Becoming Men is the story of 32 boys from Alexandra, one of Johannesburg’s largest townships, over a period of twelve seminal years in which they negotiate manhood and masculinity. Psychologist and academic Malose Langa has documented graphically what it means to be a young black man in contemporary South Africa. The boys discuss a range of topics including the impact of absent fathers, relationships with mothers, siblings and girls, school violence, academic performance, homophobia, gangsterism, unemployment and, in one case, prison life. Dominant themes that emerge are deep ambivalence, self-doubt and hesitation in the boys’ approaches to alternative masculinities that are non-violent, non-sexist and non-risk-taking. The difficulties of negotiating the multiple voices of masculinity are exposed as many of the boys appear simultaneously to comply with and oppose the prevalent norms.
Providing a rich interpretation of how emotional processes affect black adolescent boys, Langa suggests interventions and services to support and assist them, especially in reducing the high-risk behaviours generally associated with hegemonic masculinity. This is essential reading for students, researchers and scholars of gender studies who wish to understand manhood and masculinity in South Africa. Psychologists, youth workers, lay counsellors and teachers who work with adolescent boys will also find it invaluable.