Social Movement; (noun): A loosely organised effort by a large group of people to achieve a particular goal — typically recognition as well as social or systematic change.
#MenAreTrash. Either you inherently agree with the statement, or you don’t. As much as I write this clouded by my own biases, I understand that, and it is important that you do too. The purpose of this piece is not to discuss perpetrators or those enshrined in their own privilege. The purpose is to discuss social movements themselves, and thus encapsulate victims, survivors, fighters, and allies. Social movements are about them, as well as for them.
As I did my nightly scroll through Twitter, a routine we all know too well, I came across a thread which had been retweeted by many boys from primarily single-sex schools in Johannesburg, many of whom I know personally.
The tweet that had sparked this particular discussion was a Tik-Tok reference to the long-standing social media movement “#MenAreTrash”, which aims to allow women to speak out against patriarchal, sexist and toxic masculine behaviour.
It also encourages the education of men on the toxic traits often ingrained in them from birth. One might think that these boys cared about a movement which forced them to acknowledge their own responsibility in the disassembly of a social system which largely benefitted them, but this was not the case.
See, the parts of the thread which were widely retweeted were not the numerous comments detailing the female experience.
Rather, the most prevalent comments were along the lines of “Are you guys not bored of this already?” or “Would agree, but they forgot the word ‘most.’”
Whereas the first is clearly pure ignorance, which I’m sure isn’t something I need to prove, the second is a viewpoint that I’m aware many boys and men hold, even in the most progressive spaces I’ve experienced.
So, why don’t we just say “#MostMenAreTrash”? It seems easy enough. But, in the simplest of terms, if we do this, we give people (in this case men) the ability to place a movement outside of themselves. The people that one aims to target with a movement are those who take issue with it in the first place.
If we use the word “most” we give the very people we are targeting the ability to say that they are somehow exempt from changing. If every person that the movement targets does this, then what change do we achieve? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a man who doesn’t benefit from sexism in some way or another. Let me know if you have.
The men who understand the inherent power they hold, do not have an issue with this hashtag.
Now, here comes the most important question: what should you do when you are the target of a movement that you want to support?
The first, and arguably most important, thing is to acknowledge why this movement exists and what role you have (or haven’t) played in that — both currently and historically. With that base understanding, it is extremely difficult to go wrong.
The second thing is to know that, by supporting a movement, cause or viewpoint which targets you, you are identifying with a group of people who expect change, or action from you, and you need to be willing to accept that responsibility. Embracing this responsibility may take the form of internal change as well as trying to influence others — your family, friends or school et cetera. There are many ways to participate in and inspire social change.
No one can tell you how to make a change that feels meaningful to you. Personally, what makes me feel empowered is the ability to express these views and opinions openly, and to engage with people who see things differently. It could be naïve to believe that this changes anything, but I have the responsibility and desire to try anyway.
This article was made possible through a Thought Leader partnership with Ukuzibuza.com, a platform created by high school students during the 2020 lockdown.