Illustration: Erica Vincenzi.
“Not all guys are like that, you need to stop generalizing men, you’re being sexist!”
This comes up in pretty much every discussion I’ve ever had about misogyny, rape culture, and anything else that pertains to feminism. In some ways, it sounds almost reasonable. Of course not all men are rapists, or misogynists. But when your immediate response is “not all guys,” that’s a pretty big chance that you’re a misogynist anyways.
By saying “not all guys,” you’re changing the topic at hand so that it’s not about women, it’s about men.
You’re basically ignoring how women are oppressed and hurt on a daily basis, because you’re too worried about how something is going to “hurt” you and ruin your reputation as a man. Not to mention, you’re probably missing the point. In a discussion about women, it’s ridiculous to spend the entire time trying to reassure yourself that you’re not “one of those guys.”
More than that, “not all men” is just an elaborate way of telling yourself (if you’re a man), that you’re not responsible. “Not all guys” is like some code for “not me, I’m not a problem. It’s some other guy.” It’s reassuring to distance yourself from that group of “bad” people and say that you’re not one of them.
Once you remove yourself from the problematic group, you don’t feel the need to fix your behavior, since you’re not one of those guys.
Scrolling through the comments on any YouTube video that has “things I hate about men” in the title makes this pretty clear. “Change the title” because not all guys are like this. “Stop blaming guys” because not all guys are like this. “I’m a guy and I wouldn’t do this.” While these people have the right to comment, it looks like they search for these videos so they can tell everyone possible, “I AM NOT ONE OF THESE GUYS. I AM A GOOD GUY. I AM NOT A PROBLEM.”
It makes it so easy when you don’t think you’re problematic and when you’re not looking at your behavior and attitudes because you can just tell yourself, “Well, not all guys are like that.”
That’s not helpful at all. Especially if you claim to have an interest in feminism, it says a lot that you’re more interested in protecting guys from a bad reputation, than trying to understand systemic oppression and give women a safe space to voice their frustration with society. If you really want to be a feminist, or a feminist ally, maybe next time you feel like saying “not all guys are like that,” think about what you’re really doing.