Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

"Indenturing the Body": Traditional Masculine Role Norms, Body Image Discrepancy, and Muscularity in a Sample of South African Indian Boys

Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

"Indenturing the Body": Traditional Masculine Role Norms, Body Image Discrepancy, and Muscularity in a Sample of South African Indian Boys

Article excerpt

This paper investigates the relationship between traditional masculine role norms, body image discrepancy, body appearance schemas, and sociocultural attitudes toward appearance in a sample of 495 South African Indian school going boys aged 13 to 18 years. Constructs were measured using the Masculine Role Norms Inventory, Lynch and Zellner's Body Figure Drawings (1999), Appearance Schemas Inventory, and the Sociocultural Attitudes towards Appearance Scale-3. Analysis revealed a localized hegemonic masculinity of nonviolence, and a significant association between traditional masculinity norms of status-seeking, heteronormativity, anti-femininity, and restrictive emotionality, with body image discrepancy. Sociocultural attitudes towards appearance favoured athletic muscularity as a body ideal coinciding with heterosexist scripts, perceptions of mesomorph physiques in Bollywood cinema, and steroid use.

Keywords: indentured masculinity; body image discrepancy; traditional masculine role norms; South African Indians; steroids

R W. Connell states that "masculine gender is (among other things) a certain feel to the skin, certain muscular shapes and tensions, certain postures and ways of moving, certain possibilities in sex" (1995, pp. 52-53). Framing the interplay of masculinities within and between gendered structures, institutions, groups, and bodies, Connell's theory of hegemonic masculinities (1987,1994,1995,2000,2001a, 2001b, 2002) has become a key referent for scholars in South African masculinities, including research on HIV/AIDS (Mfecane, 2008), (hetero)sexuality (Govender, 2010; Mankayi, 2008), politics (Walker, 2005; Oxlund, 2008), violence (Messerschmidt, 2000; Morrell, 2001a, 2001b), parenting (Adams & Govender, 2008), and schoolboy masculinities (Govender, 2006; Lindegger & Maxwell, 2007). However, unlike previous studies which have focused on South African masculinities in general (Morrell, 1998, 2001a, 2007) or on "Black"1 (Hemson, 2001; Xaba, 2001), "White" (Chadwick & Foster, 2007; Reardon & Govender, 2011), and "Coloured" (Cooper, 2009; Field, 2001) masculinities, this paper seeks to address an apparent gap in research on South African Indian2 masculinities.

Male body image research has found psychoemotional sequelae (Bartsch, 2007; Bohne et al., 2002; Cafri, van der Berg, & Thompson, 2006; Margolies, 1999; Oosthuizen, Lambert, & Castle, 1998) and risky behavioural repertoires (Cafri et al., 2006; McCreary & Sasse, 2000; Pope, Phillips, & Olivardia, 2000) associated with boys' pursuit of culturally idolized and muscularly perverse body images. The male body ideal considered in this study is epitomized by a lean, muscular body which is by connotation physically strong, "healthy," and dominant (Klein, 1993; Robertson, 2003). This paper examines the relationship between traditional masculine role norms, the self-reported subjective and normative evaluations of South African Indian boys' bodies, and appearance schémas in light of sociocultural attitudes towards appearance, with the specific aim of identifying body image discrepancy in relation to the favoured form of muscularity amongst Indian school boys.

Importantly, there is a need to investigate how male muscularity, as an engendered and engendering tool, is positioned in the context of multiple and contradictory global and local discourses concerning body appearance (Pope et al., 2000), body (com)modification (Giddens, 1991), socioeconomic transformations in gender relations (Walker, 2005), and the metrosexual "new man" discourse (Adams & Govender, 2008). We find Klesse's (2000) assertion about non-western male morphology being "circumscribed by the complex articulations of gender, ethnicity, ability and class, not to forget location/space" (p. 20) to be relevant. In the context of South Africa's racialised masculinities, Indians3 constitute both a minority and historically marginalized demographic. This paper, therefore, brings into focus the portrayal of the male body as muscular, fit, and physically tough, in Bollywood cinema (Ciecko, 2001; Kavi, 2000); and as a means of ingratiating an embodied gender politics in some Indian boys' sociocultural attitudes towards their muscularity. …

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