Following the gruesome murder of Karabo Mokoena, allegedly by her boyfriend, Sandile Mantsoe, women from all walks of life who were lucky enough to have survived abuse took to social media to share stories of their own.
The hashtag #MenAreTrash trended, as women shared their thoughts on issues of safety, while some shared what they had suffered at the hands of men.
However, there were men and women who felt the hashtag was unfair to those men who have never done anything to hurt women. The hashtag was a bad generalisation, they argued, since “not all men are trash”.
Some women said their husbands, brothers and boyfriends were not trash, adding those women who said “all men are trash” were “on their own”.
But they missed the whole point of it all. The hashtag was not a statement, but a movement, much like #BlackLivesMatter. It was a call to action and the need for reflection.
It is sad that this hashtag that rubbed many up the wrong way ended up becoming the discussion, instead of it prompting an open discussion about safety for women. All many of us ended up talking about was the bad “generalisation” and how we’re now “making the good ones look bad”.
But the hashtag was not a statement, but a movement.
Even in a time in which women do not feel safe at all, somehow men still found a way to turn this whole debate around and make it about them. They turned themselves into the victims somehow.
There is already enough going on that’s all about men. Men rape because they feel entitled to women’s bodies. Men physically abuse women because they feel women have to be “trained” to respect them. Men do all these things to women because it is all about THEM.
Just this once, all women wanted was for men to forget about themselves and discuss matters that could benefit someone else, but no, it’s more important to point out that “not all men are trash”, right?
All they had to do was put themselves in a woman’s shoes and try to understand where she was coming from.
Because the hashtag was not a statement, but a movement.
To the women who were against this hashtag because “not all men are trash” – yes there are obviously men around who are amazing and treat you with respect, but do you know how they treat other women out there?
When your perfect brother walks on the street, a random woman on the street might still see him walking behind her and pray he’s not out to get her (regardless of his intentions) … because you don’t understand that the hashtag was not a statement, but a movement.
Every man you see walking behind you, prompting you to pray that he does not do anything to harm you, is someone’s brother, son or husband. Every man has people who look up to him and probably think he isn’t trash … that he’s a “good person”.
What about that man who is in prison for rape, or any other kind of abuse? Is he not someone’s brother or husband?
The women in such men’s lives – their mothers, aunties, sisters and grannies – didn’t think they would have done anything harmful to a woman.
These are the kind of women who would defend a rapist because “my brother is not like that”. Yes, he is not like that to you, but he was not like that to another woman.
In fact, the reason he may have been overprotective and treated you like a “princess” was because maybe he knows what men are capable of. What he is capable of.
These are the same women who were “disgusted” with Gugulethu Zuma-Ncube’s interview with Anele Mdoda, in which she spoke of her father, President Jacob Zuma, as a supportive father. Even though the man was acquitted of the rape he was accused of years ago, we still have serious doubts about it even today. Acquittal is not innocence, right?
These are the same people who were offended when at the time when police in the US were killing innocent black people, some came out and thought the ‘black lives matter’ movement was unfair, and came up with their own ‘all lives matter’ hashtag.
The hashtag is not about saying men don’t get raped or suffer abuse at the hands of women and, yes, there are “good” men out there. But the hashtag was not a statement, but a movement; a cry to all men out there to do or say something about the safety of women.
So no, we’re not asking men to protect us, as some have suggested. We are asking for men to respect us enough to treat us like human beings, not as objects for their amusement.
To think that even in this critical and sensitive moment, all many men could talk about was how good they are, instead of finally seeing what is wrong with the world and trying to do something about it, shows we still have a long way to go.
It’s society and the conditions (especially the conditions of power) that allow men to be the worst version of themselves that we need to deal with, not debating whether this one is a “good man” or that one is a “bad man”.
Men who understood the point of the hashtag and were not offended by it realised that the hashtag was not a statement, but a movement – a cry from women who are only asking for their freedom.