Representations and constructions of masculinity among male university students : an explorative study.
This research project aimed at exploring how masculinity is constructed and performed amongst young men who are students at University of KwaZulu Natal. This study was part of a larger SANPAD funded research project on South African masculinities. Seven participants between the ages of 18 and 25 were recruited from this institution; four Black, two White and one Coloured. Participants were given a disposable camera and were instructed to take photographs under the caption: “What is it like to be a young man in South Africa today”. A focus group discussion was conducted with the participants to explore constructions of masculinities based on the photographs they had taken. Photographs were analysed using content analysis and the focus group interview was analysed using thematic analysis. For the purpose of analysis, the 36 photographs were placed into 5 categories which were people, manmade objects, natural objects, animals and people and manmade objects. Content analysis revealed that the most common themes for the photographs were of cars, smoking, sports, drinking and women. Analysis of the themes from the focus group discussion revealed that the participants in the study had a clear understanding of how young men need to perform masculinity. In this regard they gave the following examples; young men play sport, young men drink, young men smoke, young men need to seek and attain success and respect, young men engage in heterosexual relationships, young men take responsibility, young men fight when the need arises and young men take initiative. The young men in this study drew on many strategies in constructing their masculinity, but mostly the strategies of hegemonic masculinity including compulsory heterosexuality, physical strength, violence and being a breadwinner. Race was an important factor in the construction of masculinity, particularly in sexuality and sport. Masculinity, it seems, is complex and is affirmed by other men. Young men who appear to have achieved a successful masculine identity amongst their peers are those who are successful financially and within the arena of sports, those men who are independent, reliable, strong and successful in their sexual prowess. These examples of the performance of masculinity echo the concepts of various masculinities, especially hegemonic masculinity. The findings of this study were examined from the perspective of various theories of masculinity, particularly the work of Connell.