Controversial commentary is my middle name, and placating men around me, is the game. I recall, after a particularly violating encounter on crowded public transportation, condemning men, as a singular entity, in a melodramatic monologue to my friend, when out of nowhere, a grandpa playing the devil’s advocate, declared that “not all men are like that!” in a tone almost insinuating that I had to apologise to him, a “man who isn’t like that”, or so he claims.
Allow us all to analyse the knee-jerk reactions to generalisations of men, from men, specifically the ones who interpret these sweeping statements as personalised insults attacking the very core of their characters, rather than a valid expression of exasperation towards rampant displays of misogyny, seemingly indoctrinated into every sector of society, and continuously perpetuated by its leading members.
Here’s how it usually goes:
Woman: Throughout my life, I have been hurt by many men, socialised from birth to demand my domestic, emotional, and sexual labour without reciprocation. It’s within reason to expect the remaining men in my life to finally return the favour.
Man: Before you say anything else, I just want to point out that not all men are like that. Most men would never dare to behave in the way you’re describing. Definitely not me. You’re basically implying all men are monsters and NOT ALL MEN ARE.
Newsflash! We know! Not all men are violent, only some. Not all men are abusive, only some. Not all men will disfigure women who reject their romantic proposals, only some. Not all men will embark on killing sprees out of sexual frustration that he lacked experience with women, only some. So yeah, we know that not every man is responsible for the widespread inappropriate treatment of women, especially not YOU, Mr “but I’m not like that”, as you have surely reminded us enough. Do you want a badge for basic human decency? A trophy?
The fundamental idea within this classic rebuttal is that when a woman presents an issue arising from her female identity, commonly occurring at the hands of men, instead of listening to her explanation, men would instinctively defend themselves by pulling out the memorised response from out of their fedoras: “not all men” are like that, do that! Essentially, it’s the argumentative equivalent of “I do not actually care about solving this issue for women, nor did I ever, but since you are challenging me to recognise how the patriarchy protects me while endangering women, I shall interpret it as a personal attack, which is offensive, therefore YOU are the bad person.”
Here’s a tip! Immediately interjecting that it’s “not all men!” into conversations criticising male complicity in plights which predominantly affect women is, in fact, a completely useless contribution. You are not furthering the discussion but dismissing the lived experiences of others, and derailing it to be about your fragile ego.
Obviously, I understand how negative generalisations can offend the demographics it concerns, but there remains a clear dichotomy between demanding men be held accountable for mindlessly condoning the prevalence of harmful contingencies, experienced by women underneath the patriarchy and blatantly bashing every single man for their involvement, unintentional or otherwise, in the patriarchal fraternisation.
Consider this: how many times has your uncle’s distasteful dinner party jokes at the expense of other women has fallen on your own deaf ears? How many times have you rolled your eyes at your neighbour’s obscene comments towards unsuspecting women on the street, but failed to chastise him? How many times have you listened intently to descriptive recounts to the ‘sexual conquests’ of your mate in the gym locker room and even congratulated him afterwards? How many more times are you able to condone the inherently problematic behaviours of men around you while justifying that you yourself aren’t the same as them?
Proclaiming “NOT ALL MEN” into the abyss doesn’t negate the troubling reality that men are statistically sound sources of misogyny. Alternatively, drop the defensive attitude, and start listening to the difficult, but necessary dialogue regarding phenomenons where women are disproportionately victimised. Focusing all your energy on distancing yourself from the narrative directs the attention from establishing a requisite remedy to the issue at hand. Re-evaluate your position. Is it really worth prioritising your own hurt feelings over female lives in potential jeopardy?
Men have the power to alleviate the suffering of women, by being proactive in eliminating toxic behaviourisms learnt from the patriarchy, speaking out against male counterparts exhibiting similar impropriety, and throwing the derailment tactic of “NOT ALL MEN” into the trash, where it rightfully belongs.