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.

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Image via Wikimedia

Google Honors Nigerian Feminist Icon, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, With Doodle

Today would have been the Nigerian trailblazer's 119th birthday.

Pay your Google Doodle extra attention today. It is honoring Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, an activist, teacher and politician, on her birthday. She would have been 119 today. Ransome-Kuti became a prominent Nigerian icon as she fought for women's rights, including women's right to vote, and was constantly breaking barriers—including being the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car and ride a motorcycle. Her work earned her two beloved monikers: "The Lioness of Lisabi" and "The Mother of Africa." If that wasn't enough, she's also Fela Kuti's mom.

The doodle, illustrated by Nigerian-Italian artist Diana Ejaita, blends Ransome-Kuti's accomplishments into Google's logo and show her actions reflected in women who bear her likeness. The artist is known for using stark blacks and soft colors to show the "strength of femininity," perfect in a portrait of Ransome-Kuti. If you can't view the doodle automatically, that is because it will only show up for searches in Nigeria. But, don't worry, check it out via Google Doodle's twitter post below.

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Ugandan prominent human rights activist and feminist Stella Nyanzi (C) reacts to police officers during a protest against the amount and handling of police investigations into murders and kidnappings of women in Kampala on June 5, 2018. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Found Guilty of Cyber Harassment Against President Museveni

The activist has been sentenced to 18 months in prison over a poem she wrote about the president last year, referencing vaginas.

Stella Nyanzi, the outspoken Ugandan activist and former research fellow at Makerere University's Institute for Social Research, was found guilty of cyber harassment against President Yoweri Museveni on Friday, after sharing a controversial birthday poem for the president last September.

Nyanzi was arrested in November of last year after sharing the poem on her Facebook page, part of which read: "I wish the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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