Callout Culture

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Synonyms: Cancel Culture
See also: Puriteen, 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. People, especially popular artists, who receive callout posts may be deemed "cancelled" (see Cancel Culture and Being Cancelled).

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 a 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 posts later became popular on Tumblr due to the ease and speed of signal boosting via reblogs. The Tumblr blog Your Fave Is Problematic is understood as being a major contributor to the rise of callout culture in the 2010s. The blog was known for its callout posts on 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.[2][3]

Callout Methods and Practices

Callout posts can be short or long, and may document someone's behavior both online and in real life. Some of the behaviors or perceived behaviors that may be included in callout posts include, but are not limited to: accusations of bullying, stalking, general harassment, emotional manipulation, art theft/tracing/color picking, block evading, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, grooming children/pedophilia, being a proshipper[4] or antishipper, and more. Some of these phrases may be considered by some to be "social justice buzzwords." Those on the receiving end of a callout post can lose their reputation, even if allegations are discovered to be false (see Effects of Callouts).

While callout posts vary in content and purpose, there are some callout post practices that are generally agreed upon to be "better" than others, such as including accurate screenshots and ample, non-anonymous sources. However, users online more frequently discuss what they see as "bad" callout post practices, rather than what they view as good practice. "Good" practices can be parsed out by what users consider "bad" practices. One such Twitter that focuses on this is @BadCalloutPosts, which allows submissions of "bad" callout posts. An example from @BadCalloutPosts which gives a glimpse into what some consider to be bad practice is from a July 2019 callout post, in which the callout post creator was criticized for sharing porn to minors within their callout post's content to "warn them" about it.[5]

Callout posts are typically accompanied by screenshots, which are used as proof of abhorrent or perceived abhorrent behavior. Screenshots can include public information, such as from public social media posts, or may come from private messages that the callout poster may or may not have permission to share publicly. Though meant to be used to prove the point of their callout post, some users disagree and warn that screenshots can be faked or taken out of context.[6] This means for some, even callout posts with many screenshots can be "bad" callout posts depending upon whether the screenshots are perceived as real, faked, or taken out of context.

Receipt blogs on Tumblr or Twitter are another way of formatting callouts. These are specifically dedicated to congregating callout content and proof of misdeed or perceived 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. 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 Tumblr asks or submissions, with or without proof. The use of a receipt blog can come with mixed reactions, as receipt blogs tend to be seen 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 Vivzipop directed as the artist Dollcreep.[7]

Many callout posts of 2020s contain the phrase "do not harass this user" as a warning to block the user only. However, others may still consider the act of maintaining a long callout post to be an act of harassment within itself, especially if the callout post is perceived as unfounded or contains insulting replies within its comment chains.

Effects of Callouts

As a consequence of callout posts, both the subject of the callout post and poster themself can have their reputations changed or ruined, even if accusations are later discovered to be false or exaggerated. For example, an anonymous Tumblr ask sent to the blog report-a-predator claimed that user crazy-possum-lady was a zoophile. This caused her to lose her job with an animal rescue center. In actuality, a zoophile social media account had stolen crazy-possum-lady's photos from her Facebook. This false accusation from an anon had real life consequences.[8]

John Green was a victim of Callout Culture. His writing, which to appealed to girls and women, was accused of being "creepy," and rumors spread of him being sexist, transphobic, and that he touched female fans at cons without their consent.[citation needed] However, Green suffers from OCD; he does not like to touch people due to severe germphobia.[9]

In a more severe case, a callout post from 2015 caused Zamii070, a Steven Universe fan artist, to attempt suicide due to repeated harassment. The callout 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 received negative attention concerning the art, which some consider to have crossed the line over into harassment. In Oct 2015 Zamii attempted suicide due to the event, then later revealed she had survived and had been hospitalized.[10] The event had a news article written about it, bringing the callout culture from fandom and Tumblr into a more public eye. A part of that article is quoted below.

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[11]

Some consider callout posts to serve a useless purpose, believing them to provide no positive affect upon their community. Or, they may see callout posts as a poor way to handle behaviors considered wrong, believing that the callout posts will not actually change the behavior of the subject being called out. For example, the artist and animator LupisVulpes was called out for her opinions on same sex couples. However, after being called out, her opinions did not change, and she believed that she was the victim of bullying rather than feeling like accosters were interested in positive change. In this case some users may believe calling out LupisVulpes, as well as creating callout posts in general, is an overall unhelpful act.

In other cases, callout posts and their effects may be considered a positive by the community they are posted to. They may be viewed as a positive to the community because they bring light to behaviors that the community deems abhorrent or inappropriate. For example, on ToyHouse callout posts are considered to serve an important purpose because they expose or bring to light art thieves, commission scammers, and other behaviors that the ToyHouse community agrees to be inappropriate for ToyHouse. Other perceived positives are often related to the relationships between adults and children online, mainly the grooming of children within adult fandom spaces. Callout posts which accurately expose child grooming within an online community may be viewed favorably, and may be seen as a way to keep an online community safe from child predators. However, what and who constitutes as a groomer is sometimes debated, and possibly differs per online community. This can make the perceived positives of accusing users of grooming in callout posts still a contentious topic, particularly if members of a community disagree on what counts as grooming behavior.

A callout post directed at grooming behaviors occurred on LiveJournal in 2010, in which a user named fort_kanji was accused of sexually harassing minors online through email. The callout post was spread around generously. In the callout post all of fort_kanji's pseudonyms were listed, which is a practice many callout posts still use into the 2020s.[12] In cases such as this, callouts were seen as useful, protecting minors from a potential threat.

Cancel Culture and Being Cancelled

Cancel culture may be used synonymously with callout culture, and "being canceled" is often a consequence of being called out. When a callout post is made about someone, especially a popular person, others online may say "(name of person) is cancelled." To "be canceled" often means to have other people boycott the subject of the cancelling. For example, when people new to Vivziepop discovered her through Hazbin Hotel, Vivziepop's past callouts re-surfaced (See Notable Callout Posts and Examples) This caused a new wave of fans decrying her and "cancelling" Hazbin Hotel and Vivziepop's other modern work, meaning those who had just discovered her refused to watch her content due to the cancelling.

"Burying the Lead"

This is a term for when toxic fan behavior warrants calling out, but the ones doing it open with the wrong argument. A fan who regularly bullies or sexually harasses other fans should be taken to task for doing actual harm to people, but fans will often open their callouts with the person's taste in ships, characters, kinks, or tropes.

A recent example in the Fire Emblem: Three Houses fandom involved a militant Edelgard fan named Raxis chasing a Blue Lions fan off of social media for picking Dimitri as their favorite,[13] but a callout blog aimed at Raxis focused first on his Edelgard obsession and penchant for liking NSFW rather than the emotional harm they'd done to a real person. [14] Another instance could be an artist who steals or traces the work of others and passes it off as their own (especially if they take paid commissions). Rather than focusing on their dishonesty and theft, fans might put more emphasis on the kind of content they draw.

This renders what could be a useful callout pointless, as it ends up reading like the one doing the calling out has a petty vendetta against the person rather than them wanting to warn other people that the person is toxic and potentially dangerous. Though on rare occasions, the perpetrator's actions and tastes may line up (i.e. someone who preys sexually on underage fans who also draws underage pornography).

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[15]

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).[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

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" way

Beetledrink, Jul 18, 2017.[19]

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 extremely long callout post called The Ms.Scribe Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography.
  • Vivziepop (Circa 2012-2020)- Vivziepop 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) there were new accusations that came 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.
  • The 527 Page Callout Document for a 13 year old (2020)- Mar2kuki created a 527 Google doc callout post for a 13 year old minor whose username has been redacted. Mar2kuki created the callout after the minor stumbled upon Mar2kuki's smut of aged-up Glitch Tech fanfiction and ranted about it on her Tumblr, but some sources say Mar2kuki has been in disagreements with the minor long before that.[20]

References

  1. ^ Sf-Drama, LiveJournal. (Accessed 9/22/2020)
  2. ^ “Your Fave Is Problematic” website is flawed, criticizes instead of critiques, thedaonline.com. Oct 25, 2015 (Accessed 11/7/2022)
  3. ^ Remembering 'Your Fave is Problematic', the Woke Blog that Started It All, vice.com. Jul 5, 2016 (Accessed 11/7/2022)
  4. ^ You guys make me sick. Literally you treat fiction as if someone committed a crime., Archived version
  5. ^ BadCalloutPosts, Twitter. Jul 26, 2019 (Accessed 11/7/2022)
  6. ^ things to remember when reading a callout post, Tumblr. Jan 18, 2017 (Accessed 11/7/2022)
  7. ^ Enough is Enough Dollcreep, Tumblr. Oct 22, 2015 (Accessed 9/23/2020)
  8. ^ https://kat-the-dog-trainer.tumblr.com/post/161225036572/sorry-to-break-the-news-but-you-did-not-report
  9. ^ John Green Tells a Story of Emotional Pain and Crippling Anxiety. His Own.
  10. ^ Zamii070 Harassment Controversy, KnowYourMeme. (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  11. ^ Steven Universe Fanartist Bullied, Dailydot. Oct 27, 2015 (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  12. ^ WARNING: WATCH OUT FOR THIS CREEP!
  13. ^ https://archive.ph/uv3F3 Well well well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions
  14. ^ https://pathetic-loser-raxis.tumblr.com/
  15. ^ In 2019 we laying purity culture to rest, Tumblr. Jan 2, 2019 (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  16. ^ 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)
  17. ^ PSA: Your first response to being told... Tumblr. Sept 2, 2017 (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  18. ^ You know, we probably wouldn’t need callout-culture... Tumblr. Aug 22, 2018 (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  19. ^ "modern callout culture is so toxic!" Tumblr. Jul 18, 2017 (Accessed 9/13/2020)
  20. ^ The 527 Page Callout Document for a 13 year old, medium.com. Dec 29, 2020 (Accessed 11/5/2022)