(and, side note, don’t think it’s a bullshit evasive term like “politically correct”)
firstly: to me, calling someone out primarily means calling them out for abuse or assault. that’s the context I first heard the term in. like confronting a rapist, for example. therefore, I really dislike the use of term call-out to mean political critique; I think it’s appropriative, and also paints the situation as much more serious and black-and-white than it likely is. but I’m gonna use it here because I think these associations of the term is part of why people use it and part of the dynamic I’m criticising. plus almost without exception it’s people who actually use the phrase “call-out” whose behaviour I have an issue with. they’re often people who seem to have read guides to calling out an abuser and over-applied that dynamic to relatively minor infractions.
basically the issue I have with the callout is that personal reactions to it are coded as irrelevant defense mechanisms. when the personal is totally and only political, it ceases to exist as a category worth paying attention to. so the only valid response to a call-out that you think is unfair or cruel is to deploy a counter-callout. it becomes a kind of theoretical arms race, and the winner is the person who can spot the most structural influence on an individual shitty interaction.
see: all the posts talking about how call-out culture can trigger anxiety, or rely on racist or classist norms of language use, or in some other way reinforce oppression. all these things are true! but sometimes I think the salient issue is just that people are being total fucking assholes.
yeah, everything is political on some level, but that’s not always the only or even the most important thing going on in an individual interaction. (see also: people mistaking their individual feelings of alienation for political marginalisation.) and while being an asshole affects marginalised people in particular ways, and has a political element like everything does, sometimes the best and most useful way to conceptualise someone’s behaviour is just “god, what an asshole”.
in particular, while it’s nobody’s especial duty to hold people’s hand, I think it’s unreasonable to expect to maintain a personal relationship with someone you are constantly harshly critiquing. that’s an unequal dynamic and it can verge on psychological abuse.
like, do people know the history of the radical political critique? we know that we’re not the first people ever to think of anything, right? it’s not always good and healthy. forcing people to submit to political criticism they were not permitted to answer back to was a key tactic of totalitarian Leftist re-education schemes in the twentieth century; it was also a key factor in the brainwashing of radicals into cult-like terrorist collectives. so telling people that they cannot ever argue with a critique — that they just have to suck it up and apologise — is kind of terrifying to me. those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it, and all that.
when I criticise people’s politics, particularly people I expect to have personal contact with in non-activist settings, it’s really important to me that I do it in a way that respects them and doesn’t degenerate into personal abuse. yeah, it’s easy to say that they shouldn’t take it personally, but if you KNOW that a particular way of framing a critique is going to reduce someone to a puddle of cringing self-consciousness, why the hell would you go ahead and do it that way? that’s not ethical and it’s not effective.
and don’t tell me you just can’t control your rage, that’s bullshit, you’re not talking like that to your shitty sexist boss, are you? I get pissed off as much as the next person. but I do the mature thing and vent to my friends or, like, my tumblr (that’s what it’s for!). when I’m trying to figure out how to tackle an issue I have with an individual, I wanna focus on what’s effective, not on what I think will make me feel better.
and, yeah, on what’s KIND. kindness by definition is not given to people because they deserve it. I want to stop focusing on who deserves what. it’s so gross. we all deserve nothing and everything.
and it’s true that sometimes people are acting in bad faith and you just need to blast them and make it clear that what they’re saying is completely unacceptable. but sometimes people are open to learning. while a lack of evil intent certainly doesn’t make oppressive speech or action harmless, it does and should change the way I want to speak to the person responsible.
basically this whole issue reminds me of an interaction I observed many years ago. a younger female friend of mine was being introduced to an older, much larger, male friend. she reached out with her left hand to shake hands.
he said “that’s SO rude, don’t you know it’s the RIGHT hand” and, looming over her, grabbed her right hand and shook it, squeezing the knuckles painfully.
using the “rules” of etiquette to establish dominance
using your superior knowledge of something that is supposed to make human interactions better to make them worse
— Mia Mingus (via str-crssd)
**These are not my words but I was asked to re-post them here. I fully support what is said with all my heart, though all credit goes to Rei Alphonso for laying it out so brilliantly**
This is something I have been wanting to write for a really long time. There has been anger, sadness, disappointment and frustration in spades and so I waited until now - I wanted to write this from a headspace where I felt centered and (relatively at least) calm and compassionate. I waited to see if, once I stopped being so pissed off, I still felt the same way. I waited until I was sure I could take myself seriously, act surely and not have a coronary if my words came out wrong or were ignored. This is not a rant. This is the result of months of percolating emotions and ideas, of conversations with family, friends, acquaintances, strangers and myself. I write from my own perspective and experience, largely within and relating to the melbourne queer social networks I have lived and worked within for the last three and a half years.
I need to say - it feels to me that there is barely any space for vulnerability in our community. I feel this way because in my experience, the way that we relate to each other - especially en masse at public events - is dominated by creating, identifying, validating, documenting and discussing our value both as individuals and groups based on how successful we are at being….
HOT. FIERCE. BEAST. MINCER. BABE
you know what a really effective way is to divide the left?
like, that is a fairly divisive thing to do, no?
if assange actually gave a shit about having a unified left he would accept the consequences of his actions and pass on the Wikileaks torch to a less grotesque human rather than transforming his political group into Rape Apologism, The Legal Fund