The construction of egalitarian masculinities in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal.
Rankhotha, Charles Sylvester.
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The political, historical and legal changes, which have taken place in our country since 1994, have challenged men and women to learn anew, to readjust and embrace change. Men and women have been forced to reexamine gender relationships and to embrace a new culture of 'gender equality' , which is enshrined in the Constitution. However, the idea seems to have taken some men by surprise, especially those who are comfortable in their hetero-patriarchal masculinity, which dominates and oppresses women and children. For this reason, these men have not only shown disappointment at this apparent loss of privilege, but they are also becoming confused about their masculine identity. In their attempt to try and hold on to hetero-patriarchal culture and to keep women in their 'rightful' place, they appeal for the restoration of the by-gone traditional values of ubuntu, which are largely informed by the same hetero-patriarchal culture. Above all, in their frustration and anger, these men have resorted to violence in which they abuse and rape women and children, whom they apparently blame for their loss of patriarchal masculinity. However, despite the fact that not all men are heterosexual, men as a group have been blamed for the prevailing violence and the attitudes which foster it. My research conducted for the purpose of resolving gender-based violence and finding an alternative masculinity among black men in the Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal, demonstrates that, despite their collective socialisation in the patriarchal culture of aggression, abuse and violence, some gay men tend to choose different values and forms of masculinity that depart from the 'normal ' culture , by embracing values of love, nurturing, and care for others. Unfortunately, South African communities have not always been able to appreciate gay masculinities and their contribution, but instead, they have condemned and ostracised them as un-African and traitors to ubuntu values . Thus, in my analysis of the life-histories of a group of ten black heterosexual and gay men, I highlight the positive contribution of some marginalised gay men, who are forging what I believe is a more egalitarian masculinity, characterised by qualities opposed to the aggressive, dominant and potentially violent nature of patriarchal masculinities. In brief, I argue that, in striving for gender equality and an end to violence against women and children in South Africa , heterosexual men must be challenged to focus on themselves and learn new ways of behaviour from the kind of egalitarian masculinity constructed by the group of gay men studied.