by Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya
Anyone who has lived long enough probably has an old photograph of themselves, which when they look at it, feel a little embarrassed about how silly they look. It is cold comfort that at the time of taking the picture, their clothes or hairstyle were the hottest and latest fashion trend.
Comments by others, especially those too young, can add to the coyness.
The object of looking at old pictures, whether yours or someone else’s, is to immerse yourself in the moment.
To frame a person in a picture of what they once were, and suggest this says what they are today based on that picture, would surely be a reflection of the person making the judgment, rather than the person in the picture.
Each time I see essays and reports about how men are trash, I feel a bit like the person being frozen in that moment when the picture was taken. It appears as a permanent position which no man can free himself from.
It is worse than “original sin” because at least baptism can wash that away.
In fairness to those who freeze men in the moment, there is enough reason around us to make #MenAreTrash, a present continuous tense concept.
That is why this article is not about asking those who say men are trash to stop saying so. It is about suggesting men do not get stuck in the camera click moment but rather transcend that moment.
It is about men acknowledging that although they have earned being called ‘trash’, they are not condemned to spend the rest of their lives being defined by that conclusion.
Men should acknowledge their privilege as a sex and a gender group. They should recognise the harm (physical, mental, sexual and spiritual) they have and continue to cause women.
They must however, not end the story there. They should take a cue from the Christian faith itself: The faithful recognise their sinfulness but choose not to dwell on this fact for the rest of their lives. They seek inner-transformation in faith so that they can go and do great things for other human beings – without necessarily changing into angels but recognising their potential to be saints.
Like garden trash or plastic products, men should acknowledge their trashiness as a way of recognising that they can recycle themselves into something wonderful and useful for all of creation.
The only thing standing between men and what they can be is their willingness to be transformed into better versions of themselves.
If there is one thing that Judeo-Christian tradition has shown repeatedly, it is that human flaws are not fatal in the project of creating a better society. It is possible to change and overcome. The only thing that is futile is men trying to justify their behaviour as preordained and unchangeable.
As with common trash, nature does not need to have the last word. The oft-used idiom, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future, perfectly captures the refusal to be defined by the moment the photographer pressed the button.