‘Call out culture’: the case of ableist language

Feminist Philosophers

Asam Ahmad has written a wonderful article on the increasing prevalence of ‘call out culture’ in progressive circles (especially online ones):

Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself.

What makes call-out culture so toxic is not necessarily its frequency so much as the nature and performance of the call-out itself. Especially in online venues like Twitter and Facebook, calling someone out isn’t just a private interaction between two individuals: it’s a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit…

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5 Reasons why I Don’t Fucking Care About The Word ‘Manwhore’.

So this happened. This happened a lot.

I decided to call someone out on his use of the word “slut”. I was met with resistance.

Generally, I’m willing to be diplomatic in these situations. I’m willing to open up a conversation about double standards, about a cultural context of men policing women’s sexuality and more generally, about why he feels like somebody else’s private and consensual sexual behaviour is any of his fucking business in the first place.

So we chatted. He’s nice. However, I can’t help but lose my patience when somebody plays this card.

“It has nothing to do with sexism, after all, guys get called ‘manwhores’

I’m sorry but no.

No no no.


You honestly cannot compare the two.

Of course men can be shamed for their (real or perceived) sexual behaviour, but it’s never with the same malice as it is for women.

The word “manwhore” never sticks to a man in the same way the “slut” label will stick to a woman. The word manwhore is innocuous. You could compare it to gay people using the word ‘breeder’ as a derogatory term for straight people, or even to black people saying that white people can’t dance. None of that means that there’s a problem of “heterophobia” or “reverse racism”, and similarly the occasional flippant use of the word “manwhore” doesn’t mean that there is a problem of slut-shaming against men.

Furthermore you can’t erase sexism from the conversation, because the “slut” label is not just applied to women who have many sexual partners. It’s also applied to women who wear certain clothes, wear a lot of make up, flirt a lot, hang out with mostly guys… the list is endless. I think most women will have had some experience with the word, irrespective of their sexual behaviour. It seems the only criteria for being called a slut is being female.

“Manwhore” is also not used within a context of male entitlement to women’s bodies, the way “slut” is. It is due to this entitlement that we as a culture feel like we get a say in what women do with their bodies. There are countless examples of slut-shaming out of paternalistic concern about women’s sexual freedom, for instance the media’s reaction to Josie Cunnungham’s decision to have an abortion. The Sun’s pious fearmongering about the sexual freedom of ‘Magaluf Girl’ whilst casually ignoring the men involved. Not to be outdone, it can even be seen within feminist circles. And ultimately, it was seen when a police officer said that women who don’t want to be raped should “avoid dressing like sluts”. That’s where this leads with women.

Slut shaming against men isn’t used in a way that justifies sexual assault. Slut shaming against men doesn’t carry an undertone of anyone can do anything they want to a man’s body without his permission, because he was “asking for it” by being so slutty. The word “manwhore” would rarely be used against male survivors of sexual violence, whereas slut-shaming is widespread against women and trans* women post-sexual assault.

Finally, I don’t fucking care about the word “manwhore” simply because promiscuity doesn’t have the same negative connotations for men. Accusing a man of being promiscuous is more likely seen as a good thing. It’s more likely that he would be labelled a ‘stud’, a ‘playboy’, a ‘ladies’ man’, rather than a “manwhore”.

Of course that doesn’t mean men will always hear it as a compliment, but the comparison is flawed. The word “manwhore” is never going to have the same power over men as “slut” has over women, simply because this “slut/stud” double standard refuses to die. That’s why I don’t fucking care. Peace x

How being a bit of a one direction fan has empowered me. Or something.

I would like to start this post with an apology. My aim in writing this blog is to amplify marginalized voices. One Direction, I acknowledge, with their millions of twitter followers and their every utterance subject to intense scrutiny, are possibly the LEAST MARGINALIZED VOICES on the planet. Yet I wanna talk about my experiences of being a fan and how this has to some degree enabled me to move on from the isolation I felt growing up.

Growing up as a closeted gay girl, you kind of don’t have the boy band posters on your wall. Friends of mine would read magazines and gossip about the boys in McFly or whatever that they had crushes on, and I could never join in. I felt completely alienated from that. For that reason, boy bands became symbolic of everything I felt I was missing out on, and thus I could never enjoy their music. I used to roll my eyes at the girls screaming at their concerts and feel like I was so much better than them. I used to ruthlessly tease a friend of mine who liked Justin Beiber. I would drown out the sounds of the Jonas Brothers by listening to Lady Gaga on my Ipod.


And then these idiots came along.


These 4 northern (+ one Irish) lads who have found fame and decided to run with it are the first boy band I’ve ever allowed myself to like. Suddenly, it wasn’t all about having a crush on them. Even though obviously lots of girls do, with One Direction it’s more about loving the cheesy dance routines and camp music videos and stupid jokes.

cute as a button

Finally letting a boy band into my heart has been cathartic for me and enabled me to deal with those feelings of isolation I used to have from not fancying boys. (Even though I might have some conflicting bicurious feelings about Zayn when dressed as a woman in the video for ‘Best Song Ever’.)

hot damn


Anyways, it seems like they love me too, as the boys have always made an effort to be inclusive to the queer fandom.

happy pride

Screenshot 2014-12-22 at 11.51.02

who doesn't

Moreover, Harry has even had a bit of a feminist awakening lately, supporting Emma Watson’s He for She campaign which encourages men to break their silence surrounding gender inequality.

feminist harry styles

(Also, he has great hair, and having great hair is really important when you’re a feminist. Trust me, I would know.)

photo (1)#Iwokeuplikethis.

In all seriousness, being a One Direction fan has been empowering for me because it has enabled me to get over my boy band hating which at the end of the day, was just a product of internalized homophobia. I can be queer and love this boy band and at the end of the day, I know that both of those things are okay. One Direction, Dialecticbitch salutes you 🙂

An open letter to the boy who unabashedly used the word “faggot” and then asked me to explain to him why that was offensive #NoBystanders

This is a post inspired by Stonewall’s #NoBystanders, a campaign that encourages people to confront bullying. For more information, go to http://nobystanders.org.uk/


First of all, apologies for not giving you a proper explanation when you asked me why I was offended, I guess I was just taken aback. I couldn’t articulate a response in that moment. I couldn’t educate you at the expense of my own self-preservation. I was hurt. Even though what you said wasn’t directed at me, I was hurt. I think I managed to splutter the words “Because it’s rude!” before I shuffled out, staring at my feet on the freshly-vacuumed floor.

Of course, this is not the only time that this has happened to me. I hear these words all the time. I think the reason why I’ve singled you out, singled out this encounter, was because you felt you needed an explanation from me. Well, here it is.

I was offended because I am gay. I was offended because when I hear words like that, for a split second I stop and think “Am I safe here?”. “Am I welcome here?”. I check myself. I feel more hesitant to be myself in public. It takes a lot to be confident and unashamed, and when I’m in an environment in which I hear that kind of language, I don’t hold my head as high. I’m more trepidatious to come out, I’m more likely to hide the cover of a book I’m reading from view if it’s about gay issues. I’ll say I’m going to “youth club” instead of to “gay club”. I internalize it, basically.

I was offended because in the year 2014, the implication that somebody is gay should not be an insult. The words “gay” and “stupid” are not interchangeable. I was offended because when slurs such as “faggot”, “queer”, “dyke”, “tranny” are in common usage, it grants complicity to people who actually commit violence against the gay community. When those people hear that language normalized, it allows them to justify their actions. It incites hatred.

I was offended because thousands of hate crimes are perpetrated against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) people every year, and you still ask me why you should have to change the offensive language that you use.

And ultimately, I was offended even though that insult wasn’t directed towards me. When you see that other people are being sworn at and mocked and the reason for it is because they are (or are perceived to be) like you, it’s dehumanizing. It diminishes your integrity and your sense of self-worth.

I was offended. Shouldn’t that be enough?