In the Gaze of Women: The Social Reproduction of Filipina Migrant Workers Represented in Ten Local Mainstream Films in Recent Decades

Authors: Elora Francisco, Karlena Ameina Saturnino (De La Salle University, The Philippines)
Speakers: Elora Francisco, Karlena Ameina Saturnino
Topic: Language, Gender, Sexuality
Session Type: General Session


The growing phenomenon of the Philippines’ high labor export has contributed to not only the country’s economy but of receiving countries all over the world. With the demand for labor export increasing, the narratives of Overseas Filipino Workers do not go unnoticed. In particular, Filipina migrant workers face gendered socio-cultural constraints in their pursuit of financially supporting their families. For instance, the concept of Filipina migrant workers “doing” rather than “undoing” gender was revealed in their breaking gender barriers with their independent migration. Presently, assessing gendered migration remains partially answered. The researchers then saw the urgency to comprehensively assess the Filipina diaspora phenomenon in mainstream contemporary Filipino films because of their challenging traditional views on gender roles. In consequence, this study aimed to determine if there is a change in the narratives of Filipino women in local films from the two recent decades by assessing their families, struggles, and opportunities. Narrative and thematic analyses were conducted with the researchers’ coding of the ten (10) systematically determined films to identify the emerging themes. By interpreting the descriptive representation in the lens of the Social Reproduction Theory (2017), this study proves that the Filipina migrant worker, as the provider of her family, faces affected family relationships, domestic abuse, and burdening personal problems as a result of her migration. In particular, FMWs in the films had experienced quarrels, rebellion, and infidelity from her family during her stay abroad. Along with her familial burden, the FMW is not spared from conflicts that occur within herself and her environment. Despite these challenges and factors that she experiences abroad, the FMWs perceive that working overseas will benefit her in providing for her family back in the Philippines. Hence, the working-class woman is burdened not only by her limited economic independence but also by her gendered demands at home and the inherently exploitative institutional policies that govern her workplace and consequently her life. Though some films are marked with multifaceted progression in women representation, findings indicate that overseas Filipina workers remain burdened by their gender-specific migration experiences due to the inherent external factors that affect their lives.

Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, Empathy, Netizens, Presupposition.