Celtic Riverside – The Online Journal of James Keenan

The #NotAllMen Whatabout

I want to address something about logic. In logic, we take premises that have known truth values and some relationship among them to build to a conclusion, to deduce some new, greater truth from what is already known. Faults in this process are known as fallacies, and there are many.

Hypocrisy is not one of them. Unlike fallacies, which affect the truth value of the premises or the conclusion drawn from them, hypocrisy has zero affect on the truth value of an argument. If I say, “the sky is blue because visible light gets refracted in our atmosphere such that only blue is visible”, that would be a true statement. If I then draw a picture and colour the sky red, that does not change the truth value of my original statement.

So, #NotAllMen.

A woman, most likely a feminist, says something about how “men” behave. Another person, definitely not a feminist, responds with some variation of the #NotAllMen response.

“All men cannot be held accountable for the actions of individuals.”

That…is absolutely correct. I do not know Harvey Weinstein or Brock Turner or most of these individuals. I could not stop them, I do not own any of the blame associated with them. I feel zero guilt about what those specific individuals did. None. I feel zero guilt for being a man.


I also recognise a truth to the original argument. The woman is saying, “This is my experience with men. I do not know which men until they have done it, but it’s men and it is on a regular basis.”

That is a social problem. Everyone, regardless of sex, gender, gender orientation, race, ethnicity, religious preference, ableness, handedness, height, visual acuity, or any other quality has a role in fixing social problems. This is not #NotAllMen. This is not #YesAllMen. This is – everyone.

When you say, #NotAllMen, you are shutting down her experience and leaving her alone to deal with that. You do not need to put on a cape and start hunting down street harassers, but support her in that moment. Empathise and be a fellow human being.

Later, when the “locker room talk” and “boys will be boys” starts, remember that empathy and call out that behaviour. Make it known to the men who do not know (or do not give a shit) that it affects women the way it does. Stop tolerating it. That is all women are asking for of men. Do your small part.

Men alone cannot solve this problem, but neither can women alone. They need male allies to call out their peers on these behaviours.

“I’m already doing that.”

Then, great, this does not apply to you. Empathise and support the speaker all the same, or just keep your mouth shut and move on – do not tell her, “Not all the men in your life are doing these things.” Not only does that mean less than nothing to her, it’s outright hurtful.

What do I mean about the whataboutism though?

One of the themes that comes up when I start discussing #NotAllMen is the counterargument that if #NotAllMen is wrong, then #NotAll[insert any group] is also wrong – as though the hypocrisy alone somehow distinguishes the entire point.

First – no, as I covered in the opening, hypocrisy does not matter. Things are what they are regardless. You do not get to point to someone not obeying the rules as the reason why no one should obey the rules.

Second – and this is the fun part with #NotAllMen – I am actually supporting your argument that it should be wrong for all groups.

Every one of these situations falls into four groups:

  1. Perpetrators: members of the target group doing a terrible thing
  2. #NotAll Crowd: members of the target group who don’t do the terrible things, but support or otherwise condone fellow members who do
  3. Activists/Allies: members of the target group who actively fight against the members doing the terrible things
    • The key about this group is their unique position of closeness with the first two groups. They are ingratiated and more trusted than the victims, and so they have a unique position to help solve the problem
  4. Victims: the targets of the terrible things

“Feminists hate men.” #NotAllFeminists

No, not all feminists, but some who claim the feminist label are radical, possibly to the point of misandry. Feminism is about gender equality, and feminists have a responsibility to shut down those who are misandrists or otherwise exclude people from gender equality.

“Muslims are terrorists.” #NotAllMuslims

No, not all Muslims. But again, we have a large number of extremists who are killing people in the name of Islam, and an even larger number of individuals who support those actions even if they do not participate. Non-Muslims need to work to put an end to this, but we all need Muslims to work with others of their faith.

“Police are racist.” #NotAllPolice #BlueLivesMatter

No, not all police. We have a number of police guilty of racially motivated offences though, and police who escalated situations unnecessarily because of the race of the suspect. The community needs to demand accountability for that, but the police also need to work internally to hold their fellow officers accountable.

“Black people are criminals.” #NotAllBlacks #BlackLivesMatter

The flip side of that is the attitude towards the BLM movement or the racist belief that black people are lazy or violent. That is a harsh generalisation. Yes, members of the black community do terrible things and we need to hold that accountable. Members of the black community in particular should be working to that end as well. A white person confronting a black person about something will not yield the same reaction one black person confronting another black person will.

“Immigrants are criminals.” #NotAllImmigrants

This one in particular – very few people who immigrate to America, legally or not, engage in criminal activity. That’s just a fact. Also in fact, one of the reasons for that is the immigrants seem to understand what I’m talking about here better than we do. They hold one another accountable because of their tenuous living situation. They know that when a single one of them steps out of line, our racist asses will take it out on the entire group.

Are you getting the point yet? It’s not about collectivism or group thinking. This is all about individuals. Some individuals do terrible things, the rest of us need to hold them accountable and work to socialise others to prevent those terrible things happening in the future.

These groups do form the basis of our identity though, and we will associate more easily with members of our own groups than others. That makes the other members of those groups particularly effective in addressing these behaviours. We cannot leave it to the “Others” to deal with it. The perpetrators do not care about the Others.

Closing Thoughts

“I’m already doing all of this, I don’t need someone to explain it to me.”

Then great! Keep doing it – this is not about you. The only reason anyone who direct this specific message at you individually is because you threw some version of #NotAll at them. Keep up the good work.

But look around you. Listen to the stories of those who were on the receiving end of these behaviours. These bad things happen all the time. Apparently, far too many people do not realise or care that these things are bad or how it affects the other person. We need to work against those people until we can de-escalate the behaviour and begin to work with them.

This is not about collectivism or groups. We use general language because one cannot look at a person, know which groups they identify with, and know in which of these terrible behaviours they might engage. All we know is a correlation exists between certain groups and certain behaviours. We call that out. We hold the guilty accountable. We try to prevent others from perpetrating.

We are losing entirely too much time and energy having this battle about “Well, I’m not the problem and I don’t think you should be putting any of it on me” because people lack the empathy to hear about someone else’s experience and support them. It immediately becomes defensive, shuts down the entire dialogue, and then it does become about Us vs. Them instead of Us vs. One.

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