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Hegemonic Masculinity/Masculinities in South Africa: Culture, Power, and Gender Politics

Morrell, R., et al. (2012). “Hegemonic Masculinity/Masculinities in South Africa: Culture, Power, and Gender Politics.” Men and Masculinities 15(1): 11-30.
The concept of hegemonic masculinity has had a profound impact on gender activism and has been taken up particularly in health interventions. The concept was part of a conceptual gendered vocabulary about men which opened up analytical space for research on masculinity and prompted a generation of gender interventions with men. Academic work focused primarily on relations between men, to the neglect of relations with women, while paradoxically acknowledging the power that men had over women. Interventions that drew on theories of masculinities focused on the content of hegemonic masculinity, identifying hegemony with oppressive attitudes and practices. Hegemonic masculinity was considered singular and universal, with little acknowledgment given to research-based work that argued for a model of multiple hegemonic masculinities. An unintended consequence of efforts to promote gender equity through a focus on men and hegemony has been a recent popular discursive backlash. In this, Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema, presidents of the African National Congress (ANC) and the ANC youth league respectively, have sought to valorize an African masculinity that is race-specific, backward-looking, and predicated on the notion of male superiority. In this article, the authors argue that the concept of hegemonic masculinities retains a utility in both scholarship and activism but that its use needs to be located within a broader gendered understanding of society which in turn needs to confront race and class-based national realities.


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