to successfully complete the transition from domestic work. This is not to imply that all the women I spoke to want to leave domestic work. Some, at least two from my group, saw domestic service as a worthwhile job. I should note, however, that these two are currently working for very good employers. Good employers, in this case, means employers who give them a fair wage for the agreed upon hours of work, and employers who trust and treat the domestic worker as part of a family. 90 While women who are now here see themselves as close to making the transition from temporary worker to landed immigrant, they nonetheless, do not take that accomplishment lightly. The ambivalence about their experience as a domestic worker was revealed in a number of ways. Some of the women I interviewed wanted to "spare" their sisters the hardship of what they endured. Someone said of her sister who is finishing up her medicine degree in the Philippines: "As much as possible, I don't want her to come here. I want her to practice that profession... Because sometimes, I feel like I wasted my five years in engineering." - Carina Or, as someone else expressed it: "When I was in Hong Kong, I said to myself: If I had a daughter, I will try my best to discourage my daughter to go abroad and work as a nanny...I will try my best." - Irene For most of the women I interviewed^ when they arrived in Hong Kong and Singapore, they enjoyed, for the first time, the privilege of being able to send financial contributions, no matter how small, to their families at home. However, as noted, most of these women would have borrowed some money from friends and relatives to finance their trips abroad. In addition, i f they opted for the "fly now, pay later" plan, this financial obligation contributes to her hardships at her destination. This domestic worker recalls her first pay check in Singapore where a hefty percentage was taken directly off her salary to pay the agency who paid for her flight: I remember my first few month's pay check: $20, then $30 and slowly upwards...At that time, I made $250. Just imagine, they deducted $230! How can you live with $20? We'll, it's live-in right, and you have no days off. So you have no days off for the first 6 months. - Connie Another manner in which agencies contribute to the disadvantaged position of the domestic, is the "guarantee" the agencies assure their clients with. My conversation with domestic workers revealed that some agencies guarantee satisfaction for their clients. If clients are unhappy about 91 the performance of their domestic worker, the agency will promptly replace the worker at no charge. This places the domestic worker in a vulnerable position because it can, and is sometimes used, to coerce her into performing beyond what is contractually expected of her to perform. The agency guarantee is yet another unwritten obstacle which the domestic worker must face. In this regard, the law, again, is not on her side. While Immigration regulates the type of women that can sign up as domestic workers, there are no regulations that check the conduct of domestic worker agencies nor to a certain extent, her employers. Going to Hong Kong and Singapore then is not considered a long-term solution to the economic woes which has provoked these women to migrate. With little pay, and no opportunity to apply for landed immigrant status, it is no wonder that the grass seems greener on the other side of the Pacific. From the the domestic worker's perspective, their initial investment in Hong Kong or Singapore produces only short-term gain. After six years there, the government eventually revokes their work permits and sends them back: What makes Canada attractive is the fact that they can upgrade their education here, and more importantly, they can apply for immigrant status which in turn then enables them to sponsor other family members. Thus, applying to do domestic work in Canada is perceived as a long-term improvement in their lives. Strategies for Coping with Powerlessness Because you are in a different country, you are still a stranger...There is discrimination. I experienced it myself. It's going on.. If you are at home, you feel like you own the place. Anywhere you go, you don't feel like a stranger. -Irene In addition to the long hours, poor pay, and low status they face in Canada, another problem for foreign domestic workers is the loneliness and alienation. To cope with these conditions, there are certain strategies which domestic workers employ to cope with their daily life. The strategies generally involve learning more about their rights, and finding meaningful ways of spending their time outside of domestic work. It is interesting to note that domestic work was described to me as an activity to be endured while waiting for something else in the future. I received comments like 92 "When I get my landed..." or "someday, I can sponsor some of my family", identifying their lives as a series of episodes and the present perceived as a temporary sentence. I identify below, nine general coping strategies for domestic workers. These coping strategies reconcile for the domestic worker the new changes in their lives — the loss of familial support and kinships in a strange land while at the same time having improved financial independence to help the greater family income, the re-evaluation of traditional Filipina behaviour in a society with a value system unlike what they are accustomed, and the newly-found independence and maturity to cope with personal problems. 1. Engaging in advocacy work Most of the women I interviewed were involved in advocacy work. By this I mean they are involved with or at least aware of organizations for domestic workers3. As noted in the Chapter 4, the three organizations I encountered during my work were the West Coast Domestic Workers' Association, Committee for Caregivers' Rights, and the Philippine Women's Centre. Most of the women I interviewed were aware of the existence of at least one of the groups. In fact, 11 of the 15 women I interviewed belonged to one of the groups. The remaining four women were aware of the organizations but were not currently active members of those groups. Participating in advocacy work gives the women opportunity to learn about improving their work situations. There is, of course, the social aspect as well. As members, they are invited to attend meetings. These meetings are held in the group's headquarters which means a destination or a haven for domestic workers outside their own live-in quarters. Also, they meet other domestic workers to broaden their social support network. 3I offer this observation with some caution. Part of the reason why the women I interviewed were involved in advocacy work might be related to my sampling method. It is fair to comment however, that when a domestic worker in Vancouver meets other domestic workers and begins to attend social gatherings, chances are great that she will encounter at least one of the advocacy organizations or at least meet someone who belongs to one of the organizations. It is, after all, a small community. 93 2. Differentiating between work time and social time No matter how tight the workload, or how financially strapped they are, the women I interviewed all placed a priority on meeting other people. The life of a live-in domestic worker is for the most part isolated. However, the women I interviewed seemed to take full advantage of their limited social time. Once, during a Sunday, while interviewing one woman in her home, a friend of hers, who was a live-in nanny, was also there at the same time. The friend, who lived in Port Couitlam, had walked for an hour to get to a bus stop and endured another 40 minute bus ride, in order to visit her friend in Vancouver. I asked her why she did this, and she said "because it's my day offj and I don't want to stay with my employer when they are there." This statement is revealing in a lot of ways. Not only does it point out the importance of private time with friends, it also informs me that avoidance of the employer during their days-off is one strategy for curtailing extra work for themselves. Another nanny informed me: I used to have dinners with my employers4 but I stopped doing this...My contract said only till 5 o'clock, and I don't do the cooking but I join them for dinner. But what happened was...after eating, you just can't go down to your room. Of course you have to clean up and stuff like that, until you realize it is already 7:30.1 grew tired of it. Why is this happening? I could have been downstairs already, resting, relaxing., so I just told them that after 5,1 would like to have my own life. What I learnt from this experience was that maybe you just need to talk it out with them. Instead of usually, some nannies, they just bear it without finding solutions... -Carina It's very nice also to..just go to meet other Filipinas because they have alot of problems also. So sometimes, if you have a problem, then you know what to do...I 4Room and board are normally deducted from the domestic worker's salary. Most of the women I interviewed, however, made other arrangements with their employers so that they can buy their own groceries and cook their own food. Having their meals deducted from their pay is not ideal for Filipina domestic workers for a number of reasons. First of all, the domestic workers crave Filipino cooking and would prefer eating rice to more traditional Canadian fare of potatoes, bread or pasta. Second, most domestic workers wanted their choice of what to eat. As one woman informed me, "when my employer is on a diet, I'm on a diet also." 94 just listen to them, go with them, sometimes we make Filipino food, and because I have my own kitchen, I can cook also. - Joy The Filipino communities of Vancouver also host a number of social activities like dances, which have had a tendency in the past to attract domestic workers. However, these dances are not without their politics as the following observation notes: What happens is that they take advantage of domestic workers. Because they know that we are lonesome (sic). So they organize dances and raffles, so they get our money or whatever, but we don't really get the respect that we wanted. We are not part of the (Filipino) community. - Sonia In addition, some of the social activities organized by the communities are reputed to be thinly disguised venues for meeting boyfriends or potential mates. This makes some women uncomfortable. I don't attend dances to meet boyfriends...I go to school. I go to church...- Carina 3. Focusing on Education or Upgrading Their Credentials Formal and informal education figures prominently in the life of the domestic worker. The domestic worker, after all, must be seen as someone in the process of becoming something else. None of the women I interviewed saw live-in domestic work as a permanent career choice. Because of the hardship of juggling schedules, and for lack of other Canadian experience in another field, most leave domestic work but end up engaging in similar activities such as cleaning or janitorial work. The other alternative is to work at fast food outlets and convenience stores where employment is usually available, and where schedules may be flexible enough to accommodate schooling. Usually, however, the domestic workers find classes to attend, partially to convince Immigration that they will be good citizens, but also for the genuine desire to learn. The women I spoke to were taking courses for cashier positions or for medical assistant's certificates. The women I spoke to with degrees in the Philippines also aspire to upgrade their 95 education someday, however, most recognize that going to university here would be a serious commitment of time and money, both of which are scarce in the domestic worker's life. 4. Attending and getting involved with the church We come working like slaves in this country, giving the government money, and we not getting back nothing because we have to pay pension, we have to pay insurance, we have to pay a lot of stuff. God know how I survive, but I do. Is only the mercy of God help us. If you check the churches in Canada, you see that ninety-five per cent of the church is on work permit.5 Without fail, all the domestic workers I interviewed expressed a profound faith in their God. One woman, when asked if she was afraid when she first left the Philippines remarked: "Why should I be scared? I believe in the Lord." I was told that without this faith, one cannot have inner strength. As well, the Filipinos have an expression rooted in religious faith, "Awa ng Dios," which means "by the grace of God" or less literally, "with God's help". When asked about their health, for example, it is not uncommon for the women to say something like "Sa awa ng Dios, mabuti naman" which means "With God's help, I am just fine."6 Most of the domestic workers I interviewed are Catholic and attend church regularly. However, it is interesting to note some of the interpretations of faith: I have faith, but sometimes you have to do something. You can't just say "It's up to you, God," and in the meantime you're not doing anything. There are things that are impossible, this you have to accept. That's my strategy. Work until He tells me "no more". - Carina Of course you have to help yourself... You can't just pray for things to change. — Imelda 5Silvera, p. 96. 6I found this expression particularly telling, not only of the religious connotations but also because it gives a hint to the culture. The belief in divine intervention and the identification of self in relation to others is something that the traditional Filipino culture values, contrary to the Western sense of "I" as a self-made woman. 96 As well, beyond the spiritual, attending church allows opportunities not only for worship, but also for social gathering. Going to church, I was told, was a great opportunity to meet others. 5. Focusing on the family Since most of the women I interviewed were unmarried, the term "family" refers to the parents and siblings of the domestic workers. Most of the women I spoke to weighed the difficult working conditions against the potential for substantial contributions to a family wage. The latter usually won. Said one woman who is working hard to finish her medical assistant's course while working as a live-in domestic worker: If you think about it. I'm working for them (family). They are my life. - Carina When asked about what was good about being a domestic worker, the most common answer was economic, or more specifically, because it helps my family. The economic motivation for going abroad influences every decision she makes in her day-to-day life. Her daily lifestyle in Canada, both at work and in her off-hours, is determined by what she can and she cannot afford after she has fulfilled her financial obligations by sending money home. If she borrowed money from relatives and friends to come to Canada, those debts, must first of all be paid. Then, the women assume the role of the major bread winner for their families in the Philippines. If the parents had debts to pay, those are paid off. The other priority, I was informed, was continuing the education of the siblings which meant taking care of university tuition fees and books. Finally, the domestic worker in Canada, must also save enough money in savings to process her papers for her anticipated landed immigrant status. In addition to the daily living expenses one expects such as bus fare, food and entertainment, the domestic worker must carefully budget for upcoming expenses for processing the various paperwork required to keep her legal existence in Canada. For example, if during her two-year term as a domestic worker, her Philippine Foreign Worker Visa expires, she must budget the equivalent of $50. Also, a non-refundable fee of $150 must be enclosed with her application to apply for an Open Visa in Canada. I was also told that most women send at least 75% of their salary to their families in the Philippines. Of the 25% they keep, they budget for upcoming major expenses such as saving for the renewal of their employment authorizations ($100), application fees for applying for their Open Visas ($150),and application for a landed immigrant status ($700 for the applicant, $450 for the spouse and children over 19, and $50 for each of the dependent under the age of 19). The recreational pleasures the women I met enjoyed must therefore have one criteria — they must be inexpensive if not cost free. During their spare time, domestic workers cook meals together, sew their own clothes, and rent Filipino movies from the local Filipino stores. The ones who have received an Open Visa and entitled to leave live-in domestic work usually take on part-time jobs cleaning offices or homes. It's time for some hypothetical financial planning. Let's say you earn the minimum wage, which in Ontario is $6.35 an hour, slightly more than $15,000 annually. You make a little more moonlighting on the weekends, so your weekly take-home pay is somewhere between $300 and $350. You have to deduct the cost of housing in Toronto. You also have to budget for food, bus fare, clothing, electricity, telephone, cable TV. You are the sole support for three people, your husband and two children. Deduct what that costs. Deduct an equal amount for your mother and two sisters. So here's the question: How much money can you salt away in your savings account every month?.... If you want to know how it's done, you'll have to ask your nanny7. 6. Personal growth and development While the reasons for signing up as a domestic worker are largely economic, I received a number of interesting reasons for wanting to stay. The women I met were philosophical in their life approach. They expressed pleasure in learning about life. While quick to inform me of the 7John Barber, "Surviving in Toronto on $15,000 a year," article in the Globe and Mail, July 6, 1993, page A2. 98 hardships of a domestic worker, they were also able to point out other advantages that contributed to their personal growth. It is also for a change in the kind of job you do. To experience working with different types of cultures, different religion. - Melanie I learnt how to deal with other people, like you know, other workers like me and try to understand their situation. And also when I was in Hong Kong, I met lots of people. I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I learnt a lot how to live with them. Whereas if I was in the Philippines, I never learnt how to deal with those people...because of that experience, I didn't have a bad experience dealing with all sorts of people here in Canada. - Irene I learnt something —maturity, because when I left, I knew nothing. I didn't even know how to cook, or clean a house, or do laundry by hand... So it was tough... I prayed not to lose my mind, but you know that no one can help you except yourself, so I got stronger. - Imelda As a major contributor to the family, the women also enjoy an elevated status in the eyes of friends, relatives and neighbours in the Philippines. Part of the responsibilities of a good child is the ability to take care of elderly parents. Women who are able to financially support their parents are therefore esteemed in the eyes of their hometown friends and relations even if, as the women told me, the money is only from "nannying." Similarly, while it is not difficult to compile a list of what makes domestic work undesirable, the list of what makes domestic work worthwhile was surprising. I'm learning more.. All my experiences, I turn into learning. Even just taking care of children. That's what I find amusing because it seems that I am growing inside... You learn strategies like how to deal with them, with relationships, and also my social skills... I seem to have more awareness of myself because I am alone and I have to depend on myself... I seem to be getting stronger. - Carina I learnt a lot... Let's just start say with the cooking. At least I know that I can cook a great variety of food. I read cookbooks, and I learnt how to cook lots of dishes. My employers were Indian, so she taught me how to cook their food. -Connie 99 I get a chance to travel When my employers go on holidays and they take me, I get to see things I won't otherwise get to see.- Miranda When I arrived, I didn't know how to drive. After one week, they sent me to school to learn how to drive...At the same time while I was learning, they had a car ready for me. - Irene Some of the women I interviewed recounted, with visible pleasure, their travel experiences: We went on a holiday to Toronto. My employer and I took turns driving... It was such a long drive and we were so tired, but we stayed in Calgary and in Winnipeg and I saw a lot of Canada. Then when we got to Toronto, we stayed at the King Edward Hotel, do you know the one? It was a nice, old hotel. My room was so big! And we ate at the restaurant there. The meal was so good! Anna 7. Taking pride in their work Some of the women I spoke to also said they take great pleasure from some aspects of their work. The more fortunate ones receive tremendous satisfaction from their work and are proud of it. Some nannies, they don't want to be called nannies when they are in public, but me, I don't care...When I was younger, my children called me "nanny" but now that I am older, my children call me "grandma." I am like a grandma to them, they tell me (laughter). - Mary This woman spoke with fondness about her employers' children, whom she has raised since they were babies. Another woman told me her first job in Canada was taking care of a diabetic infant. This was a tremendous responsibility for this woman, for it meant keeping detailed records of the baby's eating habits and all activities. Apparently, when the mother took the baby to the doctor for a check Up, the doctor said, "you have a very good nanny for taking such good care of your baby." This moment, recounted during the interview brought visible pleasure to the domestic worker I 100 interviewed. She informed me it brought her tremendous personal satisfaction about making a difference in someone's life. 8. Attitudinal changes I was also told rather explicitly that there are attitudinal changes in the workplace which must occur. Certain habits which Filipino women have been conditioned to assume must be rejected. It's part of our culture. We tend to keep quiet. We tend not to antagonise people especially if she's your boss or someone higher than you... As much as possible, we say yes, yes, yes, all the time, but here, it can't be like that. They will take advantage of you. - Ruby It's true that there are a lot of problems that are difficult to solve. But I find it starts with the nanny...What I learnt from this experience was that maybe you just need to talk it out with them instead of usually, some nannies, they just bear it, without finding solutions. - Carina I was told that in order to survive, domestic workers need to be aggressive and they have to know their rights. As well, with a little human effort added to divine intervention, I was told that a lot more nannies will be able to endure their hardships. This coping strategy is important because it violates several tenets of cultural value to Filipinos. One of the effects of colonization on the Philippines is that the Filipinos have always been subject to the myth of Western superiority. As well, one of the traits considered desirable for Filipino women is to be quiet and obedient in nature. By speaking out to assert their rights in the workplace, these women are going against tradition and against cultural norms. This act of resistance is even more significant considering the power relations are not tipped in the foreign domestic worker's favour. She is an employee living in her employer's home, and a poor visible minority woman in a predominantly white society without family ties. To speak out is not only culturally difficult, but it is also a considerable risk. 101 9. Learning non-confrontational methods to get around the system The following excerpt from DWA's brief to the Employment Standards Act Review Committee describes for me the kind of resistance and clever negotiation techniques domestic workers learn to employ: One day, Gloria asked her employer for permission to spend her morning in town, because she had to go to the immigration office to renew her work permit. She promised to come home as soon as her errand was over. Her employer replied that in that case, she will not get paid for that day. Gloria said that in that case, as well, she will take the whole day off. Gloria reminded her employer that she was doing the errand for both of them, because she wanted to continue working for them and because they needed a nanny. The misunderstanding was resolved. The following anecdote from one of the women I interviewed also illustrates a creative solution to this woman's problem. As a background to the story, I should mention that while in Singapore, she lived in a remote area away from her friend. Her friend, unfortunately belonged to a strict household that forbade the use of the phone. What I did was, of course, you want to talk no matter how... And my friend and I, to call each other, the parents of her employers are at home so there was really no way she can use the phone, so what I did was, when she calls me, she lets it ring once, then hangs up. When I get that one ring, I know I can call her.- Connie Numerous other examples arose during my conversations with domestic workers which exemplify the non-confrontational tactics used by these women. There was a story of a domestic worker whose employers started charging her for gas whenever she drove the car. This domestic worker discovered that taking the bus around town is cheaper so she used to dress up her charges and haul them through the public bus system. The children complained to the parents and the parents soon discovered that with the nanny spending more time commuting, they don't have much to gain by overcharging her for the privilege of driving the car. The employer's asking price for gas dropped and life returned to normal. 102 What is also remarkable is the way these tactics are passed on to other domestic workers. The larger the social circle of the domestic worker then, the greater the pool of strategies these woman can draw from. The West Coast Domestic Workers' Association, the Committee for Caregivers' Rights, and the Philippine Women's Centre, have made educating domestic workers a priority. Domestic workers often do not get much information about their legal rights prior to their arrival. If she gets information, her information is most likely to come from the agency which has recruited her. The agencies, however, have little interest in keeping her informed because the paying clients' needs are what is important. Information is also available from more experienced domestic workers, however, those that gained their work experience in Hong Kong and Singapore may only be familiar with the standards in those countries. Depending on employers, of course, Canada seems to offer more reasonable work conditions of most countries who recruit domestic workers from the Philippines. This was repeated to me during my interviews several times. Perhaps the twice yearly full medical checup for domestic workers in Singapore [to ensure that (1) they are not pregant and (2) free from communicable diseases], the forbidden relationships with nationals, and the barring from immigrating to the host country; makes Canada's restrictions on domestics seem kinder. Also in Singapore, there is no opportunity for long term relief from the work. After six years of live-in domestic work, the workers are automatically sent back. Applying for immigrant status is forbidden. In Hong Kong, the domestic workers are not allowed to leave their employer until after one year of service. Some domestic workers automatically assume that the same rule applies in Canada. Getting misinformed is as harmful to the domestic worker than not getting any information. 10. Establishing kinship and social networks During the interviews, the foreign domestic workers I interviewed spoke of getting help from amorphous "friends." When asked how they found out about better job opportunities, they respond that "friends" told them. When asked who helped them when they were having trouble with their employers, they spoke about "friends." These "friends" are foreign domestic workers themselves whom they have met along their travels. "Friends" are made waiting at bus stops in West Vancouver, or at the food fair at Pacific Centre, or at Ambleside Park. Making friends is as simple as asking "Are you Filipina?" when they see someone who they suspect might be. I was told that it was not difficult meeting other Filipinas. I have myself struck many a conversation with domestic workers just waiting for the Sea Bus at Lonsdale Quay. Most domestic workers can be quite social, and the common need for companionship is enough of a bind to make enduring "friends." For the isolated life of a domestic worker, making friends is a survival necessity. Surrounded by a circle of other Filipino women and domestic workers, the foreign domestic worker in Vancouver establishes ties which substitute for her own family. These friends pass on knowledge on a variety of things including knowledge about Canadian culture picked up from their respective employers, about applying for landed immigrant status, about enrolling for continuing education classes, or about what is happening in the Philippines. On another level, this circle of friends also define a space away from employers. When they are employed in the same neighbourhood, they might synchronize their hours to be at the park at the same time. During their days off, they might go shopping downtown together. These friends also help each other establish their own physical spaces. When they have saved a bit of money, they pool their resources and share a small apartment and they stagger their days off so that they can enjoy some privacy. It is not unusual to find more established domestic workers renting a "weekend place" that is, an apartment they might share with as many as five other women who also have live-in domestic jobs. Domestic workers also look for places where other domestic workers go to make friends. These places may be as varied as the Filipino stores along Main Street, to Granville Street in downtown Vancouver on weekends. 104 Common Themes Several themes emerge from the observations noted above: 1. Faith is central to the day-to-day lives of the domestic workers. However, interpretation of faith involves volition or the aspect of purposive intent (as in "making things happen"). In fact, it is interesting to note that even the most religious of the women I interviewed, said something to the effect that they do a lot of praying. However, they have come to learn to depend on themselves, and learnt ways of coping with the burden of their family's financial responsibility. 2. Justifications for working as a domestic worker were expressed in economic and personal (individual and family) terms. The most visible joy I came across during the interviews was from a woman who had just finished buying a home for her parents. I was told that it is opportunities like this which make it all worthwhile. On a more personal side, a few women said they always wanted to travel. Being able to go to a country like Canada, is a dream come true for some. As well, there are smaller personal triumphs which the domestic worker enjoys and uses to her advantage— getting her driver's license, for example. 3. Power or the lack of it is expressed in personal and political terms. I was told that Filipina domestic workers are disadvantaged foremost because they are poor. 1 ' The reason we are here (as domestic workers) instead of being with our families...is because we are poor. We are a poor country And once over here, we can't leave domestic work because we have no money.- Ruby 105 Being poor was often cited as being the cause of the perceived mismanagement of the Philippines' resources. If they do break the cycle of poverty in the Philippines, once they get to Canada, the low pay earned by being a live-in caregiver entraps the women to yet another cycle of poverty and powerlessness. On the personal side, I was told that the lack of personal power is related to the reluctance of domestic workers to assert themselves. The solutions of reconciling what the domestic worker can live with and what the employer expects, are negotiated by the domestic worker by first confronting the social barriers that compel her to stay silent when she would like to speak out. 4. Resistence to challenge power relations manifested ih several forms. Domestic workers in Canada suffer from multiple disadvantages as women peforming undervalued work, and as workers without the proper protection in the laws as other workers in Canada. They are also an ethnic minority group. Furthermore, within the Filipino community, they are also considered outsiders by virtue of them being "nannies." Being "nannies" carries a certain stigma within the Filipino community, a class-conscious immigrant class. Vancouver's Philippine Women's Centre in fact, came about because it was recognized by a small group of women that domestic workers are excluded from the Filipino social circles, who previously immigrated to Canada under a professional class or under family sponsorships. The women I met have challenged the cultural norms they have come to know by signing up as foreign domestic workers. They have very untraditionally taken over the role of major breadwinner for their families by performing a needed service halfway around the globe. The women I interviewed had also traded the dream of socially respectable white-collar professional jobs in their home countries for a life at the bottom of the social ladder in Canada. Finally, once in Canada, they have devised ways of overcoming years of social conditioning to assert themselves in front of their employers, employers who are relatively well-off, white, and often professionals— 106 the very characteristics Filipinos have held in high regard since being colonized by the Spaniards. By coming to Canada and becoming pioneers in a new land, these women can be shown to be resisting what other women in developing worlds have been powerless to do — break the cycle of poverty for their families. Resisting day-to-day hardships also comes in the form of defining personal spaces away from the employer. They do this by surrounding themselves with a circle of friends who understand the hardships of a domestic workers. Amongst this circle of friends, they are transformed from just i another "Filipino domestic worker" to their own identities. Amongst a group of other domestic workers they become so-and-so from this hometown who went to this school and studied this, and whose parents are so-and-so; they are able to have personalities on their own merit rather than being identified as someone's nanny. Conclusion In "Time, the Life Course and Work in Women's Lives," Marilyn Porter concluded that the women she studied, those in fishing towns in Newfoundland, interpret their experience of work in different ways that men do, and differently from that expected by the conventional economic interpretations. However, Porter noted that "women's interpretations of the value of their paid and unpaid work in the context of the overall 'family project' allows them to see their contributions as positive, essential, and certainly equal to those of men."8 Porter found that the women she studied seemed to "focus less on the actual work they did and more on the context and purpose of their contribution, and its benefit to their particular household." This allows women to see greater continuities between their lives and those of their mothers and daughters than men saw between themselves and their fathers and sons. 8Porter, p. 1. 107 My interviews with domestic workers echo Porter's conclusions. The domestic workers I spoke to certainly saw their contributions to the family as positive, essential and equal to the contributions of men in their family, despite the hardship they endured. It is, in fact, the power to significantly improve their family's lives which compel most of the women to endure the hardship. The family strategy is behind the strong commitment of these women to improve their lives. The women I interviewed also had something to prove to another group of people ~ their siblings. I found that the women I interviewed assumed responsibility for the education of their brothers and sisters, whether they are the oldest of the children or not. In Filipino culture, not unlike other Asian cultures, responsibility for the family usually followed the hierarcy of the birth order; that is, the eldest sons or daughters were usually assigned greater responsibilities than the subsequent siblings. During my interviews, I found Filipina domestic workers weilding more power within their own families because of the substantial economic contribution they provide to the unit whether they are the first-born or not. As one put it, "Even if it is just from nannying, I make more money than everyone at home, even my Ate (older sister) who is a professional there." The ability to buy a house for elderly parents, and the ability to pay tuition costs for their brothers' and sisters' education, is powerful fuel for these women's determination. To some Filipino women, "nanny" is a verb, not a noun. The women I interviewed spoke about "nannying" as a way of leaving the Philippines. The reasons for nannying are not surprising. There are few economic opportunities for women in the Philippines. The attraction of earning foreign money, especially dollars, is irresistible. Nannying is seen as an alternative — a worthwhile occupation. When even university-educated women are attracted, even the stigma of working as domestic workers is no deterrent. The women here who took advantage of the Foreign Domestic Worker Programme speak of their experiences as difficult in the short term but worthwhile in the long term. Because these women see the long-term benefits of their sacrifice, they have devised ways of coping. Information networks are formed. When I asked the women above, why they applied to - 108 come to Canada, they all said, "I heard it is better there." From whom, I would ask, and they said "from my friends" or "from other nannies." These networks are important for a number of reasons. They permit the exchange of information amongst them. Because domestic workers do not get an orientation to their legal rights, they educate each other. For the most part, this is how these women discover what is a fair wage, and what is fair treatment from employers. Many of the women I spoke to referred to learning from so and so that she was being mistreated.-In turn, others spoke of "teaching" other nannies about their rights. My neighbour (in Singapore) I was teaching her. "Look, you work from 5:30 to 12 midnight and you only get $220 (Singapore $) salary!" I told her to pick a fight with her employer and leave. M y salary was $400 already. - Connie The tight social networks and alliances formed by domestic workers also fulfil their emotional needs for companionship and kinship. Most of these women, after all, are young and away from home for the first time. Getting together to cook Filipino food helps alleviate the homesickness, and provides an opportunity to exchange stories. Amongst themselves, they form a network of sisters and mothers, with an unspoken rule to help each other. During the course of this work, I found myself in numerous occasions among the company of Filipina domestic workers who are speaking in Tagalog and displaying wit and humour which I suspect are repressed in their everyday role as domestic workers. Unfortunately, if one was to believe what employment agencies tell employers, the domestic workers I have met do not exist. The image of the compliant, obedient female is certainly more marketable for employment agencies. At the beginning of my interviews, I idealistically imagined a group of strong women who braced themselves for the hardships of domestic work when they left the Philippines. I was wrong. The women I spoke with were more determined than prepared, more naive and adventurous than informed. Most relied on the word of others about the opportunities abroad. They signed up for domestic work not just to help the family income, but also to explore a bigger world. The sense of adventure played an important role in the women's life choices. This reinforces Beltran Chen's observation that we are witnessing, in Canada, a unique immigration phenomena. She notes that 109 "sufficient evidence suggests that the unique demographic profile of Filipino immigrants is in a large measure characterized by the "pioneering female" evident in successive migration waves.9" These pioneering women exhibit the determination and strength which history has ascribed more commonly with the pioneering males. It is interesting to note that pioneering males are usually depicted in history as courageous and brave, while the domestic workers are often portrayed as powerless victims. The ones who suceeded in domestic work— the ones who are able to keep winning attitudes-were the ones who were able to adapt to their situations effectively. The effective solutions these women found demonstrate their resourcefulness, but perhaps not innovation. Women throughout history have used much the same strategies for. years. The reliance on social networks with other women, drawing on religious faith, and the pursuit of education or knowledge have served these women well in their day to day struggles. In addition, they changed constraints into opportunities by utilizing imaginative nonconfrontational strategies in dealing with employers and employment agencies. Throughout this process, they maintained links with their families at home, which in turn reminded them of their long term purpose for signing up as a domestic worker. By considering domestic workers as purposive social actors, the notion of a powerless victim is immediately questioned. By viewing these women from their own standpoint, we can appreciate the multiple sites of struggle they face, and the many roles they play. These women juggle their simultaneous roles as workers, sisters, and surrogate mothers, By using feminist ways of looking at the world, we can discover important aspects of their social lives. Filipino domestic workers can be found working all over the world, thanks to the aggressive recruiting tactics of the domestic worker agencies who have set up shop in the Philippines. The continued erosion of the quality of life for the working class in the Philippines also makes it a ripe 9Anita Beltran Chen, "Studies On Filipinos in Canada: State of the Art," Canadian Ethnic Studies. XXII, 1,1990 110 target for these agencies. Women are leaving the Philippines in droves precisely because they are seeking solutions to their problems. When these women leave their countries, they are articulating their struggles at the international level. The challenge for feminist theorists and social analysts is to see through the layers of struggle and find ways of emancipating them. Development theorists have emphasized states, civil and military bureaucracies, political parties, and class-based organizations — but because of influence of feminist scholars in both advanced and less-developed countries and because the new international division of labour has been accompanied by a market preference for female labour, it is necessary to draw attention to new social actors.10 I have asserted throughout that the group of women in Canada we call Filipina domestic workers should be considered as social actors. While these women's pasts are completely different from their present — they were farmers, teachers, engineers, mothers — we only know them as domestic workers here. Although others are now trying to redefine them,11 much work is yet to be done. The everyday coping mechanisms employed by domestic workers remind me of the strategies employed by other disadvantaged groups such as other migrant workers and peasants in other societies. The informal, unorganized, nonconfrontational weapons of the weak can be effective as long as their services are required and cannot be dispensed with. The economic indispensability of the poor appears to constitute their real, though unequal, bargaining strength, thus the necessary condition for the effectiveness of nonconfrontational methods of resistance.12 Each time a domestic worker says no, I want to have my own life after 5 p.m., she is resisting authority. Each time she insists on her rights, she is reasserting her role. From her network of friends, and experience living in Western society, she comes to realize other ways of doing things 10Elsa M. Chaney in "Research on Migration and Women", p. 113 11Beltarn Chen chooses to call them pioneers, and Macklin calls them "domestic workers in the process of becoming something else." 12Esman, Milton J., "Commentary," Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. Forrest D. Colburn, ed. (New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc), 1989, p. 226. I l l and other ways of finding her place in the social order. My interviews reveal a common pattern or a common set of strategies for resisting the day-to-day hardships at the arena in which she has influence. There is still the uneasy question of the relationship between gender and power. The contribution of this work is that it challenges assumptions about the gendered nature of power when relationships between women are considered. Employed to fill the household responsibilities of the working Canadian mother, the complex relationship between the immigrant woman and the woman employer blurs the distinct demarcation between exploiter and exploited, the powerful and the powerless. Suffice it to say that a multifaceted view of power and powerlessness needs further exploration other than what was accomplished here. There is a need to examine the multiple roles that women as social actors play in order to get an understanding of how disadvantaged women cope with their multiple levels of oppression. 112 Chapter 6 Conclusions This work was undertaken to explore a feminist theoretical perspective of the role of a particular group of women in Canadian society. Interviews were conducted with Filipino foreign domestic workers to explore how they view their powerless positions. By approaching a social issue from this perspective, foreign domestic workers are placed in the centre of the analysis. In keeping with Dorothy Smith's theory that it is possible to have a sociology for women by assuming a woman's standpoint, this study offers conclusive data that different insights can be achieved when using women as a point of reference. The interviews with foreign domestic workers revealed that while they may be powerless against forces such as the uneven global development of capitalism or the patriarchal system of laws that govern society, there is opportunity for exercising power when power is defined according to the difference women can make in their own and their families' lives. Using a feminist analysist, the concept of power is made problematic when value is assigned to the perpetuation and survival of families and the desire to earn a dignified living by whatever means. These are the values which Filipino domestic workers focus on when they engage in this form of work. This thesis challenges the theory of a top-down application of coercive power. The study shows that power can be viewed as multi-faceted if we begin with the concept that society is made up of active social actors. Furthermore, when these social actors are women, the simultaneous and overlapping enactment of women's multiple roles in day-to-day life reveals that power is processual, fluid and more complex than may have been originally accepted. Using foreign domestic workers as a case study contributes to this understanding of power. This insight is also made possible only when the perspective of foreign domestic workers assumes a prominent and central place in the study. It is not possible to view foreign domestic workers as having power when their situation is analysed from the legal and institutional powers which constrain them as 113 has been done in the past. Furthermore, when the situation of the foreign domestic worker is analysed from the employer-employee relationship, it is also too easy to dismiss them as disadvantaged and powerless. When the lives of domestic workers are viewed from their perspective, I found evidence of resistance and I have interpreted these acts as forms of power. These everyday acts of resistance come in many different forms and they are not necessarily antagonistic. These acts may also appear benign or natural on the surface but they accomplish precisely what the actor intended. When educated young women leave the Philippines to perform domestic work in Canada, they are breaking the inevitable cycle of poverty they face in their home countries. When live-in domestic workers spend an extra $50 a month to share a weekend apartment with other domestic workers, they are asserting independence and their right to privacy. These acts can be viewed as elaborate articulations of purposive social and political strategies. Rather than being outside the political arena, I would argue that Filipina domestic workers are involved in political and social action through their participation in the Foreign Domestic Movement Program which has so far given them opportunities for earning a wage outside the Philippines. Filipino Domestic Workers and Power Women need to be made visible in order to understand how and why international power takes the forms it does. But women are not just the objects of that power, not merely passive puppets or victims... (W)omen of different classes and different ethnic groups have made their own calculations in order to cope with or benefit from the current struggles between states.1 Underlying Enloe's statement is the view that those in positions of disadvantage are capable of influencing and transforming their situations by virtue of their choices. These choices translate into actions that may appear as small acts of defiance but are nonetheless powerful influences on 1 Cynthia Enloe. Bananas. Beaches & Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), p 198. 114 society. The. situation of Filipina domestic workers in Canada, especially the ones who entered Canada under the Foreign Domestic Movement Program, is not by any means ideal. Reports of abuses against domestic workers appear with alarming regularity in the daily news. The problem of being confined as a live-in domestic worker and the inadequate legislation to protect their rights subject these workers to long hours, poor pay, harassment and abuse. These problems are clearly documented. Filipino domestic workers are oppressed in several ways: as women in a male-dominated society, as members of a social class who only have their labour to exchange for a wage, and as Third World women forced to find opportunities abroad to find a dignified way of earning a living. On the other hand, the Foreign Domestic Movement Program and its successor, the Live-In Caregiver Program, are also opportunities for women from the Philippines to contribute to a family wage. This is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Viewed as an opportunity, these programs have allowed Filipinas to cross gender- and class-prescribed norms. For example, because the Philippines, like other more industrialized countries, has a low-paying feminized labour market, the ability to make a substantial contribution to a family wage can be viewed as a welcome opportunity. Financial contributions to their parents, for the most part, were previously only possible for the higher-salaried men of the society. Also, expanding one's understanding of the social world through travel to other countries and other cultures was once only open to the privileged few who can afford to go abroad. Thus, Filipina domestic workers have also transcended a barrier entrenched by the class-based society they know. The ability to contribute to the family wage is also manifest in profound changes for the domestic workers. On the personal side, the Filipina domestic workers I interviewed expressed how they were reconciling the traditional values of Filipino society and the Canadian society in which they have chosen to live. Rejected by the Filipino communities in Vancouver because they are perceived to be a lower class of immigrants, they formed networks amongst themselves, joined together by common experiences. As a community, domestic workers exchange information and 115 pass cultural knowledge to help others cope with the hardships of domestic work. The advice that is passed around are variations of "be more assertive" and "stop saying yes all the time." The other valued advice is to learn more about domestic worker's rights. This focus on the individual—on "oneself'—when one's upbringing has been to be considerate of others and to view hardships as part of God's will and suffer quietly, clashes once the domestic worker is in Canada. To overcome years of sexist and racist cultural conditioning and to emerge as an independent supporter of her family is indeed a tremendous leap and contributes to the emancipation of this group of women. Let us not forget, however, that the subordinate position of the Filipina is not changed. The Filipina woman working abroad is akin to "serving her debtors" as one writer put it The 'debt risis' is providing many middle-class women in Britain, Singapore, Canada, Kuwait and the United States with a new generation of domestic servants. When a woman from Mexico, Jamaica or the Philippines decides to emigrate in order to make money as a domestic servant she is designing her own international debt politics. She is trying to cope with the loss of earning power and the rise in the cost of living at home by cleaning bathrooms in the country of the bankers.2 The phenomenon of the Filipina domestic worker in Canada cannot be dissociated from the economic and political troubles of the Philippines. The Philippines owes almost $30 billion to 483 foreign banks. In the national budget of 1989, The Philippines assigned 44% of the budget to service this debt3. In order to service this debt, income from taxes is required. The role of migrant workers is to help the government service the national debt by going to countries which will pay them substantially more than any employment they would have had in the Philippines. The income tax from this employment is then remitted to the government. Money sent to their families in the Philippines also provides consuming power for the local economy. One other area of interest which has seen very little attention is the role of the recruiting agencies in the Philippines. 2Enloe, p. 185. 3 Women Want Freedom From Debt, author unknown This booklet was obtained from the collection of the Philippine Women's Centre.. 116 My interviewees informed me that these agencies "make a lot of money." Active recruiting in that part of the world, in turn, contributes to the increasing numbers of women from the Philippines using domestic work as a way to better their lives. Racist stereotyping in host countries, on the other hand, perpetuates that Filipino women, like the Caribbean women of 30 years ago, are well-suited to domestic work. I found from my interviews that although some women used the Foreign Domestic Movement program to fulfil their dreams of going abroad, all admitted to an economic motivation for actually pursuing domestic work. Only one of the women I interviewed was working as a domestic worker in the Philippines. The exception is a woman who was employed as a domestic worker by an American couple in an American air base in the Philippines prior to signing up for work in Hong Kong. On the contrary, most were college-educated and have worked in white-collar or professional occupations. Since the reason for enrolling in the Program is economic, it is not surprising that when asked about the advantages of being a domestic worker abroad, most stated economic reasons as well. I was told that being able to fix up the family home in Manila, or setting up a small business for their parents, or being able to put younger siblings through college, were reasons for continuing the sacrifice. Legislation concerning domestic workers in Canada has undergone dramatic changes over the last few years, but not necessarily to these women's advantage. Advocacy groups have worked to fill gaps left by the Canadian government, domestic worker agencies, and employers. One of these gaps is providing a fact sheet about foreign domestic workers rights. Canada's Immigration department, the agencies and the employers, have in the past, neglected to provide sufficient orientation for new domestic workers. By educating domestic workers and encouraging them to educate other domestic workers intending to come to Canada, advocacy groups have decreased the likelihood of exploitation. 117 There has been a glaring blind spot in the literature on women and domestic work. Discussions of domestic workers usually portray domestic workers as victims, and the State, or more specifically, employers as exploiter. Other discussions have also focused on the different degrees of severity in the oppression of the hired domestic worker and the career woman who must hire a housekeeper and childminder. The latter has given cause for consternation amongst feminists. Some forms of feminist analysis along gender lines argue that the female boss, embodying the family unit as a system, is also a victim of patriarchal norms (Macklin 1991). In this scenerio, the recommended course of action was to cease from exploiting other women by refusing to cower to the State's insistence of privatized, family-responsibility for child care. Hiring foreign domestic workers, some say, exploits other women by delegating to. them what has traditionally been "women's work." These types of arguments however, are not particularly instructive. The powerlessness of the domestic worker once again reduced to a sex-based oppression for which women must stand united. To deny the differences in power between the female boss and the female domestic worker is to turn a blind eye to a tangible truth, the uneven distribution and access to capital by two different groups of women. The complexity of the powerlessness of the Filipina domestic worker in Canada cannot be explained unless the multifaceted face of power is accepted. Is it possible to be powerless and powerful at the same time? My interviews show that power can be aligned with gender and with class simultaneously. Feminist explanations have offered revolutionary ways of perceiving our social world. Twenty years ago, one could scarcely imagine undertaking the research topic I have done. This project is possible now because of the advances made by feminist theories in explaining the social world from women's perspectives. The theoretical grounding upon which this work is founded is influenced by a number of disciplines. While is is acknowledged that more feminist theoretical work is required in the area of sociology, this study demonstrates that we can arrive at different conclusions if we apply new theoretical perspectives to everyday issues. 118 More work is needed to explore the perspectives of women who face multiple levels of disadvantage. This study illustrates the possibilities of how concepts like power and agency can be redefined if we take an alternate perspective. This particular study is unique is that it offers a perspective that is frequently absent. The absence of perspectives from women of colour has led Vijay Agnew to conclude that there are serious problems for feminist theory and practice. The absence of women of color from mainstream feminist practice has resulted not from their culture and values but from their class, race, and immigrant status. The issues, interests, and perspectives of bourgeois Anglo-Saxon women have dominated feminist debates and concerns; the perspectives of'other' women have been either ignored or marginalized. This means that women of color have been excluded from the making of an ideology, culture, and knowledge, and their ways of knowing or experiencing the world have been ignored in the analysis of "the situation of all women." Racism and class prejudice, significant factors in the experience of women of color, remain serious problems for feminist theory and practice.4 The primary intention of this work is to apply an analysis which considers women as actors. The women I interviewed are evidently aware of forces that render them powerless. The very things that affect their lives — sexist and racist attitudes, unfair legislation, and often intolerable and unreasonable working conditions — nonetheless have another side. For domestic workers, the forces that constrain them also provide opportunities, no matter how small, for heroic acts of resistance. These acts of resistance are employed by thinking, acting women with profound understanding of their own place in the social order. I believe this is how we must view domestic workers, not as helpless victims of circumstance. In dealing with the multiple oppressions they face as a result of their position in Canada, Filipina domestic workers have devised elaborate strategies to deal with their day-to-day hardships. Filipina domestic workers in Vancouver form a network of friends to whom they can turn. They meet each other in parks and in shopping malls sometimes with the their charges in tow, or they 4Vijay Agnew, "Canadian Feminism and Women of Color," Women's Studies Internation Forum. Volume 16, No. 3, p. 226. 119 meet in church and in the Filipino markets, or at other social activities organized by the Filipino community. Aligning themselves with this unit of sisters and mothers is crucial to the education of the domestic worker. It is in comparing herself with other members of this group that she can determine how lucky she is, or how badly she is being mistreated. Her education as to what is appropriate Western behaviour in order to better deal with her employers also begins with this unit. Finally, the group offers the moral and emotional support she occasionally needs. By asking domestic workers specific questions about their lives, I gained insight into how they experience and overcome powerlessness. Among other things they do this by staying focused on their goals, by considerating the temporariness of their situations, and by forming social networks in lieu of familial ties. In addition, I also gained an understanding of how Filipina domestic workers see themselves. Despite the hardships they have endured, the Filipina domestic workers I spoke to, have, for the most part, exhibited strength of character and mind. Although they are reluctant to admit so (it is a desirable feminine and Filipino trait to be humble), they consider themselves responsible for the well-being of their parents and siblings. This is despite having siblings in the Philippines who are closer in proximity to their elderly parents and who may be professionally-employed. Another financial responsibility they have assumed for themselves is the responsibility for paying for their siblings' education. This makes them independent actors and their families dependents. Overall, their understanding of their own situations redefined what a domestic worker is. The contribution of this research project is that it places the objects of the study, the women themselves, at the centre of analysis rather than on the fringe; as actors rather than the ones being acted on. This work is situated within feminist scholarship so it builds on studies conducted about immigrant/ethnic women, on the one hand, and women's studies on the other hand. We have learnt much from research in a variety of disciplines about the experience of women in Canada, whether immigrants or native-born. Feminist thought contributed to this greater understanding and continues to do so. In 1982, African-American women complained that in their worlds "all the 120 blacks are men and all the women are white (Hull, ed. 1982)." This expression illustrated the frustration black women felt about being excluded from discussions about race and gender especially when they were disadvantaged as a result of both. The research work I have conducted, about a particular group of women in Canada dispels any Canadian variation of that anachronistic thought. This work also reveals that not enough has been written about domestic labour in general, Filipinos in particular, and even more specifically, Filipino women in Canada. If these women were considered actors rather than victims, it would be much easier to consider them as pioneers. It would be interesting to explore and construct the history of Filipinos in Canada using similar a similar feminist approach as I have done with this study. Other Research Questions This thesis merely grazes the tip of the iceberg. In some ways, I feel this work provokes more questions than answers. Like others before me who have considered the lives of domestic workers, there are innumerable topics yet to be pursued. Calliste notes for example: The immigration policy of recruiting single women, causing the black community to experience an unbalanced sex ratio in certain age categories, has implications for aging: in the next decade some of the women who came on the Domestic Scheme will have become senior citizens - without having any immediate family in Canada.5 The social implication described by Calliste will undoubtedly also apply to Filipina domestic workers in the future. As well, as Macklin noted, it would be interesting to learn more about the dynamics between the experience of employers and domestic workers. As noted in Chapter 2, much of the early debate 5Calliste, p. 151. 121 focused on Canadian women's needs for childcare and the State's reluctance to take on this responsibility. Do the feminists who challenged the State's position on childcare see a contradiction in their actions when they hire foreign-born women to take care of their homes and children? Can feminists also be employers of domestic workers or does that make them non-feminist? Furthermore, the consequences of the conditions of being a live-in domestic worker offers further areas worth exploring. The women I interviewed, in one way or another, pointed to the loneliness of being a live-in domestic worker. When I pursued this further, I was told stories about domestic workers in Hong Kong or Singapore going mad, or attempting suicide or engaging in lesbian relationships. I have no information about the incidence of madness or suicide amongst domestic workers here in Canada. On the latter point however, the Philippine Women's Centre in Vancouver has formed alliances with local gay and lesbian organizations in recognition of the propensity of reported same-sex relationships. One woman informed me during my interviews: "I have never seen so many lesbian relationships in my life as I have with domestic workers." It would have been worthwhile to have had easier access to feminist literature and interpretations of the domestic worker issues from the the perspective of Filipinos themselves. While the Philippine Women's Centre in Vancouver had some literature from the Philippines written by Filipino theorists, feminists, and social analysts, the sources were often poorly referenced and limited to magazine articles, brochures and short booklets. I had suspected throughout my work that the paucity of materials from the perspective of the powerless is directly related to the literature search I was able to do from the confines of B C libraries. Given more time and additional resources, I would have liked to have searched more journals from Asia which might have offered a lesser Western bias to the issues. These sources might have elucidated the "standpoint" I was trying to construct. 122 Finally, it will be interesting to look at the gender and class bases of this dynamic, enabling, concept of power. While reading Scott on his theory of "everyday forms of resistance" some striking parallels exist. Scott's area of interest is with peasant movements. It would be interesting to determine if his theories are generalizable to domestic workers. Scott noted that "it is not far-fetched to suggest that the difference between everyday forms of resistance and more open forms of political conflict may often boil down to tactical wisdom."6 He notes: A skeptic might grant the argument made thus far and nevertheless claim that everyday forms of resistance do not belong in an account of class struggle because they are individual, not class strategies and because they benefit individuals not classes. The first claim is largely untenable. It can be shown that most forms of everyday resistance cannot be sustained without a fairly high level of tacit cooperation among the class of resisters... The second claim is true, but the personal benefit arising from everyday forms of resistance —providing it does not come at the expense of other members of the class —can hardly disqualify them from consideration as a form of class conflict. Most forms of everyday resistance are, after all, deployed precisedly to thwart some appropriation by superior classes and/or the state. If the resistance succeeds at all, it of course confers a material benefit on the resister. The disposition of scarce resources is surely what is at stake in any conflict between classes. When it is a question of a few poachers, arsonists, or deserters, their actions are of little moment for class conflict. When, however, such activities become sufficiently generalized to become a pattern of resistance, their relevance to class conflict is clear.7 Scott's theory, like Enloe's position noted at the beginning of this section, assumes that a claim for purposive action on the part of an identifiable group to defy existing inequitable situations suggests a class consciousness. My interviews suggest common coping mechanisms can be i considered as everyday acts of resistance. What is unique about these patterns of everyday resistance is that they are employed by working women in an international context. My interviews suggest that entering service as a foreign domestic worker is a profound solution actively sought by reflexive women and rational social actors. 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National Film Board, 1989. i. 131 W < a C O SH £ T3 OJ '> l-l l-H fi 1) s o 4-1 • o CO o o c« u. cS X! u H—» o JU co * * OJ > < o *-> .s CO -t-» cu ca 00 3 • -H T3 *H 0> 00 . 2 £ < < s >> c C " O 3 cu O >. o o ^ S I—I <L> C O cS CU O w Opg 3 3 cs -*-» • —H SH cS co C O * OJ 6 CS 2 OJ bO Q CO SH > p SH o Cu CS 00 .c 'co i o <u J J "5b CO cS < OJ OJ SH oo Q > P o Z 00 c o bO e o a c CS SH o T3 OJ 4) > e 3 O C O < Q U SH o CS SP C O O i >/-> u X 0J CO CS •a cS OJ OJ SH bo CJ T3 co S-i OJ > '2 P < Q U CO CJ SH o 00 'co X U BO c • *—« co a W OJ CJ SH oo cu •a CO SH <U > c P cj SH O OH CS fi* CO cn c CS cj I C O CS • »"H e o C O <u SH-OO CJ T 3 cj > •2 P o Z •a o CS • O cS e CS U cn fi cS xl Si "bb _c 'co cS G cS U CO l-l CJ > • »-H fi fi cj 2 o C O Q U CO CJ CJ SH O OH CS 00 c C O I cn cu X OJ 1 CO cS 2 13 6 CJ CJ SH , 00 cj T3 co SH CJ > '2 p o o Xl o C O XI , 00 cj •a CJ > "e u T3 CO S-i OJ > ' 3 p CJ CJ S-i , bO oj T3 CO S-I CU > '2 P <u CU SH , bO OJ •a CO l-l OJ > ' f i P o o XI o C O X , bO o Ph co cj O 2 O Ph co OJ O u PH co OJ OJ SH O , CH CS g>l C O t 1 o cS • O cS fi cS u OJ SH &! op| C O . aj SH o OH CS -If1 C O OJ SH O OH cS •f-H CO cj SH O OH CS op" C O op I O fi°' o i cn CU X i n T-H c CS I cn aj X ' C • cS Xl CO CJ i cn cu X l-H I o CJ X l-H c CS XI CJ CJ co OJ M l C C O x-1 CJ "3)| fi • —H C O co OJ SH CS T3 CJ CS CJ '2 CS OJ MI fi CO CJ "3)| fi CO OJ "3)| _c 'co CS i—H '5 Xl C O aj C OJ SH O O XI o C O XI , 00 l s P h co CJ op | c o opl c o a CJ •x> CJ I I C O oj o U Appendix A 132 New Entrants to the F D M Program By Region of Origin* Year Total Phil U K Europe Carib Other** 1982 11,327 2,779 3,058. 2,060 2,071 1,359 1983 3,511 526 660 1,026 546 753 1984 4,370 772 578 1,286 934 1,000 1985 5,479 1,536 745 1,442 859 899 1986 6,938 2,564 846 1,681 • 770 1,077 1987 7,889 3,212 926 1,914 629 1,209 1988 8,056 3,703 754 1,851 549 1,199 1989 8,842 4,388 736 1,683 544 1,491 1990 10,732 6,400 750 1,700 550 1,600 1991 8,593 - -1992 3,641 - - • - -* Compiled from "Statistical Profiles and Forecasts of the Foreign Domestic Movement" Summary, November 1990 (draft), Employment and Immigration Canada (EIC) and from Research Division, EIC, March 1993. ** "Other" consist largely of visible minority women from Thailand, Sri Lanka, other pats of Asia and South America. SOURCE: This table is reprinted from the West Coast Domestic Worker's Association, Supporting Documentation for Brief to the Employment Standards Act Review Committee, March 1993. 133 Appendix B Interview Questions What kind of educational background and work experience do you have? Are you now or were you once working as a foreign domestic worker? If yes, where? For how long? Would you please tell me what kind of positions you've held and the kind of duties you performed. Would you please tell me what you had to do to be a domestic worker including what motivated you to sign up as a foreign domestic worker? Has your work experience in Canada been what you expected? How is it different? What are you doing now? What is your work day like? Do you have any problems with your employer? With Immigration? Were you hoping to leave the Philippines forever, or did you want to come back after a few years? Did you set any goals for yourself before you left the Philippines? Did you want to specifically come to Canada? What do you think about being a foreign domestic worker? Are there good things about it? What are the bad things about being a foreign domestic worker? How old are you? Are you married? ' How long have you been in Canada? 

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