Men’s responses to the #menaretrash movement on Reddit: a social constructionist and psychoanalytic analysis

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Gender-based violence (GBV) has been declared a global pandemic by the United Nations and has been linked to traditional gender roles and societal pressure to achieve certain masculinities. The necessity of including men in conversations around gender and GBV interventions has been highlighted, however, there is limited research on men’s responses to GBV or to protests against GBV. This study aimed to contribute to the inclusion of men in GBV conversations by focusing on men’s responses to a particular online protest movement, #MenAreTrash (#MAT). This movement began in South Africa in 2016/17 in response to violence against women and was adopted by women across the world as a means to express anger toward broader gender discrimination, violence and gender power imbalances. This study examined men’s responses to the #MAT movement on Reddit (a free online social media platform). In particular, these men’s constructions of masculinity, women, and the #MAT movement were examined. Subreddits threads and posts (including comments) using the hashtag from January 2019 to January 2021 were analysed. An interpretive thematic analysis that utilized psychodynamic and social constructionist frameworks was conducted, which allowed for both intrapsychic and social aspects of responses to be explored. This study found that the predominant emotion displayed by men in the threads was anger, in response to feeling threatened. However, underlying this anger was anxiety. Anxiety was understood as an underlying response to feeling the need to defend their masculinity. Masculinity was constructed in two ways: as either unfairly under attack or needing to change. Some men felt that the good parts of masculinity were being ignored. Other men viewed masculinity as capable of being more responsive and adaptive to female causes. However, within these two constructions the complex nature of masculinity emerged, within which there were shifting positions of agency and victimhood. Men in the study constructed all women who support the #MAT movement as feminists, however, splits in this construction were also evident: women were either ‘reasonable feminists’ who demonstrate less combative support of the movement, or ‘radical feminists’, who aim to annihilate and alienate men. Overall, #MAT was constructed as damaging and stereotyping. However, a small number of men viewed the movement as helpful and necessary in generating awareness of GBV.
A research report submitted to the Department of Psychology, University of Witwatersrand for Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology, 2022
Gender-based violence (GBV), Men GBV intervention, GBV protest movement, #MenAreTrash (#MAT), South Africa