AFTER hundreds of twitter RTs, Facebook shares and articles about missing women and children, some who were found murdered, burnt and raped, and some still missing, women who voiced their pain and anger using the #MenAreTrash hashtag were eerily reduced to breaking down and explaining to the public the reasons behind their anger and fear of men because those in the opposition felt that the hashtag was painting everyone with the same brush.
Heated debates on radio stations and televisions followed, and the reasons in and not in favour of the hashtag were
juxtaposed, and amid it all, it was no surprise that when Kholofelo Masha called his brothers and organised a march
with the hashtag #NotInMyName, a march that propelled men to stand up and speak out about the abuse of women
and children in the hands of their fellow men, the call came as refreshing albeit with a mustard seed sized hope.
The #NotInMyName initiative is a great initiative, and it is about time it actually spread to relevant places, other than the Union Buildings and social media. While statistics reveal that on average, four women die at the hands
of their intimate partners, either ex or current, each single day, the public is still in the dark about the statistics of women who die at the hands of men they do not know.
The reality on the ground is that men are the biggest threat to the society, and this is as a result of their acceptance
of partriachial privilege and gender oppression just because “they are men”. Men have been socialized to think that they have a right to manipulate, beat, apply force on women and kill them, and for that women will never be comfortable around them.
Truth is, however way those in the opposition of the MenAreTrash hashtag say that there shouldn’t be a generalization, they need to realize that the hashtag did not just erupt because of one incident, but multiple.
The hashtag plays an instrumental role in laying bare the lived experiences of women in the hands of men, from
different walks of life, abuses that were reported but never seen justice served and those that were never reported for
fear of victimization.
One of the biggest unreported forms of abuse that women experience daily, sexual harassment, has followed women
from their homes, to the streets, to the taxi ranks and all the way to their workplaces, and speaking against being seen as a sexual object to the perpetrator places women in danger of being sworn at, beaten, raped or threatened to be raped and killed, because men believe they can do whatever they want.
The #NotInMyName initiative must be about more than marching to the Union Buildings, it should be about
conversations that are extended beyond the weekend’s march, to places where the most unreported abuse and oppression take place.
The initiative should spread education and initiate conversations in places where women are most vulnerable without being noticed. Conversations should be initiated in the workplace and public spots.
Discussions should take place at family gatherings, at home, at police stations and even at churches, where the most
outrageous things happen but are swept under the carpet because it will taint the image of the church and what will people say. The conversations should be taken to the school staff rooms and classrooms, where teachers look at their learners with eyes of lust than those of guardianship, and boys are not taught enough about respecting the girl child
and their bodies, hence the reports about learners raping and being raped in school premises.
To clubs and taverns where drinks are spiked and rapes and murders take place. The #NotInMyName initiative
shouldn’t be a once off thing sparked by the reported incidents on social media and dies down once the reports become less frequent, but it should be an initiative that reminds men all the time that as a society, we should stop tolerating and promoting the abuse of the vulnerable.
The initiative is really applaudable, and we accept it. But it really would be sad and disappointing to realize that the
initiative is but one of the many that only mushroom when there’s an outcry, and when the wailing isn’t as loud, it dies down because as South Africans, we tend to forget quickly.
Tshegofatso Resekgothoma is a writer and lover of arts.