Let’s face it: being called out sucks. We like to think we’re “woke” and know everything about smashing the white supremacist cis-heteronormative imperialist ableist capitalist patriarchy. We log onto Everyday Feminism religiously, and our bookshelves are overflowing with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Audre Lorde. We’ve got our shit together, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. We’re still human, and we’re all still giant fuck-up machines (as I once heard Yvette “The SciBabe” d’Entremont say), so call outs are inevitable in social justice activism.
Sometimes it’s over a simple boo-boo, like unknowingly saying something ableist. Other times, it’s over a giant fuck-up, like the time I demanded emotional labor from people in a couple of feminist groups. Either way, realizing your shit stinks as much as the next person’s still sucks.
It doesn’t help if you are in any way either mentally ill or neurodivergent. I have depression, anxiety, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, so I never know if someone is calling me out to hold me accountable or just to be holier-than-thou.
A lot has been said about toxic call-out culture among certain social justice activists where they put you through ideological purity tests and shun you if you fail. I once thought I was the target of such a witch hunt a little over a year ago. As I mentioned earlier, there was an incident where I demanded emotional labor from people in a couple of feminist Facebook groups. When they called me out on it, I wrote an angry blog post about “toxic feminists,” and then got called out on that blog post a few months later. Instead of backing away and thinking about what they were saying, though, I felt like they were attacking me and had a panic attack. It wasn’t until a trusted friend pulled me aside and told me I was in the wrong that I changed my tune. For the next month, I laid low on social media and started researching how to process call outs while staying mentally healthy, and here are some tips I picked up along the way:
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