Deconstructing Masculinity in a ‘Female Bastion’: Ambiguities, Contradictions and Insights
Author(s)Fonchingong, Charles C.
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AbstractThis article is informed by my experiences teaching women’s studies and specifically feminist theory to predominantly female and male students offering Women’s studies. As a mainstream academic discipline at the University of Buea, housing the only such Department in Cameroon’s Higher Education system, this study uncovers the broader polemics regarding gender and women’s studies. Against the backdrop of a patriarchal society, this study attempts to account for the shifting strands on masculinity and femininity and gender transgressions as played out by students taking women’s studies. It also analyses the notions, misconceptions and stereotypes that characterise the discipline of women’s studies, specifically at the University of Buea, a replica of the cultural mindset across Cameroon, largely perceived as a female bastion. Borrowing from Derrida’s concept of deconstruction, this paper situates inherent biases, contradictions and the mediations surrounding the discipline. The standpoints of male and female students are sought on their reasons for taking women’s studies, how they are perceived by their peers in the University of Buea, the stereotypes and labels they are christened with and the ambivalence that surrounds women’s studies as a field of scholarship. The study concludes that women’s studies is largely construed as a ‘women’s affair’ and a “no go” area for males, on the pain of being considered effeminate while the female students are seen as fully ‘empowered’ and, therefore, a potential threat to the patriarchal order. Yet the survival of women’s studies as a discipline rests squarely on how it can be viewed by society at large.