You have probably heard of the clichéd, “boys will be boys.” This saying has normalized unbecoming behaviors in society. Boys are growing to men while being socialized into thinking being a man entails getting away with reckless behaviors. South African singer, Nakhane, redefines the masculinity idea.
Pumla Gqola, feminist scholar, analyses violent masculinity in the post-apartheid South Africa in her book: Rape: A South African Nightmare that:
“Violent masculinities create a public space consciousness in which violence is not just acceptable and justified, but also natural and desirable. They glamorize violence in a variety of masking maneuvers that seduce spectators into mythologizing violence.”
The high-level femicide, domestic violence, and rape in South Africa force us to think of what it means to be a man. Most men behave ruthlessly to be given the title?
Nakhane’s work provides us with ways we can use to think about what it means to be a man.
Nakhane has worked on two musical albums. You Will Not Die (2018) and Brave Confusion (2013). According to the artist, they are the authors of the novel Piggy Boy’s Blues. Apart from that, they have also feared as the lead actor in the film The Wound (2017).
Nakhane’s work challenges simplistic definitions of masculinity. In her art, he presents that there is no single definition of masculinity.
He hasn’t focused on this enough. In his interviews, he retaliates,
“There’s no homogeneous idea of what masculinity is, there never was, and there never will be.”
Now Nakhane’s art focuses on queer masculinity, redefines what being a man is.
More than a Circumcision rite
The Xhosa people, a tribe in South Africa, value their rite of passage. They conduct ulwaluko, their traditional rite of passage, to mark a transition from a boy to a man. Older men force them to shout out, “I am a man.” This is also seen in the opening scene of the film Inxeba.
Being a Xhosa, Nakhane has passed through the famously known as ‘going to the mountain’ rite of passage, and he signifies its significance.
“I am Xhosa, and there’s a huge spotlight on masculinity and what it means to be a man in the Eastern Cape. So I did everything. I went through the rites of passage of being Xhosa. I went to the mountain.”
Kopano Ratele, a psychologist and masculinity scholar, clarifies the importance of such activities in the construction of masculinity.
In the movie, Inxeba, a message is sent that the construction of masculinity involves violence and aggression to assert one’s manliness. This is proven in several scenes when the initiates engage in stick fights. They also look down upon one another. Man is made to believe that they should suppress every emotion, and emotions are only for women to express.
To be termed as a man, a boy is expected to perform specific scripts of masculinity deemed to be desirable. Among them being ulwaluko, homophobia, misogyny, and a breeding ground of violent masculinity. But do boys have to pass through this convincing psychological mechanism to get the title (Man)? Maybe not!
It is time to clarify to boys it is okay to express your emotions and not be judged with traditional references. The traditional ways of passage from one stage of life to another can be replaced with virtues that make one demand respect in society rather than behave like a wild animal in the name of being manly.
Alternative ways to masculinity
There are other forms of masculinity that are not toxic to either an individual or the surrounding people. One can be manly and not be aggressively violent or hyper-masculine.
The world has changed and so does our upbringing and ways of life. Having many wives is not nobble in any sense in this century and walking with a phone booth makes you not unique. Nakhane’s artistic work gives us another angle to view the meaning of masculinity.
The speaker in Piggy Boy’s Blue says:
“Some men are born to fight, and others… well, they’re born to love.”
The passage from a boy to a man is not a WWE preparation match but should be a way of preparing responsible future fathers. They should learn to be more attuned to their emotions. There is no medal given when a man uses violence to assert his manliness.