Understanding young Christian religious men's constructions of masculine identity.
“Understanding young Christian religious men’s constructions of masculine identity” This study aims to address the question of whether and how religious belief, affiliation and identity impacts on young men’s construction of masculine identity. Looking at how young men construct a socially acceptable masculinity, it explores how they position themselves in relation to this socially normative hegemonic masculinity. Alongside this, the study looks at whether and how young men construct alternative versions of masculinity and how a religious identity impacts on the young men’s masculine identities. Participants in the study (N=5) were all young men ranging in age from 18 to 25 years old, and all held a strong religious affiliation. Through a series of in-depth interviews, the participants gave their accounts of what it means to be a man in their lives, giving examples of how they both accepted and rejected the social norms of masculinity, as well as describing how their religious affiliation impacted on their lives. A common version of hegemonic masculinity was identified by the participants, characterised by male authority, emotional stoicism and symbolised through physical strength and material possessions. But alongside this the participants identified alternate versions of masculinity that tended to oppose hegemonic ideals. There was a strong focus from the participants on the impact of their religious affiliation on their masculine identity, with religious values taking precedence when in conflict with a hegemonic identity. It was found that the participants tended to perform a hybrid version of masculinity, with a hegemonic and religious identity existing in parallel. This new version of masculinity is argued to be an alternative version of a hegemonic masculinity that has emerged in response to their religious identity, and is consistent with other gendered developments in the South African context.