Passive Content: Calling out Culture

Brought to you by SAS Senate (Alexa Muniz ‘16, Rohma Amir ‘18, Natalie Knops ‘19, Desiree Santos ‘19) and Scripps Res Life (Meli Móntez ‘16).

*The below is a slightly modified version of a list created by Franchesca Ramsey.

What is calling in?
Calling in is when someone addresses an oppressive behavior privately or independently. It takes a bit more patience on the part of the person calling in and shows a willingness to engage in a more intentionally educational manner. Calling in is a useful tactic to use within communities you are a part of and have a certain foundation of trust in.

What is calling out?
Calling out is when someone brings public attention to an individual’s or group’s oppressive behavior. It is very direct in its aim to get the person to stop their oppressive behavior and lets others know that the person was being oppressive, which allows them to hold that person accountable for their actions. Calling out often favors connecting an individual action to the larger systemic systems of oppression.

How do you decide when to call in and when to call out?
It is difficult to decide which tactic to use, it is very situational but some things to think about are: What type of space are you in? Is there an opportunity for meaningful discussion? What power dynamics exist between you and the person you want to call in/out? What is your objective? What is your capacity to educate? It is important to note that there are pros and cons to each tactic. Neither is inherently better than the other. No person is deserving of receiving one form over the other; that choice is completely on the person doing the calling in/out.

What do you do when you are called in/out?

  1. Don’t tone police. It is NOT your right to dictate how someone should react to their oppression. Also, tone doesn’t translate well over Internet spaces, so try to focus on WHAT was said and don’t get caught up in HOW it was said.
  2. Don’t demand a detailed explanation. You’re basically asking the person to justify their call out. It’s exhausting and often this is just a way to try and derail, start an argument, or discredit the other person. Many resources are available online for you to educate yourself. #UseTheGoogle
  3. Don’t get defensive. A call out is not all about you as a person. If you do feel defensive, lean into your discomfort and ask yourself, why do I feel this way?
  4. Don’t take it personally. Calling out is not a personal attack. If someone calls you out, they’re trying to teach you something. Calling out is a way for people to educate others on how systems of oppression operate on a day to day, individual level.
  5. Don’t attack/lash out at the person who’s calling you out. Recognize that it takes a lot of courage to speak out against systems of oppression and…(look at #6)
  6. Don’t assume the person calling you out is just “looking to get offended”. Nobody enjoys calling other people out. To call someone out, people often have to mentally prepare for serious repercussions, like actual violence for example. Calling someone out might mean starting an argument, during which many people will side with the oppressor by default (especially if you’re privileged over the person calling you out).
  7. Understand that being oppressive is not the same as being offensive or hurting feelings although they are linked. The damage you’re perpetuating is part of a larger system of oppression.
  8. Realize that impact is more important than intent when it comes to whether you were oppressive or not. It doesn’t matter what you meant to do because it had an impact on someone that needs to go acknowledged.
  9. Recognize the power dynamics that are in place between you and the person calling you in/out.
  10. Understand intersectionality. Just because you are oppressed by classism doesn’t mean you lack white privilege, for example. Everyone can fuck up, everyone will fuck up. Nobody is immune from needing to be called out. Everybody needs to work on allyship.
  11. Know that being privileged means being oppressive, but you can work to reduce the ways that you are oppressive.
  12. LISTEN. Practice active listening. It may be difficult, but it is crucial in order to be a better ally and avoid being as oppressive in the future. Don’t talk over people sharing their experiences with you. Amplify their narratives when possible.
  13. Genuinely apologize. Privately to the person calling you in/out and publicly when necessary. Consider all of the above when you form your apology.
  14. Work on oppression reduction and being the best ally you can be. The point of calling you in/out is to draw your attention to how you’re being oppressive, so that you can work to change it. If you made an oppressive joke, there’s probably oppressive thoughts in place (conscious or not) that led you to think the joke was appropriate. Everyone has to unlearn the oppressive things they’ve absorbed from an oppressive society. We are all taught ways to keep marginalized people in their place, but the good thing is that we can identify these things in ourselves and change.