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Men Are Trash

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Men are trash.

We see and hear this statement in many places. We witness the defensiveness to it with the claim of “Not All Men” and label it as social justice commentary about what we perceive to be feminist nonsense. Then, the debate dies down. Not long after, another event of gender-based violence shakes us to our cores and we hear it again.

Men are trash.

We sometimes see the statement weaponized against Black and Brown men, playing into the stereotypes of the darker-skinned, insatiable, savage male who is hypersexual and backward in his thinking of women and their place within society. Some of us, Black and Brown men (and women), resist this by pointing out how we value our mothers and female cousins and how we protect them.

Within the Muslim community, “Men Are Trash” is met with a self-justifying reminder of how Islam gave women rights that they did not possess anywhere else at the time, or with the infamous “Not All Men.”

The discomfort around the phrase “Men Are Trash” is understandable. On the surface, it seems to declare all men as evil. The phrase calls for men to be accountable for their actions and hold other men around them accountable for their actions as well. This is especially important considering a few things that have happened in the last year-plus. This leads me to say, we need to have a serious conversation around gender-based violence, rape culture, misogyny, and femicide.

I live in South Africa, a country considered to be the rape and femicide capital of the world. It is the most unsafe place to be a woman that is not at war or engaged in armed conflict. Women’s activists commonly comment on there being an ongoing war against women in South Africa.

The month of August is Women’s Month here in South Africa. On the 9th of August, South Africans celebrate a national holiday called Women’s Day. We mark the anniversary of the Women’s March of 1956, in which 20,000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings (one of the two seats of the government) against legislation that sought to tighten control over the movement of Black women in urban areas. “You strike a woman; you strike a rock!” was the slogan that came from the Women’s March.

Every year on Women’s Day, we have conferences that speak on how far women have come, we highlight outstanding women… And, we see gender-based violence, rape, sexual violence, and femicide continue. In August 2019, a female student at the University of Cape Town, Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and killed at a post office. In August 2020, a student studying at The University of the Witwatersrand, Asithandile Zozo was murdered by her ex-boyfriend during Women’s Month. Both of them would have been among women we would laud and celebrate for breaking glass ceilings and attaining education, leading to a brighter future. But instead, both women are dead because of gender-based violence.

Following the death of Uyinene, a movement came into existence called #AmINext? The brutality of Uyinene’s death shocked the nation. President Ramaphosa responded by announcing reforms which included harsher punishment for sexual offenders. Almost a year later, Asithandile was murdered.

It would be silly to believe that rape culture, misogyny, gender-based violence and femicide are in any way, shape, or form particular to South Africa, or Black people. In fact, The U.K. is experiencing its own gender-based violence epidemic. This is highlighted by the deaths of both Sarah Everard in March, and more recently Sabina Nessa. Sabina Nessa was a 28-year-old Bangladeshi teacher who was murdered on a five-minute walk from her house to a pub, at a time where there would have been people around. According to the Femicide Census, on average, a woman is murdered in the United Kingdom every three days.

Gender-based violence is present in all societies and can in some cases, blend into culture creating what one could describe as cultural misogyny. It is just as pertinent in more conservative and religious countries like Pakistan.

The brutal death of Noor Mukadam two months ago rattled me because of how close it hit home. Here was someone my age, the daughter of a former diplomat like close friends of mine, dead in a gruesome murder. Noor was raped and murdered by a man from one of Pakistan’s top business families. According to the interim challan, upon hearing of his son’s actions, Mr. Jaffar allegedly told him not to worry and that men were coming to help dispose of the body.

Noor’s crime: declining an offer of marriage. Her beheaded body was found at her murderer’s residence. A light that shone brightly was extinguished. In Noor’s story, I see the stories of several women who have been murdered by their intimate partners or strangers around the world. Gender terrorism as one article described it. In her, I see my mother, sisters, friends, past partners, colleagues, and former classmates wondering if they’re next. In Noor’s story, I see the face of the daughter I may one day have and see as the apple of my eye. It’s haunting.

I hope and pray for the serving of justice in this case.

Solidarity between women across the racial divide in South Africa was what led to a march on the 9th of August 1956, to be remembered as a moment in the fight against apartheid. While we work towards building solidarity between women across the race and class spectrum to address the challenges they face to their safety and security, we must request the same of men. Men across the racial and class spectrum need to engage in the uncomfortable work of challenging and unlearning toxic understandings of manhood.

I seek a world where the women in my life, existing, future, and beyond, feel as safe walking down the road as any man, my future son and I.

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