Title: Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars
Author: Kristin Hoganson
Year: 1998
Categories: Gender, War, Empire, Manhood, Gilded Age, Foreign Policy, Spanish-American War, Cultural History
Place: United States, Cuba, Philippines 
Time Period: 1895-1901

Argument Synopsis
Kristin Hoganson writes a cultural history of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars at the close of the 19th century through the lens of gender. Hoganson argues that debates over the wars revolved around issues of manhood and drew on a political culture of the "manly ideal of politics" during the period. Hoganson charts the shift in conceptions of manhood - from an older 19th century version that emphasized self-restraint and virtue, to one of physical prowess, militarism, and aggression. By the 1890s, many American men felt that American manhood was under assault from outside and within. As the Civil War generation aged, many felt that a new generation had come of age without any similar experience that would forge their manly virtue. The Depression of 1893 emasculated men who could no longer provide for their families, while others worried about the closing of the frontier as an opportunity for building manliness, or the deteriorating effects of "soft" urban life and white-collar jobs. Finally, the women's suffrage movement made women more and more visible in the political sphere, threatening what some men saw as their male prerogative. 

When Cuba rebelled against Spain in 1895, jingoists quickly took up their cause by portraying the revolutionaries as chivalric defenders (despite their non-white status) battling against a decadent and degenerate Spanish empire. With the sinking of the Maine in 1898, debate revolved around national "honor," and criticisms of President McKinley's hesitancy centered on his lack of "backbone" or manly confidence. With the entrance into war, some groups (especially wealthy northern "dudes" previously seen as effeminate) used the war to bolster their manly credentials. The short duration of the war and its seeming rehabilitation of manliness contributed to an enthusiastic embrace of imperialism in the Philippines, as imperialists broadened their gendered arguments to embrace not only military intervention to enhance individual men's manhood, but towards empire to bolster a maturing nation's manhood on an international stage. Filipinos were portrayed as child-like and feminized, needing the paternal guidance of a the American. The imperialists simultaneously cast themselves as virile young men who needed to break free of the constraining hold of an older generation - embodied by anti-imperialists who they described as doddering old women (ex. "Auntie [George] Hoar"). 

As the Philippine-American War progressed, however, anti-imperialists increasingly co-opted the language of manhood to argue that, far from bolstering masculinity, it was contributing to degeneracy of American men. Fears over war-time atrocities, venereal and tropical diseases, fears over race-mixing and miscegenation, and homosexuality all contributed to their argument that empire and bellicose militarism actually degraded manhood and made for bad citizens. Instead, they tried to reorient the definition of manhood back towards an older one that emphasized virtue, morality, and self-government (rather than imperialism). By 1902, the tide had turned against the imperialists. 

Key Themes and Concepts
- GENDER as the causal explanation for Spanish-American War
- "Manly ideal of politics" during late 19th century
- Manhood under assault - Depression of 1893, soft urban life, closing of frontier, assault from feminist reformers
- Jingoists portray Cuban revolutionaries as chivalrous defenders of honor
- Co-option of gendered language by anti-war movement - see Philippines as draining American manhood
- Older definition of manhood (self-restraint, virtue, principles) being replaced by more aggressive definition of manhood (physical prowess, military valor, honor)

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