Julz E. Riddle
Waseda University, Japan
In 1943, Japanese propaganda called widely for the cooperation of women across all occupied territories for the success of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere (GEACPS). This campaign was met with unusual tension in the Philippines which, according to Gen. Masaharu Honma of the Japanese 14th Army, showed an “excessive esteem toward the weaker sex”. This criticism of the Filipino woman was shared by many Japanese assigned to the Philippines at the time, and prompted several speeches, writers' forums, and articles across major publications debating the issue of the Filipino woman—to what ideal should she be held, in light of the Philippines' return to a more Oriental culture under the GEACPS? This paper examines not only the gendered language by which Japanese propaganda aimed to bring back Filipino women into the Sphere, but also (and more importantly) the ways in which Filipino women responded to this call. Through this, the study aims to trace how Filipino women understood this “Oriental” nature and saw themselves in relation to the Sphere, and to exhibit how idealized womanhood served as a fulcrum for Japanese propaganda’s back-to-the-East campaign by bringing the Filipino woman back to her conservative, “Eastern” roots. Scholarship on the GEACPS thus far has not been scarce, but has also been the history of a handful of powerful men. This study hopes not only to bring a local and feminine perspective into the dialog on Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, but also to stand in contrast to the narrative of the liberal West saving women from the conservative East.