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This Oppression Scholar Explained The Psychology Of "Not All Men," And It’s So Articulate That Men In The Comments Are Thanking Her

It comes down to three things, and they all point to one root problem.

At some point, you've probably heard the phrase, "not all men" being used as a rebuttal to conversations addressing feminism, misogyny, and sexism. And it can get incredibly frustrating and derail the conversation when you try to explain why it's harmful.

The District / Sarah Watson Productions / Universal Television / Freeform / Via

Well, a woman named Evelyn, known as @herspective on TikTok, broke down the psychology behind 'not all men' in a now-viral video. Evelyn holds two master's degrees from Harvard, where she studied gender-based trauma — and in her video, she identifies three sources 'not all men' stems from. She then explains what men who say it are actually communicating to women — whether they intend to or not.

In her TikTok, Evelyn talked about the following three sources:
1) The male "pick me" behavior: By this, she means a mentality of, “I’m not one of them; I’m one of the good guys.”
However, Evelyn says that this mentality is a total delusion, because everyone in a patriarchy (regardless of gender identity) has internalized misogyny and sexism that require unlearning.
2) The need to control women’s voices: Evelyn points out that men who say "not all men" are tone-policing women rather than directing their energy toward men who are actively harming women.
3) The male superiority complex: Evelyn elaborates that a man might understand that other men out there may be "bad," and by saying "not all men," he's trying to communicate that he is not one of them and that he's therefore dependable, because he will protect women from male violence.
The problem, Evelyn explains, is that this instills a fear of independence in women, because it implies that the real solution to male violence is another man.

Evelyn's video received over 1 million likes and 18 thousand comments — many, perhaps surprisingly, from men who thanked her for educating them and said that they'd stop using the phrase.

Comments by men on the TikTok video read, "Thanks I'll stop saying not me," "Ok Evelyn, I used to say 'not all men' as a way to try and bring comfort to women who seemed upset with men, but now I understand you POV," and "I've got a lot to learn"
@herspective / Via

Evelyn told BuzzFeed that she has been "deeply encouraged by the sheer number of men who reached out in appreciation and in support," and that she hopes to continue to help them.

BuzzFeed spoke with Evelyn to break down her, well, breakdown. Ultimately, Evelyn said that the three sources of "not all men" point to a root problem: men’s collective lack of deference to women. "Deference is fear and respect," she expanded, and men have deference to each other. So when men desire and need women but don't have deference to women, they cling to patriarchal ideologies "wherein anything male is superior to everything female."

A screencap from the TikTok with the caption, "This behavior comes from three sources"
@herspective / Via

To illustrate her point, Evelyn compared it to a knight rescuing a damsel. Rather than focus on the damsel and her experience, a knight would praise himself for helping the damsel (because he is not like those other men who harmed her). This would make the experience about him and boost his own ego, which might then make him feel like a king.

However, Evelyn pointed out that if the man (or knight/king) respected the woman (as a queen, not a damsel), he would instead listen to her, acknowledge that she had a painful experience, and then address other men to prevent that experience from happening again.

To better define the male "pick me" behavior, Evelyn started with toxic masculinity: It's taught as a norm that men must "wear" to be wanted and needed by women and other men. She revealed, "Men wearing toxic masculinity really are saying, 'Pick me.'"

A screencap from the TikTok with the caption, "First, this is a male pick me behavior"
@herspective / Via

Evelyn added that men are taught that toxic masculinity is something that is popular, cool, and desirable.

Control and tone policing also stem from male "pick me" behavior, Evelyn noted. When a man says "not all men" in the midst of a woman sharing her experiences, he effectively tone-polices her and denies her experiences to center himself. Moreover, he demonstrates defensiveness and an unwillingness to engage in introspection. "That comes from a place of desire and need without respect," Evelyn explained, because "toxic masculinity doesn’t know respect."

A screencap from the TikTok with the caption, "Notice how they are tone policing women"
@herspective / Via

Evelyn continued, "Toxic masculinity only knows entitlement, dehumanization, and hierarchy of humanity." Dangerously, because these behaviors and norms are taught as desirable, men wear toxic masculinity to belong, to be wanted, and to be needed.

So when a man engages in sexist behaviors — i.e., talking over women, degrading women in locker-room talk, cheating on women — what he is really saying is, "I need to be needed," Evelyn said.

Evelyn began connecting all of these dots when she studied labor as an undergrad at Cornell. She learned that the US and its economy have been built on the backs of women and people of color, leading her to realize that government and religion are primary drivers of oppression. So she went on to earn two master's degrees — one in theological studies and one in public administration — from Harvard. "I studied how religion and public policies throughout time cemented misogyny in the public psyche and our way of everyday life," Evelyn said.

A screencap from the TikTok with the caption, "I specifically studied gender-based trauma and I have two relevant master's degrees from Harvard on this"
@herspective / Via

She elaborated, "When people say 'religion and politics are off the dinner table,' it means that the conversation around female oppression and oppression of people of color only disrupts civilized and peaceful interactions.

"I realized that 'peace' as we know it is the status quo built upon the oppression of people and our silence about it. I thought that was bullshit. So I decided to study oppression in depth, so I can not only talk about it with knowledge but also initiate and lead conversations around it."

While Evelyn created this video to address men's use of the phrase, "not all men," she told BuzzFeed that she challenges anyone to say and prove that they are free of sexist bias. But this isn't meant to be an offensive statement. "We were socialized in the context of white patriarchy," Evelyn acknowledged. "To survive, every single one of us had to adjust to the norms set in that context — which included adopting the ways in which we diminish, belittle, and shame women, even for the wrongdoings of men."

A screencap from the TikTok with the caption, "In a patriarchy, everyone has internalized misogyny and sexism"
@herspective / Via

As an example, Evelyn pointed to the medical field, where women are systemically denied accurate diagnoses because their physicians believe they are exaggerating their pain.

"When a man’s biology and pain is set to be the default, a woman’s expression of pain is considered lesser than and not worth paying attention to. This costs female lives every year," Evelyn stated.

Subsequently, Evelyn emphasized the difference between an active perpetrator and a passive bystander. She pointed to the use of, "I didn't do anything," to indicate whether one has actively done harm when it should be looked at as an indicator of whether one has intervened. In this vein, "I didn't do anything," becomes, "I didn't do anything to stop the hate I witnessed."

A screencap from the TikTok with the caption, "That's why we all need to unlearn patriarchal ways of behaving"
@herspective / Via

"I can see a bully and decide not to get involved," Evelyn said. "That’s how most of our roles work in patriarchy — a passive bystander failing or rejecting to intervene. Our inaction is the problem. Failing to recognize that is the problem."

Overall, Evelyn hopes those who watch her video stay engaged and find ways to intervene when they witness hate. She began her channel to add to a world that values women for more than their bodies and reach Gen Z, but she's since noticed that many parents watch her videos. "So I think we all want the same thing: that the world be better for the next generation and the next," Evelyn concluded.

To learn more from Evelyn, follow her on TikTok @herspective, on Instagram @herspectivefeminist, and on YouTube here. Check out her website here.

Did Evelyn's video inform or change your perspective at all? Let us know in the comments below!

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