It took me long enough, but I finally understand that when women say “men are trash”, it is not a personal attack aimed at Gcina Mtengwane.
I need not to be defensive. My gender rapes and kills women. It is us, men.
It is foolish to think I can absolve myself from something synonymous to everyone else who looks like me and enjoys full privileges of existence that the other gender is denied by the very same people who look like me and benefit, whether they admit or not, from the status quo.
Every random girl and woman I meet has good reason to be scared of me because I look like and may be her rapist or killer.
She does not know who I am or what my stance is. My very existence is life threatening to her.
I have gathered the wisdom to concede that I too am trash.
Until I contribute (no matter how small) to change, I remain trash.
Until I help construct a better South Africa for my daughter to inherit and enjoy, I am trash and I must be told until I clean myself up along with other men around me.
Which brings me to my greater point – it is the responsibility of men not to beat up, rape and kill children and women.
It is us, the men who have a problem. It is us who have the best chance at putting an end to all kinds of violence against children and women.
It is ill thinking to make threads and blogs telling women “how not to get raped or killed”.
Women do not rape, beat up or kill themselves. We are the perpetrators.
We are the ones with the highest potential to put an end to all this.
I use “us and we” deliberately. It does not mean I rape, beat up and kill women.
It means I concede that if people who look exactly like me and enjoy the same safety and privileges that the other gender does not, I owe it to the other gender to take full responsibility in contributing to change.
It means I acknowledge and accept responsibility that my freedoms and privileges come at the expense of those of South African women.
Social media has been flooded with advice on “how to be vigilant and how not to get raped”.
Sad, yet expectedly, a lot of such advice came from “us”, men.
I hardly saw anyone telling men how not to rape and kill.
The attention of a lot of us has been misdirected. That is what happens when society makes a habit of blaming victims and creating the impression that victims are partly responsible for what perpetrators do.
How many times have we, men, laughed at ‘rapey’ jokes and comments from our friends?
How many times have we watched our friends and other men in our circle saying and doing ‘rapey’ things to women in our presence?
I ask this because if he can say or do it without consequences, what is stopping him raping a woman without expecting consequence?
What do we ever do in our small circles to protect women?
We owe it to this country to do very deep self-introspection.
Stop asking what she was wearing, what she was doing there and why she did this and that.
Advise men to not to beat up, rape and kill women. That has a higher chance of putting an end to the problem we face.
As the adage says: Not all snakes are poisonous, but there are so many poisonous snakes that when you see one, you stay away from it because it is potentially dangerous.
Everyone is cautious of snakes because at first glance, they are all potentially deadly.
I am not ashamed to have been born a man.
It is however very difficult, in the face of recent events, to justify why I should not be ashamed.
• Gcina Mtengwane is a lecturer in the department of community development at the Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State. He writes in his personal capacity.