DURBAN - IT’S BEEN a heavy two weeks with daily news reports of women missing, found dead, burned, beaten, raped and assaulted.
It has led to many women sharing their experiences where men have assaulted them. The shocking things they reveal on social media of what men – even their own fathers – have done to them are enough to leave you cold.
Not only has it made me think about the way I have treated the women in my life, but it has also prompted a conversation with some of my male friends on what we need to do to make sure we do better when it comes to women and how we need to steer the younger generations of men to treat women better than older generations have.
It’s funny how men are always on the defensive about the perception women have of us. That old “boys will be boys” excuse is one that has prevented many from taking responsibility for their harmful actions. You know, the locker room talk. The way we trash our partners. The way we speak about women.
On Beyonce’s If I Were A Boy from her 2008 album, I Am… Sasha Fierce, she sings: If I were a boy, even just for a day I’d roll outta bed in the morning and throw on what I wanted and go. Drink beer with the guys and chase after girls, I’d kick it with who I wanted and I’d never get confronted for it, ’cause they’d stick up for me… I’d put myself first, and make the rules as I go, ’cause I know that she’d be faithful, waitin’ for me to come home.
It’s a song that goes beyond heartbreak – it shows just how problematic men are, entitled and not inclined to take responsibility.
It’s a song which, when listened to carefully, should make men think of the way we treat women – whether they are our partners, family or colleagues.
When are we going to start being more accountable for our actions? The past two weeks have resulted in some necessary dialogue, but it has mostly come from women.
Few men are stepping up. Instead, they are denying there’s a problem – or at least that they are the problem. Many are decrying being called trash instead of finding ways to remedy the situation.
I guess it’s normal. After all, we all would like to think that we are good people. And yet we are not. Not all of us, anyway. And unfortunately for us, we have all been tarred with the same brush. We are as complicit in this femicide as the men who are committing these crimes. It’s heartbreaking. It’s time we took responsibility and changed the way we treat women, lest we continue being called trash.
I tried to ask the men on my Facebook for their views on men being trash. Only two responded. I tried several times, even asking those who were vocal about the trending topic, and yet they didn’t want to come forward. Or be involved in the debate.
I think it was telling. Telling, because I don’t think we are ready to talk to each other about how violent we tend to be towards women (and each other). We don’t want to talk about how we can change.
Here are two contributions from men on #MenAreTrash:
Nkosinathi Mabena, Johannesburg:
Men have reduced themselves to trash simply because we refuse to correct each other’s ill-behaviour. If your best friend is cheating on their partner, you turn a blind eye and pretend it’s the norm. We have conformed to lying to one another to keep up with the status quo of not being seen as “soft” and comply with the unwritten philosophy of “alpha male-ism”.We no longer rise to some of the basic occasions of being a man. In my opinion, men should pride themselves on protecting, respecting and loving all people and one another.
The reason women feel we are trash is that the terrible behaviour has moved from that one scumbag at the corner to the guy praying in tongues and preaching in the church. There’s nowhere to run for women. They have no escape or safe space because it (abuse) happens everywhere. Let’s be honest with each other as men – let’s correct each other in our small circles and let us not entertain misogyny.
Sihle Mthembu, Durban;
‘#MenAreTrash is an object statement supported by historical evidence. There is nothing new or controversial about it. The fact that grown men are getting touched in their studios about three words, as opposed to holding each other accountable for their actions, is just yet another fine example of millennial self-victimisation culture.
It’s symptomatic of how men want to control the narrative; the fact that we even have to discuss this is toxic and tiring. It is true that black men are to black women what white people are to black people. As soon as you say men are trash, people start wanting safe spaces because it’s “mean”, because they “feel attacked”. Women’s lives are more important than men’s feelings. BTW: in the 30 seconds it has taken you to read this, another woman has been raped or killed, most likely by someone they know.