SOUTH AFRICA: The (re)making of men

Published: September 7, 2012

JOHANNESBURG, 7 September 2012 (PlusNews) – Manhood might be hard to define but South African media make it even harder, according to editors of a new book, who argue that negative coverage of men is doing more harm than good, especially when it comes to HIV. Now they are looking to rewrite masculinity in a country that ranks among the most gender inequitable in the world.
(Un)covering Men: Rewriting Masculinity and Health in South Africa is a compilation of works by journalism fellows through Anova Health Institute’s HIV and Media Project, originally the brainchild of noted South African journalist Anton Harber and HIV researcher and programme implementer Helen Struthers, who co-edited the book.

The book’s other co-editor, Melissa Meyers, characterized the 211-page book as a bid to combat stereotypes of men perpetuated by the media and to create a more nuanced portrayal of men by telling stories around issues such as fatherhood, men-who-have-sex-with-men
(MSM) and traditional male circumcision.

“Writing about different kinds of men involves looking at all these different stereotypes or men – men as Lotharios, as risk-seekers, as domineering,” she told IRIN/PlusNews. “By contrasting these stories, we were able to show that the current media engagement with men and notions of masculinities is disturbingly shallow.”

“We’ve looked at how that might affect health-seeking behaviours,” said Meyers, who also coordinates the HIV and AIDS Media Project for Anova. “So we’ve taken that conversation and put it in the context of the most pressing health concern in this country and one that’s most linked to ideas of masculinity – HIV.”

South Africa continues to battle high levels of gender inequality, ranking in the bottom half of all countries surveyed in the 2011 United Nations Development Programmes’ Gender Inequality Index. In 2009, a study by South Africa’s Medical Research Council (MRC) made international headlines after it found that one in four South African men surveyed admitted to having raped a woman in their lives.

Using the same data set, researchers also revealed last year that about 10 percent of South Africa.

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