Misogyny, ‘mansplaining,’ and ‘caustic’ masculinities
In 2017, I was tasked to do a mapping of initiatives among various civil society groups and other nongovernment organizations to prevent or counter violent extremism (PCVE) in selected conflict-affected areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (then the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM). Such efforts were the “flavor of the times” in terms of generating international donor support.
Within a short time span, conferences and workshops on PCVE were held in almost every major locality in Mindanao, with anyone who had the desire to reap the benefits of high donor support participating as a future PCVE “implementer.” Almost every project that many civil society groups implemented, including livelihood programs, had a component on PCVE. Never mind if the said group knew next to nothing about “violent extremism” or understood what it meant, and how it has evolved over the years. (This topic deserves another opinion piece in the future.)
The mapping study also incorporated an extensive desk review on the different meanings, origins, manifestations as well as findings of previous studies on violent extremism. The main sources of data were key informant interviews among leaders of the more influential and stable NGOs and civil society organizations in both mainland and island Bangsamoro localities. It also delved into the historical roots of the related phenomena of terrorism and violent extremism in the Philippine and Bangsamoro context.
A year later, in 2018, UN Women collaborated with Monash University through its Gender, Peace and Security Centre for a study that looked at the “underexplored relationship between attitudes and practices indicating misogyny and support for violent extremism.” Quantitative and qualitative approaches were used to gather data in four different countries: Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Libya.
Findings of both studies pointed to the relationship of misogyny, here understood as “both fear and hatred of women and/or the feminine” attributes (Monash University/UN Women Policy Brief, 2019), as supportive of terrorism and violent extremism. Both studies showed that misogynistic attitudes among armed groups—whether they were local militias organized by the Philippine military, volunteers at the community level like the infamous Cafgu during the martial law years, or nonstate actors like terrorist gangs—have reinforced the normalization of violence associated with males, or with what I consider as “caustic” masculinities. Assertions of the supremacy of masculine roles can become caustic and corrosive of social relations, especially within the family and community.
On the flip side of the coin is the stereotypical depiction of women as “peaceful” and subservient, also constructing images of women and feminine identities as incapable of fomenting violence.
For more than three years under the Duterte presidency, misogyny has become one of the key defining elements of the President’s pronouncements, ruminations, and official statements during press conferences and briefings. Such high levels of derision against women emanating from no less than the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have become a wellspring of the pronouncements of his alter egos in the AFP.
Just recently, actress Liza Soberano had been “red-tagged,” complete with veiled threats, after speaking at a webinar organized by Gabriela Youth. After the furor was raised on social media, the concerned official, Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., denied red-tagging the actress, saying that he was quoted out of context, and that he was actually defending the actress against her bashers. Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas responded that Parlade’s statements were acts of “mansplaining,” i.e., men explaining to women in a condescending way.
The studies mentioned earlier pointed to misogyny as reflective of the behavior and attitudes of violent extremists and terrorists, nonstate actors, referred to in current social science literature as “merchants of violence.”
But what we are seeing now is that misogyny, “mansplaining,” even “caustic” masculinities also prevail among state security actors, with no less than the country’s top honcho as its main advocate.
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