“Not All Men” is Not a Fallacy. It is Humanism.

It is customary within feminist discourse to treat the response #NotAllMen as something akin to a logical fallacy, which, once identified, can then be simply dismissed as an error of reasoning. Unlike genuine logical fallacies, however, there has never been any convincing demonstration or rationale provided for why it is erroneous. In fact, it is not. The principle of not making negative generalizations about a whole identity group is never a fallacy, but a defining feature of liberalism, humanism and civil rights movements.

Frequently, a feminist will make a generalizing statement beginning, Men do/say/think <something harmful to women>. She (or occasionally he) is then met with multiple responses that point out that most men do not engage in this harmful behavior, say this obnoxious thing or hold these objectionable values.  These responses comes mostly from men, who deplore the behavior being associated with their sex—but often also from women who object to negative generalizations about men, either on principle or on behalf of the men they love or both. The feminist then becomes very frustrated and insists that she never said all men and that, because she didn’t use the word all, it should be assumed that she knows that not all men are guilty of the harmful behavior. She will say something like: If it doesn’t apply to you, it’s not about you. She will then often attribute the not all men response to men, accusing them of making it all about themselves and their feelings, instead of listening to women’s experiences. This misses the point.

Yes, it is upsetting to have negative generalizations made about your whole identity group, which is defined by immutable characteristics. Why wouldn’t it be? It is unjust and unkind. We all see the problem with black people commit crime, even in areas where they are overrepresented in crime. Simply, the vast majority of black people do not commit crime and so this claim is prejudice. We easily see the problem with women lie about their babies’ fathers even though this happens and, when it does, it’s women who do it, 100% of the time. Most women in exclusive relationships are faithful to their partners and completely honest about their children’s parentage, so this claim is prejudice. We see the problem with Muslims are terrorists, even though Islamist terrorism is a real and alarming phenomenon. Nearly all Muslims are not terrorists, and associating the entire Muslim population with religiously motivated violence is prejudice.

These examples reveal a pattern, in which generalizing negatively about people by their identity groups is regarded as unethical, erroneous and hurtful. When the identity of the group being associated with negative traits is considered to be a marginalized one, this principle is consistently upheld. We see the generalization as the ethical and reasoning failure it is, and we call it prejudice. Many activists make a practice of searching out prejudice—and will scrutinize the representations of women and racial/religious/sexual minorities in movies for the slightest traces of the negative stereotyping of even a single character. In these cases, they make no allowance for explanations such as I never said “all” or if it doesn’t apply to you, it’s not about you. If one woman is represented as irrational, sexualized or helpless, this is argued to be an indication of a negative stereotype about women pervading wider society. This type of search can be highly subjective and ideologically motivated, but the principle underlying it is a good one: it is wrong to impose limiting or negative stereotypes on individuals because of their identity.

If we genuinely oppose prejudice on the grounds of identity, rather than seek to elevate certain identities and disparage others, there is no shame and much worth in pointing out when negative stereotypes are applied to men. The argument that such prejudiced statements do not matter much when the group has (or is perceived as having) more power in society is unconvincing. We can certainly be more concerned about the impacts of prejudice on some groups than on others, if some groups are more vulnerable than others, just as we might be more outraged when a poor pensioner is mugged than when a wealthy businessman is. We can still hold the principle that mugging people is wrong. To be inconsistent about the principle of not judging people by their identity category can only undermine this principle as a social norm. This cannot end well.

If an appeal to ethical consistency is not persuasive on its own, there is also a practical problem with blanket claims about the values and behaviors of men: they make it very difficult to actually tackle real problems.

Let’s break this down by taking the most serious accusation made against men:

Men commit sexual violence against women.

What does this claim mean exactly? Is it just a claim that people with XY chromosomes have committed sexual violence against people with XX chromosomes? If so, then this is simply true. However, people with XX chromosomes have committed sexual violence against people with XY chromosomes too, so it doesn’t tell us much. In fact, this would be much more fairly covered by the statement people have committed sexual violence. We know that sexual violence exists, and this is why we have laws against it and special registers for perpetrators. Clearly, the statement means something different.

Is it a misstatement of the evidence that men commit much more sexual violence against women than women do against men? This seems to be irrefutable and consistent among primates. It is almost certainly the result of a combination of factors, including the fact that men are stronger than women and typically have higher sex drives and a greater propensity and capacity to take what they want by force. Because of this disparity, when a man is psychopathic or psychologically/neurologically damaged in ways that impact his empathy and morality and/or produce rage or hatred, he is much more physically dangerous to women than similarly dysfunctional women can be to men. This fact cuts both ways, however, as, in men who are mentally and psychologically well, it tends to serve as the basis for a powerful protective role with regard to women, other men and society.

Or is it a hypothesis that committing sexual violence against women is a defining characteristic of men or a commonplace and culturally accepted practice? This is how it clearly comes across to many in context, since the response is so commonly not all men. People don’t respond not all unless it seems clear that all are being implicated. The statement sex offenders hurt, terrify and violate women will not result in a claim that not all men do so because men have not been implicated as the guilty parties. Men hurt, terrify and violate women will and this is because it is factually wrong and indicative of prejudice.  This claim is easily disproved by the fact that the vast majority of men commit no sexual violence against women, abhor sexual violence against women and have been instrumental in bringing about legislation to make this illegal and punishable by a lengthy incarceration, in which the sex offender typically has to be separated from male perpetrators of other serious crimes, for his own protection.  Indeed, it is one of the least tolerated crimes that a man can commit. Under these circumstances, a rejoinder of not all men isn’t merely accurate. When made by men, it’s often an assertion of their abhorrence of the sexual assault of women. This is a positive thing, which should appeal to those who believe that masculinity is culturally constructed above all. Yes, please do say, No. Sexual violence does not define masculinity and I will strongly oppose any suggestion that it does.

All of this means that a focus on men as the problem is likely to be unproductive of solutions. The hypothesis men commit sexual violence against women has failed because of the evidence that nearly all men do no such thing and condemn it utterly. There must be another variable here and discovering it is important if we want to fix the problem. If we blame men for the problem of sexual violence—rather than sex offenders—the problem is obscured and likely to be irresolvable. We cannot ethically reduce the number of men in society, nor does anyone who is not a crazed ideologue advocate doing so. Everybody claims to want to reduce sexual violence and, if this is the case, we need to look at why a tiny minority of men and even fewer women commit sexual violence, how they can be intervened upon before they do so, how we can protect ourselves against them, and how we can prevent re-offending.

The response not all men to blanket statements about the harmful behavior of men is not a selfish and defensive evasion of the important issue of sexual violence against women or of any violence, harassment or anti-social behavior. It is an attempt to point out the simple truth that these are not defining characteristics of men and to redirect the blame away from an entire sex, most of whom commit none of these things, to the cause of the problem, while objecting, on ethical grounds, to prejudice against men. This is reasonable, accurate, moral and humane.

Men and women who love men (nearly all of us), are perfectly justified in objecting to prejudice against men for the simple reason that this is unethical, illogical, unfair and hurtful. Male tears may be derided by some feminists, but—for humanists, liberals and anyone with a sense of fairness and compassion—callous indifference or mocking glee about the psychological effects of the socially acceptable demonization of any identity group is despicable and unacceptable. Fortunately, most people are humanists in this sense and such behavior is likely to turn them against, not men, but feminism.

If you are one of the few who lack such humanist impulses and genuinely cannot feel empathy or compassion for half of the human race or apply your sense of fairness to them, at least consider whether your behavior is likely to help women. If you make the problem men—rather than sex offenders, violent offenders, harassers and boors—you can never solve the problems of sexual crime, violent crime, harassment and anti-social behavior. If your motivation is to enjoy tribal hatred of easily identifiable social groups, you will not care about this. If your motivation is to tackle violent and sexual crime and reduce harassing and antisocial behavior, you should.

 

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23 comments

  1. This article is fascinating in the number of important points it makes. The most important, and one skirted in the article, is the very nature of Identity grouping itself. The author seems to accept the identitarian belief that there is some intrinsic attribute to these groups — that there is some Man-nest essence and this can be used to impose a grouping upon people who possess it. It allows a person to claim, “I know your true essence, so I can put you into a group of people with your essence, and then do something (good or ill) to the group, and so to you.” Note that you are doing this thing to a person you don’t know and without his permission.

    That this is wrong should be obvious. Where would such Essences exist, and by what mechanism do they enter crude matter? “Nothing exists except atoms and the void.” Forming groups is simply moving atoms and voids around; at the end you still have atoms, voids, and nothing else. “Sweet exists by convention, bitter by convention, color by convention; atoms and Void [alone] exist in reality.”

    Even more than sweetness, bitterness, or color, Identity exists by convention. I can switch my (or your) Identity simply by changing the convention to Left-Handedness, or Back-Hair-Ness, or Long-Second-Toe-Ness. (https://bit.ly/2NL8EU2, illustrations) One has no more Essence that the other.

    [NB, the quotes are from Democitus, c. 420 BC. This controversy is not new.]

  2. I want to add that according to my personal experience, the problem with the statement “Not all men” goes even deeper.
    Many women have that basic self-concept that women are inherently good and innocent, whereas men are inherently evil and guilty.
    Men produce so much and yield so much, and that may create a minority complex in women, e.g. considering the low number of female Nobel prize winners. But then women regain their self-worth by believing that women are the ones who want to do what is good, and therefore the right thing to do is to give women maximum influence on society.
    This lifeline for maintaining their female self-respect is injured if there exist men who are just as good. If a man works as a children´s doctor in a poor country in Africa, or saves a threatened animal species from going extinct, or works for the promotion of organic farming, or is a peace activist, then that is offensive to women – such a type of man destroys the illusion that women should have greater influence because only they are the good ones. This is my interpretation of what I observe. In any case I observe again and again that many women get angry and huffy if one points out to them that men, too, can be good persons. It seems as if to such women, and especially to feminists, the very justification for their existence is that men are inherently evil. So the claim that not ALL men are evil is met either with deadly silence or with aggrieved feelings of anger.
    What first of all has motivated my own opposition to feminism is that feminism denies men the right to be good persons. I want to have the right to be considered a good person, and therefore I must go against feminism that tries to take that right away from me.

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    1. While I understand why you resent the resentment of some feminist women who deny the possibility of goodness in males, you are committing the fallacy of assuming feminism, by its nature, is a cause that inherently supports and promotes this notion. Many, possibly most, feminists don’t deny that men are equally good as women. Talk with some; you might well be surprised. A blanket condemnation of feminism is bigoted and ignorant.

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      1. “Many, possibly most, feminists don’t deny that men are equally good as women. ”
        That statement goes completely against the experiences of my liife. Feminists do exactly deny men the possibility to be good persons.
        Also, it is important to consider the different parts of feminism – there are the hard core feminists, and then there are all the followers who just join feminism because they are for equality between the sexes.
        Now, the followers do not really know what they are following. The hard core feminists are trying to get as much support as possible for their cause by postulating that feminism is just about simple justice. If this were the case, I would also be for feminism, but I am not. Feminism is NOT what feminists claim it is in order to get more followers. Feminism is a movement to make women hate men as much as possible, to spoil marriages, to bring and end to heterosexuality, and to undermine all those parts of society that they consider the product of men´s actions – which means all of society. They monopolize the media in order to brainwash the general female population to see men as solely responsible for everything in the world that is bad, and to present all women as innocent victims of men´s assaults. The propaganda presents feminists as the good persons who work for justice and against injustice – as persons who love men, if only men are willng to change their mentality and become clones of women. Accoridng to the propaganda, it is ridiculous to say that feminists hate men. But in reality, that is just what feminists do – they have and unlimited hate for men, and they try to persuade other women to participate in that hate.
        Feminists polarize. In order to fight “patriarchy” they have to present society as black and white – where men are the blcak and women are the white. It is important for them to never say anything positive about any man, because it is all-important to them to present men as the enemy, and you can only make your followers fight the enemy where there is nothing positive to say about him.
        Feminism is hate mongering.

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  3. A female or male victim who has experienced being raped and beaten will find this article ignores, does not give heed to current studies or stats which explain why violence is attributed to men or why a glut of African American men make up the higher population of incarcerated criminals.

    Feminism or feministic viewpoint has damn little and absolutely nothing to do with what shapes a man. Poverty, lack of stable parenting, education, a poor diet, a disfunctioning amygdala, chromosomes, environmental influences—and many more factors affect behavior.

    Pluckrose, your viewpoint offers minuscule science about men. It does no good to avoid, not contribute current neurobiological findings about men and women. Start with “Behave” The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst authored by Robert M. Sapolsky.

    I may not consider myself a feminist either, Ms. Pluckrose, yet see no negativity in women who may identify as one. It’s a far better term than identifying as a victim of rape, sexual harassment, misogyny.

    Gosh, lighten up. Feminism is not evil. Shaming men who mistreat women is not evil or feministic but simply a reaction. Looking at things as good and evil, completely dismissing stereotypes, shaming feminists for shaming mysogynistic men—shaming anybody—is not a humanistic approach or a way to promote humanistic values.

    For many centuries most cultures did—and some currently still do—not allow women many freedoms. Only a lifetime ago very few—if seldomly, women were allowed college admittance. Women are still in the process of catching up. The biggest hurdle toward sane equality facing both women and men in these times is the holding on to an antiquated mindset only women are caregivers.

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    1. When those who don’t believe in feminist axioms try to speak out, it is very common for militant feminists to try to no-platform and unjustly vilify them, while it is very uncommon for more moderate feminists to speak out against this censorship and abuse. When the moderates are unwilling to take a stand against the extremists, I feel justified in judging the entire movement by what they do or allow to happen (I’m not religious, but Matthew 7:16 seems appropriate here: “By their fruit you will recognize them.”).

      Your narrative that the ostracized are to blame because of their own behavior is a classic narrative by which those who abuse their power to exclude and silence justify their behavior.

      I’ll give you one example, although I can easily produce more. There is an (unfortunately named) documentary ‘The Red Pill,’ which is an overview of the main male concerns, allowing many men to make their case they they have been horribly wronged (and which was not an attack on feminism). It was fiercely attacked by feminists, the director couldn’t find normal funding (and had to resort to crowd-funding), a showing was canceled after feminists hectored a movie theater, the media was extremely abusive and unfair to the (female) director, etc. I’ve seen no concerted attempt by even a small group of feminists to counter any of this and to defend the right for advocates for men to make their case fairly, without being harassed or no-platformed.

      An interview with Rebecca Sullivan, feminist Professor, who has never watched the documentary, explaining to us what it’s all about.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFi4vQF8-xQ

      >Basically, it’s just men who are upset that they don’t get to rape women anymore.

      This is a legitimate, credentialed professor at the University of Calgary. Yeah you gotta see it to believe it.

      The Red Pill documentary being protested in Sydney. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMUC9u0nAaQ

      >Racist, sexist, anti-gay! MRA, go away!

      None of them have actually watched it. Tell me that’s not evil.

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    2. Only a lifetime ago very few—if seldomly, women were allowed college admittance.

      I am not addressing your overall comment, just pointing that this statement is factually incorrect. “By the end of the 19th century, 70% of American colleges were coeducational.” (https://bit.ly/2D49kjj). Female-only colleges were common as well. For instance, Ivy League Vassar was established in 1861 as all-female, and my old alma mater in 1888 as a teacher’s college, co-ed but de facto female. It is true that large segments of American society refused to accept the legitimacy of female higher education, but it was available and taken advantage of.

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      1. I’m old, yanyoodan, and reflect on academic times during Einstein. Yes, I’ve been alive while Einstein was still breathing. Females were rarely allowed entry into university all over the world and the lone female accepted was generally an amazing genius.

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    3. Oh dear. “Shaming men who mistreat women is not evil or feministic but simply a reaction. Looking at things as good and evil, completely dismissing stereotypes, shaming feminists for shaming mysogynistic men—shaming anybody—is not a humanistic approach or a way to promote humanistic values.” This is a rather self-conflicted set of statements.

      Ms Pluckrose’s post did not shame anyone; she merely suggests that such tactics are ultimately self-defeating. I agree completely with one of your points: shaming is simply a bad and unethical tactic. It serves only to demoralize the redeemable, and does nothing to correct the shameless.

      Your argument against “completely dismissing stereotypes” puts you in dangerous water, however. Particularly when it comes to the stereotypes about things like, say, the level of misogyny in some African American men… well, stereotype-based policies and attitudes pretty much make you a racist.

      Flies & honey, in any case. It’d be nice if the more vociferous feminists finally figured that out.

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      1. J.M.—Your post shows your own false perceptions and racist assumptions. How is it you think you know me? How do you know I’m not a man using a pseudonym—or what race I am?

        I did not say Pluckrose shamed, but was giving two-cents to her viewpoints. She’s written a previous article about eschewing feminism which I respect and had intelligent viewpoints. Also, I rather like and admire her writing. That said…

        Oh dear, J.M., you ignore science like a Trumpian and seemingly do not care to ask or further pursue the question of Why about things in the world. For instance: why is it there are larger numbers of incarcerated African American males?; why is it men commit more murder and rape than women?

        Of course, that’s your prerogative, J.M. To make assumptions. However, it’s to your benefit if you begin caring to read on scientific subjects which help people better understand the amazing world we all live in for such a short time.

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    4. You seem to have built a strawman of the author. She criticized not the shaming of men who mistreat women, but the shaming of the generality of men. Also, how you can excuse objectionable behavior as “just a reaction”. Are all “reactions” now beyond criticism?

      1. Anonymous, thank you for your response. I like your question.

        Our brain is constantly finding patterns and reacting to perceived reality based on the limited knowledge of what we give importance, focus, attention…Anonymous asked a rhetorical question: ”Are all ‘reactions’ above criticism?” Answer is: No—because our brain is constantly judging, criticizing, sorting based on our limited knowledge of what think we know. Cause and effect = objectionable behavior and subsequent reaction.

        Pluckrose wasn’t alive during the start of the feminist movement. She’s at the tail end of a slowly expiring movement which caused much good for women and, especially, for men.

        Like it or not, men and women are still allowing themselves to be defined as stereotypes—mainly in the way (as I’ve already stated earlier) women are still considered the caregivers. Women bear most of the responsibility of caring for children, then ultimately face the challenge of taking care of their elderly parents while simultaneously juggling work, children, spousal needs. These caregiving responsibilities demand a huge sacrifice—saves the economy billions of dollars—and are never given any credit in the way it does not further make demand on the growing economic debt.

        Pluckrose’s anti- feminist stance is her opinion piece du jour. It lacks important information regarding biological science history and relevant facts for today’s challenges both women and men face. Her opinion does not adequately explain or support the many important and positive changes the feminist movement has helped push forward into our limited consciousness in an ongoing patriarchal religion-oriented world.

        Yet, despite the few years of feminist voicing, women still earn less money on the dollar than men for irrational reasons nor given monetary support for the caregiving challenges ultimately placed on them.

      2. Anonymous, I did not mean to build a Straw Man out of the author. If it seems that way, it was not intended. I do have a tendency to go off subject and often find trying to communicate thoughts on internet is like walking and talking under water. I do see by going off topic it could be taken as a kind of meat puppet troll. I apologize for going off topic.

  4. The comparisons to prejudice here are weakened when set against a feminist construction of men as *definitionally* enacting or participating in this or that. (Leaving aside the problem of gender definition or ascription itself.)

    It is not said* that black people are *by definition* criminal, whereas in a definitional construct of patriarchy though not all men may be assaulters, all men may in some sense be acculturated to misogyny and contribute to the perpetuation of misogyny, low-key or otherwise. The low-key could even be emphasized as the site of greatest overlap with “all men”. Your repeated assertion that sexual violence is the habit of a “tiny minority” is sure to be rejected under this construct, both empirically on its own terms and conceptually as narrowly focused on the most dramatic sexual violence (e.g. assault rape of strangers).

    How would you respond? The only real counter I see is the problems of falsification or triviality, but even these may only be a temporary deflection. And even if this line of thinking were wholly dismissed, it could still remain plausible that cultural reform can contribute to decreasing (or increasing!) the incidence of sexual harm in any construal.

    *It is said on certain sites, but you get it

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    1. Weakened in the minds of the feminist accusers, but not rhetorically.

      Meaning, as you * footnote, it IS said that all black people are acculturated to criminality, just not often by the #metoo feminist constructionists that you compare. But by others on certain other sites, whom you scorn.

      If you think the culture argument matters to issues like these, then it isn’t to be dismissed (automatically) when it doesn’t suit progressive purposes. There’s a coherent, nonhypocritical way to go about this, but “culture counts when smearing sexes but not races” isn’t it.

      1. It is also said on those sites that black people are not people at all, but perhaps some non-human species or even evidence for demonic influence in the material realm. I’m comfortable doing more than scorning them.

        It does seem to be the case that cultural explanations are less emphasized for marginalized groups compared to structural ones. But for example, if it were true that “black culture devalues education”, what better prescription than the pre-existing: to mitigate anti-black practices and policies, improve health and safety in black communities, and increase economic security of black households? The prescription holds as well for the white working class, who may hold similar views on education and its institutions, and in general have quite plenty in common (despite being somewhat wealthier) with their black peers.

        What is your rhetorical recommendation and what does it aid with or accomplish?

        1. For coherent rhetoric, I would start by not employing “culture war” tactics based on whether the target is of any particular (thus “protected” or “blamed”) group. Instead, any of these work towards more intellectual honesty:

          * Culture doesn’t matter, definitionally. Men aren’t definitional misogynists, just as blacks aren’t definitional criminals. (undermines your prior post)

          * Culture matters definitionally. Men must be misogynists by definition, due to patriarchy (bolsters your prior post). But actually process the implications, e.g. blacks must be criminal by definition, due to culture. (hmm…are you racist?)

          * Culture doesn’t necessarily matter definitionally, but might, case by case. Men are misogynists by definition due to patriarchy, but blacks are not criminal in nature due to culture. Here is thorough argument/evidence to make such an assertion…blah blah blah. (You haven’t done this whatsoever, nor do I know how to do it…but if done it could work, rhetorically. WAY more work though, nobody does this nor likely could, easily.)

          What DOESN’T work, rhetorically, is the straight, unquestionable assumption that men are definitional misogynists but are NOT definitional based on which target group is blamed or blessed by an agenda (feminist, progressive, racist, whatever…) That stuff is ineffective rhetoric and good only at choir preaching.

          In short, “culture defines individuals when smearing sexes not races” is as bad, rhetorically, as a racist, MRA countering with “culture defines individuals when smearing races not sexes!”

  5. I think one of the reasons more and more male behaviour is considered unacceptable is because that is the only way to keep on shaming all men. Only a minority of men is violent or even regularly rude, but if you can make people think touching a shoulder without asking first, or complimenting a dress, is assault or harassment, you have a point that a lot of men may be doing that. Even when men make their behaviour still more ‘modest’ that won’t help them. Standards for good behaviour will just become higher and feminists will gladly have new points about men to complain about.

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