Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Hello! You've Reached the Not All Men Hotline!


Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Welcome to the Not All Men Hotline! We care about you and your #notallmen emergency, and are here to help. No one is available to take your call at this time, because we have been inundated with #notallmen emergencies. Please enjoy one of our helpful pre-recorded messages. 

You've been directed to this hotline because you have derailed a post about women's pain with a reminder that some men aren't sexist. We understand that anything that paints men as less than heroic and perfect can feel like an emergency and a threat in a patriarchal society. We sympathize with your concerns, and so we're here to address them and explain why your #notallmen proclamations are harmful, derailing, and make you look like a misogynist. 

Common Not All Men Arguments 

If you've been directed to the Not All Men Hotline, it is because you've derailed a conversation and other people are not interested in dealing with your feelings and your deflections. At the Not All Men Hotline, though, we take all injured male egos very seriously. So let's talk about some of the most common #notallmen arguments, and what's wrong with them:

But I'm a Good Guy!

A successful feminist movement demands the participation of good men. We at the Not All Men Hotline are so excited that you have decided to self-identify as a Good Guy. The problem here is that what matters is not how you see yourself or how you want to be perceived, but how you treat women. That includes strangers on the Internet. Do you think they see you as a good guy? 

You reveal a lot about your character by whom you stand up for, and when. Do you speak up when you see oppression, even when it's difficult? Or do you chastise women for speaking out on their own behalf, demanding that they refocus on what really matters--you? 

Good men care about oppression. They care about the lived experiences of women. They understand that, without listening to women, they cannot learn what women experience. They believe women. When women share their experiences and your responses is, "But not all men!" you undermine those experiences. You show no concern for oppression. You are not behaving as a good guy. 

I Don't See This Sexism You Claim Exists 

We usually don't see things we aren't looking for. How often do you really pay attention to the experiences of women around you? 

The world is full of things you don't see. That doesn't make them any less real. One of the many reasons women share their experiences with sexism is to make it more visible to men who claim not to see it. They are doing you a favor by drawing attention to the shortcomings of your own powers of observation. 

To believe that sexism is not real and pervasive, you would also have to believe: 
  • The overwhelming majority of women are lying about their experiences, and men are more trustworthy sources about women's experiences
  • There is a vast scientific conspiracy devoted to presenting sexism as real, and despite this ability to engage in a decades-long, cross-cultural conspiracy, women don't have the ability to rise, at representative levels, to the top of governments and corporations. 
This belief system is incoherent. If you don't see something that exists, consider your own observational shortcomings--and listen to those trying to rectify them. 

Not My Man! 

There are lots of great men in the world. There are men who think equitable relationships are important, that there's nothing a woman can do to deserve being raped or abused, and that women deserve a representative number of seats at every table where decisions are made. Women who write about sexism know this. 

When you brag about your partner, you take attention away from a pressing social issue, and demand that women thank a men they do not know for doing something he should be doing anyway. Men do not deserve thanks and gratitude for not beating/cheating on their partners. Helping to raise the children you created should not earn one the acclaim of the entire Internet. 

When you make comments like this, you imply something sinister, too: that women who see sexism are lying about it, or that they somehow deserve it because they didn't choose the right man. If you really love it that your man is a feminist, if you really think it's important for men to do the right thing, then don't side with the patriarchy by denigrating other women. 

Why Do You Hate Men So Much? 

If you think a woman hates men because she hates rapists/abusers/assholes, then you think that all men are rapists/abusers/assholes, and the real person who hates men is you. 

This nonsense remark is basically a sexist dog whistle used to paint women who criticize men as lonely, pathetic man-haters who are too hysterical to see the world as it is. Its close cousin is "No wonder you can't get a man!" 

The overwhelming majority of women, including feminists, have loving relationships with men they respect. They don't hate men. They hate cultural norms that force men into tiny boxes of aggression and abuse. To claim that a woman hates men because she hates some things some men do is a failure of reading comprehension. 

Arguments Like This Turn Good Men Bad 

Good men do not become abusers or rapists for any reason--least of all because a random woman somewhere on the Internet said something they don't like. 

Good men care about oppression. Bad men respond to claims of oppression by ignoring women. And the worst men respond to oppression by becoming violent. 

If you think a man can be turned "bad" by an Internet argument, then you never were one of the good guys. 

But Some/Most Men Are Good!

Does this change the fact that some men are not? This re-centers men in the conversation. Rather than focusing on the real, lived pain of women harmed by x percentage of bad men, you demand that women thank y percentage of good men for not being abusive. 

People do not deserve credit for not being abusive. Even men. 

Why Is it Bad to Remind People That Not All Men are Bad? 

Here at the Not All Men Hotline, we understand the struggle men and their defenders face. You want people to know that not all men are rapists, or abusers, or otherwise causing harm. So why is it so bad to remind people that not all men are bad? In short, it's because people already know this fact. Most #notallmen comments are left in response to general complaints about common male behavior--not posts indicating that 100 percent of men, everywhere, for all time are harmful. 

When you shriek, "not all men," you are saying that what's important is not to address serious social harms such as rape, domestic violence, or a pay gap. Instead, what matters most is reminding people of something they already know. You derail a conversation and demand that people devote time to defending men. The implication here is that men and manhood are so fragile that they must continually be defended even in the midst of a critique. 

When you prioritize men's bruised egos over the lives and health of women, you ignore important pieces of information, such that rape is common and wage inequity is pervasive, and instead demand that people prioritize a trivial factoid. When you do this, you're not being one of the good guys. You're looking at women's pain, and telling them it's irrelevant and insignificant compared to the desire of men to be perceived as universally good. 

When you do this, you put your sexism on full display. So while all men might not be sexist, you certainly are.

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