Youth Gangsters: Negotiating Power in Intimate Relationships among the Youth in South Africa
Keywords:youth gangsters, masculinity, girlfriends, gender role, township
Masculinity that shapes male youth gangsterism in South African black townships is not totally complete until there is a girlfriend. Also, violence—where women are often the victims—is known to characterise youth gangsters’ intimate heterosexual relationships. Because violence and other forms of abuse are not just physical, and also taking into account the possibility of violence being a form of retaliation against manipulation, this article examines the role of the “girls” in youth gangsterism. In juxtaposing issues relating to the materialism of female partners with the sociocultural expectations of gender roles, this article argues that women in intimate relationships with youth gangsters have the agency to maintain relationships with gangsters and that they possibly abuse the young men with whom they are in a relationship by manipulating their gangsterism and sociocultural beliefs of manhood. The research is a contribution to the debate on gender violence and youth gangsterism. The researcher followed an ethnographic approach and obtained data by drawing mostly on the life histories of participants from the Cape Town townships of Gugulethu and Nyanga East with whom interviews and focus group discussions were conducted. Participants included 16 women between the ages of 22 and 47 years and seven men between the ages of 19 and 57 years. These men included four youth gangsters aged between 19 and 25 years.