Friday, March 25, 2011

On spaces part two the art of the call out.

Okay this is the second part to my post from the other day.

In the blogosphere it has become very popular to call out people for things they've said, things that they've done etc etc. In the context of social justice and activism I do believe that calling people on things when they've done something you think is wrong or bad can be awesome.

It can be wonderful to have someone say to you, "hey, hey that's not cool" and then tell you why.

On the other hand, the call out can become an object of brute force and that is not awesome.

Here is how I think a good and productive call out can be.

Per A blogs blablabla..ableist thing..blablabla sizeist thing..blablabla racist thing.

Person B reads that blog and either blogs in response or contacts that person privately, we'll get to that later. They say, something like. Person A said this thing and this thing, and this is why I feel that it wasn't an awesome way to say something.

Things can end there or people can actually discuss what the issues are and they may agree they may not. It's all good essentially. The point is that pointing out or calling someone on what you think is bullshit doesn't mean you have free reign to just go off on them.

If you're going to be honest about what you're doing a call out is to maybe point out a better way of communicating and not a means to get to be a jerk.

What do I think is jerky?

I think it's jerky to say, LOOK AT THIS ASSHOLE type things. It's not productive.

If you are using a call out in a social activism context and you're trying to change someone's mind about an issue, being a jerk is not going to do it.

Also being unforgiving isn't gonna work out well either.

No one in any social justice or activism movement is perfect all of the time. No one is going to always be inclusive with their language. No one is going to always be able to articulate things in a manner you find pleasing. No one.

Also, this is an issue I have with Tumblr and the language of call outs there in particular is that a lot of people just can't keep up with what language people prefer to use.

I find it really off putting and awful if I see on tumblr that so and so used X word and the pile on starts.

There is context to what people say. Some people are not activists thus they are not in the loop of what language is deemed acceptable in any given situation. Some people are not at ALL aware that they are saying something people have deemed unacceptable and to just say HEY STUPID you can't say that is not productive.

Furthermore I find it to be beyond the pale to expect a stranger either on the internet or in meat space to already be aware of the language you personally find acceptable. I think it's an unreasonable expectation and often I see that used as a way to just be a jerk.

Now to the private contact vs public contact thing.

As I pointed out the other day with the Fuck Yeah Chubby Girls thing, as their parameters read that space is not publicly designated on Tumblr as a strictly fat people space. It is also not user run.

In that instance I think it may have saved a lot of argument for people to contact the mods privately to ask if it is a fat space. I don't mean tell them that they posted the wrong picture and all the reasons why they shouldn't have posted a picture of a girl who appears to be thin. I'm talking about asking them to clarify what kind of space they have.

I think that when it comes to spaces that are moderator run as opposed to being user run that is the more effective means of clearing up what a space is actually for. Yes, lots of the people posted there visually read as fat but that's not what's stated in their FAQ nor in their submission guidelines so for me, my own impressions aside I would not assume it to be a strictly fat space. If I really wanted to know I'd ask.

Now when it comes to private beefs of which there are many in the Fat world right now here's how I feel.

If you want to call out someone do so. However, some people are not going to just let it go by. Some people aren't going to stop talking or stop trying to engage. That's just how it is.

That doesn't necessarily mean that people are mean or bad it's just how they are.

Other people when called out publicly (like me, yes it has indeedly happened to me) may take pause to consider what's been said and then respond.

Other people won't engage.

Here's what I keep seeing happening. People on A Team are passionate and want to defend their principles and opinions. They think B Team is wrong and they rally to make sure EVERYONE knows they think B Team is wrong.

B Team is not really into that and is also passionate and wanting to defend their principles and opinions and they think A Team is wrong.

Shitstorm ensues.

Some people on both teams disengage. Some people as they read what persons on both teams have to say feel hurt by things being said but don't believe that they have a voice because they aren't a big deal. Some people can't deal with it and get angry or hurt and lash out. Etc.

This is the point where I think (especially in FA circles) that everyone needs a time out.

Time. Out.

Communication won't happen if everyone is pointing and calling ASSHOLE ASSHOLE.

You know what I mean?

Personally at this point if I'm on one of those teams I'd rather either work out the differences personally and apologize if I've said something awful. Or I'd rather disengage completely because I only have a finite amount of energy and I prefer to expend it not on trying to turn someone to my opinion if they really aren't trying to hear it.

The aforementioned shitstorm is the risk you run when you call out someone publicly.

Now last thing then I'm done.

The un-named call out.

Quite simply I'm only sort of a fan. If you're going to talk about someone publicly and "anonymously" in that you don't say their name but use enough information so people in the know, know exactly whom you're referring to I don't think it's awesome to exclude that person from the conversation out of hand because you don't like them or what they have to say.

Doing so moves things from being a hey, I think this person is wrong to (in my eyes at least) being a personal kind of thing and I don't dig it.

Also I think if you're going to do that be prepared for that person to be publicly pissed off. I would be. Shit I HAVE been that person and I have said so publicly.

Some folks, like me for instance will say what they have to say and that's it. Others will not let it go because frankly they don't have to let it go if they've been hurt or upset or feel they have been misrepresented.

All that said when calling people out I think there are things that are vital to keep in mind out of simple human kindness.

  1. Do I really know where this person is coming from? As in is this person having a bad mental health day? Is this person maybe coming from a place of upset rather than calm? How would I feel on a bad day to see this said about me?
  2. Just because one social group (for instance Tumblr) says that A thing is acceptable that may not have filtered out into the rest of the internets. 
  3. Do I need to be right so much?
  4. If I call out this person, can I engage without being a jerk?
  5. Am I being a jerk here? Also if you don't know ask someone. I know I can be really fucking mean. Y'all don't know for the most part but I can be a vicious little fucker. Sometimes, I need help keeping that on a leash and there are people I trust to ask if I'm just being an asshole. 
  6. If you are the person being called out, before responding maybe ask yourself Oh shit do they have a point? A fellow blogger asked me privately recently if they fucked up, they did and I said so and you know what it turned out good. Sometimes that's all it takes is to ask someone who's opinion you trust.
  7. If you are the person being called out as you answer, before you post it or email it take a second to ask if you're just responding in anger? Are your feelings hurt? Are you coming from a bad place? If you are any of those, maybe instead of posting/emailing right that second say this. Look, I'm really not having a good day and I don't think I can deal with this right now. Let me get back to you. You don't have to over share your personal shit. Also if someone tells you that, please show that you have some respect and let them have their day and then get back to you.
  8. If you are the person being called out. Don't just call names back. Even if other people are calling you names, don't engage in that. It won't help anyone's cause to continue that theme of things.
  9. If you are being called out, remember it might not be personal. Sometimes we say things that escape out into the wild and people who don't know us judge us. It happens to everyone and it's probably not about you as a human being. Even if people say it is, it may not be.
  10. Most importantly for EVERYONE involved, use my rule. Don't be a dick be a Richard. Which is to say don't be a jerk. 

Honestly, when there are shitstorms in the great wilds of teh blogosphere I try not to take part because I don't really often get a sense that I need to. Being that I am in the camp of not being a big deal or authority on shit, I try not to start shit.

You all know me by now. You know if you disagree here that's fine. I've only ever had ONE problem with a reader that was serious enough to make me somewhat angry and I think that's amazing.

I think y'all are amazing.


I am planning to henna my hair this weekend and I want to give you folks some book updates (HOLY SHIT TWO DONATIONS!!!!11!1 I NOW HAVE 35$ I should fix my donate thingy, someone donated privately) I'm going to ask you if you will to tell me which posts you really love because I want to include a section of lightly prettied up blog posts. I have the stats of hits on certain entries but I want to hear what y'all have to say.

I also think that I would like to say anyone who donates gets dibs on something special so S and my other Anon donor if you'd be so kind as to let me know via my form here or in a comment if you'd like a special essay that would be awesome.

Okay holy shitsnacks I talked a lot today.

Now Homo Out.


beatfreak said...

Yes to all of this. One of the reasons why I left Tumblr is because I started to ask myself "What am I doing?" Does all of this calling out even change anything? Does it help or is it actually hurting things.

Sometimes, I feel like some people on the internet (and especially on Tumblr) are trying to play a game of "Whose the most Social Justicey of all" instead of really trying to make change.

That's why you are one of my favorites.

Molly Ren said...

I've been thinking a lot about this stuff lately, particularly after the Dan Savage thing which very quickly turned into a shitstorm. I'm not sure what all the fuss *did*, since Savage didn't apologize, has had this whole argument with FA years before, and even made the whole thing worse in following blog posts. But how on earth do you make a bunch of bloggers take a time out?

I like the friendly, civil tone to your rules and until recently I did usually email and message people privately when I was annoyed with them. One of my first ever call outs was taking a guest blog post by The Beautiful Kind to task. I'd had some trouble with her views on other subjects before then, and had emailed her privately, then decided to take it to the blog. In hindsight, I don't know if that was really the smartest thing to do, but I also remembering getting pats on the back for my post. It was a form of validation.

One last thought: I think the trend toward snarky callouts and yelling "asshole" in FA is something Kate Harding is known for, and consciously or not a lot of FA bloggers copy her tone. (Full disclosure: I <3 Shapely Prose.) I'm not sure she would have gotten as much attention without it.

karen said...

You are amazing, Shannon!

witchyvixen said...

Exactly beatfreak.

I stopped posting on one space because of a rabid moderator. Nobody likes to be called out, but I actually WANT to be called out if I mess up. Helps me learn. Being called out is painful and embarrassing, but sometimes that's what it takes to check someone's accidental or intentional assholery. However, this person was always like, wound tight and ready to spring. If she had been dedicated to trying to help people be betters then that could have been a good thing. Instead it always just seemed like a chance to prove to everyone that she was more savvy, better educated, and infinitely more socially aware than anyone else on the board. It also gave her a chance to bash people she wasn't fond of and coddle those who were special friends.

I hated to leave, but it was her space. Wasn't gonna fight her for her own blog. LOL

Atchka! said...


I feel like somebody understands where I'm coming from. I'm absolutely guilty of the above (especially 1, but also 7, 8 and 9).

If I'm called out for something, I take the manner in which I'm called out into question. If a person calls me out respectfully, I absolutely, always and forever, will take the time to try and understand where I've fucked up.

But if someone comes at me, dukes up, my immediate reaction is to defend myself and cut them deeper than they cut me. It's a coping mechanism I've had since childhood and it's not the best for resolving conflict. But I assume if someone comes swinging, they're not looking to discuss subjects like an adult... they simply want to take me down a notch.

So, it's hard for me to balance my need to be right and understood with my need to come out victorious in battle. But pretty much since my first days on the Fatosphere, it has seemed like people are just lying in wait for me to fuck up so they can call me out. And I have busted my ass over the past two years to learn to be sensitive and to check my privilege and be part of the community. I really have. And those that read my shit regularly will tell you as much.

But I need to accept that I will never be good enough for everyone. There will always be something about me that makes some people cringe or seethe. I can't control them. But I can control myself.

Thank you, Shannon, for being objective and rational throughout this. You have really helped me reassess the situation and look more critically at myself and what I'm doing.


Subscribe To My Podcast