Navigating Masculinity

Peer Relations and Violence among Eight- to Nine-Year-Old South African Schoolboys

in Boyhood Studies
Author:
Diloshini Govender PhD, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa dilogovender@gmail.com

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Deevia Bhana Research Chair, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa bhanad1@ukzn.ac.za

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Abstract

To understand how eight- to nine-year-old South African schoolboys construct hegemonic masculinity, this article focuses on their peer relations to emphasize the multiple ways through which masculinity is produced. We found that these schoolboys reinforced and challenged hegemonic masculinity by using violence as a means for dominance. However, we also found that boys sometimes subverted hegemonic masculinity. We argue here that violence is not an inevitable outcome of masculinity, as it depends on the nature of peer relations—how boys get on with other boys and girls—as well as on evolving social and policy norms. The ability to subvert masculinity, however, is not separate from hegemonic ideals that see the feminine and female as subordinate. We conclude that masculinity is context-dependent and contradictory, and that addressing masculine norms in early childhood is therefore crucial for fostering nonviolent gender relations.

Contributor Notes

Diloshini Govender completed her PhD in 2022 at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her research interests are young masculinities, race, class, and schooling. She has published in Men and Masculinities, NORMA, and the International Journal of Educational Research. Email: dilogovender@gmail.com

Deevia Bhana is the DSI/NRF South African Research Chair in Gender and Childhood Sexuality at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her research focuses on children, gender, young masculinities, sexualities, and young people. Her latest authored book published, by Routledge in 2023, is entitled Girls Negotiating Porn in South Africa. Email: bhanad1@ukzn.ac.za

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