An exploration of young men’s understanding of manhood and manliness: Wembezi township.
Hlophe, Samukelisiwe Lily.
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This study aimed to describe the identities of manhood and manliness according to the young men of Wembezi Township through qualitatively collected interview data. It also aimed to identify meanings attached to manhood and manliness by the participants. The study employed the concept of hegemonic masculinity as a theoretical lens for interrogating the construction of manliness and manhood in Wembezi Township. Fifteen young men aged between 18 and 25 were recruited using a purposive sampling strategy. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and analysed thematically. The research findings revealed that manhood and manliness among young men in Wembezi is primarily understood in terms of ‘man’ as the breadwinner, provider, and head of the family. However, the study found that there was no uniformity in the young men’s conceptions of manhood, as certain ideals upheld by some young men conflicted with those held by others. There was also a significant level of ambivalence between participants in these findings which supports the general perception and notion that the concept of manhood is fluid, unstable and multiple. This was seen in behavioural patterns, views and attitudes of the men to portray particular masculinities, such as strength in the face of illness, which at the same time posed challenges to the construction of masculinities. Social institutions such as schools and family homes emerged both as significant sources of and platforms for the construction of manhood identities and manliness in Wembezi Township. It is recommended that male gender construction and practices that promote and reinforce hegemonic masculinities be investigated further in order to better understand the phenomenon.