Are men really trash?
I know that I'm opening a can of worms. No. Worms are too benign. Floodgates. I am opening the floodgates of a very volatile conversation. It's something I've been thinking about for a while even before I watched my friends argue about it on Facebook a few weeks ago. At the time I just felt that I didn't have the energy to dive into it. But I now feel that I have sufficiently collected my thoughts. Also, I've been busy.
Sexism and rape culture is a reality that can no longer be ignored. My earliest memory of being cat-called was when I was 15 years old. I don't remember exactly where I was or who did it. All I remember is feeling unsafe and disgusted. And in the subsequent times that it happened over the years, I wondered if it was my fault. It happened whether I was wearing a dress or my oldest and baggiest jeans and an over-sized t shirt. It's a thing that I and other women have somehow developed an unspoken rule for living with.
Don't talk back. Walk away quickly. Don't make eye contact. Keep your gaze low. Pretend you didn't hear them. Don't call attention to yourself. Prepare yourself to run of if you have to. Use your keys to gouge out eyes in case of an attack. Aim for the groin. Scream loudly.
The list of 'defense mechanisms' is endless.
If you are a man and you're reading this you may find it bizarre. You've probably never had to think about such things. Never began to get a bit anxious when darkness finds you somewhere other than home and you have to use public transport back home. Never been so uneasy when you boarded a matatu and you were the only one of your sex, and your paranoia won-out in the end when made the decision to immediately alight and wait for a more gender-balanced one. You have probably never felt unsafe in spaces that should be safe like your workplace or your own home or your church. Probably never in your life..and certainly never on a daily basis.
And who is to blame really? There are women who are part of the problem; perpetuate sexism just as much. But the fact remains that men are by far the biggest culprits in cases of violence against women. Especially men with a personal relationship with said women. We have to first of all accept and acknowledge that there is a problem before we can find a solution.
This is the part of the conversation where the hashtag 'Not all men' come into play. Some men are rapists, sexists and all round misogynists; but some of them aren't .That's an irrefutable fact. It's really hard to tell which side carries the majority and the sad thing is that sometimes you not know exactly which type of man you're dealing with until it's too late.
It gets more complicated. There's the question of men who don't perpetuate violent and discriminatory acts against women but are complicit to them. Did you even think to speak-out at all the last time your boy was relentlessly hitting-on (read 'harassing') a woman who clearly wanted to be left alone? Did you awkwardly laugh the last time your male co-worker made a crude comment about one of the female staff? Have you ever said anything to your brother about the way he treats his gilrfriend/wife even though you know in your bones that no human being should be treated that way?
That my brother is complicity. Sure, you personally don't do those things. You have nothing against women. Good for you! You are being a decent human being. Have a gold star! But it's not enough to stop there and be a witness to injustices that you could have stopped! That's almost as bad. So looks like you don't get that gold star after-all.
But in all this I can't deny the fact that there are good men out there trying to make a difference and change things. Fighting alongside us for equal opportunities and the right to be treated like human beings. Which is why I have a problem with the hashtag 'men are trash'. You may say that it's meant to raise awareness about the issues and start a conversation by being loud and shocking but I have a couple of issues with it.
First of all there's the inaccuracy of it because it's a blanket statement lumping all men in the category of 'trash' yet we all know damn well that there are several gems out there. You probably even have some of those gems in your life speaking out against the same issues that you are and working for change to happen. How do those conversations even go? 'So yeah, yesterday I tweeted men are trash but that doesn't include you'? (awkward)
Then, I think there has to be a better way for us to stay woke. A more positive way to marshal the other 50% of the population into doing the right thing. Raising the status of women does not mean that you have to beat men down. If that was the case, then what really is the point of this equality you're fighting for? You can't have it both ways. #MenAreTrash is simply not fair.
And I'm a Christian so thinking back to Proverbs 18:21
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit
Before you tell me not to bring religion into this kindly remember that you're the same person asking where the church is in all this. I want a better world. I believe that we desperately need one. I'm doing my part and I'm choosing to speak life instead.