Four years after the hashtag #MenAreTrash went viral, and fourteen years after #MeToo movement began, has there been an improvement? Or are we still living in a misogynistic, patriarchal society?
It has become common knowledge to take care when using the hashtag #MenAreTrash. If you utter the dreaded three words and listen very closely, you can hear the angry tapping of a keyboard warrior proclaiming, “not all men!” Why are men so sensitive when it comes to this hashtag? Four years after the hashtag was created, you still find social media riddled with the same painful posts of a woman crying out. The tales of terror, instead of compassion, are met with a backlash of denial, blaming the victim and other defense mechanisms by male counterparts. Which begs the question, are men still trash?
Facebook went a step further and policed all #MenAreTrash posts, including any variations of it. The CEO: Mark Zuckerberg, claims it goes against their code of conduct as it amounts to “hate speech.” This completely defies what the movement is trying to achieve. The #MenAreTrash movement was to highlight the abuse women go through daily and show men how difficult they make being a female.
A little history…
The year is 2006, and women are still victims of a patriarchal society. Tarana Burke is a youth care worker. After one of her regular camps, a troubled young girl tried to confide in her. The girl tells Burke about her mother’s boyfriend and the unthinkable things he did to her. Distraught from what she hears, she could not let the child finish. Burke recalls on her website, “the shock of being rejected, the pain of opening a wound only to have it abruptly forced closed again- it was all on her face.” This moment changed Burke’s life, and she started the #MeToo movement. She had also had experienced similar abuse. Burke starts #MeToo to help women and children that are victim to sexual abuse and the trauma that follows. #MeToo is born, life seems to look up for women, but not for long.
Seven years later, on Valentine’s Day, South African model Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead in her apartment by her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius. The story came to light because of the celebrity status the pair had. Pistorius was a national treasure winning multiple gold awards in the Paralympics and Steenkamp, a well-known model. Pistorius is convicted, after a two year, public and emotionally tiresome trial. The Reeva Rebecca Foundation was founded by Steenkamp’s family to assist women and children that are victims of domestic violence. The foundation also grants bursaries to young women studying family law. The world shocked and intrigued but not enough to change, continues as cases of domestic violence stayed unshaken.
Skip a few more years of femicide to the year 2016, and cases of gender-based violence (GBV) continue to rise. Karabo Mokoena comes to light as a missing person’s case that developed into a fatal and sad ending. In a field near her boyfriend’s apartment, Mokoena’s body was found in a field in April 2017. Burnt and mutilated, Mokoena was hardly recognizable. The year-long trial revealed a history of domestic violence and abuse. There were also eery links to satanic rituals as the allegations of Mokoena being a human sacrifice for Mantsoe’s wealth came to light. Mantsoe is sentenced to life in prison. The public is horrified by the facts of this case, but the outrage soon boiled over. The ripples of destruction didn’t last long, and the ocean of toxic masculinity returned to its original calm state.
In 2019 thousands of protesters gathered in Cape Town and- in an almost domino effect- other cities across the globe; men and women, united, marching in protest to end GBV after the gruesome death of Uyinene Mrwetyana came to light. Uyinene is murdered by a post office worker after she went to pick up a package from her local post office. The outrage lasted a month with global protests, vigils, and Mrwetyana receiving a state funeral. Soon after, life again seemed to return to an uneasy equilibrium.
Fast forward to 2020, the world is going through a global pandemic that has seen every country under lockdown. Despite the decrease in activity, the rape and murder of women continue behind closed doors. Countries report a significant increase in cases of domestic violence as many governments opt for solutions that would combat the spread of the virus. In China, domestic violence reports tripled compared to the previous year in the first month of their national lockdown. The lockdown highlights the flaws in the justice system. Instead of removing abusers from the home, the government would rather open shelters for the victims. Italy ruled for the law to change in the victim’s interests in September 2019 meaning the abuser leaves the home and not the victim in cases of domestic violence.
“For [cases of] gender-based violence things like bail should not be easily available and parole”Bheki Cele
Zoom in to South Africa
The continuous systemic prejudice crushes any hope of an equal future. Women everyday are faced with unfair standards, undermined, and abused. The hashtags, movements, and foundations created are to highlight the continuous femicide that goes on without a flinch. Since 2020 began, South Africa is the country with the highest reported rape cases in the world. The country announced a nationwide lockdown on the 27th March and after one week of being indoors, a report was released that 87,000 cases of GBV had been reported. That amounts to 8 cases per minute. As alarming as this number is there seems to be confusion with GBV cases and domestic abuse amongst government officials. The South African police minister Bheki Cele seemed optimistic about this number, boasting that numbers of reported cases have decreased in comparison to 2019.
Cele requests for society to assist the police in the tackling of GBV. One way South African women have taken justice into their own hands is through a list that was released on Twitter. The list allowed women to directly message the profile and tell their rape stories and name the perpetrators whilst protecting their identity. The list was then published featuring many well-known celebrities, influencers, and popular personalities. The backlash caused a divide in local twitter with some of the named men posting statements denying the acts they were accused of, and others threatening to take legal action. Authorities avoided investigating the cases mentioned even though some of the victims had evidence, which begs the question, “do they really care?”
What is undeniable is the rate of women dying at the hands of men around the globe. Women and children continue to suffer from violence and the law seemingly being on the oppressor’s side. South Africa’s femicide is a pressing matter and is slowly finding the light in media. Unfortunately, South Africa is not that is not the only country that is a threat to the female gender. The world needs to wake up to the horror women face. From cat-calling to murder, women everywhere live with a common fear and that is men. Now is the time for change.