An intersectional analysis of male caregiving in South African palliative care : identifying disruptive potential in reinventions of white, hegemonic masculinity

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 5
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    Abstract: Care work is often feminised and invisible. Intangible components of care, such as emotional labour, are rarely recognised as economically valuable. Men engaging in care work can be stigmatised or simply made invisible for non-conformance to gender norms (Dworzanowski- Venter 2008). Mburu (2014) and Chikovore (2016) have studied masculinity from an intersectional perspective. Yet, male caregiving has not enjoyed sufficient intersectional focus. Intersectional analysis of male caregiving has twin benefits of making ‘women’s work’ visible and of finding ways to keep men involved in caring occupations. I foreground the class-gender intersection in this study of black, male, caregivers as emotional labourers involved in palliative care work in Gauteng (2005-2013). Informal AIDS care and specialist oncology nursing are contrasting case studies of male care work presented in this paper. Findings suggest that caregiving men interviewed for this study act in gender disruptive ways and face a stigmatising social backlash in post-colonial South Africa. Oncology nursing has a professional cachet denied to informal sector caregivers. This professional status acts as a class-based insulator against oppressive gender-based stigma, for oncology nursing more closely aligns to an idealised masculinity. The closer to a ‘respectable’ middle-class identity, or bourgeois civility, the better for these men who idealise traditionally white, male, formal sector occupations. However, this insulating effect relies on a denial of emotional aspects of care by male cancer nurses and a lack of activism around breaking down gendered notions of care work. Forming a guild of informal sector AIDs caregivers could add much-needed professional recognition and provide an organisational base for gender norm disruption through activism. This may help to retain more men in informal sector caregiving roles and challenge the norms that are used to stigmatise male caregiving work in general.