Evelyn explained that this behavior stems from three sources: the male "pick me" behavior, the need to control women's voices, and the male superiority complex.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 17, 2021. It has since been updated.
Over the years, the phrase "not all men" has become one of the most popular—and frustrating—rebuttals men fall back on whenever conversations about feminism, misogyny, and sexism hit a nerve. Trying to explain how this particular defense is of little to no help to the issue at hand can prove a futile and exasperating exercise as those who resort to it simply dig their heels in and completely derail the conversation with their so-called justifications. A Harvard graduate named Evelyn decided to address this behavior once and for all when she made a TikTok video breaking down the psychology behind "not all men."
Evelyn, who studied gender-based trauma and holds two master's degrees from Harvard, explained that this behavior — the one where men feel the need to defend their gender with "not all men" — stems from three sources: the male "pick me" behavior, the need to control women's voices, and the male superiority complex. Dissecting each of these sources, she also laid out what the men who say it are actually communicating to women; whether they intend to or not. Evelyn's video clearly seems to have hit a nerve as since being posted on the platform, it has gained over 1.2 million likes and 18k comments, many of which were from men who thanked her for educating them and promised to stop using the phrase.
Speaking to BuzzFeed about the viral video, Evelyn said 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. She also elaborated on what she discusses in the video, explaining that the three sources of "not all men" ultimately point to a root problem: men’s collective lack of deference to women. "Deference is fear and respect," she said. When men desire and need women but don't have deference to them, Evelyn added, they cling to patriarchal ideologies "wherein anything male is superior to everything female."
She compared it to the popular "knight rescuing a damsel" trope where instead of focusing on the damsel's painful experience and acknowledging the role other men played in her going through it, the knight considers himself a hero for helping the damsel and not being like those other men. The male "pick me" behavior, Evelyn explained, comes from toxic masculinity. "Men wearing toxic masculinity really are saying, 'Pick me,'" she said, adding that men are taught that toxic masculinity is something that is popular, cool, and desirable.
According to Evelyn, tone policing also stems from male "pick me" behavior. When a man says "not all men" in response to a woman sharing her experiences, he effectively tone-polices her and denies her experiences to make the conversation about himself. It also demonstrates defensiveness on his part and an unwillingness to engage in introspection, she said. "That comes from a place of desire and need without respect," Evelyn explained, because "toxic masculinity doesn't know respect."
"Toxic masculinity only knows entitlement, dehumanization, and hierarchy of humanity," she continued, adding that since such behavior is taught as desirable, men wear toxic masculinity "to belong, to be wanted, and to be needed." Therefore, when a man engages in sexist behaviors of the likes of talking over women, degrading women in locker-room talk, cheating on women, etc., what he is really saying is, "I need to be needed," Evelyn said. The oppression scholar hopes those who watch her video stay engaged and find ways to intervene when they witness hate. She revealed that although she began her channel with Gen Z in mind, 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.