Berta Esti Ari Prasetya
Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana
This study is interested to investigate what is the gender role orientation of most of the Filipino working wives in Metro Manila, whether it tend to be more egalitarian or still traditional in this changing society. A survey method was implemented, with 129 of 24-55 years old working wives participated in this study as the participants. Gender Role Questionnaire was used to collect the data. An open-ended questionnaire that was content analyzed was also given to deepen the discussion. The result showed that the participants are neither egalitarian nor traditional in their gender role. The highest means are found in the statements that tap the responsibility of men as the head of the family. The participants also agree to one of the traditional notions that the man should still be the main breadwinner in the family. The lowest mean ratings are found in the statements which mention that the wife should not be more successful in her career than her husband’s and it is not ideal if the wife earns more than her husband does.
Key words: Gender role orientation.
Nowadays more and more women are highly knowledgeable and well informed on scholarly and civic issues. In fact, a report issued by Asian Development Bank (1994) entitled Education of Women in Asia, supports this by mentioning that, in some Asian countries, women have gained access to increasing levels of education and coincidentally, to an increased level of work force participation. Women are now exploring their lives more than just doing household chores and rearing children. In the Philippines, for instance, Medina (2001) noted that married women today have relatively more options as to what role to play. The wives in the Philippines may pursue a career and attain a high status for themselves and the family by their success. Their interests seem to be broader than the earlier years. They may be fully committed to be active in political, civic, and community service. The Filipino women today are not only doing household chores and children rearing, but are also becoming active income contributors. As stated in the statistic, the proportion of Filipino women who earn incomes from formal employment has substantially grown from 0.33% in the 1960s to 47.5% in 1990, whereas thousands more are known to engage in informal economic activities (National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, 1995).
To sum up, the interests of the wives now have gradually shifted from doing the household chores and rearing children, to actualizing themselves more in a various career paths. This shift may also affect the way the women perceive their role in the family and the role of the husband in the family. Therefore, this study is interested to investigate what is the gender role orientation of most of the Filipino working women in Metro Manila, whether it tend to be more egalitarian or still traditional in this changing society.
Definition of gender role. Some people use the term gender interchangeably with sex (R. H. Lauer & J. C. Lauer, 1991). Anselmi and Law (1998) noted that social psychology literature defines “gender roles as socially and culturally defined prescriptions and beliefs about the behavior and emotions of men and women” (p. 195). It describes how someone acts out his masculinity or her femininity. Gender roles influence how a person perceives others, how that person feels and how that person behaves to others.
Gender role is also often related to stereotypes (Anselmi & Law, 1998), which is an “overgeneralization beliefs about people based on their membership in one of many social categories” (p. 195). Deaux (1998) concludes that gender stereotypes are composed of four components which are:
1. Traits. Traits that are associated with traditional male roles are classified instrumental such as aggressiveness, competitiveness, self confidence, and logic (R. H. Lauer & J. C. Lauer, 1991). Traits that are associated with traditional female role are called expressive, such as caring, warmth, sensitivity, and nurturance.
2. Role behavior. In terms of responsibility, men are typically responsible for breadwinning; whereas women typically bear responsibility for home care (including housework), dependent care, attentive care, and emotional labor (Thompson, 1993).
3. Physical characteristics. Men are strong and muscular; wheras women are graceful, gentle, and soft.
4. Occupation. Men tend to work as engineers; whereas women tend to work as secretaries or preschool teachers.
In early studies of gender role, masculinity and femininity were considered personal characteristics. Men were expected to exhibit masculinity, whereas women were expected to exhibit femininity. People who exhibit gender appropriate behavior were considered having a healthy or normal organization of personality. Masculinity and femininity were seen as opposite traits or what was called unidimensional model, in which masculinity and femininity were regarded to be endpoints of the same continuum (Korabik & McCreary, 2000). This idea led to the traditional gender role as Hefner, Nordin, Rebecca, and Oleshansky (as cited in Osmond & Martin, 1975) defined it as those which are based on polar, dichotomous conceptions of the nature and roles of men versus women. It refers to the belief that man and woman have distinct roles, according to their sex as man or woman.
Considering all the aforementioned factors, this study will define gender role as socially and culturally defined prescriptions and beliefs about the behavior and emotions of men and women that will influence how people act out their masculinity and femininity. The type of gender role that will be studied in this study refers to the kinds of gender role that is implemented by the wives in the structure of spouse role, either:
1. Traditional gender role, which is based on polar, dichotomous conceptions of the nature and roles of men versus women. Those who have the traditional gender role believe that women and men have their own specific role that is determined by their sex, as man or woman in their marital relationship. This refers to the gender role behavior stereotype, such that the man’s role is the breadwinner, the head of the family, responsible for the social connection between family members and the people outside, whereas the woman’s role is staying at home, doing the household chores and taking care of the children, and providing emotional support for the family.
2. Modern or egalitarian gender role that is characterized by flexible and dynamic transcendence of sex-role constraints that are not specified by sex. Those who have modern or egalitarian gender role are not tied with the role behavior stereotype. Instead, the difference between the role of man and woman is not clearly delineated. Therefore, they are more flexible in playing the role during the course of marital relationship. The wife may perform tasks that are also carried out by her husband at a different time.
Gender role in the Philippines. The relationship between men and women in Filipino society and in the family is often described as egalitarian (Gonzales & Hollnsteiner, 1976; Mendez, Jocano, Rolda, & Matela, 1984). The idea that the role of the woman is only limited to the household and to childcare seems to be out of date for some people in the community (Medina, 1995). The contemporary Filipinas have extended their selves to religious, political, business, and other social activities. They emerge as the important economic partners for their husbands. Among low-income wives, Castillo (1993) found that 95% of the household finances were supported by the wife’s income, and 33% depended solely on the wife’s earning. Even parents tend to rely more on their daughters than on their sons to study conscientiously, keep stable jobs, and provide support for them in their old age (King & Domingo, as cited in Medina, 2001). All of these conditions reflect that the traditional gender role is no longer strictly followed by Filipino society.
Even so, Filipino men still continue being heads of their families, in accordance with the traditional gender role (Torres, 1995). Lange (1993) observed that the traditional division of labor among Philippine couples applies more to middle class and upper class couples. She cited that studies have shown that there is more sharing in the provider and housekeeper roles among lower class couples, as a consequence of the inability to meet the basic needs of family by only one spouse. However, it is interesting to note that, according to Tan, Batangan, and Española (2001), lower income males seem to be more conscious about the changing roles of women and how this might affect their own roles. This happens because the traditional view in the Philippines holds belief that the man should earn more so as to avoid “spousal finger-pointing” later on. If the woman earns more the chances of spousal fights and finger-pointing is increased. It was also found that economic considerations are powerful in affecting the dynamics between young adulthood male and female regarding their roles (Tan et al., 2001).
Moreover, Dionisio (1993) noted that traditional beliefs in the Philippines hold that the home is the center of women’s lives. In the urban areas, everything outside the home is not given much importance and is considered a concern of the men. Choices of activities of women outside the home are still related to family (Aguilar, 1991). In the book entitled Filipino Housewife Speak, the author noted that a woman’s potential has been severely curtailed by their domestic obligations as housewives and mothers; it is precisely the men’s freedom from such duties that accounts for their representational function in society at large. De la Cruz (1986) found in her study that in the Philippines, a married woman is expected to work only if the economic situation in the home demands it, especially because in the Philippine society, unemployed women and men look less positively at women who worked. This finding implies that the traditional gender role is still quite strong in the Philippines. An international comparison also revealed that Philippine women ranked first in their approval of traditional gender-role ideology (Inoue, as cited in Katsurada & Sugihara, 2002).
The later study done by Murillo (2004) seems to compromise between the two contrasting idea about the Filipino gender role attitude. Her study revealed that the pattern of Filipino couples’ gender role attitudes seem to be in a state of transition from traditional to egalitarian gender role. It was found that Filipino couples in her study possess gender role attitude that are neither clearly traditional nor egalitarian. Furthermore, she asserted that some of the traditional notions seem to be abandoned such as the women is solely creatures of home, the women should not be competitive with men, and girls should be counseled to enter primarily feminine vocations. But, on the other hand, some of the endorsement of husbands’ traditional gender role seems still to be held such as the husbands should remain the primary breadwinner, boys should not play with dolls, and women should adopt their husbands’ last name after marriage. She suggested that this condition implies that there may be greater acceptance of women departing from their traditional role, whereas men are still expected to stick to their traditional role (Murillo, 2004).
In summary, among the Filipino community, although it was mentioned that more people are holding egalitarian gender roles; there are some evidence in the community that women and men are still expected to behave in certain ways according to their traditional gender role. Filipino couples seem to be in the transition from traditional gender role to egalitarian gender role.
A survey method, specifically the questionnaire method, was used in data collection, considering that this method could be very economical, it could touch on some sensitive questions, social background information, attitudes, beliefs, values, behavior intentions, and some subjective phenomenon (Singleton & Straits, 1999), which was the nature of the issues of this study. A convenience sampling method was used in data collection.
This study dwelled on subjective evaluations on the part of the participants. It was based on self-report measurements. In order to collect the data, this study used:
1. Personal Data Sheet. The participants were asked to give information about their sociodemographic background by answering questions in a Personal Data sheet.
2. Gender Role Questionnaire
In this study, gender role was defined conceptually as socially and culturally defined prescriptions and beliefs about the behaviors and emotions of men and women that influence how people act out their masculinity and femininity. Gender role in this study referred to the kinds of gender role that is implemented by the wives in their structure of spouse role, either traditional or modern gender role:
In relation to this conceptual definition, gender role in this research was operationally defined as the scores garnered in the Gender Role Questionnaire (GRQ) that tries to measure the gender role as what has been conceptually defined in this study.
GRQ utilized a Likert Scale style. The participants were asked to give ratings ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), with the statements in the questionnaires reflecting their belief about the role of man or woman. GRQ measures whether participants lean either toward the traditional gender role or modern gender role. This measure uses a unidimensional model that treats traditional gender role and modern gender role as an endpoint of the same continuum. The SPSS 11.00 program was used to check for its reliability. The reliability testing showed the coefficient of Cronbach’s alpha obtained was .73. The higher the score the more traditional the belief about the roles of husband and wife.
3. Open-ended Questions. Together with the other questionnaire, an open-ended question was posed to the participants regarding what they think about the variables that were studied. The answer to this open-ended question was content analyzed and was treated as additional information to deepen the analysis of the study.
The subjects of this study were Filipino married women, who were 25-55 years old, who were working, living with the husband, and were residing in Metro Manila during the time of the data gathering. There were 129 respondents who participated in this study.
The mean of their length of marriage was 11.38 years. The mean age of the participants was 36.9 years. Most of them have two children.
The personal data of the participants revealed the following profile on educational attainment: high school (2.3%), college (72.7%), master’s degree (22.7%), and doctoral degree (2.3%). These participants were employees of private institutions (45.6%), teachers or professors (24%), nurses (22.4%), licensed professionals (3.2%), self-employed (3.2%), and government employees (1.6%).
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The analysis of participants' responses to the Gender Role Questionnaire that sought to measure gender role attitude of the participants revealed that the participants are neither egalitarian nor traditional in their gender role. This result is interesting, considering that all of these participants are working wives, yet, the result does not turn out as what the researcher had expected. Working wives tend to be interpreted as against traditional gender role, or following modern or egalitarian gender role, because in traditional gender role, women are believed to be responsible for the home, whereas having a job is the responsibility of the men. Therefore, people believe that those who are working tend to be egalitarian. However, this was not confirmed by the study. This study revealed that being working wives do not necessarily make them egalitarian. The participants are also highly educated people, as revealed in their report that 97.7% of them have at least college degrees, but it appears that high educational attainments do not necessarily make them egalitarian in orientation.
This result does not validate the earlier researches done by Gonzales and Hollnsteiner (1976) and Mendez et al. (1984) which asserted that the relationship between men and women in Philippine society and in the family is often described as egalitarian. It does not validate the notion that Filipino women are still strongly traditional either. But, this result gave support to the earlier study on gender role conducted in the Philippines by Murillo (2004) which found that, on the whole, the participants of her study fall right in the middle of the egalitarian and traditional continuum. She suggests that this result may be interpreted in a way that explains Filipinos as being in the stage of transition from traditional to the egalitarian gender role.
This result can also be interpreted that the participants are still traditional in some ways, and are egalitarian in other ways. To check in what areas they tend to be traditional and more egalitarian, the analysis on the mean scores of the gender role statements in the scale was done.
The result revealed that the highest means are found in the statements that tap the responsibility of men as the head of the family. The mean score indicated that, in general, the participants strongly agree with this statement. This result suggests that Filipino wives still seem to expect men to hold the leadership position in the family (i.e., the traditional gender role).
The agreement of the participants for the male headship in the family may explain the actual fact in the Philippine community as reported by NSO-NCRFW (as cited in Torres, 1995) that two thirds of single family household are headed by males. This implies that the husband’s headship has been found to be very strong in the Philippines (Torres, 1995). This condition also validates Miralao’s assertion (as cited in Medina, 2001) that male dominance is deeply rooted in Filipino culture. This may be related to the patriarchal society that is practiced in the Philippines, wherein authority lies in the role of husband-father. Absolute power over all family members is given to those who occupy the status of husband-father. In this kind of society Medina (2001) noted that “social norms ascribe the right, authority, privilege, and obligation of the male to control behavior and to compel obedience to his wishes” (p. 165). This tendency may date back to the pre-Spanish era (i.e., that patriarchal aspect of the family developed during the Spanish colonial period). In such a society, the social expectation of a wife is that she subordinates herself to her husband. This image seems to be deeply ingrained in Philippine society, even though American libertarian has boosted women’s social position, but it is not sufficient to erase the image that the wife has to subordinate herself to her husband (Miralao & Dongail, as cited in Medina, 2001). Therefore, wives still point to their husbands as the head of the family or as the official authority figure in the family.
According to biological perspective, the tendency to put men in the leader position is rooted in the biophysical nature of men. Males, owing to their physical superiority in controlling, leading, and being dominant, are suited to heavy mechanical job necessary for earning a living (Anselmi & Law, 1998; Medina, 2001). If this is indeed true, then, this belief may not be unique only in certain culture, such as in the Philippines, but may also be true across-cultures.
Gray-Little's study among black couples (1982) seems to support this universal belief. He found that the disappointment over the husband's failure to fulfill the expected role of family leader is attributed to one of the disappointments found in wife-led marriages. Black couples are famous with its strong female headship in the family. However, Gray-Little's study implies that even in such culture, the husbands actually are still expected to be the family leader. And the failure to fulfill this expectation is still considered as disappointing for the wives who have to replace their husbands as the head of the family.
The same disappointment was also expressed in a wife’s response in this study,
"It affects my satisfaction with my relationship with him, because I have always felt I'm the captain of the ship. I should be at my best when sometimes I really want to break down but I can't because my husband is the weak one. He's slow in decision making so I have to be on top of the situation all the time. In the long run, I see him as weak and dependent on me."
In general, the participants also agree to one of the traditional notions that the man should still be the main breadwinner in the family. This finding is in line with the finding obtained in Murillo's study (2004) that the participants in her study also reported high agreement with the statement that men should still be the primary breadwinner and decision maker in the family. This suggests that in the Filipino community, despite the fact that many women are already highly educated and are capable of earning a living for the family even exceeding those of their husbands’, the wives' ideal picture is still that it is the husband who should be the primary breadwinner in the family.
Hollnsteiner (as cited in Medina, 2001) noted that Filipinos tend to perceive that being the economic provider, general handyman around the house, symbolic household head, and representative of the family in the community are the basic traditional roles of Filipino husbands. It is the husband’s chief role to support his family financially. In return for that role, he enjoys a position of authority, respect, and headship of the household. Liwag, De la Cruz, and Macapagal (1999), in a review of 131 studies between 1970 and 1997 on child rearing practice and gender role socialization in the Philippines, also confirm that there is an overwhelming agreement among the studies that men are expected to be the family’s primary source of financial support. The same expectation of men was also reported in Western community in the study conducted by Osmond and Martin (1975).
The lowest mean ratings are found in the statements which mention that the wife should not be more successful in her career than her husband’s and it is not ideal if the wife earns more than her husband does. The means of the participants indicate that most of the participants strongly disagree with the statement saying the wife should not be more successful in her career than her husband’s and disagree with the statement saying it is not ideal if the wife earns more than her husband.
This result indicated that the participants of this study appeared to have greater acceptance for egalitarian gender role notions when it comes to the wife’s opportunity to work and to have high achievement in her career. This agreement to the idea that women can earn more than the husband seems to contradict their earlier expectation that a man should be the main breadwinner in the family. However, this condition is understandable considering that most of the participants are working wives and, in fact, 50% of them earn more than their husbands and 7.1% have the same income as the husbands, whereas only 42.9% have a lower income than the husband. Their personal data also revealed that 10% of the participants reported that their husbands’ income is zero. It means that half of the participants experience already the condition that their earning exceeds those of their husbands'. The tendency to disagree with the statements that wives should not earn more than the husband and wives should not be more successful in their career than their husbands may result from their own experience that it is alright for them to earn more and to be more successful in their career than their husbands'.
This tendency to be consistent between their cognition and their current situation is in accord with the theory of cognitive dissonance proposed by Festinger (1962), which asserts that people tend to fit information that psychologically do not fit together or are in discordant relation to each other. While at this state, people attempt to reduce the dissonance by retracting their public statements or change their private opinion to fit the other condition. This information may be about behaviors, feelings, opinion, things, and so forth. In relation to the participants' answers in the GRQ scale, by earning more than their husbands in actual terms, but saying that they do not agree with that condition, may create cognitive dissonance within them. In order to reduce dissonance, the women say that earning more than their husbands and having a more successful career than their husbands are “desirable,” hence, fitting into their actual situation.
The responses given by the participants in this study on gender role seem to be in accord with Osmond and Martin's research finding (1975). In the same study, it was also found that both male and female tend to be most traditional in the area of familial roles (such as husband as the head of the family and husband as the primary breadwinner) and most modern in relation to macrosocial change issue (such as wife's equal pay, wife's equal job, equal responsibility of child-care). Although their research was done more than a couple of decades ago, the result appears to be consistent up until now. If this is true, then, their projection on gender role that, "relatively little change in the gender distribution of familial roles is to be expected in the near future" (Osmond and Martin, 1975, p. 755), may be a valid one.
Some date from the GRQ indicate that the wives believe that the husbands are supposed to be the head of the family and the primary breadwinner, but at the same time, they also disagree with the statement saying that the wife should not be more successful than the husband and it is not ideal if the wife earns more than her husband. This seeming inconsistency may indicate the tendency for working wives to experience an ambivalent feeling regarding their roles in the family. Their conditions may force them to work and they may be capable of being more successful and earn more than their husbands, therefore, they believe that it is alright for them to be more successful and earn more than the husbands. But at the same time, they may feel guilty about it, or do not feel good about it, because they actually expect that it is their husbands who are supposed to be the heads of the family and the primary breadwinners.
IMPLICATION OF THE STUDY
The participants’ responses to the Gender Role Questionnaire may suggest that although the egalitarian relationship and equality between husband and wife is now highly advocated, the fact that the wives themselves still expect the husbands to be the head of the family and to be the main breadwinner in the family implies that absolute equality between husband and wife may not be as easy to achieve or may not even be desired by wives.
This condition may indicate that there is an ambivalent feeling experienced by Filipino working wives regarding their role in the family. On one hand, the wives are open to the idea that they can be more successful than their husbands, but on the other hand, they may feel guilty because it may go against their own expectation that it is the man who should be the head of the family and the primary breadwinner. In counseling working wives, the counselor may need to address this ambivalence by helping them accept their being working women as part of their identity. Both the husband’s and wife’s acceptance of the fact that the wife is working and may earn more than the husband may help both of them feel less troubled with this condition, and may lessen the wife’s ambivalent feeling.
Aside from the results found in this study that can suggest some ideas in practical setting, several limitations of this study should be considered in interpreting this study. At the same time suggestions for further research may be offered.
This study was a self-report in nature. Consequently, data collected in this study relied more on the participants’ memory of their past events. Therefore, the validity of this study depends on how the participants were able to accurately remember their past experiences.
Given the small sample size compared to the real population and given that the sample was drawn from a convenience sampling procedure, therefore, the generalizability of the findings may be limited only to the member of the population who have the same characteristics as the sample of this study. A bigger sample size and a more representative sample from the Filipino's wives population will be needed in the future research in order to be able to generalize the finding to the whole Filipino wives' population.
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