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Are Men Really Scum As Some Feminists Say?

A man begging a woman | Photo Shutterstock

With the evolution of the third wave feminism and the goal of breaking the glass ceiling built by patriarchy, there is a common verbal backlash by many modern-day feminists — calling men scum. This saying ‘Men Are Scum’ has inundated the social media space especially, and this is one reason men claim causes them to frown on the gender equality movement. What is the basis for this phrase? What does it really mean? Is it justified?


For ages, women have been stereotyped by men as weak, inferior, shallow, and facile. This is perfectly expressed in the culture of patriarchy, internalised misogyny, and sexism. Growing up as a boy in primary school — and even secondary school — most teachers were derisive towards the boys whenever a girl performed better in class. “Shame on you, you’re in this class and a girl came out with the best grades…”. These are subliminal messages that minimise women — stereotyping them as not deserving or worthy to be excellent.

In many spheres of daily living, women are not spared. For instance, many see them as bad drivers. A man will easily jeer with confidence that it’s a woman driving when the driver makes a bad turn, or just drives recklessly. Many African men make remarks that women are fickle and emotional. Oh, haven’t we heard about how women don’t make good leaders? My point precisely is how we’ve normalised stereotyping women, minimising them, doling out harsh and disparaging generalisations about them for centuries, yet ‘men are scum’ — a reactive generalisation that is barely a 100 years — triggers men and pricks them so deeply. If it hurts to be stereotyped as men, then we need to be emphatic and understand how it hurts to make diminishing conclusions about women.

According to the UN, up to 75% of domestic violence is against women by men. Each year, approximately 500,000 women are physically assaulted or raped by their male partners, as compared to 100,000 men. 3 out of 10 women are stalked at some point, physically assaulted, or raped by an intimate partner, as compared to 1 out of every 10 men. It is estimated that of the 87,000 women intentionally killed in 2017, globally, 58% (50,000) were killed by an intimate partner; 137 women across the world are killed by a loved one every day. 91% of rape and sexual assault are by men against women. South Africa’s gender-based violence statistics are like those of countries at war, with 110 female rape cases and 56 murders a day. In South Africa, women are 5 times more likely to be killed in gender-based violence committed by men. The statistics are endless and show that merely being a woman is a step closer to being assaulted, raped, and/or killed by men. Sadly, men have done a lot of havoc to the womenfolk, and when this nightmarish facts, backed up with verified statistics, is the reality of a lot of women, it would be understanding in the least to grasp the ‘men are scum’ outburst. It is a cry of frustration from pent up resentment caused by abuse women receive for being a woman.

While not all men rapists, abusers and murderers, most of the ones who are not, normalise the culture of rape — he might not be a rapist, but when a woman is raped, he victim-blames her with “What did you wear?” “Why did you go to his house?”. When a husband abuses his wife, questions like “Why did you provoke him…” take over the discussion. It’s more about a system that glorifies toxic masculinity, which expresses itself greatly in committing femicide; a structure that has normalised female abuse and oppression.

Men who fight against the ‘men are scum’ generalisation should also consider putting the same energy into speaking up against the ills that men perpetrate. It is rather appalling that we hide each other’s insidious acts behind the ‘Bro Code’ —  an oath of toxic masculine brotherhood; a way of turning a blind eye to, and not speaking up against, the evil that other men do. There are indeed some questions begging for answers. For instance, have you showed up to speak against the patriarchal system that tramples upon women? This is not to justify that the narrative — all men are scum. It is rather a call that we should focus on doing better and changing the narrative, instead of arguing when statistics show that we, men, as a gender have done more evil than good to women.

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