Many have responded to Alex Tizon’s article, “My Family’s Slave,” since its publication in The Atlantic’s June 2017 issue. As members of the Philippine Women Centre of BC, we invite readers to be critical of what has been written. We ask readers to confront the uncomfortable questions of privilege that the author did not ask himself in his article, despite benefiting greatly from the story of Eudocia Tomas Pulido. We ask readers to see the article not as the end of her story, but as the start of understanding the conditions that make such a story possible.
Her story does not end here. It is one among the number of stories that countless Filipina women have. Eudocia’s story is not unlike stories of Filipina women working under Canada’s Caregiver Program.
Women from the Philippines migrate with temporary status to countries abroad for work as domestic workers, care aids and caregivers. They are encouraged to do so through government-established labour programs that fill in serious gaps in care provisioning for highly-privatized economies in the global north, while they keep the economies of the global south afloat through the billions of dollars of remittances they send home. Yet as women become the sole breadwinners of their families, their temporary status as migrants, as domestic workers, as mothers in absentia keep them locked into feudal-like conditions of modern day slavery, as they toil for the eventual promise of citizenship, economic stability and family reunification.
Within and without the home, women continue to struggle for their freedom. And so the story continues.
“Where is Lola?”
While the article is described as a story of slavery and posits Eudocia, the family’s slave, as the story’s central figure, it is clear that Tizon’s account focuses on his family’s perspective. We get an insider’s account into the slavemaster’s story, one that is clear in describing their high-status and privilege. We learn of his origins as a member of the landowning and military class. We read about how they became incorporated into the American middle-class as a “model immigrant” family with a professional background. Even when Eudocia’s unpaid labour for the family calls the family’s status into question, nobody in the family is willing to relinquish their privilege, not even the author.
Even as the family refused to admit it, Eudocia was relegated to being the family’s slave, as we read about many times over in several examples. We read about how Eudocia is treated as a disposable member of the family, despite how her unpaid labour keeps the family together. We read about how the family takes advantage of Eudocia’s background as a young, uneducated member of the poorer classes. How she is unable to leave the home, to use an ATM machine, to pursue an education or to visit her family.
Even when Eudocia moved into the author’s home, she continued to be the family’s slave. He thought cutting off her chains had made her free, without thinking about the invisible ones holding her down, such as facing a language barrier, her lack of education and having no actual financial means separate from the author’s family. While Tizon claims to provide better conditions for Eudocia, he complains about how she continues to cook and clean. Whether he understood it or not, he became the benevolent new master for his family’s slave. And in publishing Eudocia’s story from his family’s perspective, she continues to “serve” as a vehicle in his tell-all for his catharsis from his own guilt.
Ending modern day slavery
You may have found Eudocia’s story shocking but sadly, we didn’t. We have called for the end of Canada’s Caregiver Program (CP) for over two decades now. Many of our members have experienced abuse firsthand and have openly and generously shared at events, public forums and in university classrooms. They’ve shared their trauma. Don’t simply stay shocked at the degradation of our women, but question the ways in which you are complicit with the ongoing abuse. We cannot let the vestiges and deep injustices of enslavement, as an ongoing global and historical process, mar our loving humanity and our solidarity in our collective struggle for freedom.
Uplift the stories of our women. Scrap Canada’s Caregiver Program and advocate for universal childcare for all women.