Men, Masculinity and HIV Care Work in Cape Town

Presenter(s): Lesley Gittings

Abstract / Description: 

Caring is typically constructed as a feminized practice, resulting in women shouldering the burden of care-related work. Health-seeking behaviours are also constructed as feminine and men have poorer health outcomes globally. Employing men as carers may not only improve the health of the men they assist but also be transformative with regard to gendered constructions of caring.

Using semi-structured interviews and observational home visits, this study explores the gendered dimensions of relationships between community care workers (CCWs) and male clients. The empirical analysis draws on the perspectives of eight CCWs and three of their male clients from the Cape Town area.

The interviews reveal that CCWs and clients perform and negotiate masculinities as they navigate around hegemonic masculine norms which require men to act tough, suppress emotion and deny weakness and sickness. They bump up against these ideals of what it means to be a man as they strive to provide care and receive support. In an attempt to avoid rupturing hegemonic masculine norms, CCWs use techniques such as indirectly broaching sensitive subjects, acting friendly and being clear about the intention of their work.

Lesley recently submitted her Masters dissertation to meet the requirements for the degree of MPhil in Public Policy and Administration at the University of Cape Town. Her research focused on masculinities and HIV community care work.

Between 2007 and 2011 Lesley worked as a policy analyst with the Canadian government and chaired the board of a community-based HIV organization. Following this, she worked in the Malawian HIV sector where she supported policy advocacy activities and managed an income-generating sanitary pad project.

Her research interest includes governance, gender and sexual and reproductive health. Lesley holds a BComm (Honours) from the University of Ottawa in Canada.

Tue, 14 Apr 2015 -
12:45 to 14:00

CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus