TW: Intimate partner violence

The phrase men are trash has been around for a few years now, and while it has become nearly ubiquitous on social media and used in every day conversation, it may be easy to forget the origins, and why women started using it in the first place.

The phrase has been around for a couple of years and has been coming in and out of virality. In 2017, Karabo Mokoena  was murdered and her body burned by her boyfriend in South Africa. Karabo’s death sent shock-waves through the country, with the #MenAreTrash trend dominating social media platforms for weeks. 

Since then, the phrase has mainly been used by women to highlight the daily abuse and violence that they experience at the hands of men. The term is mainly to raise awareness about what women have to experience and navigate, including violence and harassment.

These days it is not uncommon to see people using the phrase casually on social media platforms, in response to frustration caused by various acts by men that range in severity.

Many men openly reject the phrase, for obvious reasons. On social media, there is a lot of chatter from those who say the  phrase is offensive because it’s #NotAllMen. 

However, I believe it is obvious it isn’t all men. Men are not born trash. This is known. 

It is clear instead that society is the problem, wherein we fail to equip men with the skills to refuse patriarchal indoctrination. Our responsibility to teach them that they are not entitled to anything. It all starts at home -- yet more often than not, it seems like we are failing. 

As a man, if you looked at a hashtag inspired by the vulnerabilities of others and chose outrage instead of empathy, then maybe it’s time to stop labelling yourself as one of the Good Guys™. 

Here’s some food for thought: You might not be Harvey Weinstein, but it doesn’t mean you’re not complicit in violence and aggression against women.

For instance, ask yourself if you’ve ever excused a friend’s violent behaviour towards women. Or remain friends with a known aggressor/abuser. Or if you’ve victim-shamed a survivor before. If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, I have some bad news for you. 

It’s much too easy to be passive when you hear something you don’t agree with. Standing up for women and being a Good Guys™ isn’t a bandwagon you can jump on and off at your pleasure. If you really do want to be seen as an example of “not all men”, you should start acting like it.

Do things that separate you from “all men” and try and do what’s right - not what’s easy.   

So should we stop saying men are trash? I know the statement is harsh but isn’t that the point? 

These statements aren’t meant to be gentle to the ear. They are meant to jolt you into action. Someone said to me recently that protests/boycotts or viral hashtags aren’t meant to be convenient to those being fought against. The whole idea is disruption. The hashtag knocks everyone in their fragility and makes you sit up and take notice. 

Because, no, not all men are trash, but yes all women are targets, and by walking down the street, a woman has no way of knowing which one you are. Giving you the benefit of the doubt could be detrimental to her safety.

When the hashtag first went viral, one netizen summed it up succinctly by using snakes as an analogy:

She explained how we all know that snakes are dangerous, yet there are some snakes which are not deadly at all. However, you never hear people say ‘some snakes are dangerous, some are not’. They just say, ‘snakes are dangerous’ because it is hard for the average person to tell which snakes are dangerous and which snakes are not, so they urge people to be cautious of all snakes.

What makes “men trash” is how they are a victim to the patriarchy, yet blame their issues on women. I have seen a lot of people mention how our complaints are null and void because it is women who raise the men we criticize.

What they fail to realize, however, is that these notions are internalized misogyny coming from men. They seem adamant to claim feminism is killing masculinity and with the same breath complain that their thoughts and feelings aren’t being heard. 

That’s how women feel because of men, yet you want to come here and complain just because they didn’t single you out as one of the Good Guys™

As I mentioned earlier, we know it’s not all men. But I implore all men to not jump to the defence of other men when hearing the statement. But instead to ask the women revealing their hurt and pain with a simple question: “How can I help?”

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