Before I begin let me confirm something; yes, I’m a woman who is denouncing the Men Are Trash movement. I shall now enjoy my final moments of peace before I am labeled a sell-out. The Men Are Trash movement has in recent times has taken over global conversation regarding violence against women and women’s rights. In South Africa, the movement arose in response to the national shame of perpetual femicide and violence against women. At the heart of the movement is real, warranted, and justified anger at the painfully apparent lack of respect for women’s lives. Violence against women is just plain wrong no matter what angle you look at it from. However, the Men Are Trash movement offers a problematic method of addressing this very important issue. Let me count the ways.
One of the goals of the Men Are Trash movement is to encourage conversations around violence against women but the phrase, “men are trash,” is a harmful generalization. Even though some men are perpetrators of violence, the phrase “men are trash,” suggests that all men have a problem. Some of its supporters have highlighted that the movement doesn’t intend to target all men, just the patriarchal institutions that drive such violence. If that is the case then what we have is a serious semantical error. Our languages influence and are influenced by how we see the world which is why we shouldn’t take the language that we use to address certain issues lightly. Let us use language that effectively addresses toxic masculinities without condemning an entire gender. “Men are trash,” is stereotypical, and some of the problems we face in the world are due to certain groups of people being perceived in a negative light because of the actions a few. It also gives the impression that all men are inherently abusive and that we should expect nothing better from them. If we believe that, then we have already lost the war against woman abuse and femicide.
Secondly, the Men Are Trash movement alienates the group of people we need to engage in dialogue and collaborate with if we want to address violence against women; men. The reaction of many men towards the movement has been indignation and defensiveness. Trash ain’t exactly a pretty word. We may say we have been called worse such as…(insert expletives) and it is indeed true, but since when did fighting fire with fire make anything right. There is absolutely no way, no way we can hope to create safe societies for women if we are at odds with men. It just won’t work. If we keep throwing derogatory and harmful words at each other, what we will have will be anything but solutions, and that is what all women who are experiencing violence or who at risk of experiencing it desperately need. Many of the supporters of the Men Are Trash movement claim that it is meant to be empowering but the kind of empowerment that comes from the denigration of others, particularly men who are neither abusers nor murderers, is the empowerment that we don’t need. In addition to this, what do we call women who assist or promote this kind of violence, for example, human traffickers and the like? Believe me, these women exist. Instead of all the mudslinging on the TL what we need to focus our energies on is ensuring that our boys are raised to respect women and that the justice served especially for the victims of these crimes. Any other conversation on these issues is pointless if it’s not progressive. `
We must not downplay femicide, misogyny, or the abuse of women. What we must do is find ways of addressing violence against women collectively and collaboratively that includes both genders. Applying stereotypical labels to each other will only result in more toxicity