There are some things that really get on my nerves. The “I didn’t mean YOU!” behavior is one of them.
I’m sure you’ve run across it. You may have even done it at some point. There’s a basic script:
Person Being Offensive (PBO): All [noun] are [adjective]!
Offended Person: Um, I’m [noun] but I’m not [adjective]. It’s kind of offensive that you said that.
PBO: Oh, I didn’t mean YOU! I just mean all those other [noun]s! You know, the ones that are all [adjective]!
I have seen and participated in this script WAY more than I’d like. I mean, I’d prefer it if I had never seen this script at all and had no idea that sometimes people do that. But sadly, I do know. All too well. I see it in regards to religion, disability, mental illness, sexuality, gender identity, autism, even computer preference. Honestly, pretty much anything that can be pointed to as a difference will be subject to broad, sweeping, inaccurate and offensive generalizations.
And when someone in one of those groups stands up and says “um, I’m not like that and it’s not cool that you said that” the response is rarely “oh gee, I just stereotyped a group of people, maybe I should re-think my position.” No, the response is usually defense and justification. And if they happen to personally know someone in that group of people they just generalized about, they’ll throw in an “I didn’t mean you!” for good measure.
Seriously. Cut it out.
When you say “All [noun] are [adjective]” you ARE including everyone in that. Backpedalling with “I didn’t mean you!” doesn’t make it any better. I am not interested in being the special exception, the one amazing member of a group I’m in that is somehow not harmful/stupid/insane/whatever else you’re saying. If you say “all autistic people are r-word!” you’re including me in that. And my friends. And my family. There is no possible way to say that and not be incredibly offensive.
I am female. I am androgynous. I am on the autism spectrum. And I am NOT your stereotype. No one is.