Kay Bhengu is a 24 year old radical female from Pietermaritzburg, Kwa-zulu Natal, South Africa. With a diploma in Media and Journalism already under her belt, Kay is furthering her studies by pursing a degree in Media and English.
She describes herself as a woman constantly testing boundaries.
“I think I am borderline brave & stupid. ”
A description that is fairly accurate considering her reputation on social media. Kay’s outspoken nature towards women’s injustices is evident on her Facebook.
I never got the opportunity to meet Kay when I lived in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. But with mutual friends on Facebook, similar interests and consistent love and support from one another, it seemed as though we had met.
Her journey against silent resistance took shape in her teen years. Coming from a politically inclined Family ignited Kay to speak out on unjust and unfair events in her community. Events such as being the minority in school whilst observing racial injustices. At first Kay’s outspoken nature was based off interest and observation. But in the year to come 2 major events would change the face of public speaking and the power of words.
The first event was the passing of Kay’s mother from HIV & Aids. She was the glue of the family; emotionally and mentally. A woman that always spoke the truth.
“My safe space.”
Kay confessed to never understanding why her mother was so fierce. Until she unraveled that her mother was raped and she is the product of that incident. Even with such devastating news Kay’s memory of her mother was not tarnished.
“She couldn’t always provide but I never felt unloved. She was always there and I only realize it now that she isn’t here”
One early Tuesday morning, Kay was raped. This marked the second event that changed her life and perspective. Kay was slutshamed and neglected throughout the difficulty. Friends and family who were meant to be her biggest support system abandoned her. She dug deep to find hope and courage to carry on. Kay revealed that the support & encouragement from her best friends Bianca & Zipho were vital. The importance of good support from a community of women is essential. Regardless of the trials she has faced Kay boldly takes on the past, present and future by sharing her story as an encouragement to all women.
“We may be strong alone but together we are stronger. Through it all, the presence of love is evident in my life.”
#MenAreTrash is a movement that gained momentum in South Africa. The hashtag #MenAreTrash sparked controversy and quickly went viral after incidents of numerous women being sexually or physically assaulted, and murdered by men were uncovered. The alarming rate of female victims stunned the nation causing a commotion and social media outcry. Kay was indeed one of the many infuriated women seeking a solution and an end to this injustice.
The hash tag received a lot of backlash as it seemingly carries a hint of generalization. It also received a counter response #NotAllMenAreTrash. On many occasions my timeline would be filled with numerous #MenAreTrash posts. Kay was on the top list of females voicing her opinions and raising awareness for the movement and its purpose. Her response was one I was eager to hear and perhaps many felt the same as she did.
“We are a generation of frustrated, millennial women. This movement is perhaps the biggest cry for help. An apparent increase in the rate of killing, raping and assault of women, LGBTQ bodies and children by men. This is what #MenAreTrash is meant to highlight.”
Kay named a few women whose story came to light because of #MenAreTrash. She pressed that the movement had not gone viral because society had seen these incidents as problematic but rather, it had clashed with society’s patriarchal image.
“Why isn’t there a motion to solve this issue? Our first instinct as human beings is to stay alive. Where are our bodies safe? Definitely not on the streets, tragically not in our own homes. Men are Trash is speaking of men in the plural sense. It is not a definition of all men. We are expressing that we are being oppressed, and the safest way to do so is on social Media. When last did you hear of a man assaulted by women? Or women catcalling men?”
Kay is perhaps among thousands of women voicing out the injustices faced by women in South Africa. With all this clear frustration and an audible cry for help, I questioned- What do you want everyone to take away from the #MenAreTrash movement?
“If you want to know how power works, look at who’s doing the shaming, and who is being shamed. Your existence is important and you can not compromise on that. In between existing & existing is all the other things. The moment you don’t have your existence, you’re not living.”