A Version of “Fag Hag” in the Philippines?

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”.

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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.

References:

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.

 

Shattering the “Gay Friend” Glass

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Recently I found myself out to lunch with a good reporter friend of mine when the Gay Friend glass shattered. We were talking about a good (and gay) writer friend of mine. My reporter friend asked, “Is he the one you met on set last summer?” The answer was no, he was referring to another good (and gay) model friend of mine. “Is he the one you went to high school with?” Wrong again. “Is he the one you took to Bass Hall a couple of months ago?” Nope, though a good guess, since the friend in question has accompanied me to Bass Hall before. The reporter looked at me for a moment and said, “Huh. You really have a lot of gay friends, don’t you?”

Well, my word. It’s not like I turn down friends because I’ve met my gay quota.

The reporter went on to explain that most women have one Gay Friend, or perhaps a Gay Friend that’s been upgraded to a Gay Husband. That’s when the glass shattered for me. He was absolutely right. Women tend to have one Gay Friend, a fact I had previously never questioned. He asked how many Gay Friends I have and I had to stop and think. It’s not like I’ve ever counted. Why should I have?

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This discussion at lunch was especially interesting to me since the reporter friend himself is also a “Gay Friend” of mine, not that I ever think of any of my friends with this title. Sadly, many women do. Why? For some, it is more of a status symbol than a friendship. These women feel trendy if they have a Gay Friend. In fact, I’ve known several women who actively seek the friendship of gay men simply for the sake of having a Gay Friend, the kind of social accessory that puts women in the Women Who Lunch category. One particular woman I know tried desperately to get her very own Gay Friend, but firmly (and publicly) sided with Chick-fil-A during the scandal last fall, thus severing ties with the Gay Friend she fought for so valiantly. When you see a friend as an accessory to your societal outfit, what happens when the seasons change and that style is no longer en vogue?

 

Readers of GayStraight.com, I ask you this: just how progressive are women who have one token Gay Friend? When we have friends for the love of their friendship – no matter if they’re straight or gay, male or female – then we’ll really be getting somewhere.

Katie-Rose Watson is a publicist in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and creator of The Rose Table.