On ‘Men Are Trash’
By Nawal Zahra
If you have ever used the internet in the last few years, you have probably come across some variant of “#NotAllMen”, “reverse sexism” or “feminazi” and chances are, these words have stumbled out of the mouths of those who would not hesitate before laughing at a misogynist joke — ranging from quips about the quintessential zaalim biwi (shaadi barbaadi, amirite?), humor dedicated to how bad women are at driving (despite there being ample proof that women are less likely to get into automobile accidents than men) and lest we forget, the entire genre of batooni khatoon jokes. Those using the above mentioned terms for feminists also tend to belong to the category of people who would tell us to “learn to take a joke” or “not take everything to heart” every time we refuse to laugh at jokes which belittle women and their intelligence.
The question here is: Where does this ability to “take a joke” disappear every time someone on the internet calls men trash, disappointing or both?
The ire against #TheFutureIsFemme and any similar sounding phrase can be said to come from men’s fear of a future where non-men dominate and men do not; where they feel they will be treated like inferior beings. Maybe the fear that misandrist statements invoke also comprises of scenarios where men will be treated the way women have been treated for centuries- ridiculed, abused and silenced. The fears are unfounded, obviously. We still have a long way to go in achieving gender equality let alone a scenario where men are subordinates to women. And since these fears are so unfounded and irrational, we can easily argue that men’s anger at such jokes is less valid than women’s anger at misogynist jokes.
For those who like to crack jokes about beating wives, please note that the likelihood of women being abused is always significantly higher than it is for a man. Since we live in a patriarchal system, misogynist jokes that reinforce existing power structures have tangible effects on women’s lives. Misandrist jokes are more or less harmless in terms of their effect on men’s daily lives because they are cracked by women; women who do not have the same power as men do and are not capable of perpetuating oppression against men. Though we can argue that misandrist jokes are a hurdle in the way of taking feminism forward and in no way can count as productive engagement, it would be an overstatement to label them as counter-productive when they do not have the same consequences and in most cases, are an expression of valid anger and frustration. Why is it that in a society where violence against women is a daily event and often goes unpunished, men are so quick to believe that a joke about men being trash would lead to some kind of extinction of men at the hands of feminists?
The ground reality is that most spaces are already centered around the whims of men which is why feminist spaces both online and offline, are one of the few exceptions to the rule, and cannot be forced to mould their concerns and expression around male ego. You see, women already have to plan most of their life in accordance to the views of the men around them — their family or even the perceived intentions of strangers. Whether it is how they dress, what time they come home, what degree they choose to pursue or if they even get to choose when it comes to their education, who they choose to marry/not marry or even things as minute as the decision to upload their own picture to their social media profiles, there is an evident lack of agency when it comes to the choices of women. I would not like to make a sweeping generalization of course since not every woman’s choices are affected to the same degree by the opinions of the men around them but nearly all women are expected to behave in a way that does not offend the sensibilities of the men they know and does not bruise the ego of any men she may encounter.
After a whole lifetime of being subject to “what would your father/chacha/taya/mamu/brother/random uncle you met once when you were 3 years old/potential future husband think”, women do not want their experiences to be reduced to the offence it may or may not have caused men because they too (for once) found themselves at the receiving end of sweeping generalizations. Women do not want to be tone policed when they do share their experiences of being discriminated against or rightfully express their anger. Men do not get to tone police how women express their anger in the limited space available to them. If the only thing you choose to take out of a woman’s bad experience in a system that constantly brings her down is how she said “Men are trash”, then I am sorry but the problem is not with them but with you. Maybe “Men are trash” was not the best phrase to word their pain and their struggles but that in no way gives anyone the right to discount those struggles, not acknowledge them and launch into a tirade against man-hating feminists. It has been said at least a several thousand times by fellow feminists who put it into much better words, but I will say it again: many women (I am not going to pretend that I speak for all of the women who call men trash) do not actually think all men are terrible or that all men are disappointing but their experiences have taught them to be wary of most men.
No matter how offended you are, a joke about men being disappointing or men being trash does not cancel out a woman’s everyday experiences of abuse, discrimination and infantilization at the hands of the system that seems to be rigged against them.