Callout Culture

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Synonyms: Cancel Culture
See also: Purity Culture in Fandom, Receipt Blog, Your Fave Is Problematic
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"Calling out" is to bring public attention to perceived oppressive or problematic behavior, and a "callout post" is a post or document online in which the callout occurs. This can be on a blog, a Twitter thread, or even a Google doc, but a callout post can happen anywhere. Some websites specifically include places for callout posts, such as Toyhouse's "Service Reviews" forum section. "Receipts" are what users online call proof of an accusation. This can include screenshots, video, or stories from people who knew/know the person.

Users who receive callouts may be deemed "cancelled." When a callout post is made about someone, especially a popular person, others online may say "(name of person) is cancelled," and this is where the phrase "cancel culture" comes from. This is essentially the same thing as boycotting a product. For example, when people new to Vivzmind discovered her through Hazbin Hotel, Vivzmind's past accusations re-surfaced. This caused a new wave of fans suddenly decrying her and "cancelling" Hazbin Hotel and Vivzmind's other modern work.

Callout culture has a section on Wikipedia on the "Online Shaming" page.

History of Callout Culture

While there may be some claims that callout culture is Tumblr-centric, callout posts have been around for a long time. There have been callout posts made as early as 2006, in the case of an extremly long callout post for MsScribe (The Ms.Scribe Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography) on JournalFen.

In the Livejournal era, callouts were rare, though not unheard of. In 2008 there was a callout post for Laura Hale (Calling out Michaela Ecks/Laura Hale/Purplepopple/Partly Bouncy) posted on LiveJournal. Another example of a LiveJournal callout blog comes from 2007 in the form of a drama blog called Sf-Drama, or "Stupid Free Drama." Though they joined in 2007, posts are only as old as 2012.[1] While some posts are simply bloggers venting, many of the posts are essentially callout posts. Some examples from the blog: A 2012 post calling for people to report an author as a pedophile, a 2012 post calling out certain LiveJournal users' opinions on domestic violence, and a 2013 post calling out a specific blogger's opinions on sexuality.

Callout Methods

Callout Posts

Callout posts are often long, winding documentations of someone's behavior, both online and in real life. A "good" callout post includes screenshots and a multitude of sources to back them up. These can be people who've known the person closely, such as friends, Discord moderators, ex-partners, commissioners/clients, employees, etc. Screenshots and sources are incredibly important for credibility, and the more people willing to put their name/username on the documentation the better (as anon sources are questionable). A "bad" callout post has little to no screenshots nor open sources and relies heavily on anon sources, personal experience, and he-said-she-said. Callout posts like these run the risk of appearing faked, exaggerated, or influenced by ulterior motive. However, even "good" callout posts can be questionable. Callout posts should always be reviewed thoroughly and taken with a grain of salt otherwise, with the reader using their best judgment on whether or not the accusations are warranted or believable.

Callout posts became most popular on Tumblr, due to the ease and speed of signal boosting via reblogs. Callout posts tended to use social justice buzzwords and terms, and often included accusations of bullying, stalking, harassment, lying, and other perceived negative behaviours. There were cases in which this could be a way to alert younger users of predators, or as a way to alert users of racist, misogynistic or other prejudiced behaviour by another user. However, those on the receiving end of of a callout post tended to lose their reputation, and a number of callout posts included false accusations and abused the signal boost system to ruin someone's reputation over a minor fandom slight. [2]

The blog Your Fave Is Problematic is understood as being a major contributor to the rise of callout culture. The blog was known for its callout posts and for celebrities and other popular cultural figures. These examples (or "receipts") received a great deal of criticism for being frequently exaggerated, taken out of context, lacking nuance, or describing events the incriminated figure had long since apologized for.

Receipt blogs are another way of formatting callouts. These are blogs specifically dedicated to congregating callout content and proof of misdeed, usually towards a specific person. Receipt blogs may follow someone for a long time, digging into old content and taking new content to use as proof of the person being bad. A receipt blog can also be used to gather and store information from multiple informants, or may be used for anons to make claims via asks or submissions, with or without proof. The use of a receipt blog can come with mixed reactions, as receipt blogs tend to seem much more like stalking and harassment then a simple callout post on its own would. However, sometimes a receipt blog may be host to only the original callout, possibly due to the author not wanting the callout directly on their personal blog. An example of a receipt blog is the 2015 Tumblr blog "enoughisenough-dollcreep," a blog by Vivzmind directed as the artist Dollcreep.[3]

Effects of Callouts

The victims of callouts can have their lives practically ruined by false accusations and crusades to bring them down if they are not guilty of anything. One particular woman was falsely reported for running a zoophile and animal abuse blog. The owner of said zoophilia blog happened to be using a picture they'd taken from the victim's Facebook account, of an animal rescue center she worked with. The woman ended up losing her position and was never allowed to work at another animal rescue center due to the false charges, even when she was proven innocent. [4]

John Green was a victim of Callout Culture as multitudes of young female fans did not like that a white adult male was existing on Tumblr alongside them. They called his writing books to appeal to girls and women "creepy" and spread rumors of him being sexist, transphobic, and that he touched female fans at cons without their consent. The last one is completely inaccurate due to Green suffering from OCD; he does not like to touch people due to severe germphobia. [5]

Callout culture has even caused some of its victims to attempt suicide due to repeated harassment. Zamii070, a Steven Universe fan artist, had a callout post made about her in 2015. This also included receipt blogs made specifically to follow and host any and all accused controversial content created by her. She had been accused of fatphobia, transphobia, and racism with her Steven Universe fanart, as well as one of her My Little Pony pieces. She had drawn Rose Quartz in a way other fans saw as 'too skinny,' and drew a humanized version of Fluttershy in Native American dress. She received a lot of harassment concerning the art. In Oct 2015 Zamii attempted suicide, then later revealed she had survived and had been hospitalized.[6] The event even had a news article written about it, bringing the callout culture of fandom and Tumblr into a more public eye.

Prior to Zamii’s alarming initial farewell, members of the Steven Universe and Homestuck fandoms had reportedly created more than 40 critical blogs and other social media accounts directed at her because they believed she was purveying problematic depictions of many of the characters she drew.

[snipped]

Zamii created a list of rebuttals and explanations, including apologies, to many of the accusations of transmisogyny and problematic elements in her art. In response to claims of racism against Native Americans, she wrote, “[I] have apologized for it countless times and have deleted the picture within a few days of posting it.” It wasn’t enough to halt her feeling that she was being bullied. Though Zamii is recovering—her most recent update was Monday—the concern over the abuse she received has caused a maelstrom throughout her fandoms. A post made last week on Reddit‘s Homestuck subreddit about the situation garnered dozens of supportive comments condemning the culture that motivated the bullying. The Steven Universe and related tags on Tumblr have been overflowing with similar outrage, backlash to the sentiment that harassment and bullying are somehow justified when they’re in the name of progressive ideals.
Dailydot, Oct 27, 2015[7]

Callout posts, when made about people who truly have been discriminatory (such as being racist, homophobic, transphobic) or other problematic issues (pedophilia, zoophilia, rape-apologists), appear to rarely have positive effect on the actions of the person being called out. These people may see themselves as the victim of "bullies" or "haters," and then they continue the actions that caused them to get called out instead of being apologetic. Some examples include LupisVulpes and Metrix-86. However, in some cases they may be publicly shamed into changing, regardless of if they actually are genuinely sorry or not (or if others believe they are sorry or not). Examples include DrawingWillingly and Vivzmind. However, regardless of the effect on those being called out, those on the outside who view the callout posts will be effected as well. Onlookers may being boycotting the person (or "cancelling"), posting inflammatory content about them (sometimes directed at them personally, such as by sending asks on Tumblr or commenting on their profiles/content), and telling others to avoid them.

The use of callouts could actually be helpful in the case of actual predators who were known for sexually abusing minors, particularly young girls. One particular case involved a man who called himself fort_kanji. This man targeted young white women with sexually explicit e-mails and, upon receiving their contact info, sent them dangerous objects and demanded they masturbate with them. If any of these women blocked him, he would use the internet to stalk them. He was known for psuedo-intellectual racism and sexism as well, and had a fetish for sickly girls. [8] In cases such as this, callouts were seen as useful, protecting minors from a potential threat.

Opinions

Negative

Being that callout posts are negative posts in general it's no surprise many people have a negative view of them. These people may see callout posts as unwarranted, exaggerated, or see their contents as just not as big a deal as the callout posts make them seem to be. Because callouts can ruin the reputation of someone, people with a poor view of callout posts may feel pity for those at the other end of them, especially when they believe the contents of the callout are taken out of context or unfounded.

Someone makes a post denouncing behaviour that they deem to be “problematique”, because they have appointed themselves Police of the internet and want to make sure that the person with the perceived objectionable behaviour either a) grovels for forgiveness or b) is bullied off the internet forever - hurrah! Is very rarely employed against actual problematic behaviour and more often used for a personal vendetta or for clout.
Anon defining "Callout Post" from the Fannish Drift Survey, Aug 2020.
bizarre cultural phenomenom when possibly young and new fans believe they need to publically accuse and crucify and stamp out from fandom/existence anyone who posts anything (past or present) that offends them.Anon defining "Callout Post" from the Fannish Drift Survey, Aug 2020.
In 2019 we laying purity culture to rest. We gonna acknowledge people fuck up and then they learn and grow from it. If we were all perfect little cinnamon rolls there wouldn’t be any problems left to solve in the world but you know that shit isn’t realistic. Bringing up receipts about something somebody did 5-10 years ago at this point that they’ve apologized for, grown from and have committed to not repeating is ridiculous.
Daniel-the-rogue, Jan 3, 2019[9]

Positive

Some people see callout posts as being a positive and important part of staying safe online. This is because the main function of a callout post is to inform massive amounts of people about staying away from others who may be deemed racist, homophobic, transphobic, pedophilic, pro-shipping (a word often synonymous with incest and pedophilic ships), among others. They may see the positives of callout culture as being more numerous than the negatives, and may even be suspicious of people who dislike callout culture (as to them this may be an indication that someone is a supporter of something mortally wrong).[10] In artist communities callout posts play an important part in making clients aware of which artists have been known to steal, trace, or scam clients in general.

Used to be more rare, this was a post on whatever social media site pointing out bad behavior by a certain person and/or a problematic choice by a professional content creator. Often used to point out bigotry in some form in the canon content (the racism of the cock fight between Ronon and Teal'c in Stargate) or bringing to light abusive behaviors by other fans, among other things.
Anon defining "Callout Post" from the Fannish Drift Survey, Aug 2020.
PSA: Your first response to being told your behavior/behavior you’re perpetuating is problematic will probably be to take it personally, it’s always hard to take a realization about yourself, but realize most importantly: it is not about you. Don’t tone police, don’t down play the implications, and don’t make it about your feelings. Learn, listen, and take responsibility.pleasekayfabe, Sept 2, 2017. [11]
You know, we probably wouldn’t need callout-culture if the folks running online spaces (And to a greater extent IRL spaces) actually gave a shit about enforcing rules against nazis; pedos/predators and racism/sexism/LGBTQIAP-phobia/ect. So. if you hate callout culture (And god knows I do to some extent), maybe we need to cast our blame a bit higher. Like, torches-and-pitchforks-in-front-of-their-offices higher, @staff, @support...
titleknown, Aug 22, 2018. [12]

Mixed

Others can see both the merits and the down sides of callout posts. These people may see how a well-placed and through callout post against truly abhorrent behavior can be helpful, while also seeing its misuse as a terrible weapon against people who may be harmless.

Fandom busybody makes post dragging another person through the mud. Occasionally this is legitimate, ex: calling out actual predators, but most times it's just to throw out unjust or outright wrong accusations because that other person ships something the busybody doesn't like.Anon defining "Callout Post" from the Fannish Drift Survey, Aug 2020.
A post that lists another user's "problematic" behavior. More precisely, sometimes a legit account of troubling/long-standing attitudes, but sometimes very nit-picky and unable to differentiate between enjoyment & endorsement.
Anon defining "Callout Post" from the Fannish Drift Survey, Aug 2020.
"modern callout culture is so toxic!" okay... maybe you're right... but like... do you mean that in a "young teens shouldn't be run off a website for making mistakes that they rectified and apologized for" way or a "stop being mean to self admitted pedophiles and racists uwu" wayBeetledrink, Jul 18, 2017.[13]

Notable Callout Posts and Examples

These explanations are extremely simplified and should not be taken as the full stories. Like with any callout posts or online accusations, readers should view the callout posts and other online information regarding them before making any broad judgments.

  • Calling out Michaela Ecks/Laura Hale/Purplepopple/Partly Bouncy (2008)- Called out for business practices regarding her fandom-based wiki, among other things.
  • MsScribe (2006)- Called out for being the master of several sockpuppet accounts within the Harry Potter fandom. She received an extremly long callout post called The Ms.Scribe Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography.
  • Vivzmind (Circa 2012-2020)- Vivzmind has been a long-time popular artist and animator online and has had several waves of callout posts and numerous accusations. Though many callouts were about her past (in 2014 and older, over six years ago) there are a few new accusations that have come with her animation pitch for Hazbin Hotel.
  • Zamii (2015)- A Steven Universe fan who received callout posts for her art of certain characters from the show, and "receipt blogs" were created for her as well. She later attempted suicide due to the negative attention.
  • Metrix-86 (2020)- A Half Life VR but the AI is Self-Aware fan who has had at least three callout posts, one of them in video format on YouTube, for drawing shota and non-con of HLVRAI characters.
  • SethPup (2020)- A popular furry artist on Twitter who got called out for owning a secret Twitter account dedicated to zoophilia and non-con with animals.

References

  1. ^ Sf-Drama, LiveJournal. (Accessed 9/22/2020)
  2. ^ You guys make me sick. Literally you treat fiction as if someone committed a crime., Archived version
  3. ^ Enough is Enough Dollcreep, Tumblr. Oct 22, 2015 (Accessed 9/23/2020)
  4. ^ https://antis-delete-your-blogs-pls-thx.tumblr.com/post/189743237966/cherri-z-kat-the-dog-trainer-sorry-to-break
  5. ^ John Green Tells a Story of Emotional Pain and Crippling Anxiety. His Own.
  6. ^ Zamii070 Harassment Controversy, KnowYourMeme. (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  7. ^ Steven Universe Fanartist Bullied, Dailydot. Oct 27, 2015 (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  8. ^ WARNING: WATCH OUT FOR THIS CREEP!
  9. ^ In 2019 we laying purity culture to rest, Tumblr. Jan 2, 2019 (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  10. ^ Editor's note: Someone I know closely, when discussing callout culture with me, downplays any perceived negatives of callout culture and is suspicious of anyone who says callout culture is bad. They automatically assume anyone in opposition of making callout posts is someone who is a supporter of morally wrong things, such as pedophilia. (Patchlamb, 9/15/2020)
  11. ^ PSA: Your first response to being told... Tumblr. Sept 2, 2017 (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  12. ^ You know, we probably wouldn’t need callout-culture... Tumblr. Aug 22, 2018 (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  13. ^ "modern callout culture is so toxic!" Tumblr. Jul 18, 2017 (Accessed 9/13/2020)