How to change boys' perception of what it means to be 'a real man'


50 days ago

Woman's day is on 9 August and Women's Month is necessary because of men and the shocking statistics of violence, femicide and domestic violence perpetrated against women in South Africa.

Terms like ‘toxic masculinity’ have entered our vocabularies in recent years but how is society addressing this in a meaningful way?

How do we change patterns of behaviour entrenched over centuries?

Refilwe felt it would be useful to hear from men working in the area of understanding these patterns and how to do the work as men to bring about change.

Refilwe speaks to professors Malose Langa, in the Psychology, School of Human and Community Development at the University of the Witwatersrand and Kopano Ratele, director of the Masculinity and Health Research Unit about masculinity and raising upstanding men.

Ratele has authored numerous books including Liberating Masculinities and Langa recently published the book Becoming Men.

What is masculinity?

Academically, masculinity is defined as those practices that make one a man...It is far more than being about a penis or genitalia. It is much more than that. It is about expectations about how someone like me with a penis should be acting in the world.

Professor Kopano Ratele, director of the Masculinity and Health Research Unit

Women of a certain age are expected by society to marry, to work, to provide and also to protect.

Professor Kopano Ratele, Author and Director - Masculinity and Health Research Unit

Professor Langa has been involved in a 13-year study conducted with boys and young men in townships in South Africa.

The key thing is these expectations...these boys as young as they were, were already expected to behave in a particular manner - and when it came to their relationship with girls, you can see that some were already sexualising girls, seeing them as sex objects, as bodies to be used in satisfying their sexual desires.

Professor Malose Langa, Academic and author - Psychology, School of Human and Community Development at the University of the Witwatersrand

He says for these boys this behaviour confirmed what they believed it meant to be male - and prove you were 'a real boy.'

Listen to the insightful discussion below:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : How to change boys' perception of what it means to be 'a real man'

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