Hostess workers in Japan – illegal sex work or deserving a visa?

Hostess bars and clubs in Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho

by Kyle Waylyszyn

The women who work as hostess workers work just like you and me, but their jobs come with a heavy stigma that surrounds their line of work. When you hear “hostess worker” or hear about them, they are never portrayed in a very positive light. The job description of a hostess, if you don’t know, is to entertain their male customers by doing things like talking, drinking, dancing and other things. Of course, there are some places that offer services greater than what the majority will not do, which is more sexual in nature, but this isn’t the norm.

Sociologist Rhacel Parreñas

The norm is that these women choose to take these jobs of their own free will, although sometimes out of necessity when giving the choice to either stay in their home country and make a far less salary or work as a hostess. Rhacel Parreñas has conducted firsthand research about this topic, and Parreñas says “No one lied to them and explicitly told them that they would only be singing and dancing on stage.” “They were quite adamant,” Parreñas says, “that they weren’t prostitutes.” Rather, she describes the work of hostessing as “commercial flirtation” through which women work to “bolster the masculinity” of their customers. They typically make money for the club owners to whom their labor is contracted by selling men drinks, not sexual acts.”

Even though that these women took these jobs of their own accord, the Japanese government was not pleased with being ranked the highest employers of “sex trade” workers as they were publicized as. In 2004, the Japanese government began changed the visa laws and enforced stricter requirements for the entertainers visa. This caused these women to lose the valuable income need to support their families, but the important numbers the government seen was that the hostess workers dropped down to only approximately 8,607 in 2006 from the 2004 statistic of 82,741 workers.

In light of the action things that go on and the willingness of these women should there be an entertainer’s visa specifically for hostess workers? These women have a right to make a living just like every other human on this planet, so why can’t they work as a hostess legally in a country that seems to have a demand for it? The morality of these jobs maybe the most prominent reason seeing as it doesn’t just involve the person that attends these places, but also the country that allows such unmoral and socially awkward things to happen as a legal business. Think about it would you choose a country to visit that just legalized commercial flirtation, if the stigma that everyone truly though about it was that it is actually houses of ill repute?


Parreñas, Rhacel. The ‘indentured mobility’ of migrant Filipina hostesses‘indentured-mobility’-migrant-filipina-hostesses

When moms migrate overseas …

Anonymous student post

As women’s rights in developed nations are slowly inching towards equality, it is practically a necessity for women to contribute to the household income in order to sustain a desirable level of living. Many women strive to pursue high paying careers, leaving them unable to tend to the task of raising their children. Thus, an increasing number of households hire women from third world countries to take care of their children. This has resulted in the Philippines becoming the world’s number one source of outsourced caretakers.

This is a great opportunity for Filipino women to financially support their family. Taking care of
someone else’s child full time requires the women to leave their countries, thus leaving a child without a parent. This has lead the government and the media to vilify these women. They claim that the absence of a parent makes these children a burden to society.

The lack of a parent in early childhood can lead to behavioral issues and have long term effects that
carry into adulthood and can affect the individuals’ self-esteem, feelings of self-worth, and ability to
express feelings; thus also affecting relationships. As a child encounters new experiences, learns, and
grows, there is no doubt that the presence of a parent and proper parenting is detrimental to the proper upbringing of a child. It increases the chances of his ability to fully integrate into society.

One has to wonder how one quantifies the appropriate amount of parenting? How does the lack of a parental figure affect the child, and is the parent actually missing from the child’s life? Does the sacrifice of not being able to touch and feel your child justify the financial gain, stabilizing the families financial situation? This varies from family to family, as it depends on the child’s perceived feeling of abandonment, which depends on the mother’s involvement in the child’s daily life even though they are separated by thousands of miles. The communication between parent and child helps strengthen the emotional bond, thus lessening the perceived loss. The quality of the relationships with the rest of the family also significantly affect the child’s ability to cope with the lack of a parent, as they could help the child understand the sacrifices that had to be made. Also, the fathers coping with the loss of a partner would affect their ability to function as a parent, leaving the child even more confused, with a lot more to process, and without the needed attention and explanations. A child could be completely unaffected if the void would be filled with the necessary support. Thus, the attitude and involvement of the family’s relatives is of great importance and greatly affect the child’s ability to cope with the family’s circumstances.

The Care Crisis and Role of Gender in the Philippines

Anonymous student post

I once saw this website that catered to parents looking for child minders. What fascinated me the most was the fact that most of them specifically asked for a Filipina. After seeing this, I did not know whether we Filipinos were seen as very good carers, or whether hiring Filipinas as opposed to non-Filipinos was cheaper.

I know my mother was one before and like the people interviewed by Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, my mother left me while I was still young to work abroad. Reading the extract from Parreñas’s book, I can relate to everyone’s experiences; however, I mostly identified myself with Ellen who despite the lack of a motherly figure in her life turned out to be fine. It wasn’t easy for our family, but I never felt any sense of abandonment from my mother. Of course, as Parreñas mentions, not everyone is an Ellen and I do agree with that. I’ve met countless of people like me who were also left to the care of others by their parents at a young age to work abroad, and like Jeek in Parreñas’s book, they experienced emotional insecurity.

The lack of a mother figure in the family is seen as the cause of emotional insecurity because mothers are seen as the one who is in charge of child rearing. What I found intriguing the most in Parreñas’ work was how the Philippine government blames these migrant mothers for this “crisis of care” and even called for their return home.

I recently read an article by WEF about how the Philippines are 9th in the world in gender equality. Growing up in the Philippines, I can say that compared to other countries like Japan we definitely are more gender-equal. Women fare better in education and literacy, it’s also quite common to for women to hold top positions in the workplace and they also hold political positions.

On the other hand, we’re not fully gender-equal.Women are still being blamed for rape and infidelity.There still exist this idea of women having the traditional domestic role. Child rearing is still seen as a mother’s responsibility and not both parents’. Even if both parents are working, the mother is expected to take care of the children.

Relating this to what Parreñas wrote, the Philippine government pointing fingers at migrant mothers reflects how the Philippines still has this gender ideology that a “woman’s rightful place is in the home”. Instead of casting the blame to these women who are not only helping their families but also the economy, shouldn’t the government do their part first?

In the first place, these mothers only left either because there were no jobs available for them or their wages weren’t enough to sustain the family. These are issues that should be answered by the government and not caused by being a “bad mother”. Instead of asking migrant mothers to return, the government should give support to the children who were left behind.They could give support in their education or even providing some means of communication for transnational families. Maybe in that way we can eradicate the idea of stay-at-home mothers is the model of a good mother.

As I mentioned before, there is gender equality in the Philippines but there still a lot of work that needs to be done to be a fully gender equal country.

Do as the Romans Do, Turn the Other Way My Dear We are in The East

by Sarah Aartila

From the many mangas about the pure girl, if she were judged according to western philosophy on the case of chastity she would be described as a ‘slut’. The Western philosophy praises individualism, straightforwardness and linear logic, unlike Eastern philosophy which believes in a circular logic with both sides given equal due, and collectivism which sees what is best for the group as a whole. It is true that trafficking is an issue, but what can be done when poor countries have an ever increasing population and a shrinking of available jobs?

Throughout the world women have been and still are considered second class citizens whose only worth is to be a commodity. From the dagongmei in China who toil away to make home better in the factory via honest work, to the foreign hostesses of Japan who freely or sometimes unwillingly offer extra services. These women have freely left home and while many do it for individualistic reasons, most still send money home. Not all hostesses are trafficked nor are all of them illegal aliens (Parreñas 2011). The returning migrant worker comes home a hero. They are pressured like peers by the bar into getting requests. Requests come via promised sex. Some are forced yet they are not the majority like Noini who was forced into prostitution, yet Noini returned again for hostess work. According to Noini:

“We return from Japan with lots of presents and (are) well-dressed. We are the dream of any girl who wants to help her family. I could never tell a Filipino what I told you. They would consider me the lowest possible person in the world. I could not face that. Everyone here pretends” (Schmetzer 1991).

These women sacrifice themselves for the greater good of making the lives of their families at home better. To them being a hostess is better than being a nanny in a middle eastern country where they have a greater potential to be beaten. The salary of £30 an hour offers more buying power than a professional job (Quinn 2012). Besides such pay is fuelled by the many companies who pick up the tab for their salarymen. Many claim that the reason for such clubs is due to Japanese males who fear rejection from Japanese women and that Japanese men look down on all other asians. Also many Japanese people do not like the idea of Filipino women taking care of their elderly. Besides these views justify the right of these men to harass women on the job.

In order to improve the lives of these workers laws Parreñas suggests that laws should be created to protect such women from sexual harassment. These women shouldn’t even be considered as migrant workers, but rather as contract workers or indentured servants as many now can’t enter without the rigorous training required of those entering with an entertainment visa. What was originally intended to eliminate trafficking; the strict regulations for an entertainment visa has caused more to become contract workers. Perhaps the West is meddling too far into the East, trying to press Western morality into an Eastern mindset.

In the end these women are faring way better than their at home counterparts and are helping their country. No one may feel proud about such work as they keep it a secret from home, but even with the Western morality that has been pressed onto the Philippines Eastern morality still seems to prevail overall.


Schmetzer, U. (1991, November 20). Filipina Girls Awaken To A Nightmare. Chicago Tribune, 1-2. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from

Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. 2011. Illicit Flirtation: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Quinn, S. (2012, September 10). The grim truth about life as a Japanese hostess. The Telegraph. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from

Migration and the Philippines

Anonymous student post

Recently we read an article by Rhacel Parreñas and her experience working as a hostess in Japan. When I hear migration and the Philippines the first few things that come to my mind are nurses, domestic helpers or construction workers in the Middle East. Growing up in the Philippines I used to hear a lot of stories about working “that kind” of job in Japan. Although I think nowadays it’s very rare for Filipinas to leave the country and work as entertainers in Japan. Instead, they study nursing in the Philippines and apply for nursing positions in the US or elsewhere. Some end up working as caregivers. Filipina domestic helpers are quite common in places such as Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and some European countries.

Although it may seem that the Philippines is a very poor country with little opportunity for people to provide better a life for their family the reality is a bit different. Indeed we are a third world country, but that does not mean that every single Filipino is poor. There are jobs especially for those with college degrees and those who are desperate for work end up in call centres. Whether you are a professional or a call centre agent, wages are enough to provide for your families. A lot of Filipinos often believed that working abroad would gain them more money. True, however they only think that they can gain money because the exchange rate between currencies is high and fail to realise that they work in countries with a much higher cost of living and that their wages are enough to cover for their living expenses. So they end up exactly in the same situation as they where when working in the Philippines.

So then why do we leave our country? For some Filipinos, especially those who did not finish school, they do not see these opportunities, think that there is no chance of earning money in the Philippines and only see migration as the answer for a better life.

Personally I think the reason is a lot more than that. It’s because of bad governance and corruption from the government.There’s very little care from the government that we receive that some us are forced to migrate. Even though there are jobs as I mentioned there are some benefits such as healthcare that are not properly provided by the government. The fact that there is little support from the government is a reason why Filipinas from poor families in particular are forced to work as domestic helpers and endure the harsh working conditions and abuse of their employers. Wealth distribution is not fair – the rich get richer while the poor remain poor. If the distribution of wealth is fair and equal and there is good governance, then maybe there wouldn’t be a need for Filipinos to leave.


Illicit Flirtation: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo, by Rhacel Salazar Parreñas. 2011. Stanford University Press.

Echoes of female transnational migration: Care-giving jobs in Korea

by Yoon Jee Hyun (JeeJee)

According to United Nations (2013), female migrants represent about half of all transnational migration. Among women migrants, there has been an increase of number of women migrants working in care-giving jobs and health-care workers (Pyle, 2006).

Pyle’s article reminded me of Korea’s current popular phenomena of having care-givers who are transnational migrants. Since domestic workers do not wish to work as care-givers (due to the low wage compared to working times and the low social standing), a great portion of care-givers are transnational migrants. Also, with the increasing number of double-income families, wealthy Korean families have started to hire migrants from developing countries to take care of household chores at a cheap price.

In Korea, the role of care-giver is not only for household affairs but also for educating children of Korean family. At first, female migrants were wanted as they already have skills to take care of basic household chores learned from their own country. Yet, recently, as language ability has been highly encouraged, wealthy Korean families have started to look for hiring female migrants who are capable of speaking foreign languages such as English and Chinese. Many female Filipinos and Chinese are working in the care-giving industry in Korea, as they can take charge of both housework and language education.

This care-giving job system using female transnational migrants can benefit both sides; Korean families can get cheaper labor, and migrants can get a job which pays higher salary compared to the situation in their nation, and earn foreign currency, which they can bring back to their own country. Despite these merits, this phenomena echoes throughout the world, creating an endless circle of female migrants engaging in care-giving jobs.

Care-givers who are working in a foreign country can send money to their own country and family. However, as the ‘mother’ does not exist in migrants own family, the family needs to hire another cheap labored migrants as care-givers. Thus, this female transnational migration in care-giving labors echoes the phenomena of hiring care-giver migrants from a poorer country, a poorer country, and a more and more poorer country, and so on. The endless circle of becoming and hiring care-givers is created and the continuous circle traps female transnational migrants under its re-echoing system.


Pyle, J. L. Globalization, transnational migration, and gendered care work: Introduction. Globalizations 3:283-295.

Selling whiter skin for beauty

by Kohsei Ishimoto

In Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters (2009), Joanne L. Rondilla looks at the different techniques are used in the cosmetics industry. When looking at the Philippines, advertisements focus on ‘whitening’ the skin, because the people in the country tend to have darker skin. On the other hand, when looking at European countries, advertisements look at ‘brightening’ the skin, for there is the idea that people in these countries naturally have light skin.

When looking at these advertisements, it can be seen that to be beautiful, you must have white skin. Rondilla explains that there are many people in the Philippines who buy skin-whitening products to look beautiful, but is being ‘white’ really being beautiful? The main answer to why ‘white’ is thought to be ‘beautiful’ is colonization. To the countries that had been colonized, the European countries had been superior, fixing the image that ‘whites’ are ‘better’.

When reading Rondilla’s chapter, however, it can be seen that there are various ‘types’ of white skin. One is the European beauty that was mentioned earlier, and the other the ‘Asian beauty’. This refers to East Asian countries, such as China and Japan. Filipinos are actually looking at ‘Asian beauty’, possibly because these countries are closer to them. In Japan’s case, the country looks at being ‘white’, trying to achieve the European look. This statement can be said to be wrong however, for recently Japanese people want to be seen as individuals.

When looking at various advertisements, it can be seen that models of different skin tones are used. For advertisements that use ‘white’ women, companies state that they are the ‘result’ of the product. On the other hand, companies that use models of a darker tone state that it does not look ‘right’, telling the consumers to change by buying the product. It is a fact that many purchase skin-whitening products to gain their ‘beauty’, but exactly how close are they to their ideal image? Will consumers ever believe that they are beautiful enough? The answer to this is probably no. The cosmetics industry has control over the consumers, by selling only a small portion of a product, or changing advertising techniques to trick us into believing that our images are not yet satisfactory. When thinking about this, it is interesting to wonder why people use cosmetics in the first place. Can not having any make-up on be considered beautiful? The answer to this can be explained through society; how people see you, and how you want to be seen.

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Tackling human trafficking, the modern form of slavery

Trafficking of women, children and men

by Anastasia Maillot

As I read several parts from Rhacel Parreñas’ Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo she introduced me to a rather terrifying fact. Philippine women migrating to Japan in search of hostess jobs are the most trafficked population in the world, working in conditions where their passports are taken and where they have no other option but to continue working in what I would call modern slavery or servitude with a nonexistent salary. As a response to the growing issues concerning Philippine migrants, the Japanese government has imposed stricter rules to entertainment visas, which has in turn barred the route for legal ways into the country and caused illegal entry through middlemen to flourish. Although Parrenãs brings out the positive in hostess work by explaining that few of the Philippine women feel like victims but instead see it as a way to gather money for their future or their families back home, I think there is a huge problem here, something that seems almost ignored; these women live in servitude, a form of modern slavery. This is not a job they do out of good will but because they have no choice.

Wasn’t slavery supposed to be over since the civil war? After reading Parreñas, I had to investigate and see it for myself. The truth is, there are more people living in slavery today than ever before. The site Free The Slaves estimates that at least 27 million people live in slavery, half of them being children. Moreover, I was shocked even further to find out from Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, that human trafficking more specifically is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. This means that today, what crosses our borders most often are not drugs or weapons, but human beings treated as mindless objects and sold into servitude. So, no, slavery is not over and it would be a mistake to say that it does not exist in the Global North, because it does. There seems to be this misconception that whatever atrocities happen in the Global South do not happen in “our countries”. We fail to understand that this phenomenon is everywhere around us, in factories, mines, brothels, farms, restaurants and construction sites. We simply close our eyes from the fact that we carry clothing made with extremely cheap labor and eat food from farmers that are deliberately exploited. Sometimes we even convince ourselves that anyone working as a stripper or as a hostess is most likely doing it because they chose to do so and want to.

Parreñas does say that people get involved into this because of the need for money. The Philippines is a good example as a country, because of its economic dependence on these women who leave their country in search for a better income either as hostesses or nannies. But this also puts these women in very fragile positions in host countries, as some of them might be ready to do anything to feed their family back home. This sense of necessity exists everywhere. There have even been cases in the US where parents have sold their children into slavery, although it remains more marginal than in the Global South. Still, we participate into this process by providing the demand to those middlemen, who then go out to look for these women, children or even men. We need to stop ignoring the alarming fact that more and more people are becoming victims due to economic necessities and do something about it, as trafficking and thus slavery is an issue that affects every nation in the world.

Governments have generally been slow or reluctant to do anything about trafficking, preferring to cover the issue with a band aid and hoping that things will eventually get better. Now, I understand the difficulty of tracking down the middlemen who sell these victims, not to mention the buyers or the customers. However, I came across a reading, Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It, by David Batstone, that introduced me to several different cases of slavery and trafficking in different countries and how the problem was successfully dealt with. Most often people have witnessed face to face the difficulties of the victims, felt compassionate and started searching for alternatives. In Thailand for example, a woman set up a jewelry business in which she recruited women from brothels, giving them a proper job, opportunities and restored their self-confidence. In Peru, a local woman provided temporary housing and activities out of benevolence for street children who face violence, trafficking and uncertainty every day. In many countries, most notably in Italy, churches work actively to rescue victims of trafficking and pulling them out of slavery by giving them a better life with opportunities. By working locally, we can make things change, but this requires the effort of everyone, not just “the chosen few”. As the example of Parreñas on the Japanese government showed, simple restrictions and ignorance of the actual heart of the issue will not solve anything, but instead create more illegal routes for trafficking and slavery to happen. A wider safety net for trafficked people is needed and the victims should not be punished for coming to the police and asking for help.

It is easy to ignore these issues, to think that it isn’t happening in your country or that it is too difficult to get involved. By thinking like this we will never be able to change things and rescue victims from the unacceptable conditions they live in all over the world. I acknowledge that with the resources we have now it is not possible to save everyone, but in order to tackle these issues we must think positively and proceed step by step. There are many options out there for us to explore, many cases in which local people have taken a step forward and done something about it. Even one victim with better opportunities, a real job and a much better life is already a victory in our battle against human trafficking and slavery.

Filipino hostesses in Japan: Volition or Coercion?

Rhacel Parreñas in the field, working as a hostess in Tokyo

by Jonas Horvei

According to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (2013), human trafficking can be defined as:

“[t]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

In this week’s blog post I would like to examine to whether or not Filipino hostesses working Japan can be considered as victims of human trafficking, especially under the category of sex trafficking. I will also consider whether there is a possibility that this is not the case of human trafficking, but rather an action which they carry out by their own volition.

First of all I would like to examine what kind of typical activities a hostess performs while working in a bar in Japan.

  • Takes on the role as an entertainer
  • Pours her customers drinks, often alcoholic beverages
  • Dances with them
  • Sings for her customers, often karaoke
  • Talks with her customers, being engaged in a conversation, often with a bit of “flirtative” nature, often while at the same time complimenting them.

On the basis of only this, it is naturally impossible to say whether these people working in such establishment are victims of human trafficking or not. Nevertheless if we look a bit deeper and consider if this at the perspective of sex trafficking we can start hypothesizing at least. According to the U.S Code §7102 – (10) sex trafficking can be defined as the following;

The term “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act”.

Judging from this definition, there does not seem to be any particular aspects that resembles a commercial sex act, and thus I argue that such kind of cannot be considered a case of sex trafficking. Although occasionally acts such as masturbating the customer did occur, nothing was mentioned whether this was carried out by their own volition or not. Looking at the culture of south-east Asian countries though, such “happy ending” customs are fairly normal in especially massage establishments such as in China and Thailand, which might explain why this is not necessarily  considered prostitution. While there are Filipinos working as prostitutes in Japan, at least on the surface it seems to me at first glance that the Filipino who come to serve as hostess, are mainly not victims of sexual trafficking.

For the meantime, let us go back to the case of human trafficking and see if there is any evidence that these workers can be considered victims of such a phenomenon. While indeed, it is likely that some of the Filipinos who migrate to Japan are forced to go against their own volition, and thus can be defined as victims of human trafficking, I argue that this is the exception rather than the norm. According to Parreñas (2011 p.3) no conclusive evidence exists that these workers are victims of human trafficking, but rather research indicates that most of the workers take this decision by themselves, and migrate by their own volition. Yet again according to Parreñas (2003 p.199), as much as 34 to 54 percent of the Filipino population is sustained by remittances by migrant workers. Such numbers tells exactly how much of an importance overseas Filipinos workers affect the homeland economy.

Nevertheless despite most of these people not being victims of human trafficking, there is no question that especially for migrants in such vulnerable occupations the working conditions can be lackluster, and that they might be victims of forced labor. This is something which needs to urgently be addressed, preferably in collaboration between the Philippines and the Japanese government.

Since 1999, Japan’s immigration policies have made it considerably more difficult, ultimately forcing many bars to shut down and many having difficulty coming over to work as hostesses (National University of Singapore, 2012). However, imposing restrictions on entertainer visas is in my opinion not a solution to combat human trafficking, or rather it is not a solution to improve the labor conditions for Filipino hostesses. Rather, I think such restrictions are what actually promotes and can actually be the trigger to human trafficking in the first place.

These migrants cannot work in their own country, the wages are either not enough to support a family, or simply they cannot find a jobs. Then naturally the next step is to seek work elsewhere, a different city, or a different country. Suddenly these options start to dwindle, and one is only left with the options of either living a life full of poverty or as a last resort they become victims or sexual trafficking, or become prostitutions out of their own volition to take care of their family.

I argue that hostess is a harmless job, and as long as this work is carried out of their own volition, restrictions should be lessened on entertainer visas, back to the way they used to be. Still, these people will continue to be exploited due to their resident status and so on, and therefore I believe the most important step to take now is rather than imposing more and more restrictions, a step in the right direction would be to protect these people by giving them more rights to them being victims of forced labor, and to collectively come up with a solution which can benefit all parties involved.

As summarized by the United Nations Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings report, a lot of the responsibility lay at the hands of the Japanese and Filipino government to improve this situation (Cameron and Newman).


“Human Trafficking.”  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Accessed 17 Nov. 2013.

“U.S Codes – USC§ 7102 Definitions” Cornell University Law School. Accessed 17 Nov. 2013.,

Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. Illicit Flirtation; Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo. Stanford University Press (2011).

Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. 2003. “The Care Crisis in the Philippines: Children and Transnational Families in the New Global Economy.” Pp. 39-54 in Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Metropolitan Books

“Filipino in Hostess Clubs.” National University of Singapore, 29 Apr. 2012. Accessed 17 Nov 2013

Cameron, Sally, and Edward Newman. “Trafficking of Filipino Women to Japan: Examining the Experiences and Perspectives of Victims and Government experts” United Nations University. Online-only journal. Accessed Nov 17. 2013.

Filipinos and Asian Beauty

by Hsinmin Wang

Compared to other Asian countries, Philippines might be the most multi-colonial country. Successively occupied by China, Arabia, Spain, the U.S., and Japan, constructing the special attitude toward Asian aesthetic and global market. According to a report made by UNEP, in 2004 nearly 40% of women surveyed in the Philippines used skin lighteners. Compare to 61% in India, 77% in Nigeria, the figure seems nothing to be surprised at. But when we started to investigate the reason behind Filipinos using skin lighteners, we will discover the role of Asian beauty in Philippines beauty market. Not just pursuing for Eurocentric phenotype, but more likely to follow the step of East Asian countries, and trying to emerge in immigrant society. But how is these beauty standard constructed?

Joanne Rodilla discusses the use of Michele Reis’s racially ambiguous face in L’oreal advertisements. In fact, the endorser of L’oreal  changed to Fan Bingbing in 2010. Once you look at her picture, you can easily discover that she has the typical face Rondilla describes: glowing white skin, jet-black, and large, double-lidded, almond-shaped eyes. Though I can’t jump to conclusions that the fashion style inclines to Chinese aesthetic, but it does reflect more or less the changing marketing strategy.

There is a wide-spread saying, “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.” This reflects the idea that once you are away from the sun, you won’t get dark; and with this kind of slogan “high technology to repair, illuminate and brighten your skin,” women with darker skin become a symbol of lacking of self-control, self-discipline and will power. Thus, skin color becomes a reflection on job prospects, earning potential, and social status.

In skin lightener advertisements, we are continually watching Asian girls get skin color discrimination in their life, jobs, and family circles; then it all magically disappears after she uses the product. Sometimes we feel ridiculous, sometimes we feel unbelievable, sometimes we feel overstated; but what if these stories truly happened in your daily life? I think while these advertisements are trying to affect people’s aesthetic, somehow it reflects the real life situation.