A couple of weeks ago I got challeneged on using a supposed “sexist” term. For the record I still maintain the term was not really sexist but hey, someone called me out on it, that’s their opinion and that is that. The issue I had was not that I was called out, but the accusatory and confrontational tone in which it was done. (I paraphrase) “What the fuck man, that’s so sexist, you can’t say that, you’re a sexist…”. This tone immediately got my back up and oddly the discussion ended with me challenging them on how they called me out. (I again paraphrase) “Dude, I appreciate that you let me know that this term was seen as incorrect, but don’t ever jump down my throat calling me sexist again, check yourself please.”
So this got me thinking a little about how you would go about calling someone out, how you would phrase it and how you would handle the situation if you were the one being called out.
Opinions: They are allegedly like arseholes, as we all have them and they all stink. Well maybe that’s true but more pressingly, opinions in the most part should be respected. Lets dump the ones that should not be respected for now. If some dick starts up with overtly fascist, homophobic, sexist, ableist or any other kind of discriminatory abuse then give ’em both barrels.
Here I want to talk about calling people out on things where they probably were not even aware what they said or did was offensive or incorrect or made others feel uncomfortable. For example a friend of mine was challenged on their overly macho/hembra behaviour at an event (if someone knows a gender-neutral term for macho/hembra please leave a comment). Some people felt the behaviour made others feel uncomfortable and so they were challenged. Unfortunately the individual in question just could not see the others point of view. They suggested they were wrong and ze was only having fun and meant no harm.
BUT THIS IS NOT THE FUCKING POINT IS IT? – Someone’s feelings can not be wrong, it is their feelings and as such should be respected. When those negative feelings have been formed as a result of your words, actions or manner then it is pretty damn imperative that you take it on board. Calling someone out is a hard thing to do, it can take some nerve and when the individual denies it you really can feel you knees start to wobble.
A friend told me of a partner they had that was encouraging them to do something. Even though they wanted to do it, they felt it was dominating too many conversations and it was building it up to be this really big deal. They had previously mentioned to their partner they had issues around this kind of thing based on bad past experiences. They wanted to pull out of the conversation but did it by going “For Fuck’s Sake, Stop Pressuring Me!” This probably wasn’t the best way to go about things and the partner reacted by stopping all future relations with them and saying they were “being a drama queen”. This highlighted the two points I want to cover. Think before you speak and respect people’s opinions. So here’s some bullet points for thought and discussion.
POINTS ON CALLING OUT:
- If you are thinking of challenging someone, be reasonable.
- Consider other people’s histories.
- If you challenge someone, choose your words carefully.
- If you challenge someone always express these are your feelings.
- If you are called out, respect people’s opinions.
- If you are called out, don’t get defensive.
- If you are called out, think about it!
- If you have challenged someone or have been challenged, leave sleeping dogs lie.
Being “the first” to call someone out is an easy way to rack up your activist points (remember kiddies, it’s like Logan’s Run, as soon as you get 30 you’re out of there!) Check yourself before you run headlong into being more PC than thou. Consider why someone may have said something or phrased it like they did. Let these thoughts underpin how you engage with that person. Maybe start with “Hey I notice that you said… I just thought you would like to know that some people may feel that is … for ….. reason” or “Hey you’re new here arent you, thanks for coming to the meeting…”
Considering other people’s histories is something you need to do on an almost subconscious level. Being aware of how what you do and say could affect different people depending on many different aspects is important. This could prevent regrettable situations occurring in the first place. Try to remember that one persons “drama queen” is another persons emotional trauma! An example maybe when discussing sexual relations to assume everyone is a survivor of abuse untill told differently. Or to assume everyone does not conform to the gender binary untill told otherwise.
Be aware that your use of language can easily cause offence or be misinterpreted, this can lead to a situation escalating. If you’re not planning on telling them they are a sexist bastard straight off then you might want to run over what you want to say in your head a few times to make sure it is not going to be taken the wrong way or make things worse.
Make it clear these are your personal feelings (or the feelings of a group where appropriate). In my experience this makes the individual being challenged more willing to listen and take on board what you are saying, opening up space for constructive dialogue.
Active listening is the kicker here when you are challenged on something and ties the other points together. Maybe you are being told something new, something which you may struggle to grasp so listen carefully and ask for clarification if needed. Respect people’s point of view and don’t get your back up so quickly. This is the important bit now. Listen to what they say, think about it, mull it over a bit more and then respond in a non-defensive manner (assuming of course that the person who has challenged you has followed their own action points here). Maybe you want to say “Yes, shit your right, I hadn’t thought about it like that before.” or maybe you do want to enter into a conversation, but take care, and remember it’s a CONVERSATION not a debate or an argument. You do not need to win, or prove your point.
This brings me on to the last point, let sleeping dogs lie. If the person you have challenged has accepted what you said then leave it. If they haven’t then at this stage it still may be better to leave it or you risk escalating a situation. If you feel yourself being dragged into a debate then take care and be prepared to walk away before things get heated. Remember your are friends and comrades. If you have been challenged then take it in and leave it. It is probably a good idea to sit on the initial response that comes into your head. Being challenged is not the nicest feeling, when it happens to me it can stick in my head for hours or even days. By this time you may find that the only response you need to give is taking heed of what the person said and altering how you act or speak accordingly. Alternatively you may want to strike up a friendly conversation with them. Don’t be offended though if they don’t want to talk about it, hopefully you have enough common sence to judge that one for yourself. Some things can be very triggering for people so think first.
So yeah, that’s it for now, my feelings on calling out and being called out.
Feel free to comment.