Fault lines : homophobic visual perceptions of masculinity
This study explores connections between masculinity and homophobia in a Faculty of Arts and Design at a South African university. Connections between masculinity and homophobia may have consequences for the visual representation of the male body in graphic design. Literature suggests that gender is socially constructed and performed, and that masculinity and homophobia are connected. As such understanding this connection might assist graphic designers who are often tasked with visually representing gendered bodies. The study uses critical theory as the research orientation for inquiry, which is then related to masculinity studies. Photo elicitation using context-free images of male body language in focus groups is the main data generation strategy. Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis with particular reference to participants’ personal stake and interest in masculinity are employed as analytical tools. Overall, the research data reveals four discursive ‘positions’ in relation to visual perceptions of body language: human or situational performance of masculinity, socially gendered performance of masculinity, effeminate or ‘gay’ performance of masculinity, and homosexual performance of masculinity. However, in the data these positions overlap and combine when participants manage their stake or interest in masculinity. The thesis of this study is therefore that homophobic visual perceptions of masculinity may permeate gender performance as ‘fault lines’. Although the study finds these homophobic fault lines in visual perceptions of masculinity, there is also evidence of acceptance of non-mainstream forms of masculinity.