A study investigating the construction of unemployed men's masculinity.
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In South Africa, the erosion of jobs in the formal economy, the increased role played by the informal economy in people's survival and the high unemployment rate are the main causes of chronic poverty. Between 40% and 50% of the South African population is considered as poor and 25% categorised as ultra-poor. As Von Holdt and Webster wrote (2005:31), "the restructuring of work has a destructive impact on society and social cohesion". This research is interested in finding what the consequences of unemployment on the construction of black men's identities are. The construction of African masculinity was shaped throughout the 20th century by the economic and social policies of the colonial and apartheid regimes. New types of masculinities emerged related to the capacity of African men to earn a salary through employment and provide for their families. This research looks at masculinities in times of economic hardship: how are African men constructing their masculine identities when work has historically been a defining variable of their manhood and that they are now deprived from employment? Do men still abide to the hegemonic norm that they are supposed to provide financially for their families or do they reject this patriarchal model and assert their masculinity differently? This research has found that unemployment and deteriorating working conditions have distressing consequences on men. Some pal1icipants expressed their need for political and economic freedom but abide to the nomlS of patriarchal masculinity and are therefore ashamed of their unemployed situation. Their obedience to this system oppresses them as they cannot provide for their families. They do not allow themselves to talk about their pain. They show self-hatred, lack of confidence, fear and uncertainty. Patriarchal masculinity marginalises them further. On the contrary, participants who have rejected the norms of capitalist patriarchy have a healthier sense of family and community. Although unemployed and unable to provide for their families, those men have refuted the hegemonic norms of masculinity and asserted their manhood positively. They are involved fathers and partners. They share responsibilities and decision-making power within their households. They are not depressed and anxious. Self-actualisation, love and ubuntu are the pillars unemployed men need to work with in order to overcome capitalist patriarchy and reconstruct masculinity. Reconstructing masculinity would not only benefit men but is also a necessity for gender equality.