Attacked or Called Out: What’s the Difference?

Sept. 28, 2020 Meadowview, VA Invitation to follow

If y’all follow my twitter, you may have seen me mention a few “returns” to tumblr. I used to have a fandom blog there, and while it’s still up and running, I rarely check back on the fandom.

On of my recent “returns”, a fairly new popular blog was being called out for spouting homophobic rhetoric. People came to this person’s defense, while others called them out. But this person claimed they were being attacked, so here’s my explanation on the difference between the two.

Being Attacked.

Being attacked is exactly what it sounds like, almost. It’s not about being attacked physically, although that is still “being attacked”. I’m specifically talking about “being attacked” online.

The way I see it, being attacked is when you’re maliciously called names, insulted, etc, specifically in order to hurt you. This would include calling someone “an insolent little shit” or slurs (f-slur, r-slur, n-slur, etc). These insults and hurtful comments are meant to hurt, like I said, and have no purpose other than that.

Being attacked is exactly what it sounds like: being hurt solely for the purpose of being hurt.

Being Called Out.

Being called out is often confused with being attacked, but I don’t know why.

Being called out is when, after you say something, someone points out where something you said was harmful, problematic, or just plain -ist or -phobic. Being called out can be a reaction to attacking someone (ie, after someone uses a slur, someone can call out said person for using that word).

Calling someone out isn’t meant to harm someone–it’s meant to point out where someone went wrong in hopes of them correcting themself and apologizing.

Being called out isn’t the same thing as being attacked.

Being attacked is a malicious intent to hurt.
Being called out is an honest attempt at telling someone when they did something wrong.

Where The Confusion Is.

I think most people know what the difference is. So as I’m typing this post, I feel like I’m just pointing out the obvious. However, there are a lot of people who say others are attacking them when in reality they’re just pointing out where something they said was harmful. Why does this happen? Because people are uncomfortable with someone calling them problematic.

Here’s an example. I’ll use fake names from my experience back on tumblr in my fandom, so y’all can get the info without outting anyone.

A newer blogger, let’s call her Daisy, reblogged something from some random person, who we’re calling Cal. What Cal said was vaguely homophobic and racist, complaining about how everyone in the fandom headcanoned characters as queer or people of color.

Daisy agreed, saying she’d fight people who thought these characters weren’t straight and white.

Lots of people, including myself, called her out for being homophobic and racist. Because she proceeded to say that it was unrealistic and that queer people would be murdered so them being out in the series in question was unrealistic. She was basing this information on the fact that the series was based in medieval times, which it wasn’t. Because it was a fantasy series.

One thing led to another, Cal revealed himself to actually be a homophobe, and people were yelling at those who had called Daisy out, saying that we had attacked her.

People, as well as the mentioned “Daisy”, were uncomfortable with being called out for their problematic behavior, and instead lashed out at those who did so. They went from saying vaguely racist and homophobic comments to saying that they were being attacked for their opinions and how it wasn’t fair.

People are afraid of being called a bigot. People are afraid of being called homophobic, transphobic, a misogynist. They think that being called these things are bad, but not the actions that go along with these names. People either don’t connect how their actions cause these words to be said, or they just don’t care. Personally, I think it’s the former: people know these words are bad, but don’t understand how their actions are.

When someone is called out, it should be explained what they had done wrong. Whether they listen or not is up to them, but explaining where they went wrong is always helpful in preventing it from happening again. As always, people who are similar to the one being called out is always helpful, and can preserve the sanity of the ones who are hurt. If a man calls out another man for being a misogynist, he’s more likely to stop his behavior. If someone who is white calls out someone for being racist, they’re more likely to stop their behavior.

Did I miss anything? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve said above? Feel free to start a discussion in the comments!

- Avery (2)

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5 thoughts on “Attacked or Called Out: What’s the Difference?

  1. I think what you said is very accurate. I think there’s also a problem tied to this that people that have said problematic things in the past, whether they meant to or not, whether they realized it or whether it was a genuine mistake, are sometimes not allowed the space to learn. That kind of atmosphere would be kind of terrifying and cause people to double down and fight back, prompting the “well I’m being *attacked*, don’t you see?” kind of response, which isn’t necessarily true sort. It’s a weird sort of cycle the needs fine tuning, something that doesn’t get worked on too much when tensions run so high and it’s easier to give in to anger and lashing out seems like the quicker option to ending a difficult discussion than asking hard/awkward questions.

  2. I think people also get on the defensive if they feel “dog-piled” which is super different from being attacked, too. But I’ve seen a lot of defensiveness whenever someone gets 2 or 3 comments telling them how they’re wrong. And you’re absolutely right, people ARE afraid of being called names (that they might be!!). Accountability is scary, but in no way an attack. Great post!