There have been a number of stereotypes in modern media and popular culture that characterize women who associate regularly with gay men. Although past literature has suggested that women who hang out with gay men are perceived as unattractive and craving male attention, many other media sources depict these women as being gregarious, attractive, and liberal-minded. While women who frequently associate with gay men are often seen in American culture, similar groups of women are being noticed in the Philippines. In America, people term these women as “fag hags” and “fruit flies”, however in the Philippines, these women are referred to as “Babaeng Bakla”.
A recent study conducted in the Philippines explored the unique traits that set apart “Babaeng Bakla” women from other Filipino women1. Psychologists in the Philippines recruited thirty-nine self-identified “babaeng bakla” straight women and had them answer a number of personality measures. The results revealed that “babaeng bakla” women scored differently on these measures compared to other Filipino women: “Babaeng bakla” women scored higher on personality traits related to “Openness” and facets related to “Extraversion”. Specifically, “babaeng bakla” women had higher scores on measures of (1) assertiveness and (2) excitement-seeking. The authors of the study suggest that women who associate with gay men in the Philippines may be more likely to be open to diverse ideas, seek out stimulating situations, and be more socially dominant (i.e., enjoy leadership roles).
In the second part of their study, the psychologists recruited 35 more “babaeng bakla” women and 57 non-“babaeng bakla” women, and these two groups of women were compared based on indigenous traits relevant to Filipino culture. Again, “babaeng bakla” women exhibited different personality traits compared to non-“babaeng bakla” women. Particularly, women who were considered “babaeng bakla” tended to be more outgoing, gregarious, cheerful and humor-oriented, and vocal and talkative.
Together, this research suggests that women who associate with gay men in Filipino culture (i.e., Babaeng Bakla, or the Filipino version of a “fruit fly”) share a particular set of personality traits that set them apart from non-“babaeng bakla” women. Moreover, this study provides evidence that the unique bond that straight women share with gay men exists across cultures.
1. Torre, B. A., & Manalastas, E. J. (2013). Babaeng bakla: Friendships between women and gay men in Philippines. Philippine Journal of Psychology, 46(2), 149-163.