The All or Nothing Mentality: Why Generalizations Generally Don’t Work

Author Barbara MeyersThe All or Nothing Mentality

I have seen so many generalizations recently, it’s hard to know where to begin with this blog post. But in general, (no pun intended) whenever you see the words “all (of)” or “none (of)” in front of a group of “whatevers,” you can be certain there’s a negative agenda afoot.

Never have we seen so much of this as in recent weeks during the Senate hearings for a Supreme Court nominee. For example:

“All Republicans hate women.”

“All women should be believed.”

“All men are rapists.”

“All Democrats are part of a smear campaign against conservatism.”

“Anyone accused of a crime is always guilty.” i.e. “The accuser is always one hundred percent correct. The accuser has no right to defend him/herself.”

The list goes on, but you get the idea. To believe the above generalizations, you’d have to also believe the following:

“No Republican who ever lived loved a woman.”

“No female in the history of mankind ever lied.” (Hello? Eve? Anyone remember her?)

“No woman ever willingly had a sexual relationship with a man.”

“No Democrat ever had the greater good of the American people at heart, nor was there ever such a thing as a fair-minded Democrat who was elected to public office.”

“Never was an innocent person convicted of a crime.” (Nor was anyone ever convicted of a crime but later absolved of guilt.)

It’s kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? This all or nothing mentality. This them vs. us behavior. It’s also extremely short-sighted. Not to mention it’s a lie we all know isn’t true.

Women, especially, seem to embrace this idea that we’ve all been victimized. That we have no voice and therefore no power. This is not what I want to believe about myself, nor is it what I want to believe about the majority of other women, especially those to whom I’m close.

It may be true that women didn’t use their voices or their power in a way that made others pay attention. But what they don’t seem to understand is that screaming invectives and throwing public tantrums is also not terribly effective.

Are there men who’ve abused the power of their positions? Yes, most certainly. Are there men who’ve sexually assaulted women? Of course. And there are men who’ve been sexually assaulted as well. Are there individuals who’ve been sexually assaulted who never reported it? Many, apparently.

Is there safety in numbers? Often. But someone has to lead the charge. Someone has to make a stand before the numbers begin to follow. And there’s no reason that someone can’t be you.

You have a voice. You have the same power anyone else has. Yes, fear can paralyze you. But overcoming fear is like no other triumph in life. Maybe no one will listen. Maybe no one will care or be on your side. Which is why you need power. Where does power come from?

Evidence. Witnesses. Facts. Dates. Times. Corroboration. Documentation.

Power does not come from unsubstantiated allegations. It does not come from a repeated response of, “I don’t remember.”

Rosa Parks did not yell and scream. She did not have a mob behind her yelling and screaming about her rights as a woman and as a human being. Rosa Parks sat on a bus and refused to move. Hers is just one example of demonstrating power. As a woman and as a human being. We could all learn from her example.

Because actions have always spoken louder than words.

You can be heard by speaking in a reasonable tone.

Or without saying a word.


Photo Credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “The great freedom march rally– Cobo Hall– June 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Mrs. Rosa Parks, David Boston (Parade Marshall)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1963.

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