So, I’ve waffled about this for a bit, because the example I’m going to give is new and still fresh in my mind and possibly in the mind of the person with whom it happened, but I’m going to strip as many identifiers from it as I can so as to preserve their anonymity.
Why write about it at all, then?
Well, because it is such a perfect fucking example of some shit that I and other Feminists and Social Justice Warriors deal with that I feel like I’d be doing a disservice to ignore it.
Anyway, the other day I was having a relatively innocuous conversation on social media, like you do. Even me, believe it or not. And in the course of the conversation, I tossed out a “Dudes don’t get why X.”
A male friend responded by calling me sexist for phrasing it that way, and “Not All Men”-ed me.
The reason why “Not All Men” is a problem then occurred.
We went from having a lovely innocuous conversation to me having to explain that saying that “Dudes don’t get X” is NOT the equivalent of saying, “Women don’t understand Y,” even though it may seem so superficially.
Because Dudes have never not gotten a job for not getting X. Believe me, the X under discussion was a thing that I am 99% sure has never cost a dude a job. Dudes have never been assaulted or harassed for not getting X. In fact, about the worst example both this friend and I could come up with of Dudes facing repercussions of not getting X was that there were jokes made about them not getting X in sitcoms.
If the worst repercussions you’re going to face for people assuming a thing your knowledge of X is they might mock you for it, sign me the fuck up.
But this case of “Not All Men” did what the deployment of that phrase is usually intended to do: It derailed the conversation from the perfectly innocuous topic at hand, to me explaining feminism 101 to this dude for paragraphs, only to have him accuse me of being a hypocrite and flounce.
So, “Not All Men” and then implanting a seed of self doubt, which I actually internalized for a bit, as I scoured my recent posts to find out what he was referring to and then came up blank. I do not think he was consciously doing it to make me doubt myself. Instead, it is more terrifying to realize that this reaction was completely knee-jerk and reflexive on his part. He didn’t think about it, and that makes it worse. That this is just how society teaches men to “rebut” women who won’t shut up.
This is why “Not All…” Men, Cops, whatever, is a problem. Because what it does is take the focus from the topic at hand, and refocus it on the other side of that topic. It is a derailing tactic. It is a means of shifting the conversation from uncomfortable truths that some people, quite frankly, need to face.
The other problem with it, is that during that incredibly innocuous discussion, my friend reacted in a way that lets me know when other meatier, more important topics come up, I can’t really trust him to get it.
There is one really useful thing I learned from my days as a reader of Shakesville many moons ago that has stuck with me, and helped me to stifle my own tendency to “Not All”… And that is, “If it isn’t about you, it isn’t about you.” If your reaction to someone saying, “Dudes don’t get X,” is to start in immediately about how you’re a dude and YOU get X: don’t.
If you’re someone we hang out with, odds are we already know that you either don’t do the thing, or that you DO get the thing. Because otherwise we wouldn’t be hanging out with you.
But sometimes when these things crop up we start to wonder if you actually DO get the thing. And then we wonder what else you don’t get that should maybe worry us a little.
So, yeah, guys. Don’t do that. When someone says “Dudes/White People/White Feminists/whatever suck,” if you are not someone who engages in the behavior they are talking about, let it the fuck go. Ok?
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