Op-Ed

The Real Story Behind #menaretrash, South Africa's Response to Domestic Violence

This hashtag has become the rallying cry for those who want to stop an epidemic of violence and against South African women by their male partners.

#menaretrash is not about singling out individuals says Rufaro Samanga in this op-ed. Instead, it’s a challenge to South Africans to speak out against the epidemic of women murdered at the hands of their male partners


South Africa—A few weeks ago, South African social media followers pulled the alarm about the gradual disappearance of young women and girls. As weeks have gone by, timelines have been flooded with post upon post of young women and girls who have gone missing almost every day. The insidious reason behind many of these disappearances has proven quite frightful indeed as we're learning that the culprits under our very own noses.

One of the young women who had gone missing and that I personally remember retweeting in an attempt to help find her, was found burnt beyond recognition and buried in a shallow grave in a deserted veld. As police began their investigation it surfaced that 22-year-old Karabo Mokoena was murdered by her boyfriend, who had even gone as far as helping her family look for her, knowing full well that they would never find her alive.

The death of this young woman hit close to home because it is a reality to which many South African women have become accustomed in one form or the other. South Africa has the highest number of women who are murdered at the hands of their partners in the world. In fact, of the women who die every eight hours, half of them are killed by their partners.

Rape and rape culture are rife with women being assaulted on university campuses, at their workplaces, in public transport—you name it. And not to mention the particularly hateful targeting and murdering of women who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Yet, and this is where I struggle to maintain my calm, when the movement #menaretrash rightfully came into full force once again, the focus immediately shifted to 'but not all men'.

#Menaretrash began when a few women on social media last year, took it upon themselves to start calling out the problematic behavior of men especially with regards to the emotional and physical abuse they'd often experienced in their own relationships. The hashtag did not catch on initially and died down after a while. This year however, and with the highly publicised murder of Karabo, the hashtag has gained considerable ground and transcended into a palpable movement shedding light on the abuse, femicide and rape that is rampant in South Africa and often goes unreported.

Very much like #blacklivesmatter, another hashtag that became a movement with a massive following and had tremendous impact in the US, #menaretrash is attempting to have a similar impact and reach. Although it is still resisted by many, it has also been publically endorsed by prominent South African personalities such as Hlomla Dandala, Maps Maponyane, Thandiswa Mazwai and Boity Thulo.

That said, asserting that #menaretrash is not about singling out individual males and smearing them with the same brush. The #menaretrash movement is also not about avenging soured relationships or born from the scorn of so-called bitter women. That is important to note.

Firstly, #menaretrash attempts to do away with the respectability politics that seeks to police the way in which we as women decide to voice out our anger and frustration towards an oppressive patriarchal structure. One needs to understand first and foremost that as women, and particularly as feminists, ours is not to deliver our message prettily garnished in a way that is perceived to be more 'palatable' by men. In short, we are not duty-bound to mollycoddle the men who are a part of the very same patriarchal structure against which we are tirelessly fighting.

Secondly, there is a shock value to the statement that is necessary in that it makes men immediately uncomfortable and it is precisely this discomfort that is necessary if we are going to begin to have any earnest conversations about the desperate plight of women in South Africa.

Frantically pointing out that you have a 'great father' or that you're in a happy relationship with a 'good guy'—true or not—serves to obscure real patterns of toxic masculinity, abuse and femicide which the #menaretrash movement is attempting to expose. It undermines the main conversation and swings the spotlight onto the oppressors and not the oppressed.

But even after many women, myself included, have gone to extreme pains to deconstruct this statement for men (and some women), we have still been met with backlash. More evidence of the trashiness of men is inherent in how many of them have gone on to ask what part Karabo played in instigating her own murder. Fam, if I hadn't seen these posts with my own eyes, and from men I know personally, I wouldn't have believed it myself.

In addition to that, men have gone from trivialising the movement as a group of women desperately trying to remain ‘relevant’, shaming women who support the movement wholeheartedly but are in relationships (as if the two are mutually exclusive) to even going as far as claiming that ‘we all have a little killer in us’ as justification for Karabo’s murder.

As if that weren't enough, at Karabo's funeral, our Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, lamented how such a beautiful young woman, a yellowbone (a term for a light-skinned black woman) at that, could be murdered as if to say that her murder would have been more understandable had she been ugly. If nothing else, that should awaken everyone to the sobering reality of women in this country.

My biggest disappointment however, has been the women who have rushed with bandaids and soothing words to the bruised male egos, their allegiance to the patriarchy worn proudly. Some of them even shared in the victim-blaming citing that they did not attract trash in their personal lives and that the rest of us should in essence, stop being so bitter. Some even went as far as claiming that Karabo was murdered because she wouldn't leave her abusive boyfriend because of his money.

As an unapologetic feminist I will continue to assert that men are trash. The men who say and do nothing when their friends manhandle, abuse, rape and even murder their female partners. The men who are so quick to loudly deny their trashiness and yet are silent about the trashy behaviour of other men. The men who do not consider the atrocities committed against us as crimes unless we as women are an extension of them in some way: a sister, an aunt, niece or daughter—they too are trash. And to all those who feel so hard done by this assertion, you need to check yourself.

Men are trash. And you will deal, beloved.

Rufaro Samanga is an intellectual, aspiring literary great, feminist and most importantly, a fiercely passionate African.

popular
Photo by Piero Cruciatti/AFP via Getty Images.

Op-Ed: Africa is Not the Center of The Coronavirus Epidemic and the West is Pissed

The growing COVID-19 epidemic exposes the West's dangerous obsession with African stereotypes.

Disease outbreaks happen all over the world. Africans know this well. Whether it's Ebola in the DRC or Nigeria or cholera in Zimbabwe or Malawi, African countries always seem to be battling some or other epidemic that barely makes it into the news headlines of the international community—until now that is.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, I've become increasingly annoyed by the multitude of news headlines from publications in the Westdesperate to find out why the recent outbreak is "sparing" Africa but not everyone else.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Still from YouTube

The Gorillaz Enlist Fatoumata Diawara for New Track 'Désolé

A stunning collaboration that we didn't even know we needed.

The Gorillaz enlist none other than Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara for their latest single "Désolé," the second single from the hit-making British band's Song Machine installation project.

"Making Désolé with Fatou was a real moment for me, you know," the band's drummer Russel Hobbs is quoted as saying in a statement via Pitchfork. Désole translates to "sorry" in French, but despite it's apologetic title, the song is a laid-back groove, elevated by vocals from lead singer Damon Albarn and Diawara, who sings in English, French and Bambara.

"She's an African Queen," Russel adds. "This lady made the song what it is, beautiful, like life. What can I say about Désolé? They say sorry is the hardest word, but that's not true.... Try saying antidisestablishmentarianism with a mouth full of gluten free cronuts on a speed boat without licking your lips."

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Davido's Fiancé, Chioma Rowland, Tests Positive For Coronavirus

The Nigerian musician made the announcement via a heartfelt Instagram post on Friday.

Chioma Rowland, the fiancé of star Nigerian musician Davido, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The artist shared the news via Instagram on Friday, writing that he and 31 people on his team decided to get tested after returning back to Lagos from abroad. While he and the rest of his team received negative results, Rowland's test came back positive.

"Unfortunately, my fiancé's results came back positive while all 31 others tested have come back negative including our baby," wrote Davido. He added that they both showed no systems, but would be self-isolating as a safety measure.

"We are however doing perfectly fine and she is even still yet to show any symptoms whatsoever. She is now being quarantined and I have also gone into full self isolation for the minimum 14 days," he added. "I want to use this opportunity to thank you all for your endless love and prayers in advance and to urge everyone to please stay at home as we control the spread of this virus! Together we can beat this!"

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Juls Drops New Music Video for 'Soweto Blues' Featuring Busiswa and Jaz Karis

The Ghanaian-British producer heads to South Africa for the music video for the amapiano-inspired track.

Heavyweight Ghanaian-British producer Juls shares his first offering of 2020, and it does not disappoint.

The producer enlists South African music star Busiswa and London's Jaz Karis for the jazz-inflected "Soweto Blues," which also boasts elements of South Africa's dominant electronic sound, Amapiano. The slow-burner features airy vocals from Karis who features prominently on the 3-minute track, while Busiswa delivers a standout bridge in her signature high-energy tone.

"The song dubbed "Soweto Blues" is a song depicting the love, sadness and fun times that Soweto tends to offer its people," read the song's YouTube description. The video premiered earlier today on The Fader. "The energy is amazing, the people are lovely and I've found a second home — especially the vibrancy of Soweto," the producer told The Fader about his trip to Soweto for the making of the video "Jaz Karis is singing a love song, which is symbolic of my new love of Soweto and I'm honoured to have worked with Busiswa whom I have been a fan of for a long time."

Fittingly, the music video sees Juls traveling through the township, taking in its sights and energy. The video, directed by Nigel Stöckl, features striking shots of the popular area and its skilled pantsula dancers.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.