A False Necessity: Singapore’s Maid Trade

// 2 February 2010

In my gleamingly modern home town of Singapore, trading in women has been refined to a stomach-churningly efficient art. The women in question are foreign domestic workers (FDWs), locally known as “maids”, who travel from poorer countries – principally but not only the Philippines and Indonesia – to live in private households and provide cleaning, cooking and care services. So ubiquitous is their hire – in the hundreds of thousands, in a country of 5 million – that online portal bestmaid.com.sg confidently declares, “In Singapore, maid is not a luxury, but a necessity.

Fortunately, “maid agencies” are to hand to assist with procuring these necessities. Visit one of the offices that dot the island and you can see FDWs displayed like so many wares, often in uniform haircuts and agency-branded T-shirts. To determine if you’re getting value for money, you can’t engage with the woman in front of you – you have to fill in a form with your preferences so that the agency can consult their comprehensive catalogue, neatly enabling you to locate a maid with the desired height, build, nationality, age, skin colour, religion, marital status, number of children and other vital qualifications for the job.

But I’m behind the times – rather than making this trip you could also consult maidlibrary.com, the “maid search” function of which helpfully divides into “married” and “not married” columns by default.

One sought-after trait, which sadly cannot yet be reliably gauged by even the most competent businesses, is quiescence. The maid mustn’t get ideas above her station, like thinking she is entitled to one day off a month, or considering changing employer if her current post isn’t working out, or – worst of all – eating biscuits, thus forcing you to beat her. Savvy employers sometimes pick Indonesian workers because FDWs from the Philippines are reputed to be more knowledgeable and assertive about their rights, as well as being likely to speak English, the local lingua franca.

“It’s when they speak English that the problem comes,” one employer said to me confidingly. “That’s when they start to make friends.”

At a loss, I replied, “God forbid anyone should have friends.”

She hastily clarified: it wasn’t friends she was worried about, it was boyfriends. Particularly the foreign men who carry out the vast majority of Singapore’s manual labour and typically come from poorer Asian countries, such as Bangladesh. This brings us to one of the less endearing features of Chinese Singaporean racism – and you might have guessed the competition is fierce – namely the hypersexualisation of foreign workers with darker skin.

There is no other way to put this: the nation is obsessed with the possibility that some of these people might shag. Given that having sex is all that foreign women might conceivably wish to do with themselves, to prevent this horrifying contingency, they must not be allowed to communicate with anyone, ever. Ostensibly, this fixation arises because FDWs are forbidden by law to give birth in Singapore, but in a country where contraception is freely available and abortion is perfectly legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, there’s clearly something else going on here, psychologically, with employers.

Human Rights Watch documents the results:

“I can write letters but I can’t make phone calls, I have to do it in secret. I’m not allowed to have a boyfriend. My employer wouldn’t like it, she would send me back to Indonesia.” …

Many domestic workers are forbidden from leaving the workplace unless they are in the company of their employer or, for those who are so lucky, on days off. Some domestic workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported being locked in their workplace from the outside. More commonly, domestic workers reported that their employers discouraged or prohibited them from talking to neighbors, other domestic workers, or to friends on the phone. …

Almost all of the domestic workers that Human Rights Watch interviewed were required to obtain permission to leave the household where they worked. Many domestic workers were not allowed out of the apartment unless they were in the company of their employer, even to go to the market.Some employers locked the phone so domestic workers could not use it during the day. …

“They would lock me inside the house with the baby. I was not allowed to make phone calls or send letters to my family. I wasn’t allowed to say anything or talk to the neighbors, I had to just keep quiet.” …

“If I left the flat to throw out the trash, I had to return in exactly three minutes.”…

“They don’t give me more off days, because they’re worried that I will get a boyfriend.” …

Singaporean progressive blog Barnyard Chorus also picks up on one employer’s – not unrepresentative – letter to the local papers, bemoaning the willingness of agencies to arrange the transfer to another employer of a FDW who appeared to have formed social relationships with men. The baffling idea that this ought to disqualify her from employment is remarkably widely shared.

Much of this racist abusiveness and dehumanisation is closely related to Singaporeans’ fear and anxiety over the country’s post-colonial survival. The national narrative has us plucked from the jaws of devastating poverty by good governance and hard work (both presented, with varying degrees of explicitness, as specifically Chinese virtues), and positions Singapore as a unique success story in a region of backward societies whose misfortunes are testament to, and constitutive of, the unreality and insignificance of their inhabitants. Thus, Human Rights Watch documents a case where an employer justified withholding wages for eight years of a FDW’s work with: “I’ve done a lot for you. Because of me, you got to breathe the air in Singapore. I gave you a luxurious life. Whatever we have done for you is enough.” In other words, because she came from a poorer country, slavery was the best she could legitimately hope for. Lee Kuan Yew, who was Prime Minister for 25 years from independence and whose son is now Prime Minister, has brandished maidhood as part of the ultimate threat to the nation’s well-being: if the 45 year-long dominance of the ruling party were to end, he cautioned, “your asset values will disappear, your apartment will be worth a fraction of what it is, your jobs will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people’s countries”.

I suspect that for many Singaporean women, abusiveness towards FDWs is also connected to fear and anxiety about our own place in society. Patriarchal attitudes simultaneously devaluing and gendering care work and domestic work are well-ensconced in Singapore, but the prevalence of FDWs staves off, to some degree, arguments about the role of Singaporean women in private and public spheres, by replacing the grossly undervalued labour Singaporean women would have been expected to do with grossly undervalued labour that foreign women are made to do. The hierarchy and unfairness remain in place; we’ve just changed the demographic on whom the worst burdens fall. Which is, of course, from a humanitarian perspective, little change at all.

We need a rethinking of existing ways, and an understanding that care work

and domestic work are work, and the people who perform this work, whomever they may be, should be accorded proper respect and status. Instead, we have imagined into being a hellish necessity: that there must be maids, who must be subjugated; and only by meting out the ill-treatment that defines this degraded role can we reassure ourselves of our own precarious superiority over it.


Although this is a particularly stark issue in Singapore, many of the forms of abuse and dehumanising attitudes discussed are also highly relevant to migrant domestic workers in the UK. Please read Kalayaan’s 2008 report (previously linked by The F Word here) to find out more.

Comments From You

Leonie // Posted 2 February 2010 at 8:59 pm

Thanks, this is one of the most interesting and perceptive pieces I’ve read about the employment of foreign domestic workers. I’ve previously encountered in a Middle Eastern context, where in Syria for example maids are often known simply as “srilankiyat” – regardless of whether they are Sri Lankan! I’ve often struggled to understand the abuse inflicted upon these women (it’s heartbreaking to see cases of FDW suicide come to light on an almost weekly basis in places like Lebanon) and it’s great to see a feminist analysis of the issue.

twasher // Posted 3 February 2010 at 5:03 am

Thanks for writing this. My mother was an inveterate verbal abuser of maids, and obsessive about controlling them, down to the number of biscuits they eat. She went to the extent of setting “traps” that would reveal if the maid had opened a biscuit tin or honey jar that she shouldn’t be opening. She regularly insulted their religion and, when she suspected one maid was lying, made her kneel down and “swear to Allah” that she was not lying. Needless to say, she was one of those who locked the phones, and whenever the maid received a phone call, would listen in to make sure nothing untoward was being said. She tried to keep track of the frequency and duration with which the maid talked to the maid next door, being paranoid about them engaging in “conspiracies” against their employers.

I have often wondered how children who grow up seeing maids treated this way by their parents can have any kind of respect for their parents’ moral authority. I certainly didn’t have any.

One worry I have about the postcolonial attitude explanation is that the same kind of maltreatment happens in Malaysia, even though Malaysians have less of a superiority complex with respect to their poorer neighbours. Do they have the same kind of national narrative we do? Or perhaps for Malaysia it might be the case that the households who can afford to hire maids have a narrative of succeeding against the odds through hard work, and this leads to a similar superiority complex vis-a-vis the poor.

Jolene Tan // Posted 3 February 2010 at 8:32 am

I’m glad you found it interesting. Singapore also has a version of the “srilankiyat” phenomenon, but in the reverse – all Filipinas are assumed to be maids. It caused brief media controversy once in the 90s where on a game show a contestant had to describe the word “maid” o that their partner could guess it, and said simply “Filipino”. When I was on my graduate course, a Filipino classmate also came up to me and said that another Singaporean on the course had called her a maid – presumably in the belief that this was somehow funny. It was mortifying.

Jolene Tan // Posted 3 February 2010 at 8:40 am


Thanks for sharing. With a lot of the forms of control and humiliation people engage in, I think it’s clear that what’s going on is more than simple anxiety about the maid’s job getting done.

I agree that the Singaporean post-colonial narrative can’t be what generates the abusive behaviour – I would guess that abuse emerges in any situation which combines power imbalance and simple human cussedness – but I believe it is one of the cultural features explaining how abuse is justified between Singaporeans and rendered socially acceptable. Which fortifies the power imbalance.

Jolene Tan // Posted 3 February 2010 at 8:43 am


I meant to add, I agree about the role of the notion of the “deserving rich” and the “undeserving poor” within nations too. I think Singapore’s superiority complex in the region is this writ large, and strengthened.

Joana Andrade // Posted 3 February 2010 at 11:50 am

I think what you call the post-colonial narrative comes as an excuse and justification for the abusive behaviour, it’s not a cause itself. In Portugal untill the 1970’s/ 80’s it was usual for middle class households to take in youg girls from rural areas as maids, we had similar behaviour (although not as generalized)

Jha // Posted 3 February 2010 at 12:43 pm

Wrt Malaysia, I must say, the answer is, YES, the situation and treatment of maids is similar. My family has given maids more leeway than most families I know of (one of our maids lived with her husband), but we Malaysians are horrendously racist towards Indonesians. We’ve even taken to hiring Indonesians more than Filipinas because the latter “cost more”.

Anne Onne // Posted 3 February 2010 at 6:07 pm

Thank you for this, it’s a good reminder of how othering and exploitation extends across nationalities and ethnicities.

Although the same can happen with women from the same country, it seems clear that being an immigrant (and often relatively isolated in a land that doesn’t value you as highly as those ‘native’ to it) plays into the control, as the employer can always threaten to attempt to have their hired help deported.

I don’t have much to add other than to say that, like you stated at the end, the UK is also not free of the problem of foreign workers being exploited for domestic services. I think it’s food for thought that although the ethnicities of the poor (usually) women being exploited vary from country to country, the ways in which this happens shows patterns suggesting that this is a global problem as much as a local one. It says something about all of our societies, and what it says isn’t very flattering.

Joana Andrade // Posted 3 February 2010 at 6:59 pm

just out of curiosity;

Is the abuse mainly woman on woman? are the abusers working outside their homes normally? Are they financially independent?

As you pointed, there seems to be a sexual undertone permeating all this. In the portuguese experience, one of the prevalent fears was the maid engaging in a sexual relationship or having a child with her master or the so called “sons of the house”, shifting the power relations within the household. Women perceived this behaviour as threatening and reacted by being abusive while men weren’t. I’m not familiar with the singaporean or the malaysian cultures to know if the same applies.

Brad F. // Posted 3 February 2010 at 7:30 pm

When I read the news piece about the maid being beaten for eating biscuits, I was disturbed but not really surprised. I’m from the US, where having a maid is something extremely rare and mostly unheard of unless you’re filthy rich. In my mind, the ability to have a maid is something that should be cherished, and you should be thankful and grateful to a person that wants to do that job for you.

So, when I see things in the news here about mistreatment, or hear or see online Singaporeans talking down to their maids, as if they’re misbehaving pets or malfunctioning tools, it seriously disgusts me. How do people get to this point? Where they feel justified in treating a human being like an object? These workers aren’t slaves and they shouldn’t be treated as such.

Lee Chee Wai // Posted 3 February 2010 at 7:39 pm

To me, the most basic problem is the failure to treat people as individual human beings. Imho, in Singapore, this failure is extensive and inflicts every level of society.

Employees in a company are inanimate digits of productivity. Women are reduced to the number of months they are “not productive” if they got pregnant instead of what should be the celebration of new life. Singaporeans are reduced to a population growth statistic that calls for foreign labor.

Statistics and numbers are important. However it just as important if not more to remember that these are fellow human beings we are dealing with. Whether local or foreign, whatever their rank in the social hierarchy. Until we learn to fix this, such social injustices will continue to be dominant.

I am lucky to be treated as an individual here in the US, at least at the local level. It does not matter that I am a foreigner. If I call the police, I am a resident in need of aid. If I need help from the University, they will go out of their way to find flexible solutions, even if they are not officially covered by the rules. Potential employers are interested in what I do outside of work and they are interested in what my idea of my own career is. I hate to say this, but I feel more like a complete human being here than when I was in Singapore, even though I’ve had it easy back home.

Jolene Tan // Posted 3 February 2010 at 10:15 pm


I’m not 100% sure about the demographics and I’m not aware of information being collected systematically on this, but I’m not an expert. Certainly anecdotally, and in the view of at least one activist I’ve spoken to who works with FDWs, it is mainly woman on woman, probably because local women are seen as responsible for managing the household work even if they aren’t the ones doing it.

The view that FDWs are sexual temptresses out to ensnare men in the families they work for is definitely part of the picture – in fact, FDW visas/regulations specifically forbid marriage between FDWs and Singaporeans or permanent residents. I tend to hear more chatter about the fear that FDWs will bring construction workers back to the home for sexual activity, but this is just an impression.

jonny // Posted 4 February 2010 at 6:10 am

I do not have a maid, although I am contemplating employing one. However, it worries me that I, or a member of my family, may turn into a maid abuser. I think these people in the news are not monsters; they are just regular people like you or me.

Having a maid is having a stranger in your house. The relationship is different than a normal employer-employee relationship. People who have maids are worried about the safety of their home and their young under the care of the maid. While arguably, every employer probably feels some similar anxiety about the trustworhiness of their employees, the situation is probably much worse when the stranger is in your house. I think a lot of people’s behaviour is due to some such anxiety.

This is not to justify the abuse. Rather, I am just saying that we should not be too quick to judge.

In the famous Stanford prisoner’s experiment, random groups of people are chosen to role-play as prisoners and wardens. It is found that people very quickly fall into their roles, with the prisoners starting to contrive plots and wardens starting to exhibit sadistic behaviour. Rather than judging the people involved, we should try to understand the complex social and psychological forces at play which bring about such undesirable outcomes.

Finally, I would like to suggest the following measures:

– employer education: many employees probably have no training in managing people, managing conflicts, managing stress, etc

– compulsory viewing of material such as No Day Off by Eric Khoo, to let employers appreciate the maid’s plight

– enforce periodic group sessions with employers and employees participating as equals, to voice issues.

Jolene Tan // Posted 4 February 2010 at 8:34 am


I have not said or implied anywhere that people who abuse maids are “monsters”. I agree entirely that everyone has an enormous capacity to harm others. The post I have written is, precisely, an examination not only of the ways in which abuse takes place, but also many of the cultural attitudes that encourage and enable it – i.e. the “social and psychological forces at play” to which you refer. And I think we should, absolutely, judge those cultural attitudes, the better to create a social environment in which they are not tolerated.

Regarding the anxiety that people feel about having an adult stranger in their home: the set-up – foreign woman living in a strangers’ home, where she may not even speak the language – also makes FDWs especially vulnerable by comparison to employees who do not live with their employers. Given the huge power imbalance in favour of the employer, if they are unable to be confident of forming a relationship in which they do not need to be controlling or disrespectful, they simply should not be hiring a FDW to begin with.

Crispina // Posted 4 February 2010 at 12:12 pm

Hello Joleen,

I am not sure if the theory about abuse is linked to fear and anxiety in a still patriarchal society.

I find that while women are by and large in charge of the household, something very significant is missing when it comes to managing this relationship. Most people I know simply adopt a position of superiority – after all – you are now in charge of someone. That someone, in the social hierarchy is lower than you. Once you assume this position, all other actions follow (restricting movements, deciding when they can eat, who they can see etc).

I think, really, it is as simple as that.

Whenever I hear of employers who say their maids can’t have day offs or want to limit their calls etc, I always feel like asking, how would you feel if your employer treated you that way? But then I hold my tongue, because it seems to be a completely pointless exercise.

Jolene Tan // Posted 4 February 2010 at 12:25 pm


Yes, but the content of social hierarchies is created out of gender, race, class, body etc. and other forms of discrimination. The attitude that domestic work and care work are the work of “inferior” people, or not real work at all, and the attitude that it is “women’s work”, are closely related – they feed into and reinforce each other. My argument is that female employers’ drive to constantly reinforce a social hierarchy in relation to their maids is connected to their own sense of their tenuous position in the wider web of hierarchies, including gendered ones. This doesn’t excuse any abusive behaviour – what it does is point to what sort of rethinking we need in order to claim the properly valued and respected status for domestic and care work that it deserves.

Tim // Posted 5 February 2010 at 6:06 am

“The national narrative has us plucked from the jaws of devastating poverty by good governance and hard work (both presented, with varying degrees of explicitness, as specifically Chinese virtues), and positions Singapore as a unique success story in a region of backward societies whose misfortunes are testament to, and constitutive of, the unreality and insignificance of their inhabitants.”

I agree with this completely. As a minority race Singaporean Eurasian I have to say that there is a stunning amount of ‘Chinese arrogance’ that permeates Singapore society. This frequently manifests through their treatment of other blue-collar workers of minority races such as Malays and Indians here. Just observe how an average Chinese ‘Tai Tai’ communicates with a Malay service staff at McDonalds or a ‘tow kay’ dad buying something expensive at some other retail establishment and you’ll get the picture.

A lot of the condescension shown towards maids in Singapore could very well be a more pronounced version of the way Chinese Singaporeans view minority races and the way Singapore achieved success, which some may feel was achieved “in spite” of those minorities. How often do you hear a Chinese person here bragging about the virtues of being an Indian or Malay?

When we can understand and accept that we have a stunningly obvious superiority complex, we can work at eliminating it. There are millions of intelligent and industrious people in the world who just never had a chance to reach their full potentials due to their highly corrupt governments or unfortunate geographical locations. We should be thankful most of us DID succeed to a large extent and try to spread that fortune instead of berating those that aren’t as lucky, especially if they are working in positions of service. Appreciate our fortunes instead of just exaggerating them to those who are in want of some.

In no way am I saying that Chinese are the only ones who ‘abuse’ their FDWs. Just that it appears more prevalent.

sheila // Posted 6 February 2010 at 2:29 pm

Most of the maids in Singapore live like virtual prisoner in their employer’s home, sleeping in converted toilet or storerooms. They earn a pittance for 6 days a week, often 18 hours work. The sad thing is that this sorry state of affairs is the norm in Singapore and no one would think about questioning it.

Anne Onne // Posted 6 February 2010 at 8:10 pm

@ Tim: I don’t know anything about FDWs in China, or whether their abuse is particularly prevalent in there. But I feel it always bears mentioning there’s no shortage of abuse of foreign workers in the UK. Some of the au pairs I’ve encountered have had where their employers absolutely took advantage of the fact their employee was a young woman from another country, often with limited English, and few places to turn to. Especially since people here are quick to turn on migrant workers as being the cause of their troubles. I found this discussion on Facebook to be an interesting take on how immigration can hurt ‘natives’ and immigrants alike.

I don’t want to derail the conversation, bit I feel that it’s too easy for us here to talk about other countries and societies having problems without so much as mentioning that we are not exempt. So often, it gets used as an excuse to assume we’re better/ ‘more civilised’ than everyone else.

Although I’m loving the fact that an issue like this can be discussed here without Western privilege filtering in too much. I do think that for people with workers, the kind of superiority Crispina mentions plays a part. Some people do seem to act quite differently when they are in charge of someone, especially if they don’t have to in turn answer to someone else. Given that these foreign workers often don’t have anyone to report to (especially if this abuse is widespread and accepted), the employer has less pressure to act in a humane way, especially if everyone else is doing the same thing.

I don’t think most people are actively malicious when they take advantage of foreign staff, but they are using their privilege against someone with less social status and nobody to take their side.

Robin // Posted 17 February 2010 at 3:09 pm

I’m also curious about this bizarre fear of one’s maid potentially having a boyfriend.

I’m not sure how common it is but everyone seems to know “someone” who “found photographs of the maid wearing the employer’s bathing suit taken in the employer’s master bedroom!” … with the implication there was a stranger in the house taking the pics.

Is this urban myth? It hear it all the time in SGP. How telling. It’s essentially an allegory for the fear of getting too close to the world these workers come from.

Jessica // Posted 26 March 2010 at 11:14 am

“God forbid anyone should have friends.”

Good call on that reply. I read a lot about people who act unreasonably towards their maids, and hear about cases from my own maid quite often as well. It’s sad that there are so many employers in Singapore who hold the mindset that maids are subhuman.

By the way, your essay treats “maid” as though it is a vile term – is “FDW” the more politically correct one then? I don’t think the word “maid” has demeaning associations, but please correct me if this is no longer true.

LKY // Posted 19 June 2010 at 5:24 pm

Singapore is a dictatorship that is run by LKY and his cronies and chinese chauvanism permeates to the lowest rungs of the society. They run the show with instilling fear into the chinese majority which behaves in certain way to keep the status quo by keeping their beliefs regading inferiority of other nations or peoples around them. Its shocking to say the least how the parents encourage such racist behaviour from childhood.

MaidInSing // Posted 20 July 2010 at 8:21 am

I am a maid in Singapore. Treatment is not always bad from employers but in too many cases it is.

When i first arrived i worked 17hrs a day for more than 420 days without a break. sent a pittance home to my family after debts and fees. second job i was constantly sexually harassed by male boss, he would openly masturbate in front of me.

Since then i have a good employer and learnt of my rights and started a blog on life as maid (www.maidinsingapore.net)

Would like to thank the writer of this article for helping to bring these issues to a wider audience.

i don’t care if ppl use the term maid or helper or FDW or nanny etc… i think there are much bigger issues at hand.

I also think that stories like the one about the photos in the bedroom are a massive exaggeration. it’s just an excuse to control the maids communications and time off one of biggest fears from employer is that maid should have boyfriend. there are so many stories like that.

Helen // Posted 3 August 2010 at 11:21 am

There is a great organisation decicated to mutual support for domestic workers:

http://www.kalayaan.org.uk/ I’m sure they would appreciate help from like minded feminists.

Charmaine // Posted 21 December 2010 at 9:24 am

Find out the facts first being criticizing yeah.

Hire a bad maid yourself and you will understand why.

I hired a “good” one, tolerated her attitude and only found out she wasn’t so good at her duties after she left. She lied about working for the previous employer for 1 year being coming to me. Reason for changing employer, she was abused. Turned out she worked a full 2 years for her previous employer.

If I am bad at my work and in my attitude, would my employer not disliked me and penalised me in some way. That doesn’t happen to FWDs.

Thanks to my FWD, my house was infested with cockroaches and ants. How do I know because I could not tolerate her anymore and I do not want to be a future maid abuser. I sent her back and when I cleaned up myself with a active 1 year old whom she has never has to take care, that was when i knew how bad she was at her job. I killed lots of ants on that day.

Read about how maids who abused the helpless family of their employers and employers who abused their maids.Read about the penalties on each. You would be surprised how a maid (adult) who abuse children/elderly (helpless, young, old) are not punished as severely as a employer (adult) who abuses a maid (adult and definitely not so helpless). Read about the laws regarding FWDs in Singapore.

Jolene Tan // Posted 22 December 2010 at 3:33 pm


Obviously an employer has every right to be dissatisfied with an employee’s performance. The abusive and dehumanising behaviour described in my post, however, are another kettle of fish altogether, and simply not within the bounds of reasonable responses.

Crystal N // Posted 29 November 2011 at 6:14 pm

Overall I like the article, but you have a few facts wrong…

While birth control is widely available and abortion is legal, FDW’s have no easy access to either.

1-Many doctors will not prescribe birth control pills for an FDW

2-Even if they did, the cost of the pill is very high relative to an FDW’s salary

3-While condoms are easily purchased, most FDW’s are poorly educated in safe sex practices, and there is widespread anti-condom sentiment, with the prevalent idea that using a condom means that you’re dirty. Most men refuse to wear them and few maids know/are willing to force the issue

4-Abortion is not available to FDW’s. There are a few doctors who are willing to do it even though they’re not supposed to, but the average cost of $800 SGD is equivalent to almost 3 months of average salary and greater than 1 month’s salary of even highly paid maids, therefore making it completely unavailable de facto

5-There is a worrisome trade in abortifacients among the maids, most of which are dangerous and do not work.

I’m a sex educator and I’ve spoken widely with my maid and her friends, trying to educate about safe sex and their rights as we’ve seen a number of my FDW’s friends get sent home because of a positive pregnancy test. As most of these women are married, getting sent home (particulary to the Philippines where abortion is illegal) is often a major issue as single moms are ostracized and unfaithfaul wives are often abused.

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