- Masculinity, Media, and Their Publics in the Philippines: Selected Essays by Reuben Ramas Cañete
Masculinity, Media, and Their Publics in the Philippines: Selected Essays
Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2014. 216 pages.
How does one go about theorizing the construction of contemporary Philippine masculinities? What insights can we learn about ourselves—our postcolonial conditions, our neoliberalized disposition, our place in the circuit of the globalized market—through an examination of such constructions? In his book Masculinity, Media, and Their Publics in the Philippines, Reuben Ramas Cañete interfaces the problematic notion of masculinity in the Philippines and the political economy that enables, mobilizes, and is ultimately interrogated by such constructions.
Drawing on a cross-section of works of notable scholars on postcolonialism and globalization studies (such as Benedict Anderson and Arjun Appadurai), Marxism in the study of popular culture (such as Fredric Jameson, Raymond Williams, and Rolando Tolentino), and queer theory (such as Judith Butler and J. Neil Garcia), Cañete develops a critical analysis that interrogates the economic conditions and technologies of power that are complicit in the ways in which the male body is imagined and reimagined, coopted, and subverted. Cañete's collection of essays is not so much a descriptive commentary on masculinities, but a searing critique of how hegemonic apparatuses of contemporary political economy are given form through the deployment of masculinity within visual culture.
Cañete enacts this critique through eight essays that explore the various representations of contemporary Philippine masculinity. Admirably the essays are sequenced such that the attentive reader can see how one critical engagement leads to another. This rhizomatic interconnection is one of the book's strengths as it exposes the web of power relations that are the subtexts in the production of gendered and sexualized subjects.
The opening treatise on macho culture ("Revisioning the Macho: Masculinity in Philippine Visual Culture") is followed by a longer foray into the sexual politics of the macho within cinematic space ("The Macho Machine: Male Sexual Commodification of the Post-EDSA Period in Philippine Homoerotic Cinema and Video"). Particularly interesting is how Cañete strategically situates the homosexual politics in the films of Lino Brocka and Mel Chionglo within the political realities of these films' [End Page 391] milieu. He ties the appropriation of macho culture to, among others, the rise of videos in the 1980s, the influx of gay foreign tourists, and the presence of American servicemen. Having established the cultural power of the circulating cinematic text, he proceeds to the sexualized private spaces of pornography ("Sexscapes: The Spaces of Philippine Pornography"). This chapter differs from the previous discussions on macho culture not only in the choice of material but also in the way he directs his analysis. Cañete's focus here is on how pornography functions as a kind of political resistance. Pornography, as this is performed within private space, is an opportunity to reactivate individualized modes of masculinity as a resistance to "institutions [that] hegemonize individuals into obedient servants" (67).
The positioning of pornography as resistance prepares the reader for the book's second half, which engages overt public spaces ("Ang Gusto Kong Lalaki [The Man That I Want]: Bench Billboard Ads and the Male Body" and "Selling Manliness: The Supermall and Male-Oriented Consumerism in Selected Philippine Clothing Stores") and public figures ("Man[n]ly Spectacles: Manny Pacquiao and the Rise of the 'Postmodern' Pinoy," "From the Sacred to the Profane: Ritualizing the Oblation," and "Sacrificial Buyers: An Ethnography of Queer Publics and their Reception of the Oblation and the APO Oblation Run"). The themes of agency here are more apparent. Particularly impressive is how Cañete links the post-EDSA economic scene with the proliferation of retail shops to account for the rise of a new kind of masculinity and the shift in the viewing public's participation in meaning making. Such an accounting not only enriches the historicization of masculinity, but also opens analytic spaces for those interested in queer studies. This linking informs the problematic tension between the so-called "global gay" and the bakla vis-à-vis globalization. In these conversations, the term bakla...