I’m going to call you out. I’m going to say what’s bugging me and I’m going to give some serious fucks when you tell me I’m being too sensitive or missing the point. I’m not calling you out like Flavia Dzoden so rightfully critiqued over on Tiger Beatdown. No, I’m calling you out because you’re a fool. Beause you need to get on the bus acknowledging whatever privilege you suffer from that makes you think it’s okay to dress up as something racist or tell me some joke about assault.
But it’s going to be difficult for me to do it to your face. Within the sphere of socially conscience bloggers, writers have come to expect a call out or two. Sometimes these call outs are problematic, sometimes they are helpful, but they are part of blogosphere culture so I have a plan when some bro posts a picture of himself in blackface on tumblr or when I think someone has forgotten their privilege. I don’t have the same plan when I’m going through my day. I don’t have the same backup I’d have when a troll whines, “But I’m a nice guy(â„¢)!”
Because here’s the thing: I don’t want to come across as an asshole. I don’t want to rock the boat at work. I don’t want to have my friendships or career put on the line because I know certain things to be wrong.
Let’s learn a lesson from two places where call outs are expected and accepted: academia and the blogosphere. This cartoon describes the academic call outs, otherwise known as the peer-review process.
Notice how fraught with danger it is. Notice how you expect to have people say you are wrong. Academia is a culture that understands having to justify your existence because that is how research progresses. You find a gap, a hole, a wrong assumption, and move a discipline forward. This is something academia does well. This image could also apply to the social justice blogosphere – people are ready to take you down and they will.
But here’s the thing: it’s preaching to the choir. It is an acceptable part of both these cultures. How do we take the leap from preaching to the blogosphere/academic choir to the real world, where not everyone has read bell hooks and Judith Butler. What are the strategies for calling out so that doing so has a degree of impact and pushes us into a better form of politics.
1. Have a sense of humor: I graduated from the school of Jon Stewart and if there’s one thing he tells us, it’s that delivering critique with a wink has an impact.
2. Just say it: Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t passive-aggressively send progressive articles to the person who is being racist or sexist or straight up dude-bro rude. “I’m sorry, but you’re being (insert “ist” thing here),” is the best way to put it.
3. Keep the conversation going in the blogosphere: Even though it is preaching to the choir, these conversations have an impact. Keep them going, but do it kindly.
4. Walk away: Once you say it, once you crack the joke, be willing to walk away. There is no getting through to some people, but you’ve said your piece and sometimes that has to be good enough.
5. Whatever you do, don’t be pretentious: Related to #2, don’t bother quoting your favorite philosopher of the day. Doing so is not going to endear you to the idiot who told a rape joke and second, it is not clear. More power to you for undersanding the theory, but leave it at the door when calling out.
How do you let people know they are doing something problematic?