Attitudes of rural men towards the advancement of rural women : a study of Thandanani and Umngazi maize producing projects

Neno, Thembisile Wiseman (2007-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Sociology and Social Anthropology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


The South African woman, due to political and social change, has a totally new role to play in the workplace. The study focused on attitudes by men towards black rural women who are participating in the upper echelons of rural economic development and have to display their full potential in positions previously and traditionally reserved for rural men. The research was conducted in the Port St John’s irrigation maize producing projects of Thandanani and Umngazi. The study develops and investigates the hypothesis that rural men have negative attitudes to the advancement of rural women. The researcher uses the theory of social closure, that originated from Max Weber, within which rural women’s upward mobility and resistance of men thereto can be placed. Social closure refers to the phenomenon that a hierarchical or stratified social system tends to develop in which an elite group seeks to maximize rewards by restricting access to resources to a limited circle of the eligible. In this a top-down process of exclusion and the limitation of opportunities, originating from rural men, is assumed. In contrast, rural women may attempt to gain access to opportunities enjoyed by rural men through a process of usurpation. In order to investigate these possibilities a social attitude survey was conducted among 45 male members of the Thandanani and Umngazi maize producing projects. Questionnaires in Xhosa language and based on summated rating scales were used. The rural men’s attitudes towards women were found to be differentiated. On the one hand, positive attitudes were found that support the advancement of women, accept equal opportunities and their creativity and helpfulness. On the other hand, sexist attitudes were observed that perceive women to be less capable and inherently inferior to men. Men, as the resourceful in-group, believe and think themselves as superior to women as the inferior out-group who as a result occupies lower positions of wealth and power. Men perpetuate their advantageous position and pass it to their offspring. These findings are borne out by literature where it is stated that men undermine cooperation between men and women in decision-making (Colclough 1999), regard women as minors (Cross et al 1988; Lessing 1994), and do not see them as relevant and worthy (Epstein 1970). Men are seen to have a desire to protect their advantage and create rules of distribution of resources to their own favour (Nel 2003). Development projects towards the advancement of women, who are believed to be inferior and incapable, are therefore deemed to fail. It is recommended that all agencies should adopt and implement equal opportunity programmes, feminists need to explore possibilities and give attention to how and in what areas men can be approached to enlist support in the struggle for women’s opportunities and rights; and cooperatives be established to break gender stereotypes through training and removal of boundaries that created occupational segregation between the genders.

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