Janet M. Arnado


The mistress-maid relationship, grounded in maternalism, provides a glaring example of the class inequality among women. Contextualized in the Third World, this paper examines maternalism both as a complex, hierarchical system that governs the employment arrangement and as a field of negotiation where women exercise agency. Recorded in-depth interviews and focus groups with thirty-one domestic workers and ten female employers were conducted in a medium-sized city in the Philippines between May and August 2000. QSR NUD*IST facilitated the data processing and analysis. This paper describes several forms of maternalism, including “part of the family” ideology, emotional labor, material support, utang na loob system of obligation, and mistress’ control over the maid’s body, time, space, and relationships. Likewise, it analyzes three types of maternalistic styles, where each type is grounded on a different repertoire of maternalist practices and ideologies. In addition, it classifies several patterns of mistress-maid interaction, and explores the interrelationship between maternalistic styles and interaction patterns.

Note on the Author

Janet M. Arnado, Behavioral Sciences Department, De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines