The other side of the coin: #MenAreTrash

It took me a while to accept I was middle class. What made me finally accept this was when I was made to realise that my want to dismiss my privilege was an actual insult to the working class, the poor.

I’d look with disdain at anyone who would give me this anti-black tag. I had my own ideas of what middle class was and by my own standards, I didn’t fit this tag. I saw the want by the system to fit me into this bracket as a way to force me to embrace that which I was not in order to confuse me into complacency. Also, because white people with my standard of living considered themselves poor. Why then should I accept their poverty as my wealth, I would argue.

I still haven’t made peace with this classification.

However, growing up and being compassionate means that you begin to realise that some things are not about you. You are not the centre of the universe and, even when you disagree, it is important to see and empathise with people who do not experience the world the way you do.

People consider my livelihood to be privileged and middle class. People consider my normal as their exceptional. It is important to use this mirror as a reflective mechanism that removes you from the “I” to “we as a society”.

It becomes important to our communities and the growth of a people when we remove ourselves from the centre to fully comprehend the problems we face as a society.

We need to have these conversations and discussions in an attempt to fully understand and ingest others’ lived experiences. By doing that I began to appreciate that even though I may consider myself working class, a contest towards who’s poor and what is poor does not remove or dissolve the chains of poverty. It might be better to realise the insistence for or the claim towards your normalcy does not change the current status quo. As a matter of fact, it becomes a direct insult to people who must think about what they will eat, if they will eat and whence their next meal comes.

This is also how I look at #MenAreTrash.

Black men and women have put themselves at the centre of #MenAreTrash. Some go as far as to insult people who have very real experiences of being abused or have their family members abused by men. Is it not better to comprehend that “your normal” is not society’s normal; Would it not better to fight issues that are a direct result of patriarchy, apartheid and colonialism instead of forcing people into our lived experience?

I am not educated in gender politics and again, I fall short when it comes to internalising #MenAreTrash. I need to remind myself again and again that the way I’ve experienced men is not everyone’s experience of men. I must realise once again that my normal in this regard is someone else’s privilege.

I was raised by both parents. We lived a normal, happy life. I have come to understand that being black, in South Africa, and being raised in a healthy and happy environment is not a reality for most. I have also come to understand that the way I view the world and humanity is central to how I was raised by my parents who were not only present, but were deliberate in their love for me and my brother. I face the world head on because of these people and my grandparents, bo Kgono le bo Ntatemoholo.

When my mother passed away, my father took on the role of both mother and father. Those who know me know the relationship I have with my father.

I have the ability to say to anyone who threatens my well-being in any way, “Do you know my father? Do you know this man? Do you know if you knew who I am you would not even dare look my way”?

I say this because that is my normal. I am protected, I am loved.

I have a brother who loves me. He is respectful and kind to humanity.

When I say #MenAreTrash I remove my lived experience from the centre and acknowledge that we live in a society where women do not experience the same protection and love. We have women who are hurt, raped, killed and burnt by their male counterparts. To rant about how men are not trash because my family is not trash is to force society into my lived experience. I would be inadvertently bullying those with a different reality. This would be reactive, painful and disingenuous. We, the women who say this, come from a place of pain and by not acknowledging this, you yourself are #trash – men or women.

It would be better to look at society’s ills and consider how best to place yourself to positively contribute to black communities. But some of us would rather sit and make jokes about trash. You would rather spit in the faces of those who are raped, molested, burnt and killed just so you can say, “not all men” or “you get who you raise”. The fact that we can do this, be self-serving instead of wanting to help, shows how screwed up we are. It shows how we have allowed a system placed to destroy us, to take away our humanity as well as our dignity and moral compass, to win. If your biggest contribution is limited to making an argument about how men are not trash, instead of listening to the plea of those who are hurt, then I have no words or energy to send your way.

 How can you sit there and say, “not all men” when little girls are raped? When your mothers are killed. How can you sit here and make jokes about being called trash?

Facebook: Thule Zwane

Twitter: @thulethozwane

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