3 alternatives to call out culture

Call out culture, or the practice of publicly denouncing offensive words or actions, has become a problem. The impact of this is a cycle of negativity that does not foster awareness or growth. It’s not easy or even possible to educate everyone but we can work on being a little more civil to one another. None of us is perfect and even the most aware, conscious person was at one point less so. We all know that it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the oppressed to educate their oppressors. But, if we all contribute, things will begin to change.

If someone says or does something offensive, what should you do? It seems that the popular thing to do lately has been to call them out in a very public way. That could be in front of a group of people, or on social media. The problem with this method is that it often makes it more about looking good than about educating someone. Sometimes a call out is totally justified. But that shouldn’t be the default.

Publicly shaming someone doesn’t create good feelings. People often get defensive or angry when they are called out in public. These emotions are not a good foundation for growth. We often dig in our heels in these moments and refuse to change. Let’s not be bigots, who, definition, are intolerant of people with differing opinions. We don’t need to stoop to that level.

call out culture - M Somerville Photography

Sometimes someone says something out of line that we can’t help but think “how stupid are they??” Even if what they said was so not ok, telling them that they are an idiot for thinking that way isn’t going to change their minds. Would you change your mind if someone said that about one of your beliefs? Try to see it from the other person’s perspective. We are all complex humans with a variety of motives. Were they trying to be hurtful? Does this happen often? These are factors to consider when deciding how to react.

Yes, we are angry and tired. We are all sick of putting up with this BS time and again. But if we work together, and support one another, we can make progress. It’s already happening. Let’s not resort to anger, belittling or hatred to solve our problems. That is not the path to progress. It’s not easy and no you don’t have to be nice or even civil to everyone, but let’s do our best. We have a long road ahead of us, let’s try to make it a little more pleasant for everyone.

Here are three alternatives to publicly calling someone out:

  1. Talk to the person one to one - this is the most straightforward method, but often the most challenging. This puts the responsibility on the marginalized to educate their oppressors. This method is great, but make sure you are not using it to your own detriment.

  2. Ask for support from your community or someone close to the offender - if you don’t feel up to the task of educating the offender (for whatever reason), ask someone else to do it. Examples are asking a local social justice group to address the person or speaking to the person’s mother. I heard an amazing example of a woman who contacted her classmate’s mom on Facebook about her son's behavior. The mother assured the woman that she would speak with her son about his behavior. Be cautious, though, because this can be tricky.

  3. Finally, speak to someone in a position of authority - this could mean going to the dean about a professor’s comments or actions, talking to your boss about a coworker or even going to the police. This is often considered a last resort, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes people won’t listen to their peers. It doesn’t have to be about getting them in trouble. Sometimes they won’t listen to anyone else.

We are making progress but we have to all be in it for the long haul. I know it is exhausting. Take care of yourself! But we have to keep moving forward. We cannot give up or think we have done enough because that is when patriarchy wins! This fight is worth it - for ourselves, for our children, for friends and family and those we will never meet. Let’s work together to make this world a better place for everyone.

Why I'm getting really tired of calling myself a feminist

A Woman is Not a Label

A Woman is Not a Label

When I became interested in feminism almost a year ago, I was immediately all in. I was excited about the prospect of changing the world and bringing equality to society. And that’s what feminism felt like to me at the time. But over the past year, as I have become more aware of other contemporary feminists, I have slowly become disenchanted with the whole thing.

This is not to say that I feel any different about my original goals and aspirations. The disenchantment comes from the way that I see feminism playing out in our society today. I listened to a podcast the other day that talked about call out culture and about how damaging that can be in some instances. This is obviously very relevant to feminism and #metoo. There are many things that should be called out and talked about. I don’t think this is inherently bad. But I think, too often, people immediately want to point fingers without really thinking about what that might mean for the person as well as for the greater community.

I could go into all of the exceptions to the rule here but I won't. If we think about it for a moment, it’s pretty clear that there is a difference between rape/sexual assault and a guy ghosting you. I’m not trying to minimize either of these situations. And yes, people do need to be made aware of how their actions effect others. But I don’t think that being a jerk about it is the answer.

The podcast went on to say that call out culture can easily snowball. This often doesn’t give people a chance to acknowledge their mistakes and try to learn from them. If someone is publicly humiliated for something (ignoring for a moment their intentions), they are much more likely to feel anger, discouragement, or hopelessness for what they have done. And none of these emotions are conducive to growth.

This can create an environment that feels like Us vs Them. This kind of black and white thinking doesn’t help anyone. It is only by working to foster a community where it’s ok to make mistakes that we can see true growth and change. Giving people the benefit of the doubt, or at least the opportunity to make it right, is vital to success.

I think this kind of polarization can also give the wrong impression to someone who is not actively involved in the feminist community. On the surface, it can seem as though all feminists hate, or are “out to get” men. This is most definitely not the case, but boiling feminism down to such an elementary understanding is counterproductive.

Which brings me to my original point that I am getting tired of calling myself a feminist. I don’t hate men or think they are less than women, or that anyone is less than anyone else. And I am tired of having to qualify my feminism by saying that. I also don’t think that anyone should apologize because they consciously made a decision that might not be considered “feminist.” And yes, I can empathize completely with the desire to fight back and give men a taste of what we have dealt with for far too long. However, I don’t think that a tit-for-tat mentality is beneficial.

I think part of the problem is that people want to create or follow “rules” about what it means to be a feminist. I will tell you right now: there are no rules. If you want to wear pink - totally fine! If you appreciate a compliment on your appearance from a man - no problem! If you don’t mind a guy walking up to you at the bar and starting a conversation with you - great! And, if you decide to swear off men forever that is totally your choice. That is not at all what this is about.

And maybe I’m naive for saying this, but I really wish people would just be kinder to each other. I know it’s not easy and we are all hurting. But being super confrontational isn’t always the best idea. Ignorance doesn’t necessarily equate to malice. That guy at the gas station who made vaguely creepy comments about my body may or may not even realize what he is doing. And if I’m just straight up rude to him, then he may never learn.

Feminism is about taking back autonomy of your life and body. It means not feeling obligated to behave in a certain way. It’s about determining what feels right for you as an individual and acting on that feeling. Don’t do anything because you think you should. And try to have a little compassion for all humans. It is not anyone’s responsibility to educate others but a little empathy can go a long way. We can’t change the past, so let’s make the future brighter for everyone.

Clarification: I am not in any way saying that feminism is not worth it or that I’m giving up because it’s too hard. I’m mostly just advocating for nonviolence and stating that I’m tired of all the anger and hatred and malice that is thrown around so often. Let’s try to help each other ok?