I heard a story recently about a woman who claimed online somewhere that “all men are trash.” Shocking, huh? On the internet of all places. Who would have thought? What happened next is that some people responded with “not all men.” That apparently led to a cascade of arguments about how dominant oppressors don’t get to complain about judgements from the oppressed. And then there was a long discussion about how non-adaptive it is to call “all men trash” in the first place. Etc, etc, etc. I read through this long thread on Facebook, and I found it fascinating. It amazes me how much complexity we can manufacture out of what is essentially nothing.
It reminded me of a conversation I once had with one of my therapy clients. He told me that “I hate all white people.” I remember a chuckle forming inside me, and then asking, with a straight face, “What about me?” He looked me straight in the eyes, and calmly and confidently stated, “You’re not white!” I was absolutely shocked by this statement. That interaction broke my belief that I could ever truly know what anyone else was talking about.
I have white skin, I’m tall, I speak with a British accent, I’m reasonably well-off, and I’m reasonably well educated. I assumed that to anyone I would be the epitome of a white male but to this person I was absolutely not “white.” When someone says “all men are trash,” we have no way of knowing what they truly mean by that.
I told my wife about this conversation and about how I can see truth in “all men are trash.” For example, even though I’m only one man, I do share some qualities with trash: I’m pretty smelly and one day I will be either buried in the ground or burned to ashes. She said to me, “That’s not what she means by trash and you know that!” I honestly don’t know what this lady means by trash other than trash, so I asked for clarification.
“She means that all men are assholes.”
I guess I could also be an asshole. I do seem to often smell like poo, and shit does seem to come out of me on a regular basis. However, this is not what my wife was getting at. I think she was trying to convey that this woman who said “all men are trash” had some kind of grievance. That makes more sense to me.
“All men are trash” are just words, but the energy behind them, the motivating force, might be a feeling of frustration or anger or helplessness. “All men are trash” are just words, but they might point to a particular flavor of experience. Okay, so “all men are trash” probably isn’t really an assertion that all humans with penises are terribly bad and wrong in some way. It probably means “I feel frustrated and helpless, and I imagine that nobody will listen to me. So I will say something that will make the people that I want to listen get a taste of my frustration and helplessness.”
And it worked. “Not all men!” they cried. Then the women-side came in with “You don’t get to say that!” And the men-side said, “You’re not being practical!” And the women-side said, “You’re not being empathic!” And then each side took their grievances away to their own camps and mulled them over by the fireside, rubbing their hands together, concocting long and complex stories about how “they are wrong” and “we are right” and about how “they are low vibration” and “we are high vibration.”
In reality, are all men trash?
It’s clearly not true, whether taken literally or figuratively. No one can possibly even meet all men, all men who have existed and will exist for all of time, let alone get to know them well enough to evaluate them. And even if that were possible, what is always found in every man is a complex mix of thoughts and feelings and sensations. While it can be seen that some men are somewhat trash-like sometimes, all men cannot be fully trash-like all the time (that might be actual trash). This is patently obvious. Nobody could possibly believe that the statement is somehow true, not even that original apocryphal woman.
So this isn’t about words, and it’s not even about feelings. This is the beautiful dance of maya (illusion of separation): I am right and you are wrong, or I am wrong and you are right. I am good and you are bad, or I am bad and you are good. This is the beautiful story of “me” in all of its complexity. It’s amazing how we all get to play along with it, like pigs pulled by the rings in our noses, helpless but to play the game.
Even this article is a reaction to something else. Even this is pointing out how ludicrous something is that is at the same time perfectly harmonious.