White, Afrikaans Hegemonic Masculinity (South Africa)

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Image: Food24, Brush Up Your Braai Skills. Braaing is a South African hobby, particularly within Afrikaans communities.

This series examines hegemonic masculinities within South African racial and cultural groups. See black hegemonic masculinities.

Afrikaans traditional hegemonic masculinity has a particularly checkered history due to its pillar concepts of white supremacy, heterosexuality, and masculinity (Rees, 2010). In this respect, Afrikaner masculinity was shaped by apartheid ideology through which other masculinities were deemed as ontologically inferior (Rees, 2010). The result was the segregation and domination of these other groups (Adams & Govender, 2008).

According to traditional Afrikaner hegemonic masculinity a “real man” is the male who enjoys guns and animal hunting, rugby, and who is both Christian and heterosexual (Perkins, 2015; Rees, 2010). Religion and the church have also always been pillars in the lives of Afrikaners (Du Pisani, 2001). Afrikaans hegemonic masculinity thus advances a Protestant view of New Testament pedagogy that informs masculine conduct and morals, and Afrikaans culture remains significantly religious (Du Pisani, 2001). As Du Pisani observes, it is unavoidable that Afrikaner hegemonic masculine ideals have been significantly influenced by religious, political, and cultural leadership stemming back to apartheid (Du Pisani, 2001).

Afrikaans women have been subservient to Afrikaner hegemonic masculinity. Men traditionally possessed a great deal of power in the household as they were almost always the providers for their families (Du Pisani, 2001). They were the primary source of income on which women were mostly dependent (Du Pisani, 2001). Wives were primarily expected to be in the home and undertake domestic duties which, according to du Pisani, “the majority of Afrikaner women supported rather than challenged” (Du Pisani, 2001, p. 162). Hermann Giliomee says that the Afrikaner women’s purpose was “to manage the family household with knowledge of hygiene and domestic science,” and her reward were “successful sons and daughters who achieved much for the country and for the Afrikaner people” (Giliomee, 2003, p. 376)

Afrikaner hegemonic masculinity is rigidly heterosexual and considers homosexuality both anomalous and aberrant (Du Pisani, 2001). Under apartheid certain laws were passed that banned homosexual practices (Du Pisani, 2001). These laws changed in the 70s and 80s when homosexuality was no longer outlawed. However, homosexuality and homosexual relations remain deviant and unnatural according to traditional Afrikaans hegemonic masculinity (Du Pisani, 2001). Such disapproval was likely influenced by Dutch Reformed Calvinism which has always been part and parcel of nationalist Afrikaner ideology (Mader, 2008).

Contemporary Afrikaner masculinity also faces several issues. Similar to the crisis of masculinity faced by Zulu men, Afrikaans men too experience a source of tension in that contemporary legislation ensures equal rights to all South Africans. No doubt this will cause tension for hegemonic masculinities that depict patriarchy as the ideal (Du Pisani, 2001). Further, Afrikaner hegemonic masculinity no longer enjoys the political, social, and military support it once did during apartheid which too results in tension within Afrikaans communities (Boersema, 2018).


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