At first I thought this movement’s name (#Menaretrash) was a bit harsh. I immediately wanted to leap to men’s defense as I have two wonderful gorgeous boys and a great husband who treats me well and lots of male friends who I know would never dream of hurting a woman and who certainly wouldn’t deserve this label.
But the more I read about the #Menaretrash movement and the message it’s trying to convey I understand why it had to get such a name. Yes it’s sensational, it offends, it’s accusatory and it appears to tarnish all men with the same brush. But before you get defensive and declare yourself a knight in shining armour let me stop you right there and ask you the following:
- As a man have you ever felt uneasy about your wife, sister, mother, girlfriend or daughter, etc., walking around alone?
- Has your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/daughter, etc., ever walked past a man and been looked at in an undesirable way, catcalled or touched inappropriately?
- Do you tell your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/daughter not to dress in a certain way – perhaps to ensure that they stay safe?
- Do you feel the need to teach your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/daughter some self-defence techniques?
- When a girl or woman goes missing in South Africa do you immediately assume the worst has happened?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, particularly because you would be concerned for the women in your life’s safety then you may start to realise why a movement like this is so vital. Women DON’T feel safe walking around on their own, particularly in South Africa. And it shouldn’t be this way!
If I’m feeling particularly vulnerable I’ll walk with my keys between my fingers (just in case) to use as a weapon. If I happen to find myself in a dodgy area in Cape Town or a street (like Long Street) where the pickpocketing is rife I’ll walk tall, confidently and briskly, reducing my chances of being a target. I drive with my windows rolled up and my doors locked. If I’m driving late at night (I usually try and avoid doing this) I tend to treat red traffic lights like yield signs. So instead of stopping I’ll drive on if it’s safe to do so. This is to avoid being hi-jacked in the middle of the night, raped and murdered.
My days of wearing hot pants and short skirts are over (I don’t have the confidence or the body to carry it off anymore) but on the days when I wear dresses I still feel vulnerable when I get leered at by a man. And if I walk past a construction site and the men wolf whistle in my direction and cry out ‘honey-bun’, ‘hey sexy’ and make smooching noises a shiver goes up and down my spine and I speed up my gait and avoid eye contact.
I don’t have any daughters but if I did, I’d warn them about going out at night and drinking too much – because apparently there are some men out there that still think it’s right to sexually assault a women if she’s out cold. I’d talk to them about the dangers of dressing a certain way – not because they’d look like sluts but because they will be viewed as such by some men. I’d encourage them to take up judo, karate or some kind of self-defence class to ensure that they know what to do if they were attacked. I’d probably keep them under lock and key until they were 21. I’d probably not let them date until they were 18 and out of school and I’d teach the importance of saying ‘no’ clearly and firmly (so there is no ambiguity or ‘misunderstanding’).
I’d teach them that it’s inappropriate for boys (or anyone) to touch them, particularly in certain parts, without their consent – hell these days you have to teach the boys that too. I’d keep a firm eye on my daughters at shopping malls and other public spaces for fear of them being accosted, raped or murdered.
If you think I’m crazy for being so overly cautious there are thousands of reasons why women and girls in particular need to be vigilant in South Africa. In the Western Cape, where I live, 19 children have been murdered since January. Just this weekend Courtney Pieters’ (3) parents had to deal with knowing that their child had been raped and killed, allegedly by a family friend who’d lived with them for years. This month, a man was arrested for the murder of his 14 month old daughter. And the story of a 22 year old pregnant woman in Joburg has shocked the nation. It’s claimed that eleven men raped her!
Girls and women are being raped and killed on a daily basis in South Africa. If a campaign like #Menaretrash can get that message across and create some positive change then I’m all for it, regardless of the fact that it may be offensive. Sadly, I have my doubts that this will create the effect that people want it to have. I remember years ago actress Charlize Theron got flack for her ‘Real men don’t rape’ advert, which was conducted on behalf of Rape Crisis. It caused such offence that it was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa. Now the #Menaretrash is getting the same vitriol and there are some hateful comments on Twitter from men that just don’t get the point (see below).
If your first instinct to #Menaretrash is to start with the words ‘But not all men are…’, then you are missing the point. It’s not about you. It’s about women feeling safe. It’s about creating a world where women can do ordinary things like wear what they like, do what they like without it being an invitation to kill, maim, or rape in some men’s minds. As women, as mothers, as fathers, as brothers, as parents we are saying: ‘Enough is enough’.
Reaction on Twitter
I thought I’d compile a brief roundup of the types of comments that are currently circulating around about the #Menaretrash movement. There are lots of people (yes – even men) that understand what the movement is trying to achieve. But there are others that are just missing the point and are rather wasting time being defensive and chauvinistic.
You got it!
The hashtag #MenAreTrash has become a familiar one originally a response to gender-based violence patriarchy, sexism and misogyny.
#MenAreTrash the fact that you run away or feel offended by this hashtag says a lot
You may be upset by #MenAreTrash. But, if you’re a man, you are far less likely to be treated like trash, killed and burnt like rubbish.
#MenAreTrash is purposefully antagonistic, provocative, & abrasive because the only way to get you to listen is to rattle your sensibilities
Some men are missing the point #menaretrash is not meant to start gender war, it’s a cry for help from both men and women
You’re missing the point… (sigh)
I just hope that the women yelling #MenAreTrash today aren’t the same ones that were saying nice guys aren’t “exciting” enough yesterday
You call me trash! Let me pack my hard earned belongings and go #MenAreTrash
#MenAreTrash……but when flabba girlfriend stabbed him, the was no women are trash.
#MenAreTrash but women often fall for the BAD guys and friend-zone the GOOD guys.