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Not all men (a radio drama in three parts)

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.

___

PART TWO

[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?

Alex: Sure.

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?

___

PART THREE

[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.

Sam: …they…

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.

22 Comments

  • RB says:

    ‘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.’

    YES. This is it! It’s the focus on immediate self-defense rather than any kind of focus or empathy on the actual situations/horrors being discussed which is so infuriating. ‘I’m sorry to hear that your awful experiences have left you with a jaded view on gender politics and the world in general…BUT FUCK THAT, LET’S TALK ABOUT ME!’

    • Orathaic says:

      Yeah, the knee-jerk reaction of ‘i feel attacked by this’, and defensive mode, is pretty easy to understand. We all do it, i see it in arguement all over the place, and it tends to result in conflict which isn’t resolved very well.

      I guess it is creating a conflict where before none existed; thus distracting from the original point. But at least it is an understandable feeling.

      I suppose the patronising responce is ‘do you categorise yourself/self-identify as a rapist? Because you shouldn’t feel attacked unless you do…’

      Not sure that reaponce is helpful. Not sure what is… Need more feminism, teaching men appropriate behaviout; no, not teaching, modelling male behaviours for relating to the women in your life.

  • Anonymous 4982 says:

    Hey now, not all men say ‘not all men’, and I resent that you are implying that we do!

    Actual comment: That’s a very good demonstration of why it’s bullshit. I also like the way that both Alex and Sam can be potentially unisex names.

  • Dm7 says:

    Hi GOTN,

    Thanks for writing this. I enjoyed how you illustrated this issue and I think your radio drama was very witty.

    My concern though is that you’ve written articles before stressing us not to apply ideas to “All Women”, but here you seem to be against the same principle? Please could you explain the logic why the ” Not All X” should be valid in one circumstance and not the other.

    Thanks,

    Dm7

    • Girl on the net says:

      I certainly can, my friend. I’m going to assume you’re talking about this blog? http://www.girlonthenet.com/2013/05/22/what-all-women-want/ That post is an example of when people generalise from personal experiences I’m talking about, and go on to imply that – if I’m correctly reporting my own experience – all other women would necessarily feel the same. It’s an example of a logical fallacy that ‘if one X therefore all X’ and I am urging people not to make that mistake. It would apply equally if people were saying ‘you like having your dick sucked therefore all men like having their dick sucked’ and in that instance, saying ‘not all men like having their dick sucked’ is potentially a useful contribution to the discussion.

      In the blog post above, I’m talking about the disproportionate tendency of certain groups to say ‘not all X though!’ in situations where it’s already patently clear that no generalisation is actually being made. Usually this crops up in conversations (such as the one in the radio play example) where both interlocutors already understand that no one genuinely thinks ALL X are Y, and therefore to state that is unnecessary and derails the conversation from otherwise useful places.

  • Dm7 says:

    Ah, I see. So in the context above, it’s a case that the argument is valid and correct, but irrelevant and distracting; whereas in the Not All Women article, you’re actually countering an incorrect assumption with the affirmation of “Not all X is Y”?

    • Girl on the net says:

      I wouldn’t say ‘valid and correct.’ At a very basic level the statement ‘not all men are X’ is correct, hence my use of ‘trivially true.’ But that’s why I’d hesitate to say it’s ‘valid’ – it’s just derailing, and (as I tried to illustrate in the article above) it distracts from the issues that are up for discussion. We never find out what Sam’s colleagues are actually doing that is unreasonable, and therefore can’t find a solution to the problem, because Alex repeatedly insists on stating something which is at best utterly tangential to the problem at hand.

      In a case where there are genuine generalisations, and these are contributing to confusion, incorrectness, etc etc etc then it might be useful to correct them – usually with a longer explanation and some kind of discussion about the misconception itself. I have very rarely seen a kneejerk ‘not all men’ used in this context, and I’m struggling to think of an example.

  • Yingtai says:

    I think the underlying issue is: Why would someone think “Not me!” is the most relevant, information-contributing thing to say when women bring up their experiences of harassment? It can only be because they think men’s hurt feelings are more important than women’s sense of violation and endangerment. Not a good set of priorities.

    If they thought it was important but not the most important thing, they’d say it later or differently. And probably not have to say it at all once it became clear that that was not what was intended anyway!

    • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

      Plus, there’s something inherently suspect about an over-hasty denial. If anything, it puts *more* suspicion on the person trying to distance themselves:

      Sam: A bunch of my colleagues keep sending me really demanding emails, it’s getting me down…
      Alex: I wasn’t involved in that! Definitely not, nosiree bob! What are you implying?
      Sam: …oookay?

    • Desire on wheels says:

      It’s partly because we live in a society where a man being accused of sexual violence is often considered far worse, and more important and worthy of discussion, than a woman actually experiencing sexual violence, sadly.

  • J Eyre says:

    I think I get where the Not All Men defense kneejerkerks from. To illustrate;

    Sam: [crying] “my colleagues are so shit.”

    Alex: “Wait a second… I’M one of your colleagues. I didn’t do anything.”

    Sam: “No you didn’t and I totally get why you instinctively want to defend yourself. But you know I’m not talking about you so now really isn’t the time.”

    In other words it’s fine to want to say Not All Men but how about you swallow that and concentrate on some sympathy.

  • This post is absolute bloody genius, and *exactly* how it feels when you encounter a ‘Not All Men!’ spouter. Made me roar laughing, at the same time that I winced. *does big blogger salute thing*

    What brought me here was wondering why my #BlameOneNotAll post was getting traffic from you – thank you so much for linking to it! And (shameless selfpromotion KLAXON) if you liked that, you might also like something I wrote last year about #NotAllMen after I had a run in with some eejit. I had a bit of not all menning from some blokes in real life and I put my angriest trousers on. http://putupwithrain.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/not-all-men.html

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hey, thanks! And glad I can push some traffic to other ace things. Your other post is ace too – your point about decent people, and challenging others when they say stuff like that, is an interesting one. I feel like perhaps I live in a bit of a bubble, because I think most guys I know would *always* challenge this kind of behaviour, but at the same time I’m probably not the sort of person who’d ever see this behaviour challenged because a) it’s rare to see it in my friendship group, and I’m a bit of a shut in so I very rarely meet people outside my comfort zone and b) if this *does* happen I’m as likely as not to jump in and take it up myself, rather than wait to see what my male friends do. Hmm. This has got me thinking on quite a lot of stuff – thanks for sharing!

  • I hear you on the “damning with faint praise” thing.

    The way I see it, saying something like “not all men are rapists”, for example, when scaled down to what it’s implying, seems to suggest somewhat that the natural state for your typical “man” is a rapist, and that men who aren’t are the exception. Which, as we all know, is utter bollocks.

    Misandry online (as with misogyny or any other form of verbal discrimination), and I think it’s painfully apparent that the #NotAllMen hashtag was propagated as a knee-jerk response to the #KillAllMen hashtag (which was meant to be satire by hyperbole but I found a little insulting). It turned the whole thing into a slagging match rather than an insightful discussion. The #BlameOneNotAll hashtag, while I kind of understand the purpose, is another brick in this messy wall of shame – why blame anyone? why not just tackle the issues head-on together? – so it doesn’t help at all. And, of course, you get the twats who use it being ‘part of the problem’ – that is, they are mysogynists themselves, using the hashtag as a shield.

    I still feel irritated and saddened by being seen as someone who consistently needs to justify his “not being a misogynistic bastard”-ism, despite all the good deeds I try to do, simply by virtue of having been born in possession of a penis. I’m not a bad guy – I know that – but there’s not much point in telling you this. I’d hope to demonstrate that by not raping you, and standing up to anyone who tried to put you down. Whoever you are, and whatever gender you identify as.

    So I don’t need a hashtag to do so.

    • Desire on wheels says:

      “why blame anyone? why not just tackle the issues head-on together?”

      Are you saying you believe that, or that you are opposed to people who believe that? Because surely it’s obvious that it’s important to blame people who commit crimes, rather than just talking vaguely about trying to reduce these crimes. One of the big problems with our culture is that we don’t really blame rapists or people who commit domestic abuse. The conviction rates are incredibly low, and they’re let off the hook by our society in a big way.

      As for the ones who aren’t actually committing these crimes and are aggrieved that they are being included in a conversation about this, the phrase that comes to mind is, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” We need deep structural changes in our society in order to stop rape culture and patriarchy in general.

      • What I was talking about with that phrase was the practice of laying the blame on an entire group of society – “blanket blaming” – such as “men”, because that could be construed as meaning “all men”, leading to the use of the hashtag. Evidently that’s not actually what it means – it’s meant to refer to the individuals you mention above, such as those who rape or those who domestically abuse – but, semantically, that’s what it looks like – especially to the uninformed.

        My comment about working together to tackle the problem head-on was more of a call to arms than anything else. Taking action to stop these things – both men and women, working together – is a more positive action, in my mind, than pointing a finger at a vague subsection of society, and bringing those who commit these atrocities to justice can be a necessary part of that action.

        That’s sort of what I meant.

  • Hey, Innocent Loverboy. Have a cookie. Thanks for not raping me. Sorry you feel irritated and saddened by us pesky women telling you what life is like. Thanks for for all your good deeds. Would a badge help?

    • Girl on the net says:

      Blimey, that’s not what I got from ILB’s comment at all. I think he’s talking about the attitude of the dudes who started the hashtag: that it’s important for men to assert how awesome they are for not being abusive/misogynist etc, rather than just demonstrating by, you know, not being abusive/misogynist. Correct me if I’m wrong, ILB.

      This bit of your comment: “saying something like “not all men are rapists”, for example, when scaled down to what it’s implying, seems to suggest somewhat that the natural state for your typical “man” is a rapist” touches on something that I find frustrating too. When I engage in discussions here with guys about dating and sex, as well as feminism etc. It’s very frequently the people who want to say ‘not all men are rapists!’ who also want to assert that there’s some kind of biological imperative for men to act like they would ‘in the wild.’ Often combined with a kind of ‘alpha males naturally WANT to hump all the women.’ It implies that men are naturally drawn towards a certain type of behaviour, and I find it irritatingly misandrist – as if guys have no moral sense, or rational sense, or culture or… well, literally any of the other things that the human race has developed since the stone age =)

      • That is exactly what I was talking about, GOTN – and I’m sorry, Lucy, if it seemed to imply anything else.

        I used to collect badges. One more wouldn’t hurt!

        The attitude you mention about “not-all-men-men” also taking the standpoint that alpha males (another term I have a problem with!) have something approaching a biological need to have sex with ALL THE WOMEN IN THE WORLD (and if they don’t do so it’s because they are exercising MASSIVE SELF-CONTROL) is a confusing one. I’ve noticed it too – it’s all over Twitter – and they are essentially espousing two completely contrasting views there, virtually shooting themselves in the foot. It’s a silly argument and doesn’t really amount to anything except further divisions (and many people with injured feet).

        • Oh jesus, I’ve just gone back to read this again, and I owe you a HUGE apology! Completely misread what you’d written, and took it the wrong way – I think sometimes I engage auto-offended without really considering what’s being said… And you do deserve a badge – ‘Lucy behaved like a eejit towards me’ (I do give out quite a few of those). I will also be wearing a badge that says ‘apologetic eejit’.

          Really, really, I’m mortified. Thank you for not biting my head off in your reply – I really should take more time to read and consider things!

          • Whoah, that’s okay. I get worse comments from time to time, even on my own blog.

            I think the fact that you get automatically offended by some things highlights the problem GOTN’s talking about here better than anything – if women [or insert any other group that you may be talking about] didn’t get the shit they sometimes get online, then you wouldn’t have to feel like this!

            And don’t worry. I (genuinely) don’t bite.

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