Every so often, you see a tweet or hear someone quip the all-too-familiar phrase, “Men are scum.” It has become the unofficial tagline for the fight against the ills of the patriarchy. On this, men themselves are often divided on how to process this ubiquitous phrase. I asked 5 Nigerian men how they felt about it. Here’s what they had to say.
I do have women around me a lot and I hear these things often. Mostly, it makes me feel embarrassed because I do know that men are, indeed, scum. Almost every woman I know has caught some form of stupidity from men. So it’s mostly embarrassment. But, you know, it also makes me think about how much better I could do within my circle or in my own little way by calling out dumb stuff men do. Instead of getting mad at it, I try to make sure that all the men in my circle are sensible and respectable people and they respect women and see them as human beings. I don’t feel personally attacked. Because I know that I don’t do those things that make men scum.
I just sigh and move on. I think it’s intellectually dishonest at best, mentally lazy at worst. In my personal life, I strive to never think or say things like “all men/women/tribe are…” because even if it feels good to say, it’s just not true and is an easy way to start accepting ridiculous generalisations. Generalisations that may go on to further negatively impact the way you view that group.
I feel a very deep sadness when I hear it. First, because I understand why they say it. Nigerian men have definitely done enough to deserve our women’s anger and contempt. I also feel sad because it isn’t helpful. You get what you call into being. Women may have each other, but at the end of the day, men and women still need each other for a properly-rounded society. If men are trash, then all women have is trash. What do you do then, throw us all away?
When I hear women say “men are trash”, I feel sad because while it doesn’t help the conversation, men brought it on ourselves. I also think arguing with women who think men are scum is a bad idea. The appropriate thing any man who feels pressed should do is work to be strong and kind. A man who creates an environment where women feel safe enough to thrive.
It’s a sentiment I completely agree with. From a man masturbating in public to a group of them sexually harassing a woman on a bike — all videos I saw on Twitter just this past week — It’s hard to deny the fact that men make life so much harder for women.
I’m not interested in the generalisation because it’s unimportant. It’s ‘Not All Men’ until a woman is abused by a close friend or relative, then it becomes, “Why were you alone in a room with him?” I’m not narcissistic enough to treat something so broad and pervasive as a personal attack.
As most people do, I deal with doubt, fear and insecurity. Every day, I come online and see some variation of “men are trash.” Because I belong to a certain gender, I’m presumed to be nothing worthwhile or a sexual predator until I actively try to prove I’m not. And Twitter seems to validate that statement. They tell me that if I’m not trash, I shouldn’t be offended by it. They tell you that men are known to hurt women, so it’s okay for the world to presume you’re nothing worthwhile.
I know I’m a good man. My family and friends feel safe around me. I strive to be a better version of myself every waking moment, but guess what? I have a penis so I should accept the negative tag and work on proving them wrong. Someone tweeted a bad experience with a man and rounded it off with “men are trash”. I was like, how am I responsible for this?
When I hear the phrase, I don’t feel anger or acceptance. I just feel like the world automatically hates me and I must live the rest of my life guilty until I prove otherwise, or be presumed guilty forever.
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