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78 B U I L D I N G D I A S P O R A 4 “Ain’t I a Filipino (Woman)?” Filipina as Gender Marker Single, White male . . . is in search of a nice, attractive, honest single filipina for possible marriage. I’m a nice/normal guy. I have a college degree and a good job. I prefer a filipina because of the old fashion honest way they were raised. I believe marriage to be a 50–50 relationship. —Personal ad posted on soc.culture.filipino 78 Filipino Women as Gender Markers The development of racial and cultural differences often justifies an unequal, hierarchical power relationship (Gupta and Ferguson 1997; Michaels 1995) and is, unfortunately, articulated by the very people who are most hurt by these characterizations. With respect to colonialism, the constructions of cultural differences to validate the reorganization and redistribution of resources are also ensconced within a complex combination of national, gendered, sexual, and racial projects. I argue that gender and sexuality are similarly and simultaneously constructed for the same reasons. In the two years I studied soc.culture.filipino, posts about Filipino women dominated the conversations,1 accounting for one-third of the daily posts.2 Of the more than two thousand posts I collected, roughly eight hundred centered around Filipino women. Many of these posts came within a month after Flor Contemplacion was executed for a murder that she may not have committed.3 Because I did not actively collect and analyze threads at the time of Contemplacion’s execution, I cannot be sure that it generated the discussions about Filipino women. “ A I N ’ T I A F I L I P I N O ( W O M A N ) ? ” 79 Regardless of the motivating factor, I can say that during the time I studied the newsgroup, the topic of Filipino women was constantly being discussed and debated. These discussions often revolved around “Wanna Filipina” personal ads. Between 1995 and 1997, posts that stereotyped Filipino women as “traditional, yet sexually adept” and as desirable spouses were prevalent. Moreover, news stories of abused mail-order brides and numerous Web pages extolling the “virtuousness” and “good morals” of Filipino women were ubiquitous. Of course, the plight of female overseas contract workers such as Flor Contemplacion, the prevalence of personal ads, and the treatment of mail-order brides are three different issues. But the participants on the newsgroup closely associated these issues with each other (as well as the “problem” of white male/Asian female relationships). As we will see, participants saw all these issues as evidence of the weakness of Filipino nationalism and American dominance and attempted to fight back. In this chapter, I show that participants wished to actively protect Filipino women in order to preserve Filipino culture. Preserving one’s culture through protecting women is common among oppressed racial or ethnic groups both within and between nations (see Riggs 1995; Lorde 1984a). However, this narrow focus on protecting racial and/or national boundaries often maintains gender inequality within the group as well as exacerbates patriarchy (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1994). In the case of the Filipinos on this newsgroup, the participants’ anticolonialism stance and the drive to articulate an essential Filipino identity devoid of what they perceived as American characteristics further marginalized Filipino women and took agency away from them, especially those raised in the United States. As we have seen in previous chapters, the notion of “agency” often leads to a slippery slope. To reestablish the agency of Filipinos worldwide, the participants on soc.culture.filipino attempted to use the concepts of culture, values, citizenship, language, race, and gender to demarcate boundaries—between Filipino and Other, oppressed and oppressor, resistance groups and colonial subjects. And yet, in each of these discussions, intense debates ensued, especially in their discussions of the roles of “Filipinas” as they discovered that none of these “variables” is as solid as it appears. A large part of this chapter revolves around two cross-posted messages about “Asiaphiles” and “Whiggies”—derogatory terms for the white males and Asian women involved in these relationships. By 80 B U I L D I N G D I A S P O R A analyzing these threads and the soc.culture.filipino participants’ reactions to these two threads, I show that the boundaries between oppressed and oppressor and between authentic and inauthentic become even more unclear. Furthermore, it is in this chapter that the participants ’ reliance on creating community based on...


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