#5. #Menaretrash and matters arising
The day I read the story behind the #menaretrash hashtag, the shock and horror that filled me was difficult to articulate. So many thoughts ran through my mind and honestly I struggled to express the profound sadness I felt.
And the disquieting feeling that it could have so easily been me or any of my sisters, cousins or female friends.
Some stories to illustrate:
- A few years ago when my sister Tricia won the Miss Malaika crown, we spent one long Saturday roaming in town moving from one of her appointments to the other. Her car had gone for servicing so we were taxi hopping. We headed home quite late and basically collapsed into a moving taxi. It was late at night, maybe about 9pm and there were very few people at the Manet junction. I was sitting in the front passenger seat and Trish sat in the back. Shortly after we sat down, two young men and the driver entered the car and banged the door. Immediately after they banged their doors, I opened my door told and told my sister to get out; we’d take another car home. I can’t remember if the driver asked questions or the guys but I didn’t care. Up til now, I haven’t had such a feeling like that before; that deep visceral fear and that feeling of ‘get out, get out now.’ I’ve sat in taxis beyond 9pm since that episode but that feeling of ice-cold fear has yet to strike me again. Because, we were the only women in a car full of men we didn’t know late on a Saturday night. Anything could have happened…….
- I’m not a ‘girlie-girl’ in the strictest sense but I do love dressing up for weddings. For my friend’s wedding in August 2015 I wore a long dress with a bustier style top that showed a hint of cleavage. (And if you know me you know a hint is really all you’re going to see, I am not top heavy at all). Anyway, I took a selfie with the dress, leaning forward slightly and doing ‘duck-face’. I thought the picture was cute and used it as my WhatsApp dp. Within a week I changed my dp because two older men I respect a great deal sent me sexually suggestive messages that made me cringe. I felt so uncomfortable that I chose to change a picture I liked so I could have my piece of mind.
As a woman in a 21-st century patriarchal society, it is easy to forget that Ghana is still steeped in strong traditions that govern the way men and women interact.
Over the past couple of weeks social media has been it with a hashtag that started after the brutal murder of a young South African woman by her boyfriend. To state that she was murdered is to simplify it – she was killed, doused with acid then set alight before buried in a shallow grave like a piece of trash.
And when South African women took to twitter to express their grief and outrage at this senseless death, men and women across the continent didn’t understand.
How can all men be trash? Does that mean your father is trash? Your uncles? Your boyfriend? Your husband?
Simply put – yes.
Let me explain why with another story.
I once rode in a trotro to the Accra mall from Teshie and all was going smoothly – people were chatting, the driver was speeding and insulting his fellow motorists and I was listening to music via my earphones. Then all of a sudden the woman ahead of me started talking agitatedly, demanding to find out why the man who just entered had held her breast before taking his seat.
I didn’t see him grab her breast but the look on his face when he sat down and the way he spoke whilst looking out of the window was a dead giveaway. Now here’s the bit about this memory that still makes me pause – not one man on the trotro spoke up in the woman’s defense or to chastise the man. Even as her voice rose and became shrill with outrage and anger, and as the women in the trotro also protested against the man’s actions, all the men in the troskie looked away or down or straight ahead and listened to music on their phones.
And this my dear #notallmenaretrash supporters is the crux of the issue. I understand why you are offended when #menaretrash trends; its because there are not enough good men speaking up against the cruel sadistic ones. Too many of you have solid characters but you won’t speak up when your fellow men rape and abuse and denigrate women. Too many of you sit silently; too many of you look away, down or straight ahead. See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
But now the tide is changing; last week an impressive number of South African men took to the streets to demonstrate against the nightmarish levels of femicide in their country. Although much needs to be done to completely eradicate gender-based violence in SA, it’s a solid start in the right direction. Keep it up broers.
My Gh brothers….chale, how far now? When are you rising up to protest against gender-based violence?
Or do you want to accept the tag #menaretrash as is?