Okay, so what did I grasp, what did I learn from the Book?
Becoming men is a book about township, toxic masculinity. The book tells the tale of a 12-year research journey, observing young men from Alexandra township grow into adults. It is a book on stories of how these young men overcame township challenges and challenged traditional masculinity to form new ‘alternative masculities’.
It is stories of young men who some:
**Were capable not to succumb to peer-pressure from a young age and demonstrate “alternative masculinities” that shaped them into different men,
**Some changed as they grew older, went through self-reflection and discovery and were able to also demonstrate “alternative masculinities”,
**Whilst some failed and surrendered to the peer-pressure and got wrongly influenced on ideologies about manhood, then faced dire consequences of facing jail time and some being caught in violence and died.
About the author.
The author, Malose Langa is a qualified Psychologist at the University of Witwatersrand. He says that he conducted the research as part of his PhD degree program which then eventually became this book.
How toxic masculinity manifests itself in the townships?
As someone staying in the township, and someone familiar with Alexandra Township, I was curious to know about the topics the book would delve into with regards to young boys from Alex.
Alexandra is known to be one of the townships whereby crime is rife, many young men are criminals or associated with criminals, competing over expensive brand clothing and luxurious cars, and thus, making the township have a bad reputation and considered an environment that is grim and discouraging to succeed without being involved in such.
It is common knowledge that townships are contributing factors to toxic masculinity. Young boys conform to gender roles, bully one another at school and discriminate against gay men and also become sexists disregarding and disrespecting women.
This book gives scenarios and opinions of the boys regarding their perceptions of what makes a man a man.
The book is compelling and moving, as you read your emotions get engaged; I got disappointed with some boys, I got inspired by others and I also found solace in what others said and believed about masculinity now.
Some boys failed to complete the research, one found himself at the wrong end of the law and others are now said to be responsible young men, married and taking care for their families.
This book according to the author, it is a book like the feminist books, meant to bring self-awareness to young men.
This book brought me awareness to these facts which I was not aware of about toxic masculinity ideologies:
- Some young men at the adolescence stage may succumb to peer-pressure, however, they change at a later stage in their lives.
The research shows that many young men succumb to peer-pressure when they are teenagers, simply because they believe that what they hear from their peers on the streets about masculinity and manhood is right and indeed it is what makes a man a man.
It is until after one goes through the process of reflection and self-introspection some of the boys in the book admit to changing perceptions about certain things concerning masculinity and manhood.
2. Sexism is part of a peer-pressure trend to boost masculinity validity among young men.
Young men put on a “public performance” as the author states and have sexist opinions in order to conform to traditional “hegemonic” (toxic); “township masculinity” (refer to the book to better understand the word if you don’t yet), for the sake of being accepted as “real men”.
Some of the young men in the research however, they do not believe in those ideologies. They believe that women should be valued and cherished and treated as equals, thus supporting feminist values.
They also affirmed and believe that even “real men” participate in duties perceived as ‘women duties’ like house chores and taking care of their children fully and being active parents, also changing nappies.
3. It is fears and Insecurities that leads young men to infidelity, and risky behavior.
Young men justify their mistreatment of us women, viewing us only as ‘sex objects’ in relationships by saying that they are afraid of rejection, being dumped and heartbroken after a break-up, As if this is supposed to make us women feel better, however we understand now where you are coming from. A place of insecurity; work on your insecurities guys please! so that your deeds are not driven by irrational and unformed decisions.
Some young men in the research however rejected this opinion, whilst some just changed when they grew up, It is after growing up that they had a change of heart and they also started rejecting these views and opinions and began having different perceptions which turned them into better partners in their relationships currently.
One young man in the book said that he learnt that to make a relationship work, one must not feed on one’s fears and insecurities, but rather establish a strong communication foundation between the two in a relationship so that there is better understanding of each other in a relationship.
4. Men also have anxiety when they become teenage fathers, and thus, this result in stress and substance abuse.
Yikes! I did not see this one coming since we are used to always hearing stories of teenage mothers and their struggles emotionally and financially.
As a woman myself, I can imagine the struggle of becoming an unprepared mother and the toll it would take on my health and well-being, it is rare though hearing boys’ stories about becoming young fathers and the toll this predicament has on their well-being.
This chapter of “YOUNG FATHERS AND THE WORLD OF WORK” is simultaneously funny and sad, It takes you on the path some of the young men that went through the predicament, how they had to miss school classes to accompany the mothers of their children to doctors/ clinic appointments, the shame of telling their mothers that their girlfriends are pregnant etc.
These young men explain how the predicaments brought stress into their lives, they even surrendered to substance abuse and risky behavior such as smoking.
The narrative is always centered around that young men are irresponsible after birth of their children’s lives, but things are changing and this research attests that.
Due to the movement of new masculinity ideologies, many young men now want to be part of their children’s lives and become active parent figures.
They want to be there financially and emotionally for their children, to protect and care for them, and thus, they worry when the mothers of their children do not help them fulfill that. The ways in which the mothers do not help them fulfill their parental goals …well, that my dear friend, you would have to see on the book. Go get it now! Hopefully thus far I have inspired you to want to read the book.
5. The after effect of absent fathers.
Fathers as male figures play a significant role in shaping young men’s lives, and thus an absent father in the picture for boys it leaves wounds and impacts sense of being, however for many of the young men in this research proclaimed that instead of worrying about the absence of their fathers, they will rather work hard on having different impacts on their own children’s lives and be there for them the way their fathers were not.
6. Township schools are not doing enough to support and protect Gay men.
This narrative needs to change and other teachers learn about the differences in people and encourage students not to discriminate against others. The promotion of homophobia promotes hegemonic masculinity and aggression in young boys lives.
7. The only and ultimate method that can be used to avoid succumbing to peer-pressure and alter the “alternative masculinities” is through self-awareness.
The mechanisms the young men in the book talk about, which they used to avoid succumbing to the old “hegemonic masculinities” is astounding, however the ultimate premise of the story is that to be able to be successful at this:
**one needs to be self-reflective and aware of themselves (who am? what do I want to achieve in life? what is my ultimate goal? why am I doing this? what will be the ultimate benefit of this?
The research reflects on the struggles the boys had in negotiating these “alternative masculinities”; some even paid hefty prices along the journey to discovering themselves.
Self -discovery and awareness is a process, Self- discovery is hard but it is all about being self-aware and having a core perception about oneself that could help us all never to succumb to peer-pressure and do things that aren’t aligned with our goals and desires.
Why I recommend the book?
**The book has refreshing and relieving views and opinions from the young men, which are now said to be young, responsible men. It is important for young men to read it to understand that conforming to social norms can have detrimental health effects and result in mental health issues. It is important for young men to have individuality and form ‘alternative masculities’ as the author states.
**The book proves that men, especially township men are challenging traditional “hegemonic masculinity” that promotes sexist masculinity, violence, and risk-taking behavior such as promiscuous sex and smoking.
**Young black men are striving to become better fathers because they see the detrimental emotional impacts of absent fathers in their lives.
**In this midst of Gender-Based-Violence on the rise currently in South Africa, I found relief in reading the book, seeing that some of the boys during the research rejected sexist views and actions and affirmed new masculinity ideologies that are about taking into consideration women’s feeling and opinions.
These are the men that will be better boyfriends, fathers and male figures in the community showing women empathy, compassion and protecting us women and children from GBV.
**The book shows that other men, like the researcher (Malose Langa), are helping groom young men from townships to grow into better men, self-aware, confident in their beliefs and respecting women.
**This book is also a call to action, to get others to participate in the movement, in schools and communities to help young men in forming “alternative masculinities” and shape a new narrative in South Africa for the ‘boy child’.
Traditional, toxic, hegemonic masculinity needs to be challenged because it promotes violence and falsified perceptions about masculinity and manhood which then leads to young men having mental health issues in society. It is course of domestic violence and reason some young men end up in prisons due to wrong choices in life shaped by stereotype masculinity ideologies.
So, have you read the book or not? what are your thoughts?
please share on the ‘comment’ section.