Women in Comparative Societies

Melissa Wright, 2006.  Disposable Women and Other Myths of Global Capitalism. Routledge:  New York and London.


Chapter 2 “Disposable Daughters and Factory Fathers”


Title is a play on the phrase “dutiful daughters”

A cultural ideal stressed throughout many parts of South East Asia


Stems from the Confucian ideal of filial piety, i.e., the duty of children to defer to their parents wishes

To serve their families

To do their duties to their families


It is this ethic that leads

Cambodian women to become mail order brides to Chinese men with few marriage prospects


Lao and Thai families to sell their daughters to brothels


Young Chinese women from the countryside to migrate to the export processing zones on the coast to work for 15 cents/hr, 10 or 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week


Wright emphasizes how “flexible production”

Also called “flexible accumulation regimes”


Require such a high degree of speed, accuracy, repetition, monotony, endurance, etc.


That women’s bodies have become disposable


That the managers of factories producing goods have developed a story, a mythology that allows them to justify, rationalize their use of the women in this way


To use up every bit of dexterity, energy, servility, discipline, sharp eyesight of young women


For a maximum of 2 years


Then dump them before they start making too many mistakes, “causing trouble,” making demands that they be treated like human beings


More often than not, the women’s bodies are broken and their labor value used up by then anyway


Factory Fathers

The men who manage the women often refer to themselves as “like the girls’ fathers”


Someone to watch over them, protect them, make sure they don’t get into any trouble


This justifies their constant surveillance

      Of their work

      Of their bodies


Their confinement behind factory walls and living quarters at all times


The girls are seen as easily distracted, prone to too much thinking about boys, compelled to procreate, naēve, easily drawn into mischief/danger


They make mistakes not because what is being asked of them on the factory floor is superhuman (assembling some 7-10 different components in 26 seconds, 500 times a day!)


But because of their inherent weakness, fallibility


Conversely, men who work in other parts of the factory make mistakes “because the work so difficult”


The men also are allowed to take breaks, to roam the factory campus, to leave it


They have higher pay and lower turn over


Take Action



Chapter 4 “Manufacturing Bodies”

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Wright describes how women’s hands, arms, eyes are combined with the “vision” and “supervisory skill” of the male Mexican managers


And the even grander vision and brains of the American and European men executives


To create a body for production


The myth of Mexican women that supports this production scheme portrays them as





with lots of manual dexterity, and good eyesight


And in the end just as DISPOSABLE as women in China

As they “will all move on”

“have no desire to move up”


The mgrs expect 30-50% turnover per year!

So there is no model of pay advancement, training to move up


Men, on the other hand, are expected to move to supervisory roles so there are training programs for them; their turnover is not as great


Chpt. 24 “The Dialectics of Still Life:  Murder, Women and Disposability”


The Myth of Disposability


Combined with other narratives growing out of the flexible accumulation regime and the hierarchical relationship with the US

Explains why there hasn’t been greater outrage or police reaction to the hundreds of murders of women and girls in Ciudad Juarez over the past 10 years


Some of the desaparecidas



Wright describes how cultural norms, narratives of “good girls” and “bad girls”


Drawn from Catholicism, marianismo


Ideals of Mexican girls and women as

Chaste, obedient, subservient to men


Who belong in the home


Lead police and others to “blame the victims” by calling their virtues into question


“What were they doing out there at night?”


Meanwhile, Juarez runs on shifts requiring women and girls to commute long distances in the wee hours of the morning and late into the evening


Activists have called upon factories to provide safe transport for workers (buses, e.g.) but they have been slow to respond


Argue that it is not their problem

Cast the victims as girls out partying and “getting what they have coming to them”


Because “men are men”

The undercurrent of the machismo myth

That men are sexually driven naturally

That they should be expected to “take advantage” of girls/women roaming around in the night


Take Action:

Amnesty International