Institute for Social and Health Sciences (ISHS)

Research Unit on Men and Masculinities


The Research Unit on Men and Masculinity (RUMM) is an African-situated, globally leading centre of scholarship, innovation, creativity, training, and socially engaged work on boys, men and masculinities.


Attentive to our situatedness in Africa, RUMM is driven by the mission to study and imagine the lives of boys, men and masculine subjects as a sex and gender with the goal of facilitating meaningful, healthy, happy and more fulfilling lives and relations among boys, men, girls, women and other sexes and genders.


The specific objectives of the Research Unit are to:

  • Conduct and support scholarly research and theory-making into the intersections of gender, class, race, culture, sexuality and other significant social categories that are constitutive of boys’, men’s and masculine subjects’ lives and relations. This objective is informed by the political intention to nurture healthy, just and flourishing relations between the sexes and genders.
  • Undertake and facilitate artistic, cultural and other creative work and social interventions in order to transform masculinities that contribute towards the oppression of boys, men, girls, women and other genders.
  • Collaborate with others, specifically gender and queer activists, women’s groups and feminist scholars and teachers on gender and sexuality around mutually supportive projects.
  • Attract and train honours, master’s and doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows to undertake work focusing on boys, men, masculinities and related topics.
  • Develop and maintain a variety of platforms and vehicles with the objective of sharing and disseminating knowledge and news on work on boys, men and masculinities.  
Doing Masculinities and Femininities at Home: Gender (In)Equitable Parenting in Patriarchal and Feminist Families

This is a research project which expands on the limited understandings of the ways in which gender (in)equality is constructed and conveyed within South African families. Children and parents in 18 families from a range of different material and cultural backgrounds were interviewed about the meanings and practices of gender within their homes.

The data reveal how problematic constructions of masculinity and femininity are (re)produced but also challenged within a range of different families. Gender and gender (in)equality are therefore routinely accomplished in complex ways.

Based on the data from this project we have published two articles. The first, Everyday (in)equality at home: complex constructions of gender in South African families, published in 2016 in the journal Global Health Action, explores the complex and contradictory ways in which gender inequality is both resisted and reproduced. A policy brief, Gender (in)equality in South African families: A call for policies and programmes to promote egalitarian gender relations in the home, was produced from the study. We also published a newspaper article  and had a radio interview on the topic “what makes families equal” on the  Koketso Sachane Show on Cape Talk radio.

A second article was published in 2018 under the title, What is there to learn about violence and masculinity from a genderqueer man? This case study of a genderqueer man examines the challenges inherent in negotiating and resisting a violent version of masculinity. The article was also published in Global Health Action.

End Violence: Talk to your Children about Gender Equality 

This public awareness and parenting skills project focuses on the relationship between gender, violence and equality. The project is an extension of the “Doing masculinities and femininities at home: Gender (in)equitable parenting in patriarchal and feminist families” project, which investigated the ways in which gender is constructed in South African families.

The project is targeted at parents and aims to encourage them to engage with their children on issues related to gender inequality, through providing them with resources and training. This project is informed by research which indicates that gender inequality is a key cause of violence.

The project aims to design and distribute pamphlets, establish an interactive website and provide community-based training workshops for parents.

Equal Families 

Equal Families is a research and engagement project which investigates how gender equality becomes possible in families. The project is made up of three components:

  • Interviewing and observing families that identify themselves as “feminist” or “equal”: This component is intended to expand on understadings of how gender equality (and other forms of equality) become possible in families. This is particularly important within the South African context where rates of gender inequality are high. 
  • A questionnaire exploring attitudes and practices of gender equality within families: This component of the project is intended to develop understandings of the rates of gender (in)equality within families, as well as how gender equality relates to practices of violence within the home.
  • A documentary film: This is intended as an activation and engagement tool around issues of gender equality within families. The film focuses on the daily practices and narratives of two self-identified egalitarian families. The documentary aims to engage a wide audience and raise awareness as to the benefits of gender equality within families. The film will be screened at various public and community events, as well as via a range of online platforms in 2019.

Last modified: 2018/08/23