Should We Stop Saying ‘Men Are Trash’?

By saying men are trash, we are lowering the expectations of men

Oct 8 · 8 min read
Image by Damian O’Donoghue

For those who are unaware, men are trash is a phrase used by people of all genders these days to exclaim disappointment, anger and frustration regarding the actions of men.

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. In this country femicide is a chronic problem. Statistics showing that a woman is murdered every 4 hours. It is also reported that more than half of these murders (57.1%) are initiated by an intimate partner.

Karabo’s death sent shock-waves through the country, with #MenAreTrash trend dominating social media platforms for weeks.

The phrase has mainly been used by women to highlight the daily abuse and violence that they experience. It’s not about men but more so about what women experience at the hands of them, utilised mainly to raise awareness. However, these days it is not uncommon to see people using the phrase on social media platforms, showcasing frustration to various acts that range in severity.

From Twitter

There has since been a lot of chatter. Mostly from men defending themselves. In their view, the phrase is offensive because it’s #NotAllMen. However, I believe it is obvious it isn’t all men. As I said in a previous essay, we all know it’s not all men.

A summary I like is this one;

Let me explain ‘Men Are Trash’ using snakes so even the dumb [expletive] can get it (also because we are snakes.)

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.

Even if a snake is presented to you and you are told that it is not deadly at all, you will still feel uneasy and take extra precaution when dealing with it because you know what snakes are capable of.

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 the good guy you THINK you are — Jesse Vhasy Rasoesoe

These days, saying the phrase can place you in under more scrutiny than being trash. For example, Brazilian gaming influencer Gabriela Cattuzzo was dropped by her sponsor after responding to sexual harassment on Twitter with “this is why men are trash.” Not too long ago Facebook began censoring “men are trash” posts as hate speech.

In my experience, the men I have been around have either been problematic or complicit. I am yet to be exposed to a man that will openly call out his friends for bad behaviour. They instead choose to be silent in their disagreement and think that is enough.

In my view, 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 criticise. Yet they fail to realise these notions are internalised 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.

Toxic masculinity causes men to kill other men, women and themselves. Not to mention, only 3% of UK adults associate masculinity with kindness or care. Just 1% associated it with respectfulness, supportiveness, and honesty. Studies have also found that if a woman earns more than a man in a relationship, he’s more likely to cheat and do fewer chores as a way of protecting his masculinity.

So should we stop saying men are trash? If you have read this far you may be a little confused. My point of view seems clearly defined yet I am still open to debate? Why?

As highlighted above, the generalisation isn’t the problem. However, I saw a tweet that made me stop and think.

From Twitter

The author’s point is that by saying men are trash we are lowering the expectations of men. She believes what we should be saying is “men can and should do better.” To her both statements mean the same thing — it’s in their nature — even though the intention is different. She believes that either way you are dismissing that men shouldn’t be assholes by implying that hideous misogynistic behaviour is inherent for literally all men.

I was discussing this with a friend who while she liked the idea, she couldn’t back it. She said, “ I don’t think they are particularly comparable. Men are trash is usually a solidarity/frustration thing and boys will be boys is a shielding men type thing.” Which is an interesting perspective.

Another issue is how the term gets abused by trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs);

From Twitter

But honestly, fuck TERFs.

I recently read a beautiful article by Noah Hawley called, On Raising Sons.

In it he recounts his childhood, remembering a time when his mother told him to, “ Have friends who are girls before you have girlfriends.” It was much later that he was able to interpret her words. Saying;

It is deceptively simple advice, and yet within these words lay the crux of history’s misogyny trap. See women as human beings, my mother was saying, whose thoughts and feelings matter, before you sexualize them. Understand that they are not objects of desire to be coveted and controlled, for we cannot demean someone we respect.

To be given an advantage one should be required to recognize it as an advantage. My mother knew this. She understood that her power to change the world lay not just in the words she wrote, but in the fact that she had born sons who could be taught to be men of a different kind. Society could be reshaped, she realized, not just in the streets, but at home in the way we raise our boys.

Men are not born trash. This is known. Society is the problem. It is our responsibility 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.

So should we stop saying men are trash? I don’t know. I appreciate the arguments for both. I also appreciate the roots of the term as being a symbol of solidarity. However, can we say it is working regarding accountability?

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. Which is an interesting thought.

In the UK, The Femicide Census, found that 76% of women were killed by men in 2017 knew their killer. With 46% of these women being killed by their partner or an ex (compared to 3 per cent of murdered men). They also collected data on “overkilling” — killings where the force or method used was greater than that required to kill the victim — and found that “overkilling” was evident in 42% of these cases.

However, these issues are global. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime conducted a global study on the gender-related killings of women and girls. They found that intimate partners or family members killed 50,000 women worldwide.

Yet I see a lot more men defending the actions of other men than those joining in to support women.

These men are quick to criticise the generalisation yet do nothing to stop men tarnishing their reputation. Or as I noted above, seek to blame the women who raised them without realising the majority are blinded and brainwashed by the patriarchy.

I want to help men; I do. But do they want it?

I was watching Suits last night. During the episode, Louis Litt, a male lawyer, was discussing his masculinity. Talking about how he was yet to meet a man as manly as himself while drinking on a piña colada. A moment that was so pleasing to me because he is right. True masculinity is being able to do things that are perceived as feminine without seeing it as an attack on manhood. So I do have hope.

At the moment we are caught in a feedback loop. Where men are taught that strength means no emotional intelligence. And that the world was built for them. Yet if they do want to speak out, they face the risk of being hurtled with abuse for not being “manly enough”. Which is why so many believe their only option is to keep quiet. At the same time, all traces of femininity are actively squashed out — something cishet women are complicit in as the pressure to be masculine and “tough” doesn’t only come from fellow men.

After all, studies have shown heterosexual women find bisexual men less attractive than heterosexual men, with one of the main reasons being their perceived femininity. There is lots of research indicating that heterosexual women tend to prefer men with “traditional masculine qualities.” A preference that will only continue to feed into toxic masculinity. I would be lying if I said I have never questioned a man’s sexuality due to his femininity — a bias I have been actively working to end. But one we as women, in general, need to tackle.

As I said earlier, we all know it’s not all men. But I wish more would see that it is possible for them to do more. I am, however, going to try to stop saying men are trash, opting instead for the wisdom of Lizzo, “Why men great ’til they gotta be great?” Because men can and should do better. Yet I can see and respect the choices of those who choose not to cease saying the phrase. After all, those individuals would require to see men rising up, addressing the need for change and their own complicity.

So I implore the men reading this to not jump to the defence of other men when hearing the statement. But instead to ask the women revealing their hurt and pain a simple question. “How can I help?”

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Masculinity is a mask. A bright, colorful mask.


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Masculinity is a mask. A bright, colorful mask.