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Examining Entrenched Masculinities within the Republican Government Tradition

44 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2011  

Jamie R. Abrams

University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

Date Written: September 21, 2011


“May all our citizens be soldiers, and all our soldiers citizens,” Sarah Livingston Jay toasted to revelers celebrating the Revolutionary War in 1789. She expressly conveyed what this article describes as the “foundational fusion” of republican government traditions coupling the military service of citizens-soldiers with male political citizenship. While the core of this fusion is deep, long-standing, and well-documented, this article explores the implicit tensions conveyed in her toast – the dominant masculinity dimensions of this foundational fusion. How do women and black men historically gain full political citizenship and effectuate republican government guarantees given its anchoring in entrenched dominant masculinities?

Examining the masculinities dimensions of the foundational fusion, this article concludes that entrenched masculinities persist within the republican government tradition – even in its post Reconstruction rebirth – absent full military integration, rendering both the republican government clause and the voting amendments relevant to military integration.

Masculinities, the study of how men relate to each other and construct their identity, have historically been unexamined within our legal and social institutions, even as they profoundly shape institutions, histories, politics, and human relations. Masculinities scholars examine how manhood and masculine relations in America have shaped history, institutions, and social order over time, exploring the changing visions of “ideal” masculinity throughout history and the competing constructions of masculinities that challenged the normative ideal (characterized as dominant and marginalized masculinities). Masculinities scholarship has revealed transformational moments during which American masculinities were in crisis as men reinvented and redefined themselves, often aligning – this paper concludes – with shifts in the foundational fusion of military service and citizenship.

The citizen-soldier tradition fused, not just military service and citizenship, but masculinities squarely within the republican government tradition. Men engaged in collective self-defense, therefore they self-governed. Exploring the masculinities dimensions of the republican government tradition necessarily positioned historical enfranchisement struggles for women and for black men to challenge the foundation of republican government and dominant masculinities itself. The Civil War yielded precisely the seismic shifts necessary for enfranchisement as it transformed masculinities, military service, and citizenship, and therein the republican government tradition to which they were fused. Reconstruction destabilized longstanding dominant masculinities and shifted military service to a duty of national citizenship, weakening its local performative function in all regions and abandoning it in others. Yet it also revealed that “bullets for ballots” was still the driving catalyst for political rights and that entrenched masculinities persist in political citizenship.

This paper uses masculinities analysis to challenge the Nineteenth Amendment’s eulogistic treatment today, concluding that it cannot be understood without positioning it in its broader constitutional context of citizenship. If military service was constructed in the republican government tradition symbiotically with voting and as an expression of masculinities, then military integration remains essential to equal citizenship today. Revealing the masculinities dimensions of the suffrage movement against the historical backdrop of the morphing foundational fusion suggests that military integration is not just about individual rights, but it is necessary to fulfill republican government guarantees, to eliminate vestiges of coverture and separate sphere ideologies, and to decouple masculinity and citizenship.

Suggested Citation

Abrams, Jamie R., Examining Entrenched Masculinities within the Republican Government Tradition (September 21, 2011). West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 114, No. 1, 2011; Hofstra Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-25. Available at SSRN:

Jamie R. Abrams (Contact Author)

University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law ( email )

Wilson W. Wyatt Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
United States

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