Dr Diloshini Govender, a primary school teacher, graduated with a PhD in Education for her research which examined the construction of masculinities among eight to nine-year-old primary school boys.
Govender’s study highlighted the social processes through which masculine identities were formed – nuanced by race, socioeconomic conditions, culture, gender inequalities, and sexuality; all of which contributed to malleable and plural patterns of masculinities.
Violence and heterosexuality emerged as the most dominant and prevalent way of expressing hegemonic masculinity and male power. Violence was exemplified through performances of strength, fighting prowess, an esteemed physical body and the denigration of femininity. ‘This was not a uniform experience for all boys. Given their agency, some boys sought to denounce hegemonic masculinity by adopting non-violent subject positions and developed a shared solidarity by caring for each other, thus transcending racial divides,’ she explained.
According to Govender, ‘heterosexuality was also a normalising force that regulated boys’ sexuality in ways that constrained or empowered their masculinities. They actively invested in heterosexual masculinity, finding pleasure in it but also navigating the complex terrains related to compulsory heterosexuality, material and economic deprivation and competition for girlfriends.’
Reflecting on her memorable experiences, Govender attended the International Local Democracy Academy which was held at the Uppsala University in Visby, Sweden. She presented her research on boys’ experiences and perpetration of violence within and beyond schooling spaces. She also published a chapter in the book: Gender, Sexuality and Violence in South African Educational Spaces by Palgrave Macmillan.
Govender is grateful to her family, friends and supervisor, Professor Deevia Bhana, for their endless support, guidance and encouragement.
Asked about her future plans, she said, ‘I plan to write research papers in order to share the findings of my study which can assist school teachers to better understand the lives of young boys and develop practical interventions to address harmful masculine practices in the primary school.’