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WisCon 38: Call Out Culture Panel
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I had some plans to live tweet this panel, as part of engaging more with Twitter. I was not able to do that for this panel, nor engage with it as fully as I might have liked, because of last-minute volunteering as an accessibility aid. I don't regret taking that on, but it will impact the accuracy and depth of this write-up. So, I apologize in advance for covering this in broadstrokes, and for anything I get wrong. There will also be fewer direct quotes or attributions. From past experience, I am sure that interested parties will be able to find quotable highlights by reading other tweeters' contributions to the designated panel hashtag, #calloutculture

The Topic (As I See it)

This is not a summation of the panel's discussion or a paraphrase of anything anyone said. It is different than the description I would have written before sitting in on the panel, because the ideas that were expressed and the way the panelists expressed them

The topic of this panel was call out culture. That's a very broad topic, and one that has multiple ways you can take it. Some of the early discussion among the panelists touched on this. I think we can break it down into two basic categories: "call out culture" as in a culture of accountability, where people are willing to speak up when something harmful or hurtful is being said or done and (hopefully) the person being spoken to is willing to listen and take it on board, vs. "call out culture" as in a culture where this sort of thing has become a vicious cycle, self-fulfilling prophecy, or even game that is played for points/laughs/sub-cultural cachet.

There's not a clear, hard and fast division between the positive and the negative. Some people--maybe most people--are engaging in shades of both. Certainly there are people who are both acting in good faith and people acting in bad faith in the same circles/communities, and to the people for whom this is a game, it's not hard to mimic the cadence and jargon that the community falls into, using it both as protective coloration and weapon.

The Discussion

Some of the high points:

  • People who are in privileged positions--part of the dominant/default narrative (white, straight, cis) are more likely to be listened to than marginalized people, who will be ignored or dismissed as "angry" and "unreasonable" even if saying the same thing. This was specifically raised in the context of race ("Angry Black Women" vs. "Nice White Ladies".)
  • Allies should be aware of this, conscious of this, but not use it as their excuse to let things pass.
  • "Allies" who are concerned with making sure that people know that they are allies and are looking for a cookie or a trophy for their good work are very tiring.
  • "Allies" who see someone engaging in a constructive call-out or simply answering a question in an exhaustively informative fashion and respond as if they're egging on a vicious burn or turn it into a dogpile are contributing to the problem.
  • One of the most important things for an ally to do is to speak up when someone assumes they can get a pass on saying racist/sexist/oppressive things because no one is around to be hurt by it.
  • "Outrage fatigue" is a bit disingenuous because it is fatiguing to deal with the things that are outrageous. We can't get away from the things that hurt us/people who target us because we can't take off the parts of ourselves that get us targeted.
  • There was a pair of points raised that women are socialized to express hurt, while men are socialized to see expressions of hurt as anger. (Note: Obviously anything that says "women do this, men do this" is going to be both a massive simplification and wrapped up in some problematic assumptions, and this was addressed at the panel. My thought is that as long as we have a socially constructed gender binary these things will have real effect, even if the ways we deal with them are a bit reductive and can contribute to the very problem being discussed if we're not careful.)
  • One question I raised for discussion was the difference between a take down and a call out. I have some thoughts about this that will be put in a separate blog post; since I wasn't on the panel and didn't want to talk over the panelists, I refrained from shoehorning an editorial comment into my question. N.K. Jemisin, in the audience, ventured the answer that the difference is that a call-out is intended to help someone you see as being on your side, someone you recognize as having a good intent (this is a paraphrase and may be a bad one; I'd love to be checking the Twitter feed to see if anyone has captured it, but the hotel wifi is a bit overwhelmed right now, and the longer I wait the less I'll remember) whereas a takedown is on someone you recognize to be acting in bad faith.
  • I feel like there was a comment near the end that had to do with approaching it as a battle, which I wish I could remember the specifics of as it touches on something very present in my heart right now.

As I said, I'll have a separate blog post about the takedown/callout, but my thoughts are less about how you know which one is appropriate to how to recognize which one you're actually doing, in the sense that I alluded to above where I talked about people being a mixture of acting appropriately for solid reasons and people acting out... it's easy to set out to call someone out and shade into showing off, or exerting power, or seeking acclaim.

This entry automatically cross-posted from http://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/571948.html. Comment hither or thither. Void where yon.


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