“Men are scum”.
Sometime in 2016 on Nigerian Twitter, that phrase became a catch-all to explain away Yoruba demons, misogynists, wife beaters and the men whose silence in matters of oppression enable these other men. Often used humorously (and sometimes in vehement anger) by many women and a good number of men, it was the best kind of joke; one with a vein of truth to it. What we didn’t expect was just how offended men would get about this.
There were vehement rebuttals, winding threads explaining how asserting men are scum will only force men to embrace their ‘inherent scumminess’, their denials getting more heated as the phrase took hold. Before long, even the easy-going, often unconcerned writer crowd began to pitch in. Only a few days ago, someone on Instagram reposted a tweet of his where he explained he was tired of apologizing for other men’s bad behavior because all they shared was similar genitalia. One Twitter user went as far as asserting with the authority of 140 character pronouncements that tweeting ‘men are scum’ is an act of misandry. Phew! Somebody please get him a wambulance.
Why are those three words so incendiary?
Because no one likes labels.
Especially not heterosexual Nigerian men who spend all their time doling them out to everyone else. We all naively expect to be always assessed as an individual, always supposed to be given the benefit of the doubt. Sadly there are three billion men in the world and the overwhelming data out there as to how the majority heterosexual male treats women and other minorities suggests there is a good amount of scum floating around. The data also suggests that the scum can remain so because of the wider community of enablers who actively endorse or passively allow scummy behavior.
Perhaps this is why so many men get rattled by this label, the same way the ‘Yoruba Demon’ label had them up in arms and screaming tribalism. It convicts even the enablers of complicity and denies them the benefit of a fair trial, it stereotypes them and pronounces judgment based on this stereotype. But even worse for these people, accepting complicity means having to internally assess themselves and change. They’d much rather just accuse you of misandry.
And for the guys who actually treat the women around them well but were still riled up by the assertion, perhaps it might be time for a recalibration. There are no plaques for being a good guy in your neck of the woods if you don’t check the misogyny of the men around you. You are not the only man the women you interact with have to have relations with. For them you are most likely the exception, not the rule. And that is what needs to change. Plus, nobody wants your damn apology, it’d be self-serving anyways.
Perhaps we should all think of that, the next time we declare because of a singular encounter with an assertive woman that feminists are man-hating lesbians.