I’m 100% sure I’ll get shit for this, but I’ve had this sitting in my drafts for ages, and now feels like as good a time as any to crack it out.
I’ve been asked a few times why ‘not all men’ annoys me, and I’ve struggled to explain just why the response seems so illogical. So I wrote a long-winded analogy, in the form of a radio drama. And given that #BlameOneNotAll – a hashtag which aims to shed light on the not-in-any-way-surprising truth that not all men are rapists, I thought now’s as good a time as any.
Not All Men (a tedious radio play in three parts)
[Sounds of crockery clinking, a kettle boiling. Door slams, sound of footsteps. SAM enters.]
Alex: Hey Sam, fancy a cup of tea?
Sam: [sighs] Yes please. Ugh. It’s been a horrible day at my new job.
Alex: Oh no! Sorry to hear that. What happened?
Sam: Well, my colleagues are incredibly awful.
Alex: All of your colleagues?
Sam: Well, a bunch of them keep sending me really demanding emails, it’s getting me down.
Alex: That sucks. It’s not ALL your colleagues though, surely?
Sam: No, not all of them. But a significant number. Like, way more than at my old job. They say…
Alex: Sorry to interrupt – you said your colleagues are awful. Yet it’s not ALL of your colleagues?
Sam: Well no, but you know what I…
Alex: I don’t think you should generalise.
[Sound of vacuuming. Door slams. Vacuum gets switched off, kettle put on. SAM enters]
Alex: Wow, you look like crap. What happened?
Sam: This new job. It’s just so horrible. Every day I get shit from people about this one project, and I’ve explained to them that their demands are unreasonable, but they ask me to…
Alex: Back up a second. You get shit from EVERYONE?
Sam: No, not everyone.
Alex: OK, so SOME of your colleagues are unreasonable.
Sam: Yeah, but it’s disproportionate to colleagues at my other job, that’s what I’m trying to get across. I mean, it’s like there’s an office culture that’s developed that specifically rewards this kind of demanding behaviour from people who work there. It makes me feel…
Alex: But, just to clarify, not everyone’s like this, right?
Sam: No, but I figure you understand that. I’m trying to explain what they…
Alex: How many of your colleagues are like this?
Sam: Umm… I don’t know. Like, maybe five or six?
Alex: Can you prove that?
Sam: Well, I could show you the emails, but that’s not really the point. I’m trying to explain that they’re behaving is making it increasingly difficult to do my job, because…
Alex: Small point – do you mean the way SOME of them are behaving?
Sam: Yes. But can I just tell you what they’re doing?
Sam: So it’s like this…
Alex: Hang on a minute. I met a couple of your colleagues at that drinks thing and they seemed fine.
Sam: Yeah, sure, there are some who aren’t unreasonable at all.
Alex: OK well that’s good. Cup of tea?
[Sound of pot boiling, vegetables being chopped, general dinner cooking noises. Door slams. SAM enters.]
Sam: [crying] It’s awful, it’s so awful, I just don’t know if I can keep working there any more.
Alex: Oh no! What happened?
Sam: Well, remember I’ve been telling you about these unreasonable demands?
Alex: Yeah, although you never properly explained what exactly is so unreasonable, so I’m not sure why you’re so upset.
Sam: [sniffs] OK, well they keep asking me to…
Alex: What do you mean by ‘they’?
Sam: My colleagues.
Alex: Not ALL of your colleagues, surely?
Sam: No, but I think we’ve covered this. Maybe five or six of my colleagues are…
Alex: How many people do you work with?
Sam: Thirty or so.
Alex: OK, so probably best not to generalise about all of them.
Sam: What I’m trying to say, though, is that my work environment is disproportionately awful compared to this other one, in which my colleagues didn’t treat me like shit. Whereas now, I get emails…
Alex: But not from everyone.
Sam: …and demands…
Alex: But not from everyone.
Alex: SOME OF THEM.
Sam: Some of them…
Alex: Go on.
Sam: Some of them make me feel like shit.
Alex: Well that’s a really awful thing to do.
Sam: So how should I solve this problem?
Alex: Try not to imply that they all do it, because it’s pretty unfair on those who don’t!
[Sound of all the plates smashing, and someone setting the kitchen on fire.]
Not all men
If you appreciated the above you should also immediately go and read this excellent Storify of the origins of ‘not all men’ by @sassycrass. You really should. There’s also this cracking blog which someone tweeted yesterday, about why the #BlameOneNotAll tag is crappy.
For what it’s worth, I do not think you are an appalling and terrible person if you hear some horrific story about rape statistics, patriarchy, or an individual man doing something appalling and your first thought is ‘but not all of us do that!’ What I am saying, though, is that before that thought comes out of your mouth or your keyboard, consider for a second that perhaps:
a) we know.
b) we know you know.
c) therefore perhaps it’s irrelevant.
d) insisting that people absolve all possible innocents of blame before they are allowed to discuss the actions of the guilty might prevent anyone from getting to the meat of the actual problem. Not to mention it’s pretty patronising to the people you think need to be absolved.
In summary: saying that ‘not all men’ are rapists is trivially true, derails us all from the real issue, and is – to my mind – tediously misandrist. If you want to talk about a large group of people, saying ‘not all of them are rapists/misogynists/appalling humans’ is quite literally the faintest praise with which you could damn them.