Negotiating masculinities : studying risk behaviours associated with performances of 'coloured' masculinities

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The overarching aim of this thesis was to study masculinity roles and associated risk behaviours amongst a group of marginalised 'coloured' men from two deprived communities, one urban and one rural, in Cape Town, South Africa. To achieve this aim, the research examined two broad questions. The first question asked: What levels of conformity to masculinity norms are expressed amongst a sample of 'coloured' men from two communities in Cape Town and how are these are related to their reported levels of gender role stress and risk -taking behaviours? The second question the study aimed to address asked: In what contexts are marginalised 'coloured' masculinities performed and how do these shape 'coloured' men's subjective ideas about 'what it means to be a man'. The study employed a mixed method approach involving a questionnaire design as well as focus groups to address the research questions. Three hundred men completed questionnaires consisting of demographic and risk evaluation questions and three measures of male attitudes, namely the Male Attitude Norms Inventory-III (MANI-III), the Masculine Gender Role Stress (MGRS) scale and the Maudsley Violence Questionnaire (MVQ). In addition, fourteen focus group discussions were facilitated with 108 of the 300 men to elicit deeper meanings of marginalised 'coloured' masculinities and men's understandings of masculine roles. The quantitative findings of the study revealed that most men reported mild endorsement of traditional masculine norms. At a univariate level of analysis, men who endorsed masculinity norms were more likely to report an education level of less than grade 9; more likely to report stress associated with gender role performance failure, machismo, acceptance of violence and hostile sexism. Hostile sexism, however, emerged as the only predictor associated with conformity to masculinity. A thematic analysis of the qualitative data revealed that performances of masculinity included displays of hostile sexism, the use of violence and risk-taking behaviour. Further findings show that marginalised 'coloured' men's performances of masculinities were shaped by their contexts which included high levels of poverty and deprivation, prevalent violence against women and high levels of risky alcohol consumption. The key contributions of this study includes the fact that this study discusses 'coloured' masculinity in terms of how these men attempt to accomplish forms of masculinities in a marginalised context. This dissertation also expands the research knowledge on marginalised masculinities by studying a group of men that have not received much attention previously. The thesis also makes a relevant contribution to existing knowledge as it presents a range of findings that add to research on masculinities, risk-taking behaviour, race, gender-based violence and marginalisation. The study showed the continued relevance of the Sex Role Paradigm to understanding masculinity roles and norms. Furthermore, the study contributes to the existing knowledge on masculinity measurements as it used the first local masculinity scale and provided a revised version of this psychometrically sound masculinity tool for use amongst marginalised men.