Critiques of call-out culture: a linkspam

This is a repost of an linkspam I created in 2015.  So naturally, all the links come from 2015 or earlier.  I’ve removed a few broken links, and added some contextualizing commentary at the bottom.

One of the most common complaints by social justice activists about social justice activism is that there’s a lot of toxicity. Whenever an activist makes a misstep, other activists will “call out” that person, sometimes directing a disproportionate amount of anger and abuse at them. This pattern is often (but not always) referred to as “call-out culture”.

For a while, I’ve been collecting a lot of articles and blog posts which critique call-out culture from an internal view point. My main motivation is that I would like to write about the topic myself, and I’d like my ideas to be responsive to what has already been said.

  1. Lisa Harney, Questioning Transphobia: The Culture of Internet Callouts (August 2010)
  2. ourcatastrophe: On “call-out culture” and why I’m not into it (July 2011)
  3. Flavia Dzodan, Tiger Beatdown: Come one, come all! Feminism and Social Justice blogging as performance and bloodshed (October 2011)
  4. Aoife, Consider the Tea Cosy: Callout culture, tone trolling and being the perfect ally (October 2012)
  5. Ngọc Loan Trần, Black Girl Dangerous: Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable (December 2013)
  6. Verónica Bayetti Flores, Feministing: On cynicism, calling out, and creating movements that don’t leave our movement behind (December 2013)
  7. Zoyə Street, Medium: A more peaceful 2014: Addressing peer hostility (January 2014)
  8. Mattie Brice: On Civility (January 2014)
  9. Katherine Cross, Nuclear Unicorn: Words, Words, Words: On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism and Beyond Niceness: Further Thoughts on Rage (January 2014)
  10. Katherine Cross, Nuclear Unicorn: The Chapel Perilous: On the Quiet Narratives in the Shadows (February 2014)
  11. Queenie, The Asexual Agenda: Justice, anger, and the demand for perfection: why tumblr’s blogging culture isn’t making for safe spaces (March 2014)
  12. Ozy Frantz, Thing of Things, Certain Propositions Concerning Callout Culture (December 2014)
  13. Noah Berlatsky, Ravishly: How To Make The Queer And Feminism Movements More Inclusive: Activist Julia Serano Speaks Out (February 2015)
  14. Asam Ahmad, Briar Patch Magazine: A Note on Call-Out Culture (March 2015)
  15. Katherine Cross, Feministing: So you’ve been publicly scapegoated: Why we must speak out on call-out culture and Words for Cutting: Why we need to stop abusing “the tone argument” (April 2015)
  16. Stephanie Zvan, Almost Diamonds: Abuse and Power in Activism (August 2015)

This linkspam will not be updated, but you are welcome to suggest more links in the comments.

Comment on 2017: While there are many more recent articles on callout culture, I have not been keeping track of them since creating this linkspam.  However, my presumption is that the old links still give a good overview, and that most of what is currently said isn’t new.  At the time that I created this linkspam, I wanted to write more on this subject, but ended up not doing so.  Maybe I will write about it in the near future.


  1. says

    I think we should replace Call Out Culture with Clap Back Culture. Fire a snarky comment, and then step away. That’s what I try to do.

  2. says

    I’m curious: I haven’t read nearly as much as you, but in what I have read was a lot of critique but very few (if any at all) actual concrete examples of people actually being called out. Do your sources have good examples of what is being critiqued here?

  3. says

    So I glanced at the first article, and skimmed two at random (#3 and #13), and didn’t see any actual concrete examples of anyone actually being “called out”. I have to get ready for work; maybe I’ll look into it more later.

    But it seems like a waste of my time to read criticism of something that I can’t see concrete examples of.

  4. says


    People occasionally provide examples, but they can be thin. The thing is, when you provide an example, that’s just begging for all the attention to be redirected towards the example. People with or without knowledge of the context would nitpick endlessly–an encore of the very problem being complained about. So, some of the easiest examples are anecdotal (ie without links), clear-cut (ie the call-out was just mistaken about something), or involve a mea culpa.

    The lack of examples is tolerable, since most of the target audience can already think of examples in their own life. But I do think there are a few problems. First, there’s a tendency for critiques of call-out culture to be co-opted by concern trolls (see first link in #15), and so without examples it might be difficult to tell whether you’re a concern troll. Second, I get the impression that call-out culture actually manifests in different ways in different spaces. Tumblr is different from Twitter, is different from Facebook, is different from blogs. I think people who only read blogs might not get how common of an issue this is.

  5. says

    I do have my own complaints about the articles in this list. Once upon a time I was planning on writing a summary of the main points that people were making, but I found myself to be so critical of the articles that I couldn’t do it.

    The main issue I had was that several of the articles are so longwinded and say little of substance. #3 is a big offender. I was also very critical of #5 (which I see is now behind a paywall), which basically said, “instead of doing this, let’s try not doing it”, which isn’t really a solution.

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