Being a feminist researcher in the field can make it extra difficult to reach the information we hope to gain. While women aim to be in solidarity, share experiences or find solutions to their personal problems, men may seek to gain benefits.

Hand-held Fan // This is the fan which Vicky, a Filipino babysitter in Turkey, whom I renamed by changing her real name, has confirmed that it belongs to her and allowed me to both write about it and use the image, and about which she said “Yes, my boss gave it to me. It’s an unforgettable memory for me,” (Photo and Confirmation: March 7, 2022)

First of all, I must state that it has been quite some time since I wrote my master’s thesis focusing on the experiences of Filipino women in Turkey. In any case, this article is not directly related to the content of the thesis, but rather about sharing some of my notes on the field that are not reflected in the thesis, by interpreting them. I think we all agree that it is not possible to fit all the events into a thesis. But at least like many other feminist researchers who do field research, I have some field notes that I couldn’t write in my thesis and which I think very valuable. And I think that the time to brew this information in my saddlebag I obtained while I was “in the field” has expired and now it’s time to share. Because I find it very important to share our interactions with people whose knowledge, experiences and life stories we refer to, or whose lives we suddenly become involved in for our “research”. But the aim of this article is to confirm the existing information by sharing the difficulties faced by the “researcher” in this process, and what she feels, rather than repeating once again how important our “information sources” are in this interaction, or that our study cannot exist without them. Today, I tried to gather some of the notes I took during the study and with the feelings of the moment, and I am sharing it with you for the first time below. In addition, it is a rising trend of today that some ethnographic data, which are not reflected in the study itself, especially in social cultural anthropology, are generally reinterpreted and written by the researcher after the study is finished, and I think that as a feminist anthropologist, I should contribute to this by sharing some of my notes.

Re-thinking the notes I took about the events I experienced while I was “in the field” with the changing, transforming, perhaps developing gender perception even after a certain period of time shows us this: No matter what point of view we write, which method we use, no matter whose side we are on, there is no perfect research. However, if you are conducting pro-women research from a woman’s point of view, this is a situation that affects your research process even more. However, I would like to continue by suggesting that we keep this very general information in mind for now, emphasizing that feminist researchers, for example, are subjected to more psychological manipulation while they are “in the field”.

Power and hierarchy destruction through way of addressing

Femininity is imposed for the most part through an unremitting discipline that concerns every part of the body and is continuously recalled through the constraints of clothing or hairstyle. The antagonistic principles of male and female identity are thus laid down in the form of permanent stances, gaits and postures which are the realization, or rather, the naturalization of an ethic (Bourdieu, 2001: 27).

According to the long historical account of British anthropology, it was Malinowski’s field research in the Trobriand Islands -especially his 1922 Argonauts of the Western Pacific where he mentioned the method of field research- that revolutionized ethnography. In the previous “standard ethnographic research methods” -where the native was the sample to be measured, photographed, and interviewed- the social superiority of the researcher was consistently emphasized. Malinowski set up a tent in the middle of the village, learning the language and observing the local life directly 24 hours a day like an ordinary job, doing what “no European had done” until then, thus he changed everything (Stocking, 1992: 250). Annette Weiner (1976), on the other hand, went to the Islands years after Malinowski and discussed the lives of women in detail (di Leonardo, 1991: 9). I took the first step towards not having a hierarchical and power-based ethnography (in order to be persuasive in my own way that it is not hierarchical) by trying to give a certain sincerity when the Filipino women I met on the occasion of research mostly called me “Madame”. Then instead of “Madame” they were starting to call me either by my name or by you. Also, as a feminist researcher, I could misunderstand interview details and find myself unexpected places to interview. I will never forget, I went to Taksim instead of Kadıköy to meet with a Filipino woman we made an appointment the day before. We were both in front of the same store in different districts. Because I was confused with the district we agreed on, and then I went to her by the first ferry I could catch.

Considering my efforts to satisfy the curiosity of Filipino women I continue to contact, about my private life and how long I will study, it is quite meaningful on my part what happened to the Filipino sociologist Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, who I met thanks to the readings I made for my master’s thesis and who has always inspired me with her work. The curiosity of almost everyone I interviewed about my private life, which still continues, for some reason, reminds me the situation that happened to Parreñas, I encountered when I was reading her book Children of Global Migration: Transnational Families and Gendered Woes (2005: 1) a few years ago, which she describes as “gender trouble”:

“Male or female?” (Lalake yan o baba-e yan?) is a question I often hear passers-by say out loud when I pass by… I was born a biologically XX chromosome woman, and before doing research in the Philippines for this project, I had never questioned my gender identity or gender as differently from a woman’s… In the Philippines, I was mostly considered a man, or rather a trans woman, that is, a bean.

The endless question of the ones from Turkey; “Why are you studying Filipino women?”

Well, if I was trying to do research on Filipino women, what kind of Turkish was I? Looking back now, I can say that this was the focus of especially men, regardless of their profession, from all walks of life. Whenever and wherever, there was a man who heard that I was studying on the (low) paid labor of Filipino women in Turkey, he was judging me about “studying Asian women in Turkey” as if saying “wasn’t there any other issue to study”, or was saying I focused on “an issue that was not on Turkey’s agenda”. I still hear this from time to time.

Also, in most events where I came together with Filipino women, men who saw me at the meeting and who spoke Turkish and made nationality inferences for those around them who “did not look like Filipinos” asked me directly at the first opportunity if I was from Turkey or not, and if I was from Turkey, they were questioning me in haste about what kind of Turkish I was and what I had to do with them. However, the way most of them perceived me (which is directly related to the ancient racialized stereotypes regarding sexuality about Filipino women), both gestural and verbal, was as follows: “You must be the relaxed type”, “Where are you from?”, “You are open-minded”, “Then your father’s salary is high” … The truth is, I still don’t understand how they came to such a conclusion. Because there was no such thing and I was conducting the research with my own (im)possibilities. In other words, it was field research that was as economical as possible, and I expressed it very clearly from time to time when they needed to learn about it. Also, I would like to add here the question which was asked especially at dinner parties insultingly, “Do you eat their meals?” Let me answer this question once again: Yes, I eat and I love it. There are recipes that I sometimes try at home.

What if our “expectations” don’t match?

In addition, when we consider the impact of gender in this study, which I conducted as a feminist researcher, it can be seen that for the reasons such as female researchers are exposed to, for example, more psychological manipulation by men than male researchers or are exposed to especially men’s try to gain benefits beacuse of being woman, etc, it is very likely that the quality of our study will decrease more easily.

To put it plainly, while we aim to conduct research as researchers, we cannot always easily predict for what purposes the people we want to be the subjects of our research agree to participate in the research. For example, within the scope of a feminist research, women may seek solidarity, sharing experiences or finding solutions to their personal problems, while men may seek to gain benefits. We all know very well that gender affects research in many ways, particularly in reaching the people we want to interview, especially in studies including field research, and we talk about this situation a lot. This is also a situation where we encounter various kinds of difficulties. Being a feminist researcher out in the field can make it extra difficult to access the information we hope to gain, sometimes even they try to get more benefits from female researchers than from male researchers. Undoubtedly, in such a case, there may be various reasons for seeking to get benefits or being self-seeker. What happened to me in this case was mostly for “flirty” purposes.

Let me give an example: The next meeting never took place, as I did not respond to the ‘hidden’ expectation of one of the Filipino men of flirting, I interviewed for information. After all, since he could not find a response for flirting in the first place, even the next meeting was not like a classic “interview” where what he said was substantial or where I could get any information. Including another Filipino woman he introduced me, the three of us spent time in a bar in Beşiktaş and had a talk, but this conversation was overflowing with innuendos like “You need to get married now, someone needs to take care of you” even by that close friend. Even though we ended that day planning the next meeting, I never met with both of them again because they were not very willing. No one else has tried to gain such a benefit, but on this occasion, I have seen once again the importance of understanding who is “volunteer” to meet with what expectation in future meetings (this is where the concept of agency becomes important). Ultimately, this was one of the things I was pretty clear about. As a feminist researcher, I didn’t have to “flirt” with anyone to gather information “in the field”.

“Philippines” by day, “Turkey” by evening

Today, the classic Malinowski image of field research for standard anthropological practice (the lonely, white, male field worker who lives a year or more among native-born villagers) functions as an archetype (Stocking, 1992: 218). However, unlike this classical method, my field research was not in the form of going to a “distant” place and staying there for a certain period of time, instead of going to the Philippines, I was doing research “at home” within the scope of contemporary and feminist anthropology, focusing on the experiences of Filipino women in Turkey. I was usually attending all the events I could attend, even if it was late at night, when there was nothing I could do, I was coming back home. For this reason, I was hovering between two cultures (as required by the topic of the study) and of course I was faltering from time to time. Of course, I was trying to do a pro-women study from a woman’s point of view. But when I was applying this method of participatory observation, that is, I was shuttled between the district of Istanbul that received the most Philippine immigration and the district I lived in, it made me feel as if I was driving between two countries. Maybe we can base this feeling on many reasons and discuss it in another article at another time, but I think that this much is enough for now. What really matters here is not “whether anthropologists should work ‘abroad’ or ‘at home’, but the radical distinction between the two, which is considered as absolute and is equally underestimated” (Gupta and Ferguson, 1997: 15). As a feminist researcher, I believe that what I feel as I shuttle between the districts is ‘normal’, and I think that there is no sharp distinction, on the contrary, culture is often intertwined.

“Learn Chinese, Chinese!”

One of the Filipino women came to the meeting with her Turkish lover. The one who wanted to come was the man. Because he had been angry with her for trusting me and had come with her to see me. Yes, there is a clear allusion to these “had been”, “had come” sentences. The base of this allusion is exactly this: Interrupting (manterrupting) the words of me and the Filipino woman, whose knowledge I want to consult, to hear about her experiences, during the interview by her boyfriend, who imposed himself on the interview on the grounds of “security”. And he was constantly trying to change the focus in line with his own curiosity such as who I was, where I was from, why I wanted to do research on Filipino women, how much my father was earning, why he chose to be with a Filipino woman, who his previous girlfriends were, why his previous marriage didn’t work, how his ex-wife divorced him because of her womanizing, and the difference between his ex-wife and his numerous relationships with women from different ethnic groups and how “better” they were than his ex-wife, his plans for the future such as buying a land from Thailand and making a farm, etc. and he was almost dominating. “I bought that necklace,” he said, pointing to the neck of the Filipino woman. On the top of it, during the photo taking I requested at the end of the interview, he was saying things like “I bought her phone. It is very expensive. Let’s take the photos with it”. He was bragging about how he would bring the woman’s children from the Philippines to Turkey. He was also continually reproducing racialized gender stereotypes and constantly repeating how “clean, understanding, smiling, happy” Filipino women were through the Filipino woman that he almost never let talk and he was in relation with, and he was saying “that’s why I love her so much”. From the beginning to the end of the interview, I never forget how he imposed on me that I should learn Chinese, in such a way that I still cannot understand how he made the conversation come to this point.

Continuing search for “source of information” in dreams

I must have been so caught up in my research that I continued to do my research incessantly in my dreams while I was sleeping. For example, one night in my dream, I found the first Filipino woman who came to Turkey in one of Turkey’s five big chain stores, whose name I did not want to give, and convinced her to interview me. Of course, such a thing never actually happened.

Men sending countless friend requests on social media

As I said at the beginning, it has been a few years since I completed this study, but since the day I conducted the study, there is a male population both from Turkey and from different ethnic backgrounds, and mostly physically young and middle-aged (sometimes older) looking, continuing to send me friend requests from my social media account, where our ‘common friends’ are definitely a few Filipino women. Most of them text messages, send emojis, ask me to send my picture, or video call without hesitation, all with the desire to relate which is getting to harassment. I, on the other hand, use the method I know best to prevent harassment in such cases, and as soon as I see this population that sends friend requests, texts, and video calls on social media, I block.

Thus, I think it is important to understand this: This shows us that Filipino women in Turkey are/may be subjected to harassment on social media in similar ways. Already, the owner of the “learn Chinese” imposition I mentioned above was often complaining about these social media harassments while intervening in the interview, and he was stating that “he was uncomfortable with Turkish men sending messages and making indecent proposals to the Filipino woman he was in relation with” although it was clearly seen on social media that he was in relation with the Filipino woman I interviewed, and thus, I was personally witnessing the masculinity crisis he was experiencing because of this.

Filipino women whose short-term residence permit expires in Turkey become/are made more vulnerable to fraud in this process.

I witnessed such a fraud story long after I finished my thesis, but I cannot leave it out but mention it here as I am sure it is still up to date and they continue to defraud other women. Because this event, which I will briefly mention soon, reveals once again all the difficulties experienced by migrant women, who have been made more vulnerable during the multi-migration process, while struggling to survive in the countries they go to.

Filipino women whose short-term residence permits for work, residence and/or tourism purposes have expired, while trying to renew their work and residence permit, are defrauded by so-called businessmen who have made it their “profession” to take advantage of this situation of migrant women. To prepare documents for the so-called residence permit, they initially receive the entire processing fee in US dollars −including the women’s passports. Then, when the job is done, they never go to the place they agreed to meet. Although Filipino women soon realize that they have been defrauded, these Turkish “businessmen” take advantage of the plight of these women, whom they are sure cannot or even will be afraid to go to the police and who are defrauded without knowing each other, and thus these men find a way to make a profit. They specifically intimidate these women with deportation to make them not to demand the dollars they receive from women in the name of “processing fees”. And in the end, they somehow make these women, whom they are sure they at least want to get their passports back, give up the money they gave to take their passports, and so after a long and heavy time, they confiscate the money Filipino women paid in dollars and usually just give them back their passports. Unfortunately, many of these women are unaware that they have been defrauded in similar ways and often by the same people. Although some of them consult a lawyer to seek their rights, they cannot begin the process of filing a lawsuit because the fear of deportation outweighs. And through this kind of (masculine) fraud that takes advantage of the fear of deportation of Filipino women who are positioned as “illegal” migrant women in Turkey, women are once again forced to take a step back in claiming their rights.

A classic of feminist research ethics: The example of the forgotten hand-held fan

One day, at the end of a meeting with a Filipino woman in a cafeteria, I continued to sit down to take my notes after she left. We both burst into tears during the meeting, in which we chatted by talking about not pleasant but challenging issues such as the painful and multiple migration process, the long-lasting struggle to renew her permit after the expiration of the work and residence permit in Turkey, where she immigrated to work, all kinds of difficulties with her employers, her children, who stayed in the Philippines during this time and whom she had not seen properly for years, grew up without her. I remember that after talking to me, she had to catch up somewhere else immediately. Because she was in a hurry and a friend was waiting for her at the next table. We finished the meeting and she left. After she left, I thought it would be more appropriate to take my notes later because of the emotionality experienced during the interview.

After the interview ended, I started to write what was in my mind not to forget, and soon I realized that she forgot the old, hand-held fan that while sitting, she sometimes held and sometimes used to become cool because the weather was hot that day. I took the fan in hopes that I would meet again someday and give it back to her. Then I carefully put it in my bag so that it would not break. My respect and admiration for her increased even more when I looked at this rather old fan that she had forgotten on the table after that struggle-filled story. It was so old that it was impossible not to think that it had a memory, a sentimental value for her. Also, having such an old fan seemed like a clear indication of how veteran she was after that tragic immigration story. My opinion still has not changed.

As you know, it has been a long time, and even though I was keeping it believing that one day I would definitely deliver it, until I decided to write this article, the fan was completely out of my mind. The owner of the fan did not know yet that I had this fan she forgot. After looking at my notes and clarifying exactly who the fan belonged to, I asked her if she had forgotten a fan and confirmed: She had forgotten, yes. “Yes, my boss gave it to me. It’s an unforgettable memory for me,” she said, confirming that she had such a fan but didn’t know where it was. A few years had passed and I had only just written to her on this topic. I told her I could deliver it to her whenever she wanted and asked if I could both touch on this topic in this article and use its image. In fact, all the questioning effort here leads us directly to (self)reflexivity. And I put this into practice, thinking that what we call feminist research ethics is not just anonymizing the personal information of the interviewees while conducting research.

In summary, for this research, I applied a feminist methodology, seeing women as the subject of my research and trying to break down the hierarchy between the “researcher” and the “researched” rather than reproduce it. And I think that every research creates its own relationship dynamics, and I believe that researches conducted with a feminist consciousness and method are unique. In addition, I emphasize the importance of rethinking the impact of gender on both the research and the researcher through what we experience while collecting information “in the field”, the difficulties we may encounter, how we find solutions to the problems we encounter or how we try to prevent the problems, how we feel, how much we look out for our research and those who are the subjects of our research, while we are “in the field” how much we are tried to be manipulated, what kind of benefit expectations do we face, etc.


Bourdieu, Pierre. (2001). Masculine Domination. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

di Leonardo, Micada. (1991). “Introduction: Gender, Culture and Political Economy: Feminist Anthropology in Historical Perspective,” Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist Anthropology in the Postmodern Era, (Micada di Leonardo, ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1-48.

Gupta, Akhil., Ferguson James. (1997). “Discipline and Practice: ‘The Field’ as Site, Method, and Location in Anthropology”, Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science(Akhil Gupta ve James Ferguson ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1-46.

Stocking, George W. Jr. (1992). The Ethnographer’s Magic and Other Essays in the History of Anthropology. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Parreñas, Rhacel, S. (2005). Children of Global Migration: Transnational Families and Gendered Woes. California: Stanford University Press.

For the original in Turkish / Yazının Türkçesi için

Translator: Gülcan Ergün

Proof-reader: Müge Karahan



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