Bad survivor

Whenever “call out culture” is critiqued I typically approach the piece with skepticism–it’s a term so loosely used to the point of being useless at this point, and I just want people to define their terms precisely. Regardless of what we actually call it, this piece is about non-state methods of community policing, and has some valuable observations on how messy the process can be:

Content Notice: Abuse, threats of violence.

The vast majority of the radical and queer communities — myself included — do not believe in the prison system. We understand that the criminal “justice” system is really just a racist profit machine that has no intention of rehabilitating offenders. Further, my assailant is transgender. As a transgender woman who’s already experienced firsthand the kind of violence that trans people face in jail, I was unwilling to involve the police in the wake of my assault.

As a result, I sought to enter into a transformative justice process with my assailant. I understood that they were raised in an extremely conservative Christian homeschooling setting and had never received any kind of affirmative-consent-based education — they likely had no clue of the ways in which they were being violent. I knew that if they could come to understand the ways in which their behavior was harmful, then they could do the work necessary to hold themselves accountable and become a better person. However, after two months of attempting to get in touch with my assailant, I was ultimately unsuccessful in getting them to meet with me, and so I eventually gave up and took a different approach.

I wrote a long private Facebook post naming them and detailing what they had done to me. I needed to be able to tell my story and speak my truth — and that is what I did. However, I did not want my story to turn into a witch-hunt against a trans-femme person, and I said so explicitly. I didn’t need or want for them to be run out of town or for physical harm to come to them. The only things I needed and asked for were for people to hear my story and to not invite both of us to the same event. I had said my piece and was ready to move on. However, that was not to be.

Less than an hour after I told my story, a prominent member of the local queer community — with whom I was Facebook friends but barely knew — hijacked my story and made their own public callout of my assailant. In it they called for people to beat up my assailant, going against all of my explicitly stated wishes. Their goal was to run my assailant out of town. This was theoretically to keep them from hurting more people, but the more I spoke to the person who’d posted the callout, the more I realized that they simply wanted to shove my assailant somewhere else so that their behavior wouldn’t be our community’s problem anymore. This person even went so far as to say to the world that I was being morally and tactically reprehensible for refusing to condone violence.

I sympathize. I’m scared shitless to try and initiate any community-based proceedings against my abuser because I fear she will retaliate by manipulating them against me, but I have outright disavowed the law system too for similar reasons listed above. So I’ve had to tiptoe around her presence at community events, something which has functionally shut me out despite the community’s proclamations to outlaw people like her.

Read more here.



  1. The Mellow Monkey says

    A professional acquaintance of mine I’ll call S was the victim of a campaign of harassment that still rears its head occasionally, with no ultimate end in sight beyond S dying, which is an event her harassers are clearly hoping for sooner rather than later. S is a QWOC who, yes, said some harmful stuff many years ago. And she apologized and changed her behavior, but that’s not good enough for those who continue to harass her. The one who started the grand callout–which included quite a few outlandish accusations that were patently false–was a Good Liberal White Woman whose platform was amplified by a couple Famous Liberal White Men, who were all so eager to show off their liberal bona fides by attacking someone who’d said something problematic. Through my acquaintance with S, I’ve met other targets of this sort of campaign, and as Erika Haberman notes in the piece you linked, the people who get targeted for this harassment are usually the most vulnerable.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with saying, “This thing you said/did/supported is harmful”, but there is a point where it slides into abuse (or in S’s case, goes crashing through the wall Kool-Aid man style into abuse). It might be a matter of volume, like when someone with a large social media presence turns their followers on a target. Quite often the line between a callout and abuse is in the end goal, where someone isn’t trying to stop problematic behavior but has decided they must stop a problematic person. And trying to harass a person into self-harm and isolate them from their community absent an immediate threat has little to do with social justice or callout culture. These remain incredibly popular tactics from the anti-social justice side.

    There isn’t an easy answer for this and whatever solution there is, it’s not going to be found in a laser-like focus on callout culture, which isn’t the origin. Abuse, harassment, stalking, and sexual assault are all part of society as a whole. That they show up even in places where we’re trying to fight them is terrible and needs to be addressed, but also is no surprise. To combat those ills, we have to admit they’re always a risk.