Masculinity in the Philippines

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philippine studies
Ateneo de Manila University • Loyola Heights, Quezon City • 1108 Philippines

Philippine Commonwealth and Cult of Masculinity

Alfred W. Mccoy Philippine Studies vol. 48, no. 3 (2000): 315–346 Copyright © Ateneo de Manila University Philippine Studies is published by the Ateneo de Manila University. Contents may not be copied or sent via email or other means to multiple sites and posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s written permission. Users may download and print articles for individual, noncommercial use only. However, unless prior permission has been obtained, you may not download an entire issue of a journal, or download multiple copies of articles. Please contact the publisher for any further use of this work at philstudies@admu.edu.ph.

http://www.philippinestudies.net Fri June 27 13:30:20 2008

Philippine Commonwealth and Cult of Masculinity
Alfred W. McCoy

In the imperial age, the military shaped society to suit its peculiar needs. Modem armies are complex, costly institutions that must ramify widely to mobilize the vast human and material resources their operations require. Since the armed forces demand the absolute obedience and, at times, the lives of ordinary males, the state often forms, or reforms, society's culture and ideology to make military service a moral imperative. In the cultural encounter that was empire, colonial armies proved as surprisingly potent agents of social change, introducing a major Western institution, with imbedded values, in a forceful, almost irresistible, manner. As powerful, intrusive institutions, modem armies transformed cultures and shaped gender identities, fostering rhetoric and imagery whose influence has persisted long after colonial rule. Above all, these armies, colonial and national, propagated a culture, nay a cult of masculinity. Recent historical research has explored the ways that rising European states reconstructed gender roles to support military mobilization. To prepare males for military service, European nations constructed a stereotype of men as courageous and women as affirming, worthy prizes of manly males. In its genius, the modem state-through its powerful propaganda tools of education, literature, and media-appropriated the near-universal folk ritual of male initiation to make military service synonymous with the passage to manhood. Not only did mass conscription produce soldiers, it also shaped gender roles in the whole of society. Modern warfare, as it developed in Europe, was the mother of a new masculinity propagated globally in an age of empire through colonial armies, boys' schools, and youth movements. As a colony of Spain and America, the Philippines felt these global cultural currents and provides an apt terrain for exploration of this

PHILIPPINE STUDIES

militarized masculinity. Like the other colonial states of Asia and Africa, both powers controlled their Philippine colony with native troops led by European officers, an implicit denigration of the manliness of elite Filipino males. For the all-male electorate of the American era, Filipino nationahm thus came to mean not only independence but, of equal importance, liberation from colonial emasculation. Over time, a cultural dialectic of the colonial and national produced a synthesis with symbolism and social roles marked by an extreme gender dimorphism. When Filipino leaders finally began building a national army in the 1930s, they borrowed the European standard of military masculinity with all its inbuilt biases. By exempting women from conscription and barring them from officer's training at the Philippine Military Academy, the Commonwealth exaggerated the society's male/female polarities. Once set in 1936, these military regulations and their social influence would prove surprisingly persistent and pervasive. It would be nearly thirty years until the armed forces recruited their first women soldiers in 1963; and another thirty years after...
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