The “not all men” phenomenon is certainly nothing new. The go-to response for those seeking to shut down talks of gender bias has been parodied and dissected and run through so many layers of social irony that one would think everyone would understand the comedic ridiculousness of it by now. Unfortunately, one quick look at the comment section of any popular Instagram account that dares to consistently speak in favor of feminism, whether it be international diplomats or meme makers, would put this fantasy in check.
Maybe it was exhilarating to explore the nuances of this argument at first, but it’s just exhausting now. No one has anything new to say or learn. To drag women into this debate every time someone feels their ego threatened is a misguided nuisance at best and a societal hazard at worst. Whether you’re a man who genuinely doesn’t understand why “not all men” comments are so frowned upon or a woman who would rather send a link than have to explain this bullshit again, you can use this guide to help put this fire out at the source.
1. Did anyone say “all men”?
Before we even get into any moral or statistical grey area, let’s just start with good ol’ word definitions. Did the person you’re addressing actually explicitly say that they were referring to every single man on earth?
This may come as a shock, but the vast majority of people who can read Instagram captions are literate. This means that they can read the sentence “sometimes men treat me poorly and it sucks” and not hear “without exception, every man in the history of creation always sucks” because that simply isn’t how words work. While it is of course true that not all guys are evil, odds are the original statement’s use of the English language already clarified that enough for a disclaimer to be unnecessary. At ease, soldier.
2. Did anyone even suggest “all men”?
We all at know that the first unofficial rule of internet fight club is that an argument based exclusively on grammar is probably an automatic forfeit. So maybe the statement in question included something like “men always…” or even “guys…literally ALL the time.” Such misleading phrasing might sound off the enemy sirens in your head, but hold your fire, lest you risk getting your ass handed to you on a technicality.
You have probably spent enough time in a 4th grade classroom to know what ‘hyperbole’ is. For example, when you say “dude, my neck beard is literally coated in hot cheeto dust,” your dude understands that the entire surface area of your facial hair has not actually been blanketed by fluorescent spices, because you were speaking in hyperbole. As capable humans, we can decipher what sentences truly imply past literal definitions because we’re smart like that.
When addressing a comment that sounds suspiciously “yes all men”-ish, use common sense to decide whether or not anyone actually would be convinced of the inescapable evils of the male agenda based on the sentence you just read. You and I both know they probably didn’t mean it that way. Y’know, because we’re smart like that.
3. Why are you compelled to be defensive?
Let’s talk about you. Presumably, you have just read a comment about someone who has been negatively impacted by men. Your compulsion to respond that “not all men are like that” naturally suggests that you would know because you’re one of the good guys, and you don’t deserve to be thrown in that bucket too. Of course this is not a crime within itself.
With that established, it seems odd that you would read a complaint about the “bad apples” and still take it personally. After all, one would naturally assume that a nice guy like yourself could read a complaint about men who had exhibited disrespectful behavior and confidently scroll along knowing that it clearly does not apply to you because you would never treat anyone that way. In this scenario, you going out of your way to say that not all men are like that would be a bit like an innocent ancient weapons enthusiast barging onto a taped-off murder scene solely to insist to police that not all samurai sword owners decapitate their neighbors. Protesting without a direct accusation looks extremely suspicious. If the shoe fits, that’s your problem.
4. How is “not all men” relevant to the point?
Picture this: you send that comment. You totally own that man-hating, bra-burning, probably-gay-unless-she’s-willing-to-be-near-you social justice warrior. The brilliant observation that not all men are demons obliterates her narrow, fragile worldview with the excessive force of a nuclear bomb eviscerating a mobile home. Everyone applauds. You get sponsored by Mountain Dew. Sarah Silverman is forced to flee the country. Feminism is over and men can finally crawl out from under the stiletto heel of oppression that they have been suffering under for hundreds of never.
Would this elaborate fantasy immediately collapse if she were to tell you that she already knew that? You see, that’s the issue; someone can express past traumas or current concerns surrounding men while simultaneously knowing that not all men are perpetrators of these problems. The two are in no way mutually exclusive. Of course not all men are evil. What does that reassurance have to do with solving (or even just vaguely acknowledging) the primary issue being presented here?
When you respond to someone’s negative experiences with men by firing back that “not all men are like that,” the only new information you are really bringing to the table is that you swung hard at that point and missed quite embarrassingly. Not only do you instantly dig yourself into an awkward argumentative hole, but you also demonstrate a great deal of douchiness by taking focus off of the deeper, broader issues being pointed out and instead making it about you.
Clearly no one is at risk for actually thinking that the concerns being expressed apply to every individual man on earth. Odds are, no one even implicated all men in the first place. The primary concept being presented is that the it might not be all men, but it’s enough of them for there to be a problem and that is what needs to be addressed. A nice guy like yourself might even be the perfect person to help.