Your Guide to 'Not All Men,' the Best Meme on the Internet

The universe holds immutable truths: matter cannot be created or destroyed, an object in motion will stay at motion unless acted on by an outside force, and any time a woman points out sexist bullshit, some hero's opinion will gallantly ride in on a fedora, chiming in "Not All Men!"

Now, thanks to the internet's collective sillybrain, Not All Men! has gone from an irritating trope to a funny, giddy skewering of point-missing folks whose knee jerk reaction as part of a privileged group is to defend themselves against implications that they, as members of the complained-about privileged group, might be complicit in the status quo. It's defensive bullshit that doesn't really do anything but prove the bearer of Not All Men is more concerned with saving face for themselves than, you know, actually acknowledging the concern that another person is expressing. In the Not All Men mind, it's worse to be called sexist than to actually be a victim of sexism. Here are some typical places to find Not All Men in the wild:

  • College women getting raped, like, all the time? Not all men!
  • Street harassment? Not all men!
  • Domestic violence? Not all men!
  • Bosses who talk over you in meetings? Not all men!
  • Women still do most of the housework even though they work jobs with the same hours as men? Not all men!
  • Etc. Forever.

The exact phrase Not All Men needn't be used in order for the basic idea to be deployed as a derailing tactic. Here's a good example of a "Not All Men"-less Not All Men incident:

Your Guide to 'Not All Men,' the Best Meme on the Internet

NOT ALL GUYS! THINK ABOUT THE GUYS!

Not All Men! is a punchier version of Not All Men Are Like That (NAMALT), a shorthand expression that's been around for a few years. But this current NAMALT renaissance has hit its stride over the last few weeks, beginning when this treasure of an image began making the rounds on social media.

Your Guide to 'Not All Men,' the Best Meme on the Internet

Shortly after Mr. Kool Aid became the avatar of the defensive, derailing devil's advocate, Not All Men began gaining steam in some circles. But exactly why remains a mystery. As Jess Zimmerman noted in a piece for TIME,

Without the assistance of a trained Redditologist, it may not be possible to track down the source of this shift. Most likely "not all men" erupted in several places on the Internet simultaneously and independently, like the invention of calculus — an idea whose time had come.

Not All Men really began exploding when web comic artist Matt Lubchansky, the man behind Listen To Me, drew a widely shared strip that reimagines Not All Men as Not All Man, a super hero who fancies himself the "defender of the defended" and "protector of protected."

Your Guide to 'Not All Men,' the Best Meme on the Internet

Lubchansky's creation was well-received by the likes of Wil Wheaton, Paul F. Tompkins, and Sci Fi writer John Scalzi, who tweeted about it and linked to Lubchansky's comic. (Not All Men say Not All Men!)

Since then, Not All Men has only gotten more giddy and absurdity fueled. It's got its own Tumblr. It's got its own creepy, weird gifs, including this one of Pennywise that scared several adult women with whom I currently work.

Your Guide to 'Not All Men,' the Best Meme on the Internet

If you're tickled by Not All Men, the world of Silly Internet at this exact moment in time is your oyster. There are Not All Aquamen, Not All Men Adventure Time gifs, a mocked up Not All Men Magic: The Gathering card, and, to bring things around full circle, the original Not All Men Kool Aid Man crashing through that Game of Thrones All Men Must Die ad. I've even seen it inscrutably (and comedically) pegged to news stories that contain the word "Man" in the headline. It's this year's Doge for people with feminist inclinations. It's YOLO for people who used all their college electives on Women's Studies courses.

Its cousins Not All Christians and Not All White People must be so jealous.