“Men are trash” is often marketed to survivors of abuse to cope with their trauma in a humorous way, but it only keeps women from facing their trauma, making it impossible to overcome it. In turning women into victims instead of survivors, the “men are trash” mentality turns them into bitter and man-hating narcissists.
What Is the “Men Are Trash” Mentality?
We’ve probably all heard the phrase “men are trash,” but where did it come from? Vicky Spratt of Refinery 29 looked into the history of the “men are trash” mentality, and she wrote, “In any garden-variety conversation between millennial women who date (or, indeed, don’t date) men, you can almost guarantee that the phrase ‘men are trash’ will come up. It’s an in-joke that women share, a pithy way of expressing the impact that hundreds of interactions with men – personal and professional – have had on them. In recent years, it feels like someone has posted the phrase somewhere on social media every few seconds.”
Spratt continued, “The phrase ‘men are trash’ has taken on a more political role since 2017, in the wake of the global #MeToo movement. As women mourned collectively, it became a show of solidarity, a means of expressing shared frustrations and anger.”
To Spratt’s credit, she makes it clear that “men are trash” is a generalization, but other publications have gone further. An anonymous writer for Feminism In India wrote, “As much as I hate to admit it, it is terrifying to be a woman in a patriarchal world. As the order of contemporary society goes, men are given default dominance over all non-men. This structural power has been abused time and time again as evidenced by the lack of representation of women in everything from Forbes lists to rural classrooms, the painful statistics of sexual violence against women, and even the structural microaggressions that women face as a consequence of their mere existence.”
Don’t get me wrong – I’m well aware of the misogyny women experience across the world and that there are horrible men out there, but in my experience, saying that “men are trash” ignores two important facts.
A Harmful Generalization
After experiencing emotional abuse and sexual assault in my late teens, as well as a slew of f*ck boys in my early twenties, the “men are trash” mentality was appealing to me. I tend to use humor as a coping mechanism, and this seemed like a good way to cope with my past trauma. However, the mentality only worked as a temporary band-aid, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I was more miserable than I was before I adopted it.
The abuse I experienced left me with serious trust and abandonment issues, and thinking that men are trash did nothing in regards to helping me overcome and heal from the very real trauma I experienced. If anything, it only facilitated me sweeping it under the rug, preventing me from doing the healing I needed to move on with my life. Resentment built up in me like poison, and I realized it was doing nothing but hurting me and preventing me from being happy. It made me embrace a victim mentality that made me bitter toward men, even though I knew there were good men out there.
I have plenty of great men in my family and guy friends who have shown me that most men aren’t monsters or trash. Some men can treat other people horribly (just like some women can treat others horribly too). Individuals make their own choices. Acknowledging that there are good men out there doesn’t erase past traumas or the fact that there are also some horrible men.
Letting go of the thought that every guy I meet is going to hurt me was liberating.
Though I’m still a work in progress, dropping this more nuanced and realistic mentality was one of the best things I could’ve done for my mental health and overall well-being. Though I still struggle with trusting others, letting go of the thought that every guy I meet is going to hurt me was liberating. I thought adopting the “men are trash” mentality would free me from my trauma, but all it did was make me miserable, and I’m not the first (or last) woman to fall into the trap of bitter man-hating feminism.
Not Surprisingly, Thinking “Men Are Trash” Makes Us Bitter Man-Haters
Misandry (more commonly known as man-hating) and sayings like “men are trash” are often glamorized and romanticized on social media, almost seen as a cute and quirky personality trait instead of a toxic way of thinking. The “men are trash” mentality is nothing more than man-hating feminism repackaged, which has turned many young women off feminism. Instead of gender equality (which is a wonderful goal), many young women now associate feminism with man-hating, as author Cathy Young writes,“A lot of feminist rhetoric today does cross the line from attacks on sexism into attacks on men, with a strong focus on personal behavior: the way they talk, the way they approach relationships, even the way they sit on public transit. Male faults are stated as sweeping condemnations; objecting to such generalizations is taken as a sign of complicity. Meanwhile, similar indictments of women would be considered grossly misogynistic.”
Young continues, “This gender antagonism does nothing to advance the unfinished business of equality. If anything, the fixation on men behaving badly is a distraction from more fundamental issues, such as changes in the workplace to promote work-life balance. What’s more, male-bashing not only sours many men – and quite a few women – on feminism. It often drives them into Internet subcultures where critiques of feminism mix with hostility toward women.”
Some men treat other people horribly, and some men don’t. Individuals make their own choices.
This mentality not only turns us bitter, but also into narcissists. Jessica Crispin, author of Why I’m Not A Feminist, writes, “The easiest way for a group to build its sense of identity is through the rejection or the demeaning of that group’s ‘opposite.’ In order for atheists to present themselves as rational and intelligent, they have to present the religious as superstitious and foolish. This is certainly easier and more effective than consistently being rational and intelligent. In order for America to think of itself as strong and important, it has to think of Europe as being weak and worthless. And in order for women to think of themselves as compassionate, they have to think of men as violent.”
When we see the “men are trash” mentality as a cute and quirky personality trait, we’re essentially romanticizing misandry and narcissism, and when was the last time you met a happy misandrist or happy narcissist? This mentality does nothing but make women unhappy by keeping them from grappling with their negative experiences. If the problem is all men, how can such a massive problem be solved except by destroying masculinity and reshaping it into something feminists perceive as less threatening to women? And until that’s achieved, women supposedly remain as victims, stuck and stagnant. A sense of helplessness – whether based in reality or not – is never healthy. Agency and feeling like you can make a difference in your own life are what make it possible to grow, heal, and be happy.
The “men are trash” mentality may seem fun and harmless on social media, but it doesn’t take long before adopting this mentality becomes destructive. I know because I once fell victim to it and had to learn the hard way to get out of it. We need to stop encouraging women to turn themselves into perpetual and miserable victims and should instead encourage them to cope in ways that will make them both happy and healthy.
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