It is evident that the site of women’s work in East Asia is already sexually congested as women are expected to always follow men and satisfy men’s sexual desire. In Muta Kazue’s “The Making of Sekuhara: Sexual Harassment in Japanese culture”, the author mentioned that 59.7 percent of women had experienced sexual harassment at work in 1989 (55). In addition to this, most of them thought it was too insignificant to even complain. This case displays the idea that women expect to serve men, disregarding themselves or treating severe sexual offences as a minor issues.

 

In Nichole Constable’s “sexuality and discipline among Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong”, the author explained that domestic workers could be fired because of their physical appearance. They were also exposed to danger at their workplace because male owners tried to show their sexual desire to maids (Constable, 546). Moreover, Muta explains that women are exposed to sexual harassment because other employees try to make wa, meaning to make good atmosphere to cooperate in the company. (Muta, 57) From this context, I can see that domestic work is regarded as a women’s job. It is misunderstood that their work includes fulfilling other men’s sexual desires or using their sexual attractiveness.

 

The author also talked about power imbalance at work place. It’s more difficult for women than for men to hold a higher position just because they’re of their sex (Muta, 56). This makes women’s work very different from men’s work since women don’t have the power to raise their voices.

Women’s Sexuality Separate from Work?

The nature of women’s work “is distinctly different and structurally inferior to men’s” (Kazue 56-57). The underlying cause for this difference includes an imbalance of power between the genders and society’s refusal to allow women to function as a separate entity from their gender and/or sexuality, even in the workplace. The three readings by Kazue, Constable, and Zheng discuss various fields in which women are employed across East Asia, such as the corporate sector, domestic work, factory work, service work, and sex work including prostitution and hostessing. This list is limited demonstrating how in countries like Japan women have low levels of participation and control in political and economic matters (Kazue 52). Moreover, it’s concerning that regardless of their field of employment, women cannot escape from the emphasis placed on their sexuality. For example, the sexual appeal of domestic workers is focused on just as much as the sexual appeal of hostesses’ who some would assume have a more sexualized occupation. Constable describes the plight of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong whose employers are inclined to discipline and reduce the sexuality of these women in oreder to prevent them from threatening their marriages and families. One domestic worker was given a curfew, a man’s haircut, only allowed to wear pants, and forbidden to wear nail polish, jewelry, and perfume (Constable 539). The amount of control these employers exercise over their domestic workers is scary and dehumanizing, the sexuality of the workers is being exploited, just not in the conventional way. Even in professional work environments, the treatment of female employees revolves around their sexuality. Kazue explains the Japanese cultural concepts of sekuhara (sexual harassment) and wa (group harmony (53, 57). The coexistence of the two is problematic because acceptable forms of creating wa in the office are actually sexual harassment like unwanted sexual jokes.

“Women’s Work”

I agree with the statement that in East Asia “women’s work” one way or another is always sexually contested. One of the themes that runs through the articles is that there has been an increase in sexual activity among young women. Which pulls away from Confucian beliefs that women are supposed to be housewives and care for the children. Women’s work has a broad definition, those who are married and feel economically secure, are “housewives” and take care of the children. However, others who feel the need to explore their sexuality and are unstable economically end up as “comfort women, hostesses (Xiaojie) or prostitutes”.

It seems that it’s very hard for women to find work that will pay well, especially for those who are single. Women’s labor is shaped by the need to be stable economically as well as the availability of social media that contributes to women wanting to explore their sexual side and engage in sexual work. In Soh’s article we learned that “comfort women” were represented as “sex slaves”. Other times young girls were victimized and sold into sex work by their own family. In Zheng’s article we learned about “hostesses” (Xiaojie), who were “dependent on men for their income” (pg.443). These women were looked as those who “revise and abandon moral values” (pg.443). However this job provided them with a great income to support themselves. In the article by Kazue we learned that those who did hold jobs in offices had experienced “sexual harassment” (Sekuhara) many times. In order to keep their jobs they had to perform sexual favors. This shows that the culture is dominant by men and that there is no escape from any type of work that won’t involve some kind of sexual aspect.

Contention and Control

I definitely agree with the statement that the site of women’s work in East Asia is always already sexually contested. I think that the idea of monitoring of women’s sexualities is a common concept, and not just one that is found in East Asia. But in regards to East Asia, it is true that no matter the type of work being performed, there will still be definite issues of control. Quite obviously, there are jobs that are clearly sexually focused, such as the enjo kosai in Josephine Ho’s text. But even those jobs or jobs that aren’t intrinsically sexual in nature, like the domestic workers touched on in Nicole Constable’s texts, include a definite element of sexual contention or control. For example, this is true for the domestic workers in Hong Kong. These domestic workers are subjected to intense pressure for their female employers are often the one taking up issues with any perceived notion of the workers possessing sexuality, to the point where they’re really not allowed to just live their lives. Their appearance and manner of dress are heavily and excessively moderated. I think the media plays a large role in furthering ideas and expectations about women’s sexualities. For example, in Nicole Constable’s text, she touches upon the media’s repeated link of foreign domestic workers and the sex trade. Those ideas are the ones that make employers fear their workers sexualities and lead to an intense management of it.

Working together

I agree with the statement that women’s work in East Asia is always already sexually contested. Although it may not be always the case, they are mostly sexually contested whether women work in the house or professionally in payed jobs with an exchange of the labor. Women’s work is sexualized with the surroundings that value Confucianism and harmony.

Because the basic value of Confucianism for women is to support men for her entire life, this also shows in modern society’s working women despite the fact that they are independent and professional as men. In Muta’s article, it is clear that women’s work in the workspace is expected to play a role as the one who is “generous, tender, modest (Muta, 57)” to keep, and support the “harmonious” working environment where “men hold a higher position (Muta, 56)”. Why does women have to in charge of continuing the harmony of the environment but not men? Even considering the fact that the workspace environment is male-dominated, it is not fair for women who do not want to be sexualized, but rather, treated equally as men do.

One of the most obvious women’s work related to sex is the hostesses from Zheng’s article. This is a clear example since hostesses sell their sexuality to customers as well as helping them to appeal their masculinity to other men. While working outside with other men and by successfully playing their “wife or girlfriend”, they make money.

It is hard to deny that both women workers who are in regular office, or directly engaged in sex work is free from the society’s stereotypes of women. Women are not “tools” or “solutions” to smoothen the atmosphere. Women and men both have to work together to change the values that is not suitable anymore in today’s society.

The rigidness of women’s work

Women’s work is any type of work that is considered exclusively the domain of women. Usually taken as a pejorative, it often involves work that is expected of women and consequently, undervalued and underpaid or not paid at all due to patriarchal standards of feminine subordination. I read an interesting assertion in another blog once that everything women do is inherently sexualized because women as a class are fetishized – that is to say, women are viewed so thoroughly as sexual objects of desire that their humanity and three-dimensionality is stripped from them in the eyes of men.

Due to the inescapable influence of sexism permeating every aspect of life, women’s work is definitely sexually contested by default. Because of this, working conditions are going to be subpar and even hazardous due to the lack of bodily respect given towards East Asian women, especially those in feminized fields since sexuality is something expected of women which can lead to them being punished for not conforming to this. A good example of this happening are the foreign domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia residing in Hong Kong. Discussed in Nicole Constable’s piece,  Sexuality and Discipline among Filipina Domestic Workers in Hong Kong, many emigrant women looking for better pay submit themselves to degrading rules and practices. Due largely in part to the mentioned phenomenon of sexualization, these live-in workers have to police their femininity in ways such as modest clothing and a rejection of feminine rituals in order to please the wife of the house. This phenomenon is revealing in that it not only shows how hired workers are denied autonomy on the basis of doing feminine work, but also in how it highlights how the wife is threatened by them doing work that is considered her job – since domestic housework was originally an unpaid and expected service of all women. These values are so deeply embedded that domestic workers are at high risk for domestic violence and abuse due to the depth of their subordination to the husband and wife of the household.

Sex Work

Let’s face the facts people, all work for women in Eastern Asia is sex work. That’s not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with sex work. The problem is that all of “women’s work” is turned into sex work, and that is an issue.

First, what “women’s work” is, is largely defined by the idea that men are the primary workers while women job is in the home cleaning and raising kids. This leads to the kind of jobs that women can get to be considered “lesser” and highly tailored to the needs/ desire of men. To explain, a business deals can often take place in a karaoke bar. A women’s job at  the karaoke bar is to do everything in her power to submit to the man’s demands, even they’re of a sexual nature, so that he can look  in charge. This is common practice in business and if women want to work for a company, they have to not only take less pay due to there job being seen a supplemental, but be subject harassment and have to  accept and possibly participate this game as well.

However, sex work is also an avenue for sexual expression and financial independence. As Josephine Ho states  that endo kosai (casual teenage prostitution) “…is simply another form of sexual exploration… with tangible as well as sizable profits.” In a culture that is sexually restrictive and with social mobility being mostly tied to marriage for women, having a job and having that job be sexually liberating is a big deal. In fact a large number of endo kosai use the money they earn to pay for school.