“Men are despicable.”
And then it comes: “Not all men!”
It’s more likely to come if the original speaker was a woman. I have often made the same arguments as women without one ounce of the blow-back, but I suppose we’ll get to that.
First of all, the original statement (or any variations thereof) does not say, “All men _____.” It refers to a group of people that is exclusively men doing a particular thing.
Second of all, it does not imply all men. You might think, “We all know what they meant when they said that.” That’s not an implication, that’s an inference. That’s the receiver of the message reading something into it.
See, the truth of the matter is that the speaker knows it’s not all men. People listening to the message know it’s not all men. But if we modify the original assertion to “Some men ______,” guess what the guilty men do? They assume we mean some other men. “Yeah, men do these terrible things, but not me. I don’t become unreasonably angry and anything I interpret as a provocation. I’m not one of those men who thinks I have to stand my ground and throw fists at any perceived insult.”
But say, “Men do this thing,” and look who comes running.
It’s like if we were standing among a crowd of people and someone yelled, “Hey, asshole!” Two types of people turn around in that situation:
1) People who heard a disturbance and are looking to see what it was. They remain quiet in their observation, only stepping in once they’ve acquired enough information to know that someone is being unreasonable and the situation requires outside officiating.
2) The person who assume the “Hey, asshole!” was meant for them. This is your primary #NotAllMen crowd. This is the person who hears “Hey, asshole!” and knows, absolutely knows, that something they have done would be interpreted by others as asshole behaviour. They react as reflexively as hearing their own name called.
Rather than address that behaviour though, the one they intrinsically know to be wrong, at least enough to cause offence to others, they are going to take an issue with the person calling out that behaviour. In fact, they are not even going to take issue with their being taken to task for an issue – they are going to engage in a semantics debate about why “asshole” is not the best term to use, or a more formal “Hello” should replace the “Hey.”
This is the #NotAllMen man.
Men who are allies are not saints. I consider myself a strong ally and getting stronger every day. I submit my Twitter feed to you – feel free to check with the women there rather than take my word.
I disapprove of my own past behaviours, and have disclosed them here and on Twitter.
This is not about excommunicating from society the men that have failed to be good allies and supportive of women. It’s about being better and moving forward. It’s about putting an end to those terrible behaviours, and holding ourselves and others accountable. It’s about apologies and making amends for things that have already occurred.
You do not have to fear having made non-criminal mistakes in the past. Take responsibility for them and let’s start to move forward.
What you do not do is infer offence to the lived experiences of women put forth using generic language that is specifically meant to capture the attention of the men guilty of those behaviours, language designed specifically not to let them off the hook by excusing themselves as #NotSomeMen. You do not engage in semantic arguments that ignore the actual issue. You do not demonstrate through your reaction to “Men _____” that you are exactly one of those men.
Help fix the problems.