Can someone explain what's wrong with the "it's not all men" argument when referring to the perpetrators of sex crimes?
The logical problem with it as a form of argument is that it's a defensive and largely irrelevant response to a very common tendency in speech to generalize for the sake of simplicity.
I'll give an example, a paraphrase of something I read in the last few days (but can't remember where - oops):
Say there's a headline that reads: "Study shows texting drivers usually at fault in car-pedestrian accidents" with a lede arguing something like, "Experts reiterate that drivers should avoid distraction while driving."
Now imagine the comment section below that article. Odds are you aren't picturing a thread littered with comments like, "But I drive and I've never hit a pedestrian!" or "No driver I know would ever text and drive - this can't be that big of a problem" or "Really, all pedestrians have to do is stay on the sidewalk and look both ways, and this wouldn't be a problem at all!" or "Not all drivers drive distracted - you're tarring all automobile operators with the same brush!"
That reaction is ludicrous - no one would read the hypothetical headline and assume that it was implying that every single driver ever texts and drives all the time. Further, no one who drove with their phone responsibly tucked in their bag would be likely to be so upset by the apparent implication that they did text and drive that they would comment with an angry accusation of over-generalization.
But somehow, similar headlines pointing out gender-related structural inequality and sexism, or reflecting individual women's thoughts about their own lives and experiences, trigger these tidal waves of defensiveness and (faux? who knows) outrage. As if the inclusion of the element of gender as a theme renders people incapable of understanding context and narrative/journalistic conventions.
That's why the "Not All Men" response generates eye-rolling and sarcastic memes.
Maybe this example will clarify:
I travel for business, often alone.
When I get into town late and go to the hotel bar for dinner, if there are more than 5 or 6 male business travelers present, I'm almost guaranteed to deal with some level of sexual harassment, usually minor and I can blow it off and continue happily with my life. Rarely but possibly full on groping or insults for saying no, once or twice bad enough I had to stay there in public until they left & get an escort for fear of being followed to my room.
Obviously from my description, not all men in that situation are going to bother me, most of them aren't. But it's close to inevitable that I will be bothered.
"Not all men" implies I should pat 98% of the dudes in the room on the head for not being jerks and acting like I'm a fellow person traveling for work & just want some dinner after my flight.
That does absolutely nothing toward addressing the fact that minor sexual harassment is a normal part of me doing my job to pay my rent like everyone else.
If we can get through my experience without derailing the conversation - we can get to a useful part of the conversation.
What, for example, are the "not all men" doing in that hotel bar when the bad apple is misbehaving?
I've only ever seen 3 different responses from the good guys who aren't harassing:
(Most common) Not noticing
Noticing, but turning a blind eye because they don't want to get involved
(Rare, but jaw-droppingly awful) come over to reassure me by saying something like "you're okay, right, you know he's just trying to have a little fun"
Obligatory disclaimers: saying that x is a problem doesn't mean I believe it's the the worst thing imaginable, it doesn't mean other problems don't also deserve independent effort to improve.
But just maybe, if enough women can tell their stories without "not all men" derailing discussions, we can at least fix the "not noticing" part.
The problem with that statement is that while it's not exclusively men, it is a very heavy *majority" of men perpetrating those things. "Not all men" is a useless statement, because we know it's not all of them - if it was, we'd all already be dead. Not only is it useless, it's also allowing people to feel like they're not part of the problem in anyway, but without really acknowledging the problem and its ramifications in the first place.
"More men should say 'Don't be that guy' to other men, and less 'Not all men' to women."
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