Feminist Philosophers

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Not All Men explained May 23, 2014

Filed under: social media — Lady Day @ 3:54 pm

If you’re like me, you have sufficiently hip social media contacts that you see the new memes fairly early on, but are not yourself sufficiently hip to always know right away how to parse those memes. Indeed, if you’re like me, you’ll need to see a couple of tokens of a new meme-type before you even realize that it is a meme-type.

Such it was for me when I first saw an instance of the “Not All Men” meme on a friend’s Facebook wall. It might have looked something like this:

The Kool-Aid man bursts through a wall. In a speech balloon, he says, "Not all men!"

I didn’t get it. Then I saw another instance:

A scene from the movie Jaws. A giant shark rest on the back of a small boat, half in and half out of the water. In a speech balloon, he says "Not all men!"

Ah, a meme. I dutifully Googled the phrase. Here for my fellow non-cognoscenti is the useful explanation of the meme by Kelsey McKinney I found over at Vox.

In brief, the “Not All Men” meme is internet feminism’s response to that inevitable, boring moment in a conversation about gender inequities in which some man objects, “But I’m a man and I don’t do that.” McKinney helpfully details the history of the meme, explains the phenomenon the meme is skewering, and diagnoses exactly what’s wrong with the “I don’t do that” response. According to McKinney, it’s a variety of interrupting — perhaps a subspecies of so-called mansplaining — that derails the conversation.

To the reader who asks “So, what can I do?” McKinney advises:

You can not interrupt, because interrupting is rude, and use that time instead to think about whether or not injecting “not all men” is going to derail a productive conversation.

There. Now we’re all hip and in-the-know (until the next meme comes along).

 

47 Responses to “Not All Men explained”

  1. Matt Drabek Says:

    My favorite so far is Jack Nicholson from The Shining holding the axe and saying “not all men!”

  2. Lady Day Says:

    I quite like that one too. I’m also fond of the Adventure Time Not All Men. …but that’s probably just because I’m a sucker for all things Adventure Time.

  3. HappyPhilosopher Says:

    An ironically amusing “meme”, since I’ve often found myself defending feminism in precisely the same way: “not all feminists” (are angry/irrational/suffer from depression/etc.)

  4. beenthere Says:

    I don’t think of it as mansplaining or a relative of it. Instead, I think of the many men and women I have taught who rush to share an anecdote about an exception when I provide an evidence-based generalization. If I say statistics suggest X, it is inevitable that someone will quickly state, “My father doesn’t do X.” It’s supposed to unseat the generalization. It’s a bit wearying.

  5. Lady Day Says:

    I totally agree. Unlike OP, I don’t see it as a variety of mansplaining. (And, moreover, I think that the term “mansplaining” is overused and often unhelpful.)

  6. uptowngirl Says:

    I might be missing something, but I didn’t find McKinney’s piece all that useful. Take the start:

    “Some additional notes about men:

    A man is someone who pays his female employees less.
    A man is someone who interrupts a woman when she’s in the middle of saying something.
    A man expects his wife to do all the cooking and cleaning.

    What’s that you say? Not ALL men pay their employees less? Not ALL men interrupt women?

    Thanks for pointing that out. You’re who this meme is about.”

    I’m just not sure about this. Here are two things I am against: 1) over-simplified generalisations; 2) the patriarchy.

    All three of the above claims touch upon important issues, but do so in an over-simplified way. Why not just re-state these claims in a more careful manner? As examples: we live in a society where all to often, men … ; unfortunately, too many men tend to … ; Gender roles are such that a large number of men …

  7. Lady Day Says:

    Yeah, totally. I didn’t find that part of the post either. I took the post as providing a handy summary of what the meme means and where it came from, not thoughtful feminist theorizing.

  8. Lady Day Says:

    Oops. There was a “useful” missing there. As in, “I didn’t find that part of the post useful either…”

  9. anon Says:

    I agree with uptowngirl. I haven’t seen this meme in its natural habitat, and so it may have a good use that I’m unaware of, but as it’s presented in that article it seems problematic to me. Suppose that on being criticized for one of those ridiculous gendered products, someone from the company responds “Well, a woman is someone who likes pink”, and you reply “Not ALL women like pink”, how would you feel if they then used an analogous “Not ALL women” meme to, in effect, silence you?

    “On a very basic level, “not all men” is an interruption, and interrupting is rude.”
    If the problem is interrupting during speech or derailing threads, then I can see why we’d want to object to it and perhaps, if necessary, even poke fun at it. But this seems quite distinct from what is a legitimate way to object to a universal generalization that one takes to be false. Maybe some “not all x’s”‘s are interruptions, but not ALL “not all x’s”‘s are interruptions. I don’t take myself to have interrupted anyone with the previous sentence. And it doesn’t have to derail the conversation, either. It can be very quickly responded to with something like, “Well, I didn’t mean to claim that all x’s phi, only that many or most or some do. And we need to discuss how to address the problems that come from the truth of this somewhat weaker claim…”. And if the problem is that people object to generalizations that aren’t intended to be universal with “Not all x’s phi”, then that too is easily handled: “That may be true, but it’s not incompatible with my claim that most x’s phi. See this study for the data that shows most x’s indeed do phi”.

  10. Different Anon Says:

    @ Anon: were a student to randomly hold up a sign like this in class, your comment about issues of interrupting would make more sense. However, the meme was developed and is used because in general, in online (especially tumblr) discussions of feminism, feminist issues, womanist issues, etc., a rogue commenter will pop into the discussion on the treatment of women to say that “not all men” do that thing. This type of behavior is quite annoying for those who are genuinely trying to discuss the issue at hand–which likely contributes to why people chose to make fun of this behavior in this meme. Additionally, such behavior derails the conversation by refocusing it from (what is often, in context,) a person’s lived experiences of oppression or discrimation to a discussion of whether every man treats women the way the behavior was described. Fundamentally, it shows disrespect to the person by tacitly attempting to deny that the person’s lived experiences are valid; by saying that some men wouldn’t act that way, the ‘not all men’ interlocutor casts aspersions on the person’s reporting of that person’s own experiences. I have included a link to the type of derailing behavior that might prompt someone to post the ‘not all men’ meme: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/05/21/3440209/discrimination-favoritism/ (see the second commenter in particular). This meme is a paricular way to communicate annoyance at a person’s arrogant insistence that the conversation be refocused on the question of whether all men do X.

    You rightly note that there is a time and place to discuss whether generalizations are accurate, but most often, I see people commenting online (on blogs, on tumblr, etc.) and reply that “not all men” do X *not* in response to data regarding behaviors (though I have seen it done there, too) but instead in response to a person sharing about lived experiences (like having been an object of street harassment, sexual assault, etc.). Surely if every discussion about ‘not all men’ were a genuinely clarificatory discussion, such a meme would be unnecessary or possibly even rude. Given that the context of this meme and its usage is in response to individuals saying “not all men” to deliberately try to change the entire conversation, the “not all men” interjection is interrupting, it is disruptive, and it is rude; you seem to be utterly unfamiliar with the context of both the “not all men” commenting and the meme, and I hope that more information about those contexts helps explain why (a) people made it, (b) people use it, and (c) their usage of it is in response to something genuinely interrupting, not someone asking for clarification on data points.

  11. Different Aninonptimus Prime Says:

    The article is a bit misleading, I think, for the reasons that the last couple of posters have pointed out. The problem is not exactly people interjecting for cases McKinney’s bait phrases, where “a man” is explicitly defined as anyone who pays women less than men (cause this would apply to anyone with implicit biases, whatever their gender), or when some other explicit, exceptionless or essentializing statement is made and it’s wrong. (Maybe it is though. I wouldn’t be surprised if derailing corrections to these sort statements too are often made by men who are obviously being uncharitable in their derailing ,correction’.)

    It’s when people are already talking about generalities and tendencies, or implicit biases, and someone chimes in with the fact that the generalization is just that and doesn’t apply to everyone (and specifically, them). But even this is apparently not even when this usually happens?

    I admit, I’m unfamiliar with the meme, maybe because I avoid comments sections on sites like thinkprogress or news websites like the plague. By the way, I’m not sure what comment you are referring to Different Anon. They’re sorted by most recent comments. And they’re Facebook comments. Maybe it was deleted?

    The thinkprogress link is also on implicit biases and research. But Different Anon, you mention how the meme’s real home context is when people share their own experiences. And someone comes in and effectively minimizes the significance of this experience by talking about how it doesn’t apply to all men and how it has exceptions. Is this right?

    If you or anyone else has examples of this happening on blogs or anecdotally, I’d find it helpful. All I can find via google are just big collections of lots of disparate sexist things and tumblr image macros with the phrase. So I’m still not sure I have a good feel for what this specific phenomenon is or how it works.

  12. Different Aninonptimus Prime Says:

    Follow up: I read your post again Different Anon and it looks like I just said what you already anyway. I blame tablets. Still, I would find it helpful of anyone could post some concrete examples they might know of off hand.

  13. Different Aninonptimus Prime Says:

    Here’s a link to another (maybe more helpful) blog post , which was inspired by the Vox link posted here.

    http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2014/05/20/talking-about-gender-inequality-is-like-throwing-a-hand-grenade-into-a-cesspit/

    It has a bunch of examples, and says this:

    “If you are struggling with this, here is a better way of understanding how this device works. Have you noticed those people who, in any conversation you have with them about welfare cuts, have to point out and have acknowledged as true, that ‘well, you have to admit that there are people out there milking the system’?

    It’s not that they are inaccurate, but their point only serves to reframe the conversation inside their comfort zone. Ditto issues of race, people will want to point out ‘well black people are racist too!’…they may very well be, but in the context of a conversation about structural racism this point is just irrelevant. It has no place other than to console the author of the comment and minimize the issue.”

  14. MB Says:

    Your friends at the metablog cordially respond with the following:

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/12/weak-men-are-superweapons/

  15. Anon Grad Student & hip meme slinger Says:

    “average man interrupts 3 conversations a month with “not all men”” factoid is actually just a statistical error. The average man interrupts 0 conversations per month. Devil’s Advocate Georg, who lives in a cave & interrupts over 10,000 conversations about feminism each day, is an outlier and should not have been counted

  16. An anonymous philosopher Says:

    It’s sad that Feminists have to respond to counterexamples by generating (not funny and hard to understand) Internet memes rather than responding to them with evidence and reasoning. Just saying.

  17. Lady Day Says:

    This meme isn’t part of a monolithic feminist response. There are many expressions of feminism, many of which strongly emphasize evidence and reason. It’s never wise to generalize too broadly from a meme (or comment thread), IMHO.

  18. Ross Cameron Says:

    Also, the meme isn’t a response to counterexamples. But apart from that . . .

  19. Not All Feminists Says:

    “There are many expressions of feminism, many of which strongly emphasize evidence and reason.”

    Agreed.
    Not All Feminists respond with meme generation instead of reason!

  20. sdfkjhdsfkh Says:

    Well, the simple solution to avoiding the logical “not all men” retort would be to choose your words more carefully. Instead of making sweeping generalizations about men like “Men treat women like objects”, try “a lot of men…” or “some men…” or “I hate men who treat women like objects”. If you were to say “Black people love basketball”, would it be wrong for me to say “Not all black people”?

    This backlash against “Not all men” seems more like a bunch of people who would rather simply dismiss a very logical defence against what often comes off as man hating than choose their own words and hone their own thoughts so as not to fall into the stereotyping trap.

  21. anonymouse Says:

    I don’t understand why Lockwood is using the hashtag “YesAllPhilosophers”. The straightforward interpretation is that she’s claiming that yes, all philosophers drunkenly grope women, give copies of Lolita to their young women students, and so on. I assume she means something else, but she is not allowing any comments.

    I think this meme is really damaging. It’s counterproductive.

  22. Ross Cameron Says:

    “If you were to say “Black people love basketball”, would it be wrong for me to say “Not all black people”?”

    Yes. It would mean you don’t understand generics.

  23. sdfkjhdsfkh Says:

    Uh-huh. And what if I said “Arabs are terrorists.” Would you let that slide?

  24. Ross Cameron Says:

    Are you asking me whether I think it’s true? No, I don’t think it’s true. But that is compatible with me recognising that it is a generic, and thereby not falsified by the instance of something of the kind not having the property in question.

  25. sdfkjhdsfkh Says:

    No, I’m not asking whether you think it’s true. I assumed you would not. Basically I am asking whether you think that someone should be able to make sweeping, often negative generalizations about a segment of the population free from any kind of interjection from those members of that segment who do not fit those accusations and might take offence. It’s just natural for one to defend one’s own reputation/morality, perhaps even on a reflexive level. In no way does the “Not all men” retort “derail” feminism, but serves to remind feminists that their complaints do not apply to everyone within the group that they are so frustrated by.

    But I guess it’s easier just to cross off the comeback as silly or “mansplaining”. After all, women are pretty good at disregarding logic and fact when they serve to hinder their arguments, aren’t they? Oops, not ALL women.

  26. Ross Cameron Says:

    The point is that generics like ‘Xs are F’ does not entail the universal generalisation ‘All Xs are F’, thus pointing to an instance of an X that is not F is wholly irrelevant to the truth of the generic.

    ‘Men treat women as objects’, e.g., is a generic. I don’t know if it’s true, but I do know that the existence of a man who does not so treat women is compatible with its truth. Thus, the response ‘Not al men’ is simply irrelevant to the assertion. That’s why it’s derailing the discussion. It’s not a “counter-example”, as was said above, because the generic is compatible with it. It’s like responding to an assertion with something on a different topic: that’s not to cooperate with the discussion. I take it that’s the whole point of the meme.

  27. An anonymous philosopher Says:

    Ross Cameron: As you surely know, assertions in context can pragmatically convey all sorts of offensive claims (such as with sdfkjhdsfkh’s “Arabs are terrorists” and “Women are pretty good at disregarding…” examples), even if they’re not implied by their literal contents. So the “Not all men” retort is clearly relevant to the relevant class of assertions, for the same reason that pointing out that many Arabs oppose terrorism is clearly relevant to typical assertions of “Arabs are terrorists”.

  28. Ross Cameron Says:

    I don’t agree that that makes the responses relevant. Pointing out the bad pragmatic implications of the true generic, if such there be, would be relevant, sure. But “Not all men” doesn’t do that, since it’s not even a pragmatic implication of the generic that the universal generalisation is true.

  29. Audrey Says:

    Sure. There are certain cases in which the response “Not all men do/are X” is appropriate. For example, if someone were to say, “All men have XY chromosomes,” an appropriate reply would be, “Not all men have XY chromosomes, since some men are trans with XX chromosomes.” To which the original speaker should say something like, “Yes, you’re right. I shouldn’t have said that.” And move on.

    But there are many other cases in which the response “Not all men do/are X” is inappropriate, and these are the cases in which sometimes you just get too tired of saying the same thing over and over again, so you’d rather just post a meme than go through an argument for the nth time for very large values of n. Here are some typical examples, adapted off the top of my head from conversations I’ve had before.

    Case 1:
    A. “I really hate it when guys get offended when you won’t give them your phone number. It’s like they think there’s something wrong with you if you’re not interested in them.”
    B. “But not all guys are like that. And it’s really hard for guys because we always have to make the first move, and some girls are so stuck up, and…. (etc).”

    Case 2:
    A. “Our society sends such terrible messages to young men and really teaches them to devalue women.”
    B. “But not all young men turn into rapists or abusers. I think it’s really a matter of mental illness.”

    In both of these cases, the “Not all men” response is inappropriate because it derails the conversation from what it was intended to be about, namely the bad effects of sexism. B might be saying things that are true, but seriously, that’s not the point.

  30. No Tall Men Says:

    Audrey, thanks, those examples make it clear to me why the meme has been resonant.
    I, and perhaps others, had in mind offensive or problematic stereotypes (whether of men, philosophers, black people, or women) passed off under the cover of a generic. Girls aren’t good at math; philosophers think of women as sex objects; black men are violent. It’s important to have some way of reminding the speaker or audience that these generalizations shape the way we think of individuals and often in toxic ways.

  31. Kimberly Says:

    I think it’s funny that those defending “not all men” are comfortable making generalizations about feminists.

  32. metafunny Says:

    I think it’s funny that Kimberly is happy to overgeneralize about “those defending ‘not all men'” while she thinks it’s funny that they’re making generalizations about feminists.

  33. philodaria Says:

    Let’s mind the ‘be nice’ rule, please.

  34. sdfkjhdsfkh Says:

    Yes Audrey, your two examples are good ones, and they do not generalize men. I might say “I hate it when people butt in line” to which someone might say “Not ALL people butt in line,” which would be an asinine response. So I’m with you there. But the examples I saw first were the “men interrupt women when they speak” variety, and as far as I know, that’s a pretty strange comment. It’s my experience that most people interrupt everyone when they speak.

    Ross, you sound like a math text book. If I were to say “Jews love pork”, then according to your logic, I am correct because there are at least two Jewish people who love pork. So while the statement is technically true, it’s really a very poor choice of words.

    As for myself, I have been known to make some pretty broad generalizations about certain groups, be they a gender, race or religion. However, if someone were to correct me by saying “Not ALL [fill in the blank], I wouldn’t get my back up and complain about the person with the legitimate retort. I’d acknowledge their point, tell them that they are right, maybe adjust my words a bit, and then either continue my line of reasoning or shut my hole. I wouldn’t complain about the person who had just been entirely correct in pointing out the flaw in my message.

    Since we’re all so concerned about what society teaches young men and women, wouldn’t it be in everyone’s best interests to keep the generalizations to a minimum? By interjecting that not all men are abusers or that not all women are gold diggers, doesn’t that keep the hatred down a bit? Speaking in generalizations leads to discrimination and bigotry. And I’m sure no feminist wants to be guilty of that, right?

  35. Ross Cameron Says:

    Well, sorry to sound like a math textbook once more, but saying that the truth of a generic ‘Xs are F’ does not entail that all Xs are F also does not commit one to thinking that the presence of 2 Xs that are F is sufficient for its truth. That’s not ‘my logic’, it’s just logic.

  36. Audrey thanks for this. My take on why ‘Not all men’ might be frustrating is because it is irrelevant. I take it that implicit in a statement such as ‘men are/do x’ is not that ‘ALL men are/do x’ but ‘ENOUGH men are/do x’. It’s about a significant proportion, not the whole lot.

    To use a neutral exampl: if I am asking for work advice, and I say ‘if I ask my boss for a raise following eating my boss’ birthday cake in the fridge, is that a bad idea?’.

    I think a reasonable piece of advice in reply is: ‘Don’t do it because A. bosses don’t like you to eat their birthday cakes and .B. bosses don’t give raises to people who don’t do what they like’. This involves two generalisations: ‘A’ and ‘B’. A and B are not true of ALL bosses. Not ALL bosses would let such actions affect their decision, maybe not even MOST, but ENOUGH? Probably, yes. Don’t eat the cake.

    Similarly, enough men behave or don’t behave the way feminists might claim. ‘All’ or even ‘most’ or ‘many’ is irrelevant out of context.

  37. sdfkjhdsfkh Says:

    I think it depends on how prevalent the behaviour is as well as how negative it is perceived. If someone says “Men like sports”, I might say “Not all men”, and it really doesn’t accomplish anything because we all know that not all men like sports, and liking sports is not a negative thing. Well, to SOME people it is, but it is not inherently negative.

    If you say “Men are obsessed with large breasts”, I might interject if I myself am more of an ass man or a leg man, or because the word ‘obsessed’ might be a tad strong. Still, it doesn’t accomplish much other than to make clear my preferences.

    If you say “Men treat women like objects”, you can bet your sweet can I’m going to interject, because it is a negative statement that is not true for all men. Perhaps my interjection to this statement might serve to make you realize that your opinion of men in general is based on your own experience or other people’s anecdotes. In this case, I am very much correct in saying “Not all men”.

    If a man says “Women don’t go out with nice guys”, would you, a woman with a very nice husband or boyfriend, let that slide? Perhaps your friends also prefer to date men who are not arrogant pigs. Is my statement even true as a generalization? Or am I just frustrated with the fact that no woman will date me because I feel I’m too nice and it seems to me like the men who get women are jerks? Maybe I need you to set me straight.

    This “Not all men” thing is pretty new to me, but it seems to me that it is a bunch of people who want to say whatever they want about a group of people without being contested in any way. Of course they word it as “he’s trying to derail my argument”. No, he’s not trying to derail your argument. He’s trying to point out the fact that you’re negative stereotyping, whether you think you are or not. And if you think you should be allowed to do that without being called on it, then you’re very mistaken. And if you think a silly meme is going to do anything at all to get your way, guess what: Men really don’t care about your unfunny, baffling and childish memes. I know not all men, but MOST.

    And Ross, you went from algebra to calculus. I have no idea what the heck you’re talking about anymore.

  38. annejjacobson Says:

    I’m wondering if much of the response here isn’t an instance of what the original post is about; namely, derailing.

    Feminist Philosophers has attracted some nearly professional derailers. “Not all men” can certainly be used to derail a discussion, or to smash it up, as the first image suggests to me.

    Somehow rather than discussing derailing, the comments are focused on other ways in which the expression is used. I don’t for a minute want to suggest there was ANY intentional derailing. It may be that any fault there is lies with the original material, which many find puzzling.

    To someone who’s had too much experience with derailing, it is very clear.

    Not all the people on this blog agreed with me, but I felt that turning a post on Trayvon Martin into a discussion of the importance of having the right to carry a concealed gun was one of the ‘best’ cases of derailing we’ve had here.

  39. Audrey Says:

    sdf,

    I don’t think anyone is contesting that there are some cases in which saying “Not all X…” is appropriate. But you say that you’re new to this – some of us have been hearing the “Not all men…” interjection for a long time now. So perhaps you might give more weight to the people who describe the actual contexts in which it is used.

    The point is that the “Not all men” objection takes men to be the subject of the conversation, and I think this is what you’re picturing. If men are the subject of the conversation, and inaccurate generalizations are being made about them, then sure. Saying that not all men fit whatever stereotype is under discussion is appropriate. This could even be done in a feminist context. For instance, someone who said that men in heterosexual relationships should be the primary breadwinners should be contradicted with a “not all men” or “not all heterosexual couples” kind of thing.

    What many feminists (including myself) find frustrating about the interjection is that in many cases in which it is used, men were not the subject of the conversation in the first place. If you take a sentence like “Men tend to interrupt women,” it could be primarily talking about men or primarily talking about women, depending on context. If I was talking about male tendencies in speech, and I said that men tend to interrupt women, it might be appropriate to mention that there are plenty of men who have trouble speaking up. In this case, I am making a generalization about men that probably isn’t accurate – that they tend to interrupt women. (Logically speaking, I’d say the generalized quantifier is applied to the men.)

    But (and this is the standard frustrating case) as a feminist, I more likely talking about the problems that women face in getting heard, and being taken seriously. So when I say that men tend to interrupt women in that context, I’m primarily talking about women and things that happen to women. I am making a generalization about women, that we tend to get interrupted by men. All men? No. Some men? Yes. (Logically speaking, I’d say the generalized quantifier is applied to the women.)

    In this latter case, replying with “not all men interrupt women” is inappropriate, because it’s contradicting a generalization that wasn’t the one being made. It’s based on a misreading of the sentence that takes its primary subject matter to be men. This is why these kinds of comments are derailing. It’s because they take a sentence talking about problems women face and respond to it as though it was a sentence about men causing problems.

    Perhaps there are some feminists who think that all men are bad. I don’t know them, and I know lots of feminists. At the very least, the feminists I know are not in the business of trying to demonize men. But we are trying to talk about problems that women face, some of which are a direct result of the behaviour of men. Not all men? Yeah, we know. But how about we talk about women for a change.

  40. anon Says:

    Ross,
    You’re right that generics do not entail universal generalizations (or existential generalizations, for that matter), and that many of the claims that are responded to with “Not all x’s” seem to be generics. However, I don’t think that necessarily makes these responses inappropriate, derailing, or irrelevant, for a several reasons. Among them:
    (1) If we’re being charitable, it’s not difficult to get a reading of “not all x’s” where it means (probably through quantifier domain restriction, but perhaps through a relevance implicatrue) something like “not all normal x’s” or “not all of the x’s who aren’t abberations of x-kind with respect to Fness”. And this reading is incompatible with the generic claim that x’s are F, at least on a standard understanding of a common type of generics.
    (2) Even without appealing to that kind of reading, counterinstances to the generic claim that x’s are F, it seems, can count as (defeasible) evidence against the generic, at least assuming that in general a given x is more likely to be a normal x with respect to F than not. Provided with counterinstances, it’s up to the person who asserts the generic to explain why it’s plausible to think of those instances as abnormal.
    (3) As an anonymous philosopher points out above, generic statements can have various (often offensive) pragmatic effects, and a “not all x’s” response can do something to counter those. You argue that generics don’t even pragmatically convey the relevant universal generalizations, so the “not all x’s” is still irrelevant. But even granting the premise, it doesn’t yet establish irrelevance, since it ignores the fact that “not all x’s” may be used to convey more than its strictly literal meaning (it also ignores (1) and (2)). I don’t have a theory of how it works, but it seems plausible that “not all x’s” can be used to convey something like “don’t stereotype x’s as being F”, among other things, as sdfkjhdsfkh suggests.

  41. Lady Day Says:

    I would add to Audrey’s point that the “not all men” response frequently occurs in contexts where systems rather than individual are being discussed. Here’s an example: a Facebook friend recently posted a link to an article with stats showing that women, on average, earn less than men, on average. Lickety split, a man (but it needn’t have been a man; I’ve seen women use the “not all men” reply as well) commented that he paid all of his employees equally regardless of gender, that his wife earns as much as him, etc., etc. And he said this in a way that was obviously intended to cast doubt on the (overwhelming) data about pay inequity, not in a “Gee, I feel pretty happy to have personally escaped that large, system problem” kind of way. To point out individual exceptions to a large, systemic problem is to fail to take that problem seriously. It’s unproductive and wearying, and it happens constantly.

    Honestly, I don’t like the meme that is the subject of the above post. I posted about it because it’s a feminist thing that’s happening that, even though it’s not to my taste, I find interesting. It falls into the category of “news feminist philosophers can use.” My post was not an endorsement of the meme. (Even though I understand well the frustration that led to its creation and continues to prompt its use.)

    For my part, when I communicate with others about important issues like those surrounding equity and justice, I try to assume general good will, but heavy influence upon all of the interlocutors (myself included) by systemic biases. For these reasons — i.e.,, both the tenacity of systemic biases and the potential for goodness in others — I try to avoid sarcastic memes, heavily normative terms like “mansplaining”, and generalizations about individuals rather than identification of systemic problems (so, I’ll complain about the patriarchy, sure, but less so about men, since they are, like women, victims of the patriarchy IMHO). I think those sorts of communicative devices do more to express and arouse frustration than they do to make learning and (sometimes) consensus possible.

    Let me extend my gratitude to those participants in this rich and interesting comment thread who have likewise worked to make learning (if not consensus) possible rather than to express or arouse frustration. :-)

  42. ThatKid Says:

    I’ve been playing with the boys over at Philosophymetablog quite a bit regarding this post. Sometimes it’s fun. Other times it’s not so fun. But sometimes it’s surprisingly useful. And Lady Day’s report of her Facebook friend’s Facebook friend reminded me of just exactly how.

    A bit of backstory: one of my long-time childhood BFFs had a similar reaction to one my Facebook posts a while back. I posted an article about how cocktail waitresses are very often outrageously mistreated and disrespected for doing a pretty difficult job. The article wasn’t just reporting something true, but it was written with a sense of humor, and seemed like appropriate fodder for Facebook.

    Anyway, my childhood friend immediately tore into the article as an example of “spoiled, rich, white girl entitlement”. We debated, found some common ground, and we’re still BFFs to this day. But the common ground came only after I pointed out to him that his own [single] mother was a waitress for our entire childhood, and that many, if not all of the things in that article also apply to the way people treat waitresses in general. All of a sudden, the points *became* true, and the article no longer an expression of “spoiled, rich, white girl entitlement”.

    I guess the main moral of the story is an old one, and it’s just that people in general have a really hard time stepping out of their own heads to understand what it’s like to be another person. But the new spin on this old moral is that people seem to get really freaked out by other people’s *complaints* as if there’s not enough of the complaint pie to go around…. or something.

    Anyway, I try to get the boys over at metablog to see the problems for women as symptoms of greater problems and that these greater problems also cause some of the problems that they’re dealing with. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s life I guess.

  43. notoneoftheboys Says:

    Yeah, I think the experience of one’s mother, or of a friend, work very differently from the reports of anonymous internet comments. I talk to my male friends, in a non-complainy way if I can, about my experiences, and I believe it sometimes changes their outlook.

    I think using the term “the boys” comes off as arrogant, by the way. I wonder if you’d be more successful without the condescending flare.

  44. uptowngirl Says:

    Thanks for all the (useful) comments. They helped.

  45. ThatKid Says:

    I’m sorry for coming off as condescending, and I’m also sorry for being unhelpful. My intention was to do the exact opposite of both of those things.

  46. Anonymous Says:

    What aboout when a woman says not all men? I am not unterrupting anyone here by saying that am I? Not all men are rapists. Can we agree? Some are and always will be…but not all men are. its true.


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