Yes, this is a rant.
I use it all the time, my friends do, strangers from the internet I empathize with do. The hashtag #menaretrash is always a few tempting keys away when trying to sum up the exhausting effects of everyday patriarchy. I have seen it used to respond to a series of situations ranging from cheating boyfriends to horrifying stories of assault and abuse. It is also a widely criticized hashtag, which resulted in a retaliatory hashtag; #notallmen.
Tristan Greene, in this article, argues that while trying to be respectful to the victims of patriarchy, such blatant attacks on the entire gender are hate speech because they are offensive to men who aren’t trash. In the article’s defense, a large part of it was given to explaining that the writer is sensitive to the struggles women have to go through at the hands of ‘trash’ men, but that using this hashtag and generalizing gives men an excuse to continue being…well, for lack of a better word, trash. I hardly believe these words were ill-intentioned, but these sentiments are misplaced. It assumes that when women say ‘men are trash,’ they are referring to the very nature of men. It assumes that women somehow perpetuate the idea that men are incapable of change. It thus assumes that calling all men trash is hate speech.
This article is only one example. The highly triggering hashtag, widely used and just as widely criticized, #menaretrash, seems to many like an oversimplified way of addressing the patriarchy. Many men argue that it generalizes that all men are predators, abusers, harassers, etc.
Hashtags like not all men continue the cycle of shifting the burden back to women to explain the heinous crimes of patriarchy and the blanket of a privilege it provides to men whether or not they’re trash. The same privilege that allows a man to dedicate the time, effort, and probably effective research to talk about how saying men are trash is bad for men, when those resources could have been used to help dismantle structures and cultures that lead women to tweeting #menaretrash.
I will not use this space to explain why a woman might want to tweet this. A part of this privilege is being able to stay blind to the causes behind such controversial hashtags, to not having to wonder what might drive a woman to those lengths. One can respect opinions that try to argue that hashtags like these alienate men from becoming feminists or allies, but only for so long.
The argument that feminism needs to be more approachable to men, that it needs to try and not alienate the very thing it fights against is not only insensitive of the struggle women have been going through but also puts the burden of explaining the benefits of gender equality for all entirely on women. What we want from allies is not simple a retweet of another gendered crime, but empathy. Your lack of empathy makes you feel that saying men are trash is an attack on your gender. It is your inability to put yourself in the shoes of women who wake up every day to economic, social, cultural burdens always far greater than their male partners, to have to face sexual harassment, assault, abuse, stalking, failure of the legal structure to protect them, discriminatory policies and laws, and then have to explain their outrage, their exhaustion with patriarchy to people who do not care enough to educate themselves.
How long shall women have to carry the burden of having to justify their fight?
If I have to face discrimination, harassment, judgment, everywhere I go, if I see my sisters being groped, abused, assaulted, killed, every day where the undisputed majority of the perpetrator is one gender, I will stop trying to explain myself. I will stop caring about whether or not you are on my side. I will be angry like all those women who are tired of having to explain themselves every day.
The anger is justified, it may manifest itself in a simple hashtag, but it is justified in the face of the abuse and the systemic injustices that women have had to face their entire lives. Women who have had to live as second-class citizens for far too long will no longer soften their words, so they are acceptable to men. They will no longer explain why they are angry. It is time that men take up their share of the burden and educate themselves on where a woman is coming from when she tweets men are trash. It is time men, who may or may not be trash, accept that institutional, systemic, cultural, and religious layers of the patriarchy benefit each and every one of them and so even if you as a man may not directly be an oppressor, you benefit from a system tilted heavily in your favor, the least you can do is listen when women speak.
You are so concerned with whether or not it is hate speech, whether it alienates a few good guys, in other words, you are so certain of the merits of your arguments that you stubbornly refuse to understand why women would say men are trash. You can dedicate your time and effort into researching whether men are trash is hate speech or whether it has the same impact as the entire patriarchal structure has on women. Still, you can not be bothered to spend that time empathizing with women and devising better ways to communicate with them. Feminism has never been about alienating men; it has never been war. Women who ask for equal rights don’t want anything less for men. Women, when they say ‘men are trash,’ don’t need to be explained what generalization is and how it affects the movement. They need you to listen, to wonder why women would want to make such statements. To try and correct the imbalance – not to add to it.
Any explanation that offers that the #menaretrash affects feminist struggle negatively, carries with it the obvious but muted declaration that in a fight against an oppressive system, you are not to criticize its enablers.
However, it is unfortunate that a hashtag bothers you much, but systemic oppression and abuse don’t? When you, with your privilege and your place in society, refuse to speak up for women, women will refuse to speak to you. Refuse to explain their stance to you. Because what’s the point? Widely outraged at slogans and chants at feminist marches, men refuse to educate themselves and look into the deeper problem.
Women are tired and angry, wouldn’t you want to know why?