An Article Review
Gender is a historically and culturally constructed concept by a community. Specific meanings that people attribute to gender reflect their own historical, cultural, political and economic processes in daily life. Social roles are viewed by Ifugao people as always in relation with their family. They work cooperatively to provide for the needs of their families. In turn, work activities have culturally designated gender codes. These codes are regularly broken in circumstances wherein women take on male designated tasks out of necessity. Single mothers, wives of migrant workers, widows, or those with ill spouses are cases that have become culturally accepted over time. However, men who fail in fulfilling their culturally prescribed duties get mocked or perceived to diminish in masculinity. Gender relations are also greatly affected by social class positions with reference to age, wealth ranking, educational level, ethnicity and religion. Men and women interact accordingly with culturally specified gender categories in relation to bigger social ties with their families and the community.
Recent studies have shown that indigenous communities in the Cordillera, including the Ifugao people, are mainly egalitarian and thus women have a ‘relatively high status’ in the community as compared to other countries. Casambre noted that there is “little evidence of systemic oppression of (Cordillera) women either by socialization or through social institutions associated with agriculture.” This notion dismisses the feminist argument that all women in the Philippines are oppressed. Additionally, Atkinson and Errington explain that this ‘high status’ for women is expressed in “enjoying economic opportunities, suffering few legal restrictions or damning stereotypes, and participating in cultures where sexes are construed in terms of complementarity and balance rather than different worth in comparison to men.” This type of ‘complementarity’, as Errington defines, is an ideology of difference in which the opposite sexes complement rather than compete against each other.
The Ifugao society gives more value to the quality of a woman’s work over her beauty. This ‘cultural ethos of hard work’ is seen as the desirable attitude expected from an Ifugao woman. Although roles such as child care and household chores are commonly designated to women, mothers continue to work outside of the home. Their involvement in various activities such as agricultural labor, farming, professional practices and business only proves how hard a woman works both inside and outside the domestic context. Since women are effective in carrying out simultaneous productive and reproductive tasks, their contributions to society are highly regarded and their worth is not seen any less than that of men. In terms of gender relations however, there are still certain norms and traditions that perceive women as the ‘weaker sex.’ Men maintain privilege over women in getting cash paying labor. In agricultural labor, for example, women’s labor was not valued as equally with men’s labor. Despite the same amount of working hours spent, women get only one-half of the men’s daily wage. Employers would justify this differential pay since the type of work done by women (i.e. planting, weeding, harvesting) is not as physically demanding as those tasks assigned to men (i.e. building rice paddies and carrying heavy loads). However, men’s tasks are varied and seasonal while women never stop working even when they get home. They experience the “double burden” of great physical and emotional strains because of many repetitious domestic tasks done on a daily basis.
Their number one problem, according to Ifugao women, is that majority of the population is poor. Despite the fact that both men and women work very hard to earn money and secure food supply through agricultural means, their incomes remain insufficient....