*Apologies and thanks to Gil Scott-Heron
One of my favorite anecdotes from the iconic Tina Fey’s Bossypants concerns the equally iconic Amy Poehler. Poehler is in the Saturday Night Live writers’ room in the middle of a bit. Naturally (this is SNL after all), the bit is gross and graphic:
Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike”,
Jimmy Fallon […] turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.
I am here to deliver a message to the bros earnestly working to convince us that they are good guys by arguing with us on Facebook and Twitter about the #MenAreTrash hashtag: we do not fucking care if you like it. We do not care how respectful you are to the women in your life and beyond. We don’t care whether or not you loudly and angrily rant against gender-based violence to any and all who will listen. We don’t care. There, I said it.
What we care about are 22-year-olds who are stuffed in garbage bins before their bodies are doused in acid and set alight. What we care about are three-year-olds who are buried in shallow graves as their mothers plead on television for their safe return. What we care about are black lesbians who raped and beaten and left to die on fields. What we care about are teenagers, out for a jog, with their mothers, who disappear and never come back home.
We care about whether or not the length of our skirt or the depth of our neckline will be used against us in a court of law. We care about staring straight ahead when random men on the street and online invite us to suck their dicks. We care about mapping out the safest routes home and checking over our shoulders and in our rear view mirrors to make sure we’re not being followed. We care about every single step we take, every piece of clothing we wear, every beverage we drink, every word we say so that if one day we do not survive the daily barrage of assaults on our person, we will not be blamed for our own deaths at the hands of men. We care about staying alive whilst being gendered alive.
So forgive us, bros. Your feelings and whether or not you, personally, are trash are not our concern. We are sick and tired of living in a prison of masculinity’s making. And so we are telling you, #MenAreTrash. If that upsets you and your first instinct is to ask us to explain ourselves, ask yourself why that is. How can you read stories like those of Karabo Mokoena and insist that the biggest problem right now, the one that needs your ardent online attention is the language in the hashtag? Why do I need to catalogue my pain and the pain of other women to convince you to turn your energy elsewhere? Why don’t you take all that righteous online rage and use it to talk to other men about why they are so trash?
An agonising thread on Facebook asks women to detail the first age at which they felt threatened by a man. I was 3 years old when I first felt the now familiar and bone-deep fear I’ve lived with my whole life. And I’m not alone. Countless women on the thread recount childhoods lost and innocence sacrificed at the alter of toxic, violent masculinity. If you can read those stories and still feel the need to argue about a hashtag, then I can’t help you, bro.
What I can tell you is this: the hashtag stays. If it makes you uncomfortable, that’s a good start. Take your discomfort and do something other than flash your ‘nice guy’ credentials at women who are fighting for their lives and for breath every single day. You’re more than welcome to join our revolution. But know this: Our sisters and daughters and mothers and friends are being dumped in bins like so much trash. We are fighting with everything we have and right now, that includes #MenAreTrash.
We do not fucking care if you like it.