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

Perkins, Cody, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Mason, John, Department of History, University of Virginia

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.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
history, South Africa, Coloured, gender, 20th century
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