Crisis: Toxic Male Masculinity

What if I told you masculinity is not exclusive to just males and femininity is not exclusive to just females… Biologically females and males have different anatomy as well as hormonal make up. However, did you know that both sexes biologically have the same hormones just at different levels depending on circumstances. During a female’s menstrual cycle she has lower levels of progesterone  and estrogen. However, when a male experiences exhaustion or fatigue  he has higher levels of estrogen. Basically context here is the crux of the matter. Similarly, contrary to popular belief, gender identity or sexuality is also not binary. Research shows sexuality and gender are more of a spectrum rather than binary forms of categorization. How we identify or behave is actually more circumstantial context  rather than predetermined social constructs imposed on us to adhere to. Here’s how the dangerous imposition takes place to advance & maintain the male agenda of patriarchy.


Patriarchy refers to the systemic prioritization of males in social, political and economic spaces for the maintenance of  male advancement and domination in said contexts at the expense of the female population. However, Bell Hooks defines patriarchy as “a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.” The violence Bell Hooks speaks of is the patriarchal ideology of masculinity that perpetuates itself  in society as follows:


The conceptualization of masculinity, with regards to patriarchal standards, refers to characteristics applied by society to a male and expected from a male. The attributes “exclusively”  associated with male identity that correlate to masculinity are problematic adjectives like tough, aggressive, powerful, strong etc. The antithesis thereof is femininity described associated with soft, passive, meek, weak etc. Consequently what is inherently masculine in patriarchal ideology is synonymous with violence. Violence is an instrument of imposing male dominion over female identity and bodies through the policing of female femininity exhibited in:

  • standards of beauty
  • rape culture
  • shaming language
  • abuse
  • problematic female imagery

All of which is informed by what Laura Mulvey  calls the “male gaze”.The male gaze refers to the objectification of the female body in media from a perspective appeasing to the male to encourage consumption of products. Essentially, it is the “sex sells” trope packaged into strategic exposure of the female body in sexual innuendo format to make what is being sold to men more appealing and attention grabbing. Thus dehumanizing. Thus reducing the female to a dehumanized object of desire packaged as part of the inanimate product.

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Similarly, the male gaze when internalized by female objects of desire can be identified as the ‘labeling theory’. According to Howard Beck, the labeling theory has to do with how the self-concept and behaviour of an individual can be influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. Labeling theory basically involves ideas of self concept adjectives (how you see yourself) versus social identity (how society views you). Herein lies the danger of rape culture facilitated, perpetuated & maintained by the male gaze. A byproduct of toxic masculinity.  Exemplified in the following :

patriarchy proverb

Rape Culture as portrayed above is systemic societal policing of female bodies, removal of independent self-determination (i.e.  female autonomy). Where female identity, in its entirety, is determined by the male perspective through correlating particular clothing with certain behaviour .  Which normalizes sexual assault or related behaviour against girls and women. Thus promoting  dangerous rhetoric of victim blaming & slut shaming  where there is little to no accountability from males for violent and detrimental conduct against girls and women. Creating a situation  where the onus of a man’s action is dependent on the women’s expression femininity. Clothes i.e a tool of expression (among many other things) are then used to perpetuate certain stigma.  A stigma is when a powerfully negative label  is used to alter a person’s self-concept and social identity e.g.  derogatory female slurs  like whore, slut… When referring to women that go against the norm of sexual chastity according to men. Sometimes even women use similar harmful language when the misogyny is internalized. IMG_20170728_124521Research shows that shaming slurs may negatively change (reduce self-esteem) as well as increase hostility in the spaces women occupy.

The representation of women in entertainment and media  is that of hypersexualized bodies. Where the objectification thereof effectively dehumanizes the subjects to commodify their bodies. Desensitizing society both male and female to the dangers thereof under the guise of “it’s just entertainment”. Box office hits like the Twilight saga and more recently Fifty Shades of Grey romanticize violence, controlling and possessive behaviour towards women. Akin to abuse packaged as a kink in the case of  Twilight’s Edward the kink is blood; in the case of  Mr. Grey it is whips and bondage.


Audiences are not entirely passive and can be critical. However, repetitive exposure to certain ideas can breed a subconscious complacency to the problematic images we are fed. Music, arguably as impactful as imagery, also promotes vulgar language and negative outlooks of female femininity. In hip hop rap misogyny is apparent in references to females as “bitches, hoes and chicks” to be conquered  by the male or disregarded depending on the theme. If the theme is male success the degradation of the female body is exerting  “masculinity” and monetary prosperity that “bought” said women. Basically hypermasculinity realized. Similarly pop music and culture also reinforce “manhood” by positioning women as conquests and damsels in distress in much need of male “guidance”.

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When there is a pervasive culture of accepting the marginalization of women which includes the abuse and discrimination thereof. When shame is used to police, silence and distract from said plight it is…


This is not coincidental but antedotal to the maintainence of patriarchy and the advancement of the male agenda.

According to Crime statistics South Africa, an average of approximately 109 rapes were reported each day between April and December 2016. The legal definition of rape according to South African law is:

“Non-consensual oral, anal or vaginal penetration of a person (male or female) with a genital organ, anal or vaginal penetration with any object and the penetration of a person’s mouth or the genital organs of an animal.”

Recent media coverage has been dominated by headlines of femicide incidences in South Africa. That included graphic  details of the heinous violence against the increased murders of women across the country. Especially those of black South African women, where a pattern of  violent behaviour is identified from someone very close to the victim in question. As was the case with the first significant report in 2017, of Karabo Mokoena’s brutal murder. The SABC News reported the murder of 60 women in Gauteng during May of 2017 alone where 53% of the women were killed by their romantic partner. As was in the case of Karabo Mokoena who was beaten, raped, killed and burnt by her intimate partner.


Karabo Mokoena

Nonkie Smous, a black lesbian woman, was assaulted and burnt beyond recognition. Karabo’s killer has since been apprehended and placed in prison. Nonkie Smous’ killer(s) is/are suspected to be male members of her community in the township of Soweto that were known to harass her on account of her sexuality.  Research conducted by the LGBT Well-being and the Love Not Hate campaign found that 41%  of the South African LGBT community knew someone that was murdered due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.


Nonkie Smous

The media coverage and outrage about increased femicide in South Africa has been immense. As well as selective, the coverage lacked the influence of socio-economic factors that put certain individuals in certain high risk communities. Which are generally dangerous but even more so for black women who are especially part of LGBT community.

South African media has produced graphic information concerning violence against women and their murder. Yet very little to no justice for their victims, or potential solutions are introduced. By neither media or the government  that both advocate for justice, protection of freedom and the rights of women but simultaneously perpetuate  the compromise of said ideals. In a country where the president has been accused of sexual assault; where every other lyric  in popular music is “bitches, hoes” this or that and news reporting with victim blaming rhetoric.

Dismantling said patriarchal structures, and reforming their function is  that of utmost importance. It is also why intersectional feminism, particularly black feminism, is absolutely necessary to report our own stories in media and advocate for our justice. By women occupying spaces of authority in our  government and police to enforce said equality and protection of our freedoms. As exhibited by the police of Katlehong township, where the female police led protest took place demanding more accountability & help from the community by exposing perpetrators.


All in all the revolution will be intersectional. Otherwise the goal is not for equality or freedom but power.

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Change among the Gatekeepers: Men, Masculinities and Gender Equality in the Global Arena by R. W. Connell

Labeling theory: Social constructionism, Social stigma, Deinstitutionalisation by George Herbert Mead & Howard S. Becker

Visuals and other Pleasures by Laura Mulvey

Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon.

Understanding Patriarchy by Bell Hooks.


The more things change, the more they stay the same.


1976 Anti Apartheid youth vs 2016 Fees Must Fall youth

Recently, graduation season has seen the University of Cape Town, upper campus, Jameson Hall abuzz with smiles, gowns and degree scrolls.










For a moment, an aspect of what the youth of 1976 fought for comes to fruition decades later. Where students regardless of their race, culture or creed can have access to quality higher education, based on merit.


It has been approximately  41 years since 16 June 1976, 22 years since South Africa was declared a democratic country. Apartheid (created by the National Party) on the other hand existed for 46 years, for almost half a century. However, colonialism as a WHOLE in South Africa has existed for almost four centuries. From British colonial rule (mid 1600s-early 1900s) to British-Dutch colonial rule during early 1900s until 1948 where European settlers of Dutch descent i.e. Afrikaaner people won an election as the National Party. To institutionalize racism by way of the Aparthied regime.

Thus European settlers although the minority population lived privileged lives at the expense of  people of colour. Especially, the black majority. The creation and maintenance of white privilege and oppression of non-whites (black, indian and coloured people) exhibited both systemic and literal violence on the basis of one not being white. It was through law, followed by the violent Apartheid police enforcement of said laws.

  • Group Areas Act of 1950, was a law created by the National Party, Apartheid Government, that allocated different racial groups to different residential and business sections of urban areas. For instance, Cape Town as an urban area  had places like Rondebosch that were classified whites only areas for exclusive white occupation and business. Where non-whites were only allowed with special permission through documentation like passes or “dompass” and a curfew that indicated that at a certain time non-whites were not be found in the area. Whereas townships like Khayelitsha  or Mitchelle’s Plain were considered black or coloured areas. Consequently non-whites (black, indian and coloured people) occupied under-developed communities with poor infrastructure and public services. Well developed areas with access to resources like adequate infrastructure or public services was reserved and allocated to whites only.


  • Separate Amenities Act of 1953 was a law of  the racial segregation of public premises, vehicles and services.  This meant that from  public transport, entrances, to toilets, beaches and even benches were made separate for whites and non-whites.


  • Native Resettlement Act of 1954, was the Act that legalized the forced removal of black people within or close to white areas. This law was initially seen in action during  the Sophiatown forceful removals. Where homes were demolished, families were separated with brute force by Apartheid police. Then National Party head of state D.F. Malan on 9 February 1955 sent 2000 Apartheid policemen armed with guns, stunt grenades and demolition trucks to Sophiatown. Displacing about 60 000 residents to be relocated to a township called Meadowlands with no toilets, water and electricity.









Essentially, the white population received the best property , education, infrastructure and services. Racism was the law and non-whites the collateral damage thereof. As a result several resistance movements emerged during Apartheid throughout South African townships. To resist and combat violent institutionalized prejudice against non-white bodies. These movements with the leadership of certain political parties led various anti-colonial and anti-apartheid resistance movements that included the:

-Black Consciousness Movement pioneered by Steve Biko through the South African Students Movement


-Chris Hani’s Communist Party



-Robert Sobukwe’s Pan Africanist Congress


-African National Congress under Albert Luthuli later to Nelson Mandela.

For instance the protest Sharpeville in 1960 led by the Pan Africanist Congress was a call for black unity against the use of the passes and restricted freedom of movement in the native land of Africans. Similarly, several protests took place leaving massacres in their wake but by 1976 the youth of Soweto took the forefront. By demonstrating throughout the streets of  Soweto against being educated in Afrikaans and being provided inadequate schooling facilities.  The Bantu Education Act of 1953  as a policy was to educate black people enough to just be workers, laborers and servants for the white population. Schools attended by black people by law had the medium of instruction be English and Afrikaans. That of which majority of the population did not speak or understand.  H.F. Verwoed, a significant National Party leader,  justified it  by stating:

“There is no place for the African in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. It is of no avail for him to receive a training which has as its aim, is the absorption into the European community”

When the said “European community” is established in a country with a black majority population (on the continent of Africa with millions of Africans) that are even recognized by the racist law as Natives. The question is then…

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Imagine, a complete stranger barging into YOUR home & telling you that you do not belong there. Or that everything in YOUR home is now theirs & you are no longer welcome unless you there to clean, cook, babysit & garden for the said stranger. You do not have to though because it happened & in many ways is still happening.

Fortunately, members of the South African Students Movement were not complacent with the indoctrination of their dehumanization through Bantu education. Learners across the township of Soweto (about 3000 to 10 000) mobilized and organized to protest against being taught in languages they did not understand and against the oppressive Bantu educational system in its entirety. It was a resistance for access to equal  and good quality education. However, since knowledge is power…

Their protest was met with violent hostility from Apartheid police with guns, live ammunition, stunt grenades and tanks descended upon Soweto.  Where the number of students killed was unclear due to the Apartheid government’s endeavours to conceal, minimize & trivialize the actual tragedy of lives lost. The government reported 23 people killed whereas international media alluded to approximately 200 students being killed. One of which was the tragic death of Hector Peterson as shown in the image below.


In the same breath yet similar vain, 40 years later, the youth of 2016 took to Parliament in Cape Town to protest as members of the Fees Must Fall. A movement for free and decolonial education. Where again, the youth was met with violent South African police with rubber bullets, teargas and stunt grenades.

Free education because improvement of one’s circumstances is correlated to financial means to afford things like tertiary education.  Also, historical impediments of restricted access to quality living spaces, education and jobs translates to limited socio-economic mobility. In other words limited access to opportunities like education and better employment provides a lack of substantial income to affect change. Thus creating and maintaining generational poverty. As well as preventing exposure and occupation of safer and productive communities and spaces. Research also shows that educated individuals tend to have better spending habits & less debt.

Decolonial education because of the Eurocentric standards of education that often entail problematic rhetoric. By prioritizing Western history, ideology and discourse. Which is often inapplicable and ineffective in the context of a developing and culturally diverse country like South Africa.

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The major issue with Eurocentric epistemology is that by prioritizing Western ideals of science, literature and beauty. It teaches and perpetuates oppressive patriarchal systems that center cis gender, hetero-normative, able- bodied white men. Alienating any identity politics alternative to that.


Thus, creating a crippling psyche rooted in an inferiority complex that manifests itself as internalized racism, sexism, misogyny and general self hate as well as  loss of esteem. When one believes themselves to be less than, one becomes complacent with inequality without the desire to resist and correct  said oppressive ideology.


Ultimately, the protests both past and recent are for the humanization of black bodies and identity through accessible quality education. When you KNOW better, you DO better. That is why KNOWLEDGE is POWER and ignorance is not bliss.

Additionally, Apartheid was a heinous crime against humanity (especially towards people of colour) in South Africa. F.W. De Klerk should not have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ending Apartheid.  Apartheid should not have existed to begin with.




Worden, Nigel; van Heyningen, Elizabeth; Bickford-Smith, Vivian (1998). Cape Town: The Making of a City. Uitgeverij Verloren. pp. 171–177. ISBN 90-6550-161-4.