'Ducktails, Flick-knives and Pugnacity': Subcultural and Hegemonic Masculinities in South Africa, 1948-1960


Mooney, Katie. 1998. “‘Ducktails, Flick-knives and Pugnacity’: Subcultural and Hegemonic Masculinities in South Africa, 1948-1960.” Journal of Southern African Studies 24: 753–74.

Author: Katie Mooney


The Ducktails were a white youth gang subculture that emerged within post Second World War South Africa. They were rebellious, hedonistic, apolitical and displayed little respect for the law, education or work. Collectively their identity was shaped by specific racial, class and gender elements. Within gender studies, femininity has been at the forefront whereas investigations into masculinities have rarely featured. This article contributes towards a better understanding of masculinity and particularly white masculine identities within an historical context. Particular attention is given to the way male members of the subculture constructed, sustained and practiced their masculinity. Specifically, this article argues that Ducktail masculinity was not static or homogeneous but was rather multifarious, embracing characteristics such as image, territoriality, loyalty, pugnacity, competitiveness, virility and homophobia. This sets the context for an exploration of the relationship of conformity, conflict and control that emerged between Ducktail masculinity and other more accepted and dominant masculinities.

Topics: Age, Youth, Class, Gender, Men, Boys, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Race, Sexuality, Violence Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 1998

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