Updated: Aug 23, 2019
This week, we set out on a mission to examine why two trending terms seem to be a bit more controversial than others. Are they sexist, unfair generalizations, or do they actually make sense? Read J’s take on mansplaining and #MenAreTrash.
TRIGGER WARNING: Content may have mentions of sexual abuse.
"Women nag all the time.”
“Women are sluts; if they don’t show it, pretty sure they are inside.”
“Truth is, men can do a better job than women in almost all professions.”
“If [mansplaining] is the worst of your problems as a woman, I genuinely think men are more oppressed.”
These are just some of the reactions to the most controversial terms we have encountered. Our Instagram page has been up for 14 months as of this writing and our most-liked post so far is the one where we discussed the term “mansplaining”.
Mansplaining refers to how men explain things to women in a condescending or patronizing manner, even when the subject is a field of her expertise or when she would know better. The term originated from Rebecca Solnit’s book, Men Explain Things to Me, where she tells a story about a man who tried to explain her own book to her. Here’s the catch: that man hasn’t even read the book! He just wanted to appear like he knew better and refused to believe that a woman like Solnit could have written something worth mentioning.
Meanwhile, the popular #MenAreTrash hashtag has also been surfacing for quite a while now. It tails social media posts which talk about victim blaming, rape culture, and catcalling, among others. These posts aim to point out men’s problematic behavior due to toxic masculinity and fragile egos. It captures a wide range of experiences, from seemingly harmless but inappropriate jokes to downright accounts of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Since these cases usually go unreported because of the victim-blaming culture, women used social media to tell their story their own way. Eventually, it became a movement to inspire others to share their firsthand experience and call out the culprit. Recent tweets mentioned "men are trash" in social commentary after the announcement of Alabama's abortion ban.
Daily Dose of Vitamin M
Probably the main reason for these terms gaining worldwide attention is that the stories behind them ring true for most women and more for those within intersections of minority groups. I have encountered some cismen who tried to explain to me how menstruation works (as if they have their own uterus!) or usually ridicule me while I’m on my period. Also, growing up here in the Philippines, I always heard the phrase “Kababae mong tao…” (“You’re a woman so you should..”) - like a broken record - mostly from my dad, uncles, teachers, priests and other men in positions of authority. Isn’t there anything better than to hear men give pointers on how to be a woman?? I remembered rolling my eyes and clenching my teeth each time but was not able to do anything to counter their statements.
With puberty and the evolution of my social life, it felt like part of being a woman is to experience bad things on the daily. What’s more sick is that my family and peers taught me and expected me to just take it and know better moving forward. Got catcalled while wearing shorts? They’ll tell me to wear pants next time. Someone grabbed me at a college party? Well, they’ll nonchalantly say I’m not supposed to be out late at night anyways! Tried to pitch something to my boss and someone else got credit? They’ll advise me to just stay mum since the corporate world is really that competitive.
For sure, other women face challenges similar to mine. And in today’s age of empowered women, unpleasant encounters don’t stop some of us from reprimanding men on their inappropriate advances and misconducts. But no matter how loud we voice these concerns out, some men shout louder: “Not All Men!” and then call us sexist for even entertaining such terms.
Sexist or not?
When we say “men are trash” or use mansplaining, we are not generalizing. We’re simply pointing out that there’s quite a number of terrible men out there, enough of them to make us feel scared to go home alone or walk in dark alleys or take taxis on our own. There are countless men who get ahead in life by making women less credible. Come to think of it, the first few people who have taught us to be more careful around men are *drum roll* our brothers, fathers, etc. The men in our lives already know that the world is unsafe for women because of those who belong in the #MenAreTrash circle. Why does it bother them so much when we point it out?
A friend actually called us out when we featured mansplaining for our #WordWednesday. He asked me if it was sexist to use that term. Upon checking out the origins of the term, even if it was inspired by Solnit’s book, she agrees that there may be negative connotations by using “man” in connection to a derogatory term. Eventually, she shares in an interview a piece of advice from her colleague: “...we needed this word [to] describe an experience every woman has but didn’t have the language for.”
Sexist, by definition, is "showing prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women"  When people start branding women as sluts, whores, and bitches, these terms bring about more crime and hate against women.
Pastor Hokage and #LonsiLeaks
In the Philippines alone, men have private group chats or secret Facebook groups where they share pictures of women and maliciously comment on their bodies. To get accepted in the Facebook group, one would have to submit an "ambag" (contribution) - a semi-naked picture of any woman will do. They use terms like pastor to address each other and say "Amen" as a form of approval on the photos. Even though the group is in clear violation of Anti-Photo/Video Voyeurism Act (RA 9995) and Child Pornography (some of the women in the pictures were found out to be minors), it does not stop the millions of its members from continuing to scroll through these groups and to this day, none of its members have been held accountable.
A similar thing happened more recently, just last November 2018, when chats from a famous fraternity based in the University of the Philippines Diliman were leaked into various social media apps. The fratmen were caught in conversations where they claim women should know their place - in kitchen, giving blowjobs. Some even talked about how violence against women would not happen "[i]f only women knew their place in the world". One of the most disturbing topics they discussed was about their way of preventing teenage pregnancies: to punch women in the stomach. This blew up to great proportions when screenshots of said chats were reshared, retweeted, and reposted. People from within and outside of the UP community expressed their disappointment and frustration at how seemingly educated men could ever engage in these kinds of conversations.
Not Hate Speech
See, here’s the thing: remove the terms or even change them into something else; still, our problems as women persist. If we don’t use the term mansplain or ban anyone from tweeting #MenAreTrash, toxic masculinity still seeps out in a lot of harmful ways.
Instead of asking if it’s sexist to use these terms, let us identify ways to minimize (and eventually eliminate) the need for such words. Start by reprimanding our friends and colleagues whenever their inappropriate behavior makes others uncomfortable. Empower the women in your lives to own their successes and take credit for their initiatives. Teach our boys the importance of consent and mutual respect; inculcate in their minds that being masculine does not equate to being dominating and abusive.
To the men who complain about how oppressed you are whenever you chance upon the terms mansplaining and #MenAreTrash, it’s not a personal attack to you. It’s not hate speech but rather a call to action on the large percentage of men who behave like trash. Thabi Myeni, a News24 writer, says it best: “If you had a sack of potatoes, 8/10 of them are rotten, would you just let it sit there because “not all potatoes are rotten”? How would you describe it to someone? Say you’re too disgusted to open the sack; would you not just say “THE potatoes are rotten”? (hence THE men are trash)”
No copyright infringement is intended with the Twitter screenshots used in this post.