On How To Deal With Being Called Out

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On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby fiainros » Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:55 am

I find a lot of people come here and do several things over and over again in what others see as typical privileged behavior. I know there are many many privilege discussion threads, but I tend to think along the lines of repetition may get through.

I just read a great piece on being called out for something. My original source is tumblr and they cite another location that does not have it posted. I'm quoting it in full here so that others may see it too.

Please post resources for those who don't understand *why* something is wrong or why they are being called out in this thread.

  1. Don’t tone police. It is NOT your right to dictate how someone should react to their oppression.
  2. Don’t demand a detailed explanation. You’re basically asking the person to justify their call out. It’s exhausting, many resources are available, and often this is just a way to try and derail, start an argument, or discredit the other person.
  3. Don’t get defensive. A call out is not all about you as a person.
  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 the person who’s calling you out. That’s just fucked up.
  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. 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 orhurting feelings. The damage you’re perpetuating is part of a larger system of oppression.
  8. Realize that your intent is irrelevant when it comes to whether you were oppressive or not.
  9. Recognize the power dynamics that are in place between you and the person calling you out.
  10. Understand intersectionality. IE: Just because you are oppressed by classism, doesn’t mean you lack male privilege.
  11. Know that being privileged means being oppressive, but you can work to reduce the ways that you are oppressive.
  12. LISTEN.
  13. Genuinely apologize.
  14. Work on oppression reduction and being the best ally you can be. The point of calling you 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. And then we can start working on dismantling the kyriarchy, yeah!


Again, I know similar lists and links to lists are posted elsewhere, but I see discussions here every day where commenters could benefit from reading this or something like it. Maybe it just needs to be seen by a person several times in different ways before it catches on.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby The_Laughing_Coyote » Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:59 am

times like this I wish this place had a 'like' button.

Thank you.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Lovely » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:05 am

Thank you! Excellent list.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby GreenLanternsLight » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:12 am

Quick question: just what is "tone policing"?
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby The_Laughing_Coyote » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:15 am

quick, dirty, and impersonal answer (I'm still heeding you, Ginny)

Tone policing is when the privileged demand that the oppressed always maintain a polite tone and not use any DITTY WANGWIDGE when responding to their suggestions that homosexuality is an aberration or that the rights of a fetus trump the rights of an actual living woman with friends and family or that rape survivors should be less sensitive and just get over it.
But Setar, how can you say the police persecute the poor when the the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges?

-Qmartindale, quoting Anatole France

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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Xanthë » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:23 am

I’d add a point zero to that list, ‘Above all, don’t double down on the issue that you were called out on.’ — a point which I’ve seen ignored time and time again on these forums in the three or four weeks they’ve been running.

GreenLanternsLight, someone who is ‘tone policing’ is setting themselves as the ultimate judge of the level of civility that is to be met by all other participants in the conversation — which when dealing with emotive subjects that involve the oppressive marginalisation of groups of people, can itself be part of the oppression. For a real example, trans* people as a group tend to be extremely marginalised compared to cis people (exceptions can always be found), so in a discussion centered around transgenderism, if a cis person says something extremely privileged and a trans* person responds with anger, the person doing the ‘tone policing’ might say something profoundly unhelpful and irrelevant to the substance at issue, such as, “The trans* person has gotten angry, therefore xie has lost the argument.” (Hope that explains that for you.)
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Onamission5 » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:25 am

Can we make this a sticky? It would be super handy that way.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Cipher » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:34 am

fiainros, thanks so much for posting this fantastic resource! I'm going to link it at the Social Justice Link Roundup on the Pharyngula Wiki. If anyone finds the original source, let me know, and I'll link to that instead. (Also, if this thread ends up having a lot of helpful additions, I might link to it, too.)
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby GreenLanternsLight » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:47 am

GreenLanternsLight, someone who is ‘tone policing’ is setting themselves as the ultimate judge of the level of civility that is to be met by all other participants in the conversation — which when dealing with emotive subjects that involve the oppressive marginalisation of groups of people, can itself be part of the oppression. For a real example, trans* people as a group tend to be extremely marginalised compared to cis people (exceptions can always be found), so in a discussion centered around transgenderism, if a cis person says something extremely privileged and a trans* person responds with anger, the person doing the ‘tone policing’ might say something profoundly unhelpful and irrelevant to the substance at issue, such as, “The trans* person has gotten angry, therefore xie has lost the argument.” (Hope that explains that for you.)



It does help, thanks. So, if for instance, a cis person says something, as you say, privileged and the trans person becomes enraged at the cis person as a result, what is the best way for the cis person to go about understanding the source of the offense and help the overall tone of the discussion remain calm? That is, without tone policing?
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Cipher » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:54 am

GreenLanternsLight wrote:
GreenLanternsLight, someone who is ‘tone policing’ is setting themselves as the ultimate judge of the level of civility that is to be met by all other participants in the conversation — which when dealing with emotive subjects that involve the oppressive marginalisation of groups of people, can itself be part of the oppression. For a real example, trans* people as a group tend to be extremely marginalised compared to cis people (exceptions can always be found), so in a discussion centered around transgenderism, if a cis person says something extremely privileged and a trans* person responds with anger, the person doing the ‘tone policing’ might say something profoundly unhelpful and irrelevant to the substance at issue, such as, “The trans* person has gotten angry, therefore xie has lost the argument.” (Hope that explains that for you.)



It does help, thanks. So, if for instance, a cis person says something, as you say, privileged and the trans person becomes enraged at the cis person as a result, what is the best way for the cis person to go about understanding the source of the offense and help the overall tone of the discussion remain calm? That is, without tone policing?

A good way would be to apologize sincerely, ask what they can do to make amends and do better next time, while making it very clear that they know it's not the job of the person they've hurt or offended to educate them. In fact, in light of that, a better way might be to apologize sincerely ("I'm so sorry I said a hurtful thing [if they can be specific about what's wrong with it, that's even better - "I'm so sorry I implied that X"], I've really put my foot in my mouth"), express their intention to learn to do better (and perhaps, depending on the space and the level of hurt/wrong, to stop talking until they have), and work at educating themselves about why what they said was offensive, either by looking up resources or by asking in a place like... well, like Information and Answers!
One thing NOT to do is try to "help the overall tone of the discussion remain calm" by even slightly implying that they're wrong to be angry, or that they're hysterical or irrational. When you've hurt someone, you really don't get to ask or pressure them to be "calm."

Edited to add the things in parentheses
Last edited by Cipher on Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:04 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Xanthë » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:01 am

As Cipher says, a sincere and unqualified apology is a good start. Qualifying the apology begins to look like it is conditional on some unexplored bit of bigotry or privilege and will look like what is called a ‘notpology’, or an insincere apology.

In line with some of the other points in fiainros’ excellent list in the OP, it might involve taking time out of the discussion to let other voices be heard, rather than thread hogging, or doing their own research, especially if people have suggested possible sources of information but the offender hasn’t had time to examine them.

In some cases this won’t be applicable. For example, on a blog I read the other day an obnoxious transphobe blathered on at length how trans* people are unnatural — like the claim that homosexual behaviour is unnatural, this is an example of the naturalistic fallacy since counter-examples are readily found in the natural world. When challenged on that point, the transphobe admitted that word choice was ‘not elegant’ and decided to go with ‘abnormal’ instead, which is equally pejorative and not much of an improvement, especially as it seems to be a normal pattern of human variance to have some gender variance, just as there is variance in sexual orientation. The person giving offense in this case was basically fixed in an essentially bigoted viewpoint and could only be moved so far as to understand that xyr language was problematic; xie was not prepared to change xyr fundamental belief that xie viewed trans* people as disgusting. :/
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby GreenLanternsLight » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:06 am

One thing NOT to do is try to "help the overall tone of the discussion remain calm" by even slightly implying that they're wrong to be angry, or that they're hysterical or irrational. When you've hurt someone, you really don't get to ask or pressure them to be "calm."


Ok, i see your point here. However, i wasn't advocating implying anything. Calling for a civil tone of discussion (on all sides) does not necessarily put blame on the other person or even imply that they're somehow in the wrong for their anger. If i simply say that it would be better if no one shouted, i'm not asking the other person to somehow set aside their anger, or supporting the ludicrous notion that they magically stop being angry, but simply advocating for calm discourse, which is, on average, more likely to produce meaningful dialogue. Is there a way to do THAT without "tone-policing", or is it not possible to do one without the other?
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Lovely » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:10 am

I always deal better in analogies. Here's how I remember "tone policing".

I'm minding my own business. Someone comes up to me and says, "Madam, good day. I just came over here to tell you that your shirt is frumpy, your hair looks a bit of a mess, and your face is unpleasant."

My reply, *a bunch of furious swearing at them*

Their reply to my furious swearing is "Well, there's no need to get so hostile. If you can't even reply to me politely then why should I listen to what you have to say?"

I know it's not perfect, but it's how I remember. Someone has said something hurtful and harmful. The people who have been hurt and harmed react. A tone policer will not actually read what is being said, and instead insists that the tone of the conversation remain "civil" despite the fact that they've offended/harmed people with what they're saying.

ETA:

Is there a way to do THAT without "tone-policing", or is it not possible to do one without the other?


Not really, no. The only place on this forum that outright tone polices is the Information Section. The mods (when they're able, because they are busy people) try to make sure that answers are given polite responses (usually until it can be determined that a person is not here in good faith). If tone is a problem in the Information Area it can be reported.

As a privileged person I say this. A person with privilege in one area asking for the underprivileged to "keep calm" is not going to go over well. The best thing to do if a mistake is made and there are harsh reactions is one thing and pretty much one thing only, "I'm sorry. I'm going to step away, get a little education, and try to make sure I don't do this same thing again."

Honestly, in my time on boards THAT'S the reaction that calms stuff down. A sincere apology. People drop it, and get back to the topic at hand.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Cipher » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:12 am

GreenLanternsLight wrote:
One thing NOT to do is try to "help the overall tone of the discussion remain calm" by even slightly implying that they're wrong to be angry, or that they're hysterical or irrational. When you've hurt someone, you really don't get to ask or pressure them to be "calm."


Ok, i see your point here. However, i wasn't advocating implying anything. Calling for a civil tone of discussion (on all sides) does not necessarily put blame on the other person or even imply that they're somehow in the wrong for their anger. If i simply say that it would be better if no one shouted, i'm not asking the other person to somehow set aside their anger, or supporting the ludicrous notion that they magically stop being angry, but simply advocating for calm discourse, which is, on average, more likely to produce meaningful dialogue. Is there a way to do THAT without "tone-policing", or is it not possible to do one without the other?

No, as far as I know, there's really not. Trying to police the tone of the discussion is pretty much by definition tone-policing...
On a practical side, you risk hitting a lot of massive buttons for oppressed people by asking them to stay calm, too. It's both potentially hurtful and deeply counterproductive. I'm pretty sure you can understand why that would happen, but if you need further explanation on it, I'll be glad to drag out my trusty personal examples again :lol:
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby The_Laughing_Coyote » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:15 am

If i simply say that it would be better if no one shouted, i'm not asking the other person to somehow set aside their anger, or supporting the ludicrous notion that they magically stop being angry, but simply advocating for calm discourse, which is, on average, more likely to produce meaningful dialogue. Is there a way to do THAT without "tone-policing", or is it not possible to do one without the other?


I'm gonna say, if you've already stepped over the line and pissed them off, probably not. No, when you've made the blunder, you kinda gotta accept that people are gonna be pissed at you until you seem to 'get it', and even then there's a bit of goodwill to be built. (Ha, me talking to you about goodwill. But I'm trying here, I'm really trying.)

IMO, apologies aren't good enough anyways. Words are just stupid noises that escape the mouth and are gone forever except in our memories. It's actions I tend to pay attention to.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Xanthë » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:16 am

“If i simply say that it would be better if no one shouted, i'm not asking the other person to somehow set aside their anger, or supporting the ludicrous notion that they magically stop being angry, but simply advocating for calm discourse, which is, on average, more likely to produce meaningful dialogue.”

Discussions in social justice forums often revolve around examples of extreme injustice. They are therefore highly emotive to those who have been injured by such injustices, and the desire to keep discussion calm above all other considerations is often used as a tool to bludgeon the debate in favour of the oppressors.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Cipher » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:18 am

Xanthë wrote:“If i simply say that it would be better if no one shouted, i'm not asking the other person to somehow set aside their anger, or supporting the ludicrous notion that they magically stop being angry, but simply advocating for calm discourse, which is, on average, more likely to produce meaningful dialogue.”

Discussions in social justice forums often revolve around examples of extreme injustice. They are therefore highly emotive to those who have been injured by such injustices, and the desire to keep discussion calm above all other considerations is often used as a tool to bludgeon the debate in favour of the oppressors.

This is a really important point. (I don't have anything to add, I just wanted to point and say THIS)
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby GreenLanternsLight » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:21 am

I think there's a bit of misunderstanding going on. What if one person well and truly misunderstands another, begins shouting at them, and, in an attempt to understand WHY that person is shouting, the person asks for EVERYONE to remain calm so that they can sort out the source of the problem?

I'm not sure if my words are being understood as they're intended (seems to be one of those days). The feeling i'm getting is that the ONLY scenario is that person A WILLFULLY disparages person B, Person B gets upset and shouts, and Person A THEN asks for everyone to be civil. In this particular scenario, person A clearly has no right to call for a tone of discussion. However, it may not always be the case as i illustrated above.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby GreenLanternsLight » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:25 am

(Ha, me talking to you about goodwill. But I'm trying here, I'm really trying.)

IMO, apologies aren't good enough anyways. Words are just stupid noises that escape the mouth and are gone forever except in our memories. It's actions I tend to pay attention to.


If words are just "stupid noises", then someone calling for civil discussion (whether they were the one that blundered or not) while at the same time RESPECTING the other person's anger and telling them so should not be seen automatically as some massive slap of oppression.

And yeah, coyote, I'm going to go ahead and ask you not to address any posts to me anymore.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Cipher » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:27 am

GreenLanternsLight wrote:I think there's a bit of misunderstanding going on. What if one person well and truly misunderstands another, begins shouting at them, and, in an attempt to understand WHY that person is shouting, asks for EVERYONE to remain calm so that they can sort out the source of the problem?

I'm not sure if my words are being understood as they're intended (seems to be one of those days). The feeling i'm getting is that the ONLY scenario is that person A WILLFULLY disparages person B, Person B gets upset and shouts, and Person A THEN asks for everyone to be civil. In this particular scenario, person A clearly has no right to call for a tone of discussion. However, it may not always be the case as i illustrated above.

No, I believe you're actually being quite clear. (Unfortunately, the result is that I think you're really really not getting it about tone-policing!) It really doesn't matter if it's willful or not - the intention doesn't have any bearing at all. Person A has done the harm regardless of what is in the depths of their heart (did you read the link you were given in the other thread?). And keep in mind that Person A and Person B are probably not stuck in a room together - if Person A is having trouble understanding the shouting, Person A can apologize and go away to either reflect or find resources that will help them understand why what they said was harmful. After Person A has done harm, asking "everyone" to stay calm - as people have pointed out - puts disproportionate onus on the person who's actually been harmed to swallow that harm, which is all kinds of unfair.

Edited to clarify "onus"
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Lovely » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:29 am

It's still not going to fly. In most situations online a person isn't just called a name when they're called out.

The offending passage is quoted, or a person will usually post a direct refute to something that was said. In other words, it's easy... even if there's swearing or capslock... to determine WHICH words did the offending.

Typing into a forum, "Can you calmly tell me what I did wrong?" The intention just doesn't matter. (See 8 on the list) In a place like this it's up to the privileged to self-educate.

I imagine that you're thinking of a time when a person says something, and then there's a misunderstanding on another person's part. That might be fixable. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean a, b, c. I mean x, y, z." Of course, this assumes that x y & z aren't just more privilege talk.

In the end, it's really not difficult on a forum to tell what has upset a person.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby GreenLanternsLight » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:32 am

Alright... I was more talking along the lines of verbal discussion but ok.

So just to be clear, intention never means anything ever, and that if a person meant no offense to another and finds themselves being verbally assaulted or called pejoratives, then thats just something Person A is going to have to put up with, because privilege?

And is it still wrong to ask for something of a reduced volume level, if only to ascertain what offence was done?
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby Xanthë » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:35 am

GLL, if you think the only problem is giving offense willfully then you really need to grok the lesson of ‘intent isn’t magic’ — and also, I’m not convinced by you trying to develop a rules-based panacea for all discussions based on who disparaged who, who got upset and shouted. Not everyone is alike in how they respond to discussions, and there are constellations of personality types who are likely to rub up against one another the wrong way — there are several particular people I avoid getting into arguments with since I know we’ll usually jump on the worst features of the other, rather than respond to the best.
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby The_Laughing_Coyote » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:36 am

another way NOT to deal with being called out: Acting like the person being called out is just as much if not more of a victim than the people xie offended. (I see this one all the time).
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Re: On How To Deal With Being Called Out

Postby GreenLanternsLight » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:37 am

Xanthë wrote:GLL, if you think the only problem is giving offense willfully then you really need to grok the lesson of ‘intent isn’t magic’ — and also, I’m not convinced by you trying to develop a rules-based panacea for all discussions based on who disparaged who, who got upset and shouted. Not everyone is alike in how they respond to discussions, and there are constellations of personality types who are likely to rub up against one another the wrong way — there are several particular people I avoid getting into arguments with since I know we’ll usually jump on the worst features of the other, rather than respond to the best.


Thanks for acknowledging that last part. And I am really, truly trying to figure out why it is NEVER EVER OK to ask for calm in the hypotheticals i presented.

I don't care if nobody believes me. I'm simply trying to understand.
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