“Call-out culture” isn’t a thing (but it should be)

The words are everywhere these days, presented as a threat, a menace. The spectre of “call-out culture” lurks under the bed, in the back of the wardrobe, down the U-Bend, ready to sic the Online Wimmin Mob on poor innocent feminists to silence them.

As I argued earlier this week, it is patent nonsense to believe that calling out equals silencing. It is also patent nonsense to believe–as some seem to–that there is some sort of coordinated gang doing the calling out, ready at a moment’s notice to cry transphobia and let slip the dogs of war.

That’s just not how it works. In fact, it’s a kind of anarchy in action. There’s no coordination. It’s just that a few people notice that the same thing is problematic and therefore call it out. There’s no premeditation, and it’s seldom meant as a pile-on, it’s just that some people are a little more alert to problematic behaviour and language than others, and these people may call it out.

There is no call-out culture. Frankly, those of us who do call people out are in a bit of a minority. Frankly, there’s so much bullshit in so many feminisms that is going unaddressed because too many people think this shit flies. Often, only the highest-profile instances are called out, if at all.

It would actually be quite nice if there really was a call-out culture. It would be nice for feminism, because we could get better and address our failings of far too many women. We could all learn something.

And it would also be better for people being called out. Yes, really. At present, too many people mistake calling out and drawing attention to problematic language and behaviours which inadvertently oppress others as bullying, when in fact it is quite the opposite. It’s an opposition to the cultural hegemony of the white, cis, abled, economically-secure privileged few, and an opening up of feminism to those who need it. It opposes oppression.

Yet because it happens so infrequently, many of those called out think they are being unfairly picked on.

So let us develop a culture wherein calling out is the norm rather than an exception. Let us develop a culture wherein calling out is seen for what it is: a favour. Let us develop a culture wherein we understand the function of why calling out happens, and that it is not some sort of slight on the person, but, rather, a move towards those of us fighting for social justice to stop oppressing our sisters. Let us develop a culture wherein calling out does not feel like a thankless, frustrating task and rather than crying out in anger, we exist in an environment where it is no big deal.

Let us do this, and eventually, the call-out culture will die, because it will no longer be needed at all.

Call-out week: a semi-coherent series of things on my mind

  1. When silencing isn’t silencing and sisterhood isn’t sisterhood
  2. Your prejudice is unconscious, but it’s still there
  3. “Call-out culture” isn’t a thing (but it should be)
  4. Self-doubt and receptivity to privilege-checking
  5. Confessions of a former arsehole

3 responses to ““Call-out culture” isn’t a thing (but it should be)

  • Tom

    “That’s just not how it works. In fact, it’s a kind of anarchy in action. There’s no coordination. It’s just that a few people notice that the same thing is problematic and therefore call it out. There’s no premeditation, and it’s seldom meant as a pile-on, it’s just that some people are a little more alert to problematic behaviour and language than others, and these people may call it out.”

    I appreciate that this is nit-picky, but you don’t always have to verbally communicate or communicate generally to coordinate something. Like, I think there’s a case to be made that planning and coordination are different?

    To rephrase, we all know people who share various aspect of our ideological and behavioural makeup. People can usually tell if many people will agree with them, an if so, who.

    Spontaneous coordination. Not that I’m saying this is bad – just that it’s not unreasonable to apprehend it as such?

  • Poi_girl

    I wish you were on a certain email list I’m on to help with the ‘calling out’ of a transphobe who is busy finding it ‘grossly offensive’ that a (trans)woman thinks that lesbian women might want to have sex with her. Yesterday, as I was replying I was thinking ‘I wish stavvers’ was here.🙂

  • Graham Martin

    One of my issues/hang-ups around call-out culture is that I don’t know what is mine to call out. Rarely am I the one who is targeted by the problematic language, and whilst I feel like I’d be pretty chuffed if a friend called someone out for saying something nasty in front of me, I’m not sure its fair to make a big deal of something I’ve witnessed, especially when the victim is on hand to see/hear it get underlined.

    Perhaps this is just me being a cop-out, but I’m also aware that ally-in-full-guns-blazing-fuck-up is a real thing and should be avoided.

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