Constructions Of Masculinity In Postcolonial Africa Essay

Length: 4 pages Sources: 1 Subject: Healthcare Type: Essay Paper: #95906486 Related Topics: Construction, Homophobia, Indonesia, South Africa
Excerpt from Essay :

¶ … Postcolonial) Man:

Postcolonial Masculinities in the 20th and 21st Centuries

"Can't understand/what makes a man." While feminists have noted how masculinity is often considered a problem or as inherently fragile, the construction of masculinity has often proved to be particularly vexing in postcolonial nations. Both male and female colonial subjects have frequently been rendered as 'feminine' to justify their subjugation. The response in some regions, particularly Africa, has been the hyper- masculinization of resistance and the association of traditional gender binaries with traditional African culture. One of the central challenges of post-colonialism in an African context is to allow for feminine and masculine voices which resist such gender stereotyping.

As observed by Morrell (1998), masculinity is not a self-evident, cross-cultural construct any more so than femininity. "Masculinity is a collective gender identity and not a natural attribute. It is socially constructed and fluid. There is not one universal masculinity, but many masculinities."[footnoteRef:1] In the South African context of apartheid, for example, masculinity became associated with the articulation of the self through violence as a means of resistance. Defining one's self as a man versus a boy was vital as a way of asserting one's rights. Using 'boy' to refer to a grown man has often been a way to denigrate black men.[footnoteRef:2] The problem arises, however -- if an assertion of one's manhood is deemed an essential part of the resistant, postcolonial identity, does this leave women in a position of inferiority? [1: Robert Morrell, "Of Boys and Men: Masculinity and Gender in Southern African Studies." Journal of Southern African Studies, 24. 4 (Dec., 1998). p.607.] [2: Morrell, p. 616]

Morrell blames colonialism for schematic understandings of masculinity, including the anti-gay prejudice evident in many African nations: "Colonialism brought Victorian prejudices to


It also provided in the new towns, opportunities and spaces for the increase of homosexual liaisons."[footnoteRef:3] Interestingly enough, however, such prejudice has often proven to be more difficult to eradicate in African versus developed world contexts in the 21st century. Epprecht (2005) has argued that this is due to fears of public embarrassment and transgressions of the superficial, surface idea of masculinity in postcolonial contexts: "This fear of the public transgression of sexual norms (rather than of the sex acts themselves) is more accurately termed transphobia than homophobia or heteronormativity."[footnoteRef:4] [3: Morrell, p. 621] [4: Marc Epprecht, "Black Skin, 'Cowboy' Masculinity: A Genealogy of Homophobia in the African Nationalist Movement in Zimbabwe to 1983," Culture, Health & Sexuality, 7. 3 (May, 2005), p. 253. ]

Epprecht likewise blames European fears about 'buggery' becoming public knowledge (despite its existence in the private sphere) for the stickiness of this prejudice in contemporary Africa. African's supposed sexual casualness combined with the low numbers of white women only intensified British condemnations of same-sex desire. Worries about prostitution amongst African women combined with the practice of men taking "boy wives" while away from their families working with cities intensified the perception that masculinity was under threat.[footnoteRef:5] The "new ways of signifying or performing social manhood, including through sports, through ostentatious consumption of European products such as soap and liquor, and through achievement in the White man's terms (school, church, police, master farming, and so on)" ironically accepted white constructions of masculinity, including the idea that heterosexuality was superior and privileged.[footnoteRef:6] The hard and dangerous work African men frequently engaged in, in mines and towns, demanding physical labor and the loss of traditional…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Epprecht, Marc. "Black Skin, 'Cowboy' Masculinity: A Genealogy of Homophobia in the African Nationalist Movement in Zimbabwe to 1983." Culture, Health & Sexuality. 7. 3 (May, 2005): 253-266.

Lee, Doreen. "Styling the Revolution: Masculinities, Youth, and Street Politics in Jakarta,

Indonesia." Journal of Urban History, 37 (2011): 933.

Morrell, Robert. "Of Boys and Men: Masculinity and Gender in Southern African Studies."

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