Monday, October 12, 2009

Commodifying and Controlling Love in the Global Economy

From a story linked up on -- “Get an Aussie hubby for $10K.” The story explains how high-income, professional women from Singapore can dish out a fee to have access to men from Australia looking for marriage.

When most marriage consultants are helping men to find foreign brides, one company in Singapore has come out with a blue ocean strategy, only for women.

In view of the rising number of unmarried women in the republic, the company has an ideal package to offer.

The company is matching up its clients with Australian lifetime partner and is charging a fee of S$10,000 (RM24,540) for each successful match.

The men, aged between 30 and 60, and mostly from Brisbane.

“So far, we have paired up about 30 couples,” he said, adding some of the men they introduced were professionals such as lawyers and engineers.

Most of the local clients were career women aged between 20 and 50.

“We also have Chinese women who are working here as well as single mothers who are accompanying their children studying here,” he said.

He said Singaporean women had high expectations of their prospective husbands. They wanted men with a stable income and to look decent.

A few comments. First, this represents the theoretical position of “co-option,” where a smaller number of women are able to utilize the same types of leverage as men in constructing gendered relationships. In short, some women enter the men’s world but must play by the same rules. Thus, the gendered relationships don’t exactly shift since the structure remains the same.

However, this story also has a few twists that illustrate further male privilege in the global marital building business. Even when higher-income women use men’s tactics to purchase access to potential marriages from overseas, these Singaporean and Chinese women appear to be pursuing men who will advance their collective economic advantages. Thus, the women and men are on equal footing economically and likely educationally.

This is drastically different from western men who purchase access to meeting women for potential marriage from lower-income countries. As documented in the Asian American Studies literature, western men frequently marry women from low-income countries who are disempowered once in their new “home,” lacking adequate language and educational skills, and virtually no social-networking connections that would help these women know where to turn if being abused.

Thus, when men are in essence purchasing poor, foreign women for marriage, there tends to be a more deliberate effort to perpetuate race and gender power imbalances. In these cases, the globally constructed marriage is on far less equal footing.

Then another story from Southeast Asia, covering a stepfather who chained his stepdaughter as a prisoner because he did not approve of her boyfriend. From AsiaOneNews:

KUCHING, MALAYSIA: A 20-year-old woman has lodged a police report against her stepfather for keeping her in chains in the house.

The girl claimed that her stepfather, a foreign national, and her mother took her away from the boyfriend's house at Kampung Rampangi in Santubong and forced her to return to their home in Bandar Baru Semariang on Friday night.

The couple then shackled her legs with chains to prevent her from leaving the house. He secured the chains with a padlock.

The ever-growing inter-cultural relationships that emerge with globalization are clearly ridden with power inequalities, influenced by patriarchy manifesting across stratified countries, class groups, and within families.

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