It is time for men to stop the oppression of women. 

‘MEN ARE TRASH’ is a phrase I hear too often nowadays. Often in the most unnecessary and inappropriate instances.

I tell a friend that my phone is dead, and her response is, “men are trash”. I confide in a classmate that I have forgotten my homework, and, again I’m hit with, “men are trash”. I forget to put the toilet seat down, and “men are trash”. The last one from my mom, which hurts even more.

Though these examples were said in jest, the phrase would smack me right across the face like a right jab from Anthony Joshua – brutal and concise.

After speaking to a few female colleagues, here at Wits Vuvuzela, I think the right-hand jabs have finally made their mark. I am starting to understand and I hope that every man starts to recognise and appreciate the statement for what it truly means.

Simply catching a taxi – the kind of mundane action a man can go through with no hassle – one colleague gets belittled by whistles and hollers that taxi drivers throw her way.

She talks about how terrifying and traumatic that experience is and I have begun to understand how even the ‘smallest’ things that we do as men work on a systematic level to oppress women.

Men are trash, there’s no denying it. For years, our behaviour has gone unchecked simply because we live in a patriarchal society.

I am guilty of this too. Every time a woman passes me and I follow her with my gaze, inspecting her behind, I am objectifying her. I am guilty of stripping her of her humanity. Every time I throw a cheeky comment at a female friend, I am guilty of perpetuating this evil system that oppresses women. Women have been silenced, ignored and left voiceless because of the tyranny of men for far too long. Today, I apologise.

The phrase ‘men are trash’ simply means that women are tired. And rightfully so. It is not to single out any one man or generalise about every one of us, rather the phrase is there to open our eyes to the tyrannies men have committed for too long and, for even longer, overlooked.

The sentencing of acclaimed actor Bill Cosby this week for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman speaks to the kind of callousness to which the experiences of women have long been treated. The Cosby Show star was sentenced for a crime he committed over 14 years ago and some people believe that he should have been let off, using his celebrity status to claim that he was the victim of some blackmailing scheme.

How about considering how long the survivor of his crime had lived with this trauma, stigmatised by those around her and intimidated by the power and prominence of the actor? We have to appreciate the courage and bravery these victims conjured to take on a man who for far too long had been portrayed as incapable of committing such a crime.

These are the experiences of a lot of women around the world. No more, I say. It is the responsibility of men today to correct and reconcile these imbalances. Not only for ourselves and the women of today, but for our children and the future they deserve.

You have to wonder what kind of world we live in when a man can drag a seven-year-old child to a bathroom and rape her, as happened at a Dros restaurant in Pretoria this past weekend. It is horrific, inhumane and unexplainable that a grown man feels at liberty to commit such a heinous crime.

As men we should stand up and admit we are trash. When you see a friend being coercive towards a woman, be the first to correct him. When you hear guys whistling and harassing women on the street, be the first to speak out against it. When women say men are trash, be the first not only to admit it but to apologise for it.

This is our responsibility as the fathers of tomorrow, not only for our daughters but our sons too. We have to set an example for the next generation of men to be better. They should not pay for their fathers’ sins as we have.

It is our responsibility to be better and that starts today. Men are trash, it is true, but we will be better.

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