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Logic and rhetoric
Not all (also known as Not all X) is a turn of phrase that attempts to force unnecessary "nuance" into a subject that already has nuance, either by:
- Deflecting fully specific criticism by pretending it's actually quite unspecific (first form), or
- Insisting that you need not be specific yourself when dishing out criticism to others (second form)
The Not all fallacy is employed in the hopes of shutting down conversation by making the opponent appear to lack all nuance.
The first form
The first variant of the fallacy is when someone tries to deflect a specific example with a general blanket statement:
Person A: Wow, did you know that in 2011, 23% of all auto collisions involved cell phones? We should do something about that.
Person B: Not all people text and drive. I've never done that. You shouldn't be prejudiced against drivers just because some of them do crappy shit. #NotAllDrivers
Person A: I posted up a video to support anti-bullying efforts… I got really bullied by the football players at my school.
Person B: I used to play football, and I never bullied anyone. Don't judge all jocks by just your experience! #NotallFootballPlayers
The second form
The second variant of the fallacy, where Person A is at fault, instead denotes when someone tries to demand that a blatant overgeneralization not be questioned:
Person A: All men are all jerks!
Person B: You shouldn't be saying that about all men.
Person A: Oh god, not another 'not all men' argument, I'm sick of hearing these when I'm trying to fight sexism!
Not all men
"Not all men" is a specific form, and probably the most famous application of this phrase. It was coined by Twitter user sassycrass in 2013 but rapidly shot to fame after the 2014 Isla Vista killings in response to those who argued that Elliot Rogers' murder spree was being blamed on all men, instead of being the result of misogyny on Rogers' part. #NotAllMen became a shorthand to expose the "not all men" response, along with its many paraphrases, as a defensive knee-jerk reaction which just serves to derail conversations about sexism, and shift the focus from victims of sexism to a perceived but nonexistent slight to oneself, which is effectively a form of mansplaining.
However, in the rare case that the original complaint about sexism is indeed a blatant generalization which explicitly and unequivocally states something derogatory about "All men…", then this is the second form of the fallacy identified above, and "not all men" is a valid response.
- Fiqah. "ORIGIN STORY: Not ALL Men, the meme". Storify.com. https://storify.com/sassycrass/origin-story-not-all-men-the-meme.
- Ryan, Erin Gloria (May 8, 2014). "Your Guide to 'Not All Men,' the Best Meme on the Internet". Jezebel. https://jezebel.com/your-guide-to-not-all-men-the-best-meme-on-the-interne-1573535818.