It isn’t call-out culture that is toxic.

Ashley Fairbanks
4 min readMay 31, 2017

Almost exactly two years ago, I was forced to quit my job after a coworker and I lodged formal sexual harassment complaints against our boss. Nothing happened. Our board circled in to protect him, he publicly slandered us, and we were expected to just accept it. But I didn’t. I wrote a post on Facebook naming him and the specifics of what he had done to us. Soon after, he was allowed to resign.

Lawyers and the lawsuits they had brought, quiet conversations with mentors, nothing had the impact that my Facebook post had. Of course, because I am a woman I also faced huge repercussions. I was demonized and hurt by many people, mostly women, in my community.

But he wasn’t able to hurt the young women we worked with anymore. And that’s what mattered.

I share this because this was my first experience with calling someone out. I share this because call-out culture isn’t a sport that marginalized people engage in for fun. It comes from a place of desperation.

It’s often our last line of defense.

We live in communities where people who hurt people are protected. Where we can’t call the cops because we fear the death they bring. We live in communities where a circle of aunties will cast you out for raising your voice against a known abuser.

My anecdote is just one of millions. Every. Single. Damn. Day. People I know are forced to share space with people that are knowingly and willfully harming the people around them. With the advent of social media, we are able to use the tool of the call out to warn our networks about these predators. Because, in our eyes, the silence of the communities we live in has fueled the ongoing cycles of trauma of our peoples.

Call-out culture isn’t toxic.

Rape culture is toxic. State violence is toxic. All the isms are toxic. Capitalism and patriarchy are toxic.

Societies like ours that work so hard to silence marginalized people are toxic.

Societies that hurt certain people so much that they take drastic measures, measures that often harm them, because they feel like it’s the only way they can have a voice.

Calling people out is often the only way for us to survive.

It isn’t about political purity or woke points, it’s about safety.

When the people who are least impacted are the ones spreading the message that call-out culture is toxic, we should push back and ask more questions. What harm is really done when people are called out? Are hurt feelings worse than hurt bodies? Are the lives that are saved worth less than the feelings of the people being called out?

I don’t think so. I’d rather see a perpetrator get torn down on Facebook than see one more sister raped.

Cis men, both men of color and white men, seem to be the ones most keenly aware of how bad call-out culture is for our world. So eager to educate us all. Which seems strangely aligned with the fact that they are often the ones being called out.

I can say this. Calling people out is uncomfortable. It isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It does not bring me joy. I don’t think it is a solution for everything, but I do think that is is a perfectly rational, logical response to a culture that is still more likely to call a woman a whore than a man a rapist.

Critiques of call-out culture often sound a lot like simple victim-blaming.

We doing the calling out, we are toxic. We are destructive. We are the problem. We need to play nice with our oppressors, we need to be careful for the feelings of the people that hurt us.

Some of the arguments against call-out culture sound a lot the arguments used historically to frame women as unstable, emotional and insane.

Asking marginalized people to do the heavy lifting of calling people in is asking a lot. Expecting people to welcome people that do them harm into spaces is irrational. Vulnerable people are shamed for trying to create safe spaces, excluding people, when it is the only way we can feel like we have room to breathe.

Calling people in might work with some types of oppression. But there are plenty of people I don’t want to call in to my community. I don’t want to call in abusers. I don’t want to call in predators. Not because I think they are disposable, but because I think they aren’t ready. They aren’t ready to share space with people I love because I don’t want to see more people hurt.

I am done. done. done. living and working along side with men that haven’t done the work to combat their own trauma, internalized oppression and patriarchy.

If people want to be called in, they have to do the work. They have to do that work in a place where they are no longer harming vulnerable people.

That isn’t negotiable.



Ashley Fairbanks

She/Her/Hers. Anishinaabe. Artist. Organizer. Wonk. @ziibiing on the socials.