‘Being called sisters’: Masculinities and black male nurses in South Africa

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8 Citations (Scopus)


This study contributes to an understanding of the geographies of masculinities, by demonstrating how black South African male nurses negotiate hegemonic masculinity through citing masculine gendered acts. The research draws on qualitative data gathered from interviews with 15 black male nurses aged between 26 and 50 years who have worked in the paediatric, trauma, orthopaedic, oncology and midwifery fields for a period of not less than two years. It is argued that the colonially imposed hierarchies of race, gender and occupation merge with culturally specific pre-existing African masculinities, and that this informed how the black male nurses experienced their gender identity in the occupation. The study demonstrates how, because of their career choice, the gender identities of the male nurses were positioned as marginalized and subordinate to the modes of a hegemonic masculinity, a gender identity only available to them momentarily. In this context, it was found that the modes of gender performativity in which the nurses negotiated and subverted their subordinate and marginal status was with the complicity of patients and other healthcare workers. This upheld the more generally assumed hegemony of masculinity in the hospital workplace. The study traces these experiences to the discourses of black masculinities during South Africa's pre-colonial, colonial and apartheid eras and in the present day. In doing so, this study contributes to an understanding of the geographies of masculinities by demonstrating the locally specific modes of masculine performativity through which black male nurses negotiate their gender in South Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-663
Number of pages17
JournalGender, Work & Organization
Issue number4
Early online date21 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • black male nurses
  • feminine occupation
  • hegemonic masculinity
  • performativity


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