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Fragile masculinity exposed yet again amid outrage over Inxeba

Aphiwe Ngalo is a reporter at Daily Maverick, Cape Town

In this month's edition of “Fragile Masculinities,” Xhosa men take the cup. The premier of Inxeba, an award-winning movie which takes us on a journey of two men and one young initiate, was met with hostility by Xhosa men and the amaXhosa king, Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu.

In an article by Dispatch Live, Xhosa men vowed to mobilise society and stakeholders to join their call for an outright ban on any broadcasting of content related to the sacred ulwaluko initiation ritual. These threats along with others have led to screenings of the Oscar-nominated film Inxeba being cancelled at some NuMetro and Ster-Kinekor cinemas.

The movie is set on a mountain where boys have gone to undergo the rite of passage to becoming Xhosa men, ulwaluko. During their time on the mountain, the two caretakers, whose duty is to teach the boys how to become men, engage in sexual activities together. This is what the movie is centred on. In no way does the movie disrespect the rite of passage. Rather, it tells the stories of how the rigid form of masculinity denies many the opportunity to live their lives freely. The movie highlights how people would rather die than have their sexuality brought out in the public.

Traditions need to re-evaluated. For too long, cultures have neglected queer bodies and as a result many have lived in the shadows of society. Those who have had the courage to come out have been subjected to abuse. The cast of Inxeba has received death threats, and many have said that the depiction of queer bodies in the movie “kuncolisa isiko” (contaminates the practice).

What is it about queer bodies that makes people think it is okay to compare them to dirt or a virus? These are the questions these men should be asking themselves. Heteronormativity is to sexuality as Dove “normal skin” lotion is to race, and this is damaging. Straight men are the reason why so many people navigate life so carefully that it is exhausting.

Masculinity is built on the tears of so many. The performance of masculinity is an ever-wounding revolving knife, harming anyone who dares to question or goes against it and its “principles”. Why do men continue to perpetuate this? Much like white people, clinging to their privilege, black men cling to masculinity with their entire beings.

Oh, and one more thing, people have the right to tell the stories of how your masculinity and patriarchy has hurt them, they do not need your permission to do so. Allow people to be angry, allow people to feel. Learn from the stories told and do some introspection.

Is your masculinity worth preserving if all it does is oppress and damage? Ask yourself.

Black men are, to black queer bodies and cishet (both cisgender and heterosexual) women, what the old white man is to black people. Suffocating. DM


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