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Gender on the Agenda: Narratives Of Masculinity In South African Media

5 December 2014

The research study had a three-pronged approach to exploring masculinity in media. Firstly, the project analysed media content which collected over 21,000 words associated with male and female sources in order to find linguistic patterns between different sexes and their portrayals in the media. Secondly, male, female and mixed-sex focus groups were presented with excerpts from media articles dealing with gender issues that would elicit masculine or feminine reactions, in order to assess men’s and women’s perceptions of masculinity in relation to issues that affect both sexes. Lastly, the project was rounded off by conducting interviews with journalists, who were shown the findings of the media analysis to get their reactions to gendered language, as well as the findings from focus group discussions on particular topics to generate discussion on methods of reporting on such issues, by journalists. Some of the key findings are:

Men continue to be the most frequently accessed sources. Out of 1207 sources monitored and analysed, only 20 per cent were women.

Media and society do not display or expose men to alternative versions of masculinity, which would begin to normalise behaviours, experiences and spaces traditionally associated with women.

Although pregnancy was understood as an outcome of both sexes, girls were blamed for choosing to have sex in the first place and accused of doing so with multiple partners, resulting in the boys’ dismissal of responsibility for the child.

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