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on 16 February 2010
I've always got time for the journalist Barbara Ehrenreich's robust writing since I was lent Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-wage America a few years back. In this book, published in 2002, Ehrenreich along with Arlie R Hochschild have collected a variety of essays that look at how the situation of woman has changed in the last couple of decades as the world economy has become increasingly globalised.

The contributions, as to be expected in collections such as this, vary in tone and quality. All except three are by academics, a surprising amount of the academics are anthropologists whose style verges on the detached in marked contrast to the forthright writing one normally expects of Ehrenreich. The majority of the contributions are focused on the issue of female migrant workers; those who leave their homes in less developed countries to take on work as nannies, maids and cleaners in the richer countries of the world. The extent of this trade is enormous. Countries such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka receive billions of dollars yearly from millions of contract workers who work in the Gulf States, the U.S. and other countries. The precarious position of these workers, the attitudes of their employers and their often-exploitative working conditions are in many cases appalling. The irony, which is made clear, is that these workers are "imported" to carry out the caring and cleaning that rich professional woman are unable to carry out in the two full-time worker model that has developed in the west, and the fact that their male counterparts will not share the burden of domestic duties. More than one of the writers makes the pertinent point that this care deficit in the richer countries is filled by cheap foreign labour, and that this leaves a care deficit in the poorer countries of the world. One of the contributions details the experience of families in the Philippines whose mothers now work abroad, and the difficulties for those at both ends.

A few of the essays deal with the sex-trade in it's modern state, both the "import" of woman into the west as well as those areas of the globe that have become destinations for sex-tourism, generally by men. One of the contributions in this area I thought was pretty dismal. Denise Brennan, in her work on sex-tourism in the Dominican Republic goes to excessive lengths to assert the "agency" and the ability of the sex worker to "react and resist". She states "Dominican sex workers use sex, romance, and marriage as means of turning [the] sex trade into a site of opportunity and possibility". Nothing in the case studies she cites lead me to believe these assertions were tenable, and that the "opportunity and possibility" were anything other than the necessary delusions that those involved in sex work clung to in order to get through the days and weeks of doing what they have to do in order to escape brutal poverty in a country that has had no opportunity for economic and social development.

Despite a couple of other below par essays that exhibit the Academics concerned less than total commitment to making themselves clear, it was still a book that opened a window on an under-written aspect of globalization. On that basis it was worth reading.
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on 6 June 2015
Some strong chapters, others very weak. Interesting reflections on gendered labour, the relationships between the global north and south, and global trends in migration. Brennan's chapter is useful, nuanced and rooted in the stories and experiences of migrant women. Bale's chapter 'Because she looks like a child' is very poor, and it's not clear why the editors elected to include it. Besides the troubling and ethically-dubious 'pity-porn' sensibility and Bale's failure to engage with the existing literature or recent publications from the WHO and UNAIDS that detail evidence-based recommendations to improve working conditions in the sex trade, the chapter is discredited by unfounded assertions such as: "There are many sexually transmitted diseases, and prostitutes contract most of these." Bale also seems to lack basic scientific knowledge regarding the safety of continuously administered oral contraceptives, and makes a number of sweeping statements that betray a lack of rigour and notable gaps in his knowledge.
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on 11 July 2012
excellent book. has opened my eyes to what is happening in the world after travelling to dubai, vietnam and thailand. gives good information and an eye into male control of women in the world and control of girls. showed different male cultures in different countries and abuse of women - wondering where to go from here myself now. what can we do and the west. people do not know what is happening around the world and in our own countries in the west. we all need to wake up .........and do something about this. globilisation and profits made out of people is horrific especially women. excellen book, researched and informative. have you read Louise Waughs book 'Selling Olga' Can you sleep at night? - I cant. The world and men seem to think this is all normal - sexual abuse, slavery, abuse of migrant labour purely to get rich....
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on 4 July 2014
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