Every 8 hours, a woman is killed in South Africa.
To be a woman in this country is to constantly live in fear. Women can’t stay out too late or take moonlight meanders because their gender makes them prey. There are ravenous beasts out there who lurk in various spaces, threatening a woman’s very existence. In the club, in homes, on campuses, and in taxis – women are not safe.
If you stroll the streets of social media often, you are probably familiar with the hashtag #MenAreTrash. This is a movement that has been gaining momentum in society as more atrocities against women are brought into the light. It is an anti-patriarchy movement that acknowledges that a lot of the pain that women suffer, emotionally, psychologically and physically, is at the hands of men.
#MenAreTrash highlights the fact that misguided masculinity is toxic and it is violent.
A War Against Women’s Bodies
How often do you hear about a woman who was killed by her lover or a girl child who was gang-raped on her way home from school? Just yesterday, we heard the odious news of a young woman, Karabo Mokoena (22) who was killed and her body incinerated by her boyfriend. Who can forget the tragic story of Anene Booysen (17) who was raped, mutilated and left for dead? How about Nosipho Mandleleni who was beaten and killed, also by a man who was supposed to love her.
The list of women who have been killed mercilessly goes on and on, and on and on.
When being a woman in this society is such a terrifying experience, how can we not chant that #MenAreTrash? It’s not only the men that murder and rape women, but it is also those who belittle female’s experiences, turning them into memes and jokes that are circulated all over social media. They do this without shame, pointing their fingers at women’s agony as if it were a jester in a royal court.
Here are examples of men that belittle female’s experience, these are in response to the #MenAreTrash trend:
— CoolestKidInAfrica (@KhristTsime) May 11, 2017
— Harlem (@TopDawgP) May 11, 2017
— Tshepo Modise ? (@Damn_Tshepo) May 11, 2017
For these men, there is no crisis in our society. Women are just being cry-babies. They should just get over it. After all, it’s women’s fault for bringing these men in our lives, right? This is the problem. Men refuse to acknowledge that there is war that is being raged against women in this country and it is a war led by patriarchy; a system of domination and control that privileges men at the expense of anyone who identifies as a woman. It is this very system of patriarchy that gives toxic masculinity free reign and makes it easy for men to turn a blind eye on the plight of women in South Africa.
Yes, ALL Men are Trash
Let’s take a moment to discuss the “not all men” brigade. These are the self-proclaimed good men who have never and would never lay a hand on anyone, let alone a woman. Now, there are men out there that we love and admire and they are not inherently dangerous. We see ya’ll. But here’s what you need to understand, by virtue of the fact that you are a man, you have been socialised to behave in a certain way because patriarchy has normalised certain behaviours. If you walk into a bar, you feel that it is your prerogative to get a response from a woman you are trying to pursue. After a date, your first instinct is to pull in for a kiss, having not asked the girl’s permission. The truth of the matter is that all men feel a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies and their personal space, and men perform that sense of entitlement in diverse ways.
Every man has the potential to be dangerous and women have learned to fear men, it is their defence mechanism. So, when you say that it’s not all men, what you are effectively doing is silencing women; you are saying, “hush, you do not know what you are talking about”. And that, dear sirs, is a performance of your privilege. You don’t know what it is like to feel powerless because of your gender, especially in a society that allows men to exercise their power over women persistently with little or no real consequence.
It’s time for men, especially the “not all men” brigade, to hold each other accountable and take their place in the fight against gender-based violence and the microaggressions that women have to deal with daily. It is your responsibility to make yourselves safer for women to be around. It’s high time you take on the burden of being vigilant and conscious. Instead of laughing at that inappropriate joke about violence towards women, rebuke it and correct your friends. Until you do all that you can to dismantle a system that is violent towards women, you have no right to say that not all men are trash. All men are trash because they benefit from a system that oppresses women and belittles their everyday experiences of subtle and overt violence.
Instead of being defensive when you come across laments such as #MenAreTrash, consider the ways that you can be violent and abusive in words and in deed, and check yourself. It’s not a woman’s job to educate you and teach you how to be a better man. Women are tired of explaining to you why you are trash and why they don’t trust you. The fact that you accept a society that tells women to not drink, stay out late or wear short skirts means that you do not think that men actually need to change. There is complicity in your silence and by not acting you are allowing gender-based violence to flourish.