Coloured Men, Moffies, and Meanings of Masculinity in South Africa, 1910-1960

by Cody Perkins

Institution: University of Virginia
Department: History
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: history; South Africa; Coloured; gender; 20th century
Record ID: 2058357
Full text PDF: http://libra.virginia.edu/catalog/libra-oa:9023


This dissertation explores the ways in which Coloured South Africans, popularly defined as “mixed race,” responded to disparaging and gendered stereotypes about Coloured men during the first fifty years of Union. White South Africans used both popular media and official rhetoric to portray Coloured men as lazy, cowardly, drunkards, and absentee fathers. In response, Coloured men developed a discourse that lionized loyalty, bravery, athleticism, morality, and respectability. Many Coloured men disputed the acceptability of those who they thought threatened their status as masculine and respectable citizens. Gay and transgender men, or moffies, were the center of one such debate during the 1940s and 1950s, while Coloured skolly gangsters drew public ire beginning in the 1930s. I frame my analyses of this discourse around the concepts of hegemonic and subordinated masculinities to demonstrate the ways in which ideals and practices of masculinities often overlapped, reinforced, and challenged one another on local and global scales. Drawing on archival research conducted in Cape Town in 2011 and 2013-14, this project contends that South African gendered identities emphasized inclusivity and cosmopolitanism that contradicted the exclusive and divisive racial identities promoted under White supremacism.