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men are trash


Chanel Retief and Jessica Bokete

Trigger warning: content on sexual assault and violence.

22-year-old Karabo Mokoena’s burnt body was found two weeks ago in Lyndhurst. After going missing on the 28 April 2017, her parents appealed to the public to ensure the safe return of the young woman. According to EWN, police found Karabo’s body on the 29 April 2017.  Her uncle, Tshepo Mokoena, made a statement on how this is a loss to the family “She is my brother’s daughter. We grew up as a very close family, so she has always been my daughter. It’s very traumatic because the body was burned beyond recognition.”

Let’s talk about the real issue at hand, and that is the “alleged” murderer who led the police to her body where he dumped her. Only moments after his arrest the hashtag #MenAreTrash began to make to make its rounds on social media, as well as the hashtag #RIPKarabo. Many other cases came up with this hashtag, including one of second year Rhodes University student Anelisa Dulaze who was also killed by her boyfriend.

What remains interesting, however, is how the person who killed Karabo is still being referred to as “her boyfriend” as well as still being seen as the “alleged” murderer, as if it wasn’t obvious enough. Does he think because he took the police to the body and that he confessed, he is more of a man and less than a coward? Or perhaps he thinks this will help his case and ease his conscious. Did someone remember to tell him that even if that is the case, the hashtag is still trending which means he is still trash. Especially now since the family confirmed that she did open an assault case against him.

What makes this case even more appalling is how there still be someone sitting on a pedestal asking him “Why did you do it?”. As if that can justify the fact that this man abused a young woman and then killed her and then dumped her. As if it can be looked beyond if he says something like “we had a fight” or “She was going to leave me” or “I saw talking to someone else”.  Here’s a rude awakening to whoever decided to prosecute her; “He killed her. Nothing else matters. Nothing else should matter. Nothing else will matter.

However looking at that hashtag #MenAreTrash, there is a deeper and underlying message to it. It’s almost emotional to even comprehend that in this day and age a man still thinks it is acceptable to raise his hand to a woman when he does not get his way. It is physically draining to believe that a man can still justify his actions for raising that very same hand to a woman. It is mentally draining to realise that there will be men out there, perhaps even sitting next to you, that will roll their eyes at this article and say “Yeah but what did she do to provoke him to hit her?” Let it sink in for a moment.

It was heart-warming though, to see as women came together to start a cause bigger than the small minded man that killed “his girlfriend”. The hashtag is important as it creates awareness for women who are still in abusive relationships and find it difficult to gain the power, that he takes from her, to leave. It shows men that women will not allow them to take any sort of power from us. Whether he does it physically, emotionally or even sexually.

Men are trash goes beyond the hashtag. We are not saying men are trash because they don’t hold the door open or carry our bags. Men are trash because rather than engaging with us, they would rather cry: “not all men”. Men would rather defend themselves and their ‘good’ actions than truly listen to why we say men are trash. If you know that you are not trash then why be offended? The men who cry ‘not all men’ are the most frustrating as they are more concerned with being called ‘trash’ than the alarming rate of violence perpetuated against women.

‘Men are trash’ speaks to the current patriarchy and misogyny in our society.  These problems are not limited to a specific group of men nor can they be negated by the ‘not all men’ argument. This sort of gender-based violence is not a new phenomenon. It is the result of violent masculinity and internalised misogyny. It is further fuelled by the belief that men are entitled to women’s bodies. It is so easy for men to completely ignore this because they have never experienced being a woman. It is easy for them to brush away our concerns because they do not personally affect them.

Karabo Mokoena is not the first woman to experience this type of violence and she, unfortunately, is not the last. It is unsafe to be a woman. You cannot leave the house without giving your friends and/or family your location. Every time you walk past a group of men on the street, there’s a panic that fills your body at the thought of them catcalling you. If they do cat call you, do you keep walking or do you stand up for yourself and face the risk of the men reacting violently?

This isn’t limited to strangers. The men who are our family and friends can hurt us as well. You never know if that one guy friend will get tired of you rejecting his advances and pretend to mishear your ‘no’. If your father or uncle or cousin will start to see how much you’ve ‘grown’ and feel the need to show you how much. Men’s trashy behaviour also extends to the LGBTQIA community. This toxic idea of masculinity has used to justify the hatred and violence against enacted on transgender people. It to the violent homophobia used to degrade gay men and use disgusting methods such ‘corrective rape’ on lesbian women.  It’s exhausting because we constantly have to prove why our lives matter.

Men do not want to listen when women check their behaviour. Men do not want to call out other men for their trashy behaviour. This also extends to the ‘woke’ brothers who speak out on gender-based violence and the need for feminism but are the ones who are called out for assaulting their partners. This also extends to the men who act surprised at every instance of gender-based violence and post statuses condemning the perpetrators and still manage defend themselves.

This also extends to the men who try to silence us by asking ‘what about male victims?’ but have nothing to say when we actually want to talk about male victims. And we didn’t forget about the men who say absolutely nothing on misogyny but have the nerve to act offended when we call them trash. A final shoutout to the men who take it upon themselves to tell women how to prevent sexual and/or violent attacks but don’t bother telling their male counterparts how to not violate us.

Until men take it about themselves to listen and engage with women, they will be trash. The internet is full of resources and there are several talks in and around campus, like the Unpacking Trash talk happening on Wednesday, that deal with misogyny and patriarchy. If you do not take it upon yourself to unlearn problematic behaviour then you’re part of the problem and you fall under ‘men are trash’.

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