Women Are Good with Money:
The Impact of Cash Cropping on
Class Relations and Gender Ideology in
Northern Luzon, the Philippines
The Igorot say, “Women are good with money. ” 1 From bank managers to moneylenders, from small vendors to regional vegetable dealers, from tiny shops to national and international enterprises, women dominate the Cordillera economy, and gender ideology justifies this dominance. 2 This situation runs counter to the frequent assumption that women lose out in the process of capitalist or market development. Starting with the work of Henry Lewis Morgan (1907) and Friedrich Engels (1972) and reinterpreted in the highly influential work of Boserup (1970), there has been a dominant thread of research that argues that the introduction of capitalism and of capitalist agriculture has a detrimental effect on the status of women and gender relations.
This assumption of a universal impact has grown out of the experience of implementing development programs. From a modernization perspective, the assumption was made that women would benefit equally from any economic and social transformations from traditional to modern society. However, this perspective has often led to adoption of “formulas, ” “development blueprints” (Roe 1991), and “add women and stir” interventions, rather than to good, locally grounded projects.
The Marxist dependency critique of the modernization approach was based on similar assumptions that women would share equally in any benefits from the transformation of class and dependency relations. The depressing experience of women in communist countries and in newly liberated states such as Mozambique showed that equality for women would only come from action targeted at transforming gender relations; understanding preexisting gender relations was critical to developing effective interventions (Rathgeber 1990; Kabeer 1994).