Masculinity, poverty and body image among older men in Tanzania: Connecting intersectionality and Bourdieu's theory of practice

Sylivia Karen Rutagumirwa, Ajay Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Until now, the body image literature has largely ignored older men. In particular, little is known about how older men perceive and experience their ageing bodies, despite the importance of the body to men's practice of masculinity and their position within gendered hierarchies. Addressing this gap in the research, we conducted 15 in-depth interviews and ten focus group discussions (N = 60) with older men aged 60-82 years. Drawing upon the intersectionality approach and Bourdieu's theory of practice, we examined how older men with low socio-economic status give meaning to their ageing bodies in relation to ideals of masculinity. The findings suggest that body strength is vital capital for older men with low socio-economic status, and that changes in their bodies as they age affect their ability to actualise themselves as 'real' men and undermine their sense of masculinity. The inability to live up to masculine ideals left most of these men feeling inadequate and ashamed. The findings further reveal that stress caused by ageing bodies, exacerbated by older men's socio-economic conditions, constituted a threat to their survival and overall wellbeing. Interventions should take older men's perceptions of and adaptations to the ageing body into account. In addition, when designing interventions for older men, practitioners should consider the socio-economic and cultural context in which older men are embedded. Particularly important is a gender-transformative intervention that raises awareness of negative masculine norms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAgeing and Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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