“There probably should be a distinction between call-out culture and someone experiencing consequences.”

I very much agree with this. To me, most of those other examples you gave fall outside of call-out culture, primarily because the people being called out actually did something *to* someone else (e.g., Harvey Weinstein harrassing/assaulting dozens upon dozens of actresses).

When it comes to the role of privilege, I’m not sure if I feel the same way. I’ve never been on board with the “punching up” vs. “punching down” dichotomy, to be honest. I’ve always believed that if you’re opposed in principle to a certain type of action, it shouldn’t matter whether the person on the receiving end of that action is considered “privileged” or not. And I actually think August Ames is a good example of that. Before her suicide, I’m sure many people thought of her as a privileged person due to her fame, her physical attractiveness, her financial success, and so on. But even if she was privileged, the treatment she received was just as indefensible as it would have been if she was just some random person on Twitter or some super famous Hollywood star like George Clooney or Sandra Bullock. In my view, if the behavior is abstractly wrong, then it usually doesn’t matter who is being targeted.

I think stories like hers also show that the notion of a “privilege hierarchy” is difficult to defend. Some people think money is the ultimate privilege. Others think being white is the biggest advantage you can have. Some would say fame. August had all three, yet they weren’t enough to rescue her from her mental illness or protect her from the consequences of the bullying to which she was subjected. In fact, I feel like the concept of privilege is frequently being used as an excuse for attacking people who don’t really deserve it (important note: I am definitely not saying that that’s what you are doing, it’s just something I’ve observed recently, especially on social media).

On the other hand, when you’re a public figure, your words and actions will be more heavily scrutinized than the words and actions of John Doe or Jane Roe. And when a public figure like a celebrity or politician gets “called out,” they almost always have much better resources at their disposal to cope with the situation than some high school kid being “punched down” upon by a social media mob, which does make the former feel less serious than the latter. Plus, their words carry far more influence with the public, so it’s sort of extra important to hold them accountable when they say or do something that’s clearly wrong. The Michael Richards fiasco comes to mind — I think most people would agree that he deserved all the criticism that came his way, especially considering how many people looked up to him and idolized him.

Anyways, I’m just starting to ramble now. Sorry about that. Your comment kind of got my mind rolling, which I quite appreciate! But I should probably stop writing novel-length responses to thoughtful comments lol. =)

Outer space enthusiast. Japanese history junkie. I write about politics, culture, and mental illness. Disagreement is a precursor to progress.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store