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20 October 2010

How do you call people out? Piggybacking on the discussion from below, how do you ask people to stop saying or doing something that's offensive to you?[More:]I'm not trying to pile onto the OP of that post, especially since I (and others) said something and we got our point across. And it's way easier to do so in the comfort of the interwebs.

But have you found any success doing so in real life, and how? Particularly since there's a difference between people you know and people you don't know, and it's hard either way.
Example: I was in an Indian restaurant, eating my lunch, and having to listen to this college-aged hipster geek drone on and on with the grossest, loudest story ever. It involved peeing in a bottle and leaving it in his grody college-boy kitchen for someone to find. So I was already disgusted, but then he put the icing on the cake with some story about how his roommate was "such a Jew" for brokering some sort of deal when selling a car.

I finally said something, but I think that was the first time I'd ever gotten up the ovaries to do so. And after I did it, I felt like I was the one on the hot seat. Blecch.
posted by Madamina 20 October | 18:15
Agreed. Why is it when you're the one being polite, you get the sense that you're a nanny ninney? I hate that.
posted by eatdonuts 20 October | 18:27
I try to embrace my inner nanny ninney!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 20 October | 18:41
It does seem to help when you know they'd probably consider you a nanny ninney anyways, yes.
posted by Madamina 20 October | 18:48
Oh god, lately I've been trying to actually say something in that sort of situation, and it's horrible. I do it, but I get the shakes. I feel horrible. I obsess about it for the rest of the day. So, I have no idea, but I would love to know how assertive people manage to do this without having to pop a xanax.
posted by punchtothehead 20 October | 19:01
I usually just pipe up and say something in a polite but authoritative voice.

Probably doesn't help you unless you already have a fair bit of confidence yelling at strangers though.
posted by gomichild 20 October | 19:03
Gosh, I wish I knew.

If I may provide no answer, but riff on your question a bit, I find it the most difficult to call out people that are being cluelessly offensive. (sort of the level of "oh, I wish my baby was biracial, they're so ky-oooot!" kind of crap). I *feel* like I should say something but I get stuck trying to calibrate the level at which I react. I don't want to overreact, but I often feel like even my gentle "do you really think that" kind of rejoinders come across too agressively.
posted by gaspode 20 October | 19:04
People I know . . . I say I'm sure they weren't aware of this,but that many people find [xxx] offensive, because of [xxx]. On the rare occasions that I know someone is very well aware of the offensiveness -- e.g. the time a friend referred to Barack Obama by the "n" word -- I gave him my shocked look and said that I couldn't believe someone I liked and respected would ever use that word.

People I don't know: I usually say that I am [xxx] and I find what they said very offensive. Clearly, the first part of this assertion is often untrue, but hey, they don't know if I am LGBT or Catholic or part of some other "invisible" group. And if it is obvious that I am not what they are talking about, e.g. not someone missing some limbs, I say that my husband or child or parent is, and that I find it very offensive. There is something about knowing you were heard by someone who is what you are talking about, or is very close to someone who is, that really shuts down further use of the terms.
posted by bearwife 20 October | 19:13
Well, since this came up recently, I have some thoughts on the matter. Please note this is said without heat or rancor. Indeed, far from it, consider this a how-to guide and an invitation to criticize effectively.

Be logical and forthright. "Your action x offends y sensibility, and z is how you can remedy this." Be specific as to the cause, effect, and possible remedy. The minute you try to create, or rely on, an emotional response from the other party or assumptions about what the other person knows or feels, you are dead in the water. Your criticism will be at best dismissed, or at worst, provoke a negative response, sometimes both. Arguments are not won with emotion, emotion can only color an argument, not resolve it.
posted by King of Prontopia 20 October | 19:35
How I did it, which is somewhat appropos because of today.

I'll admit that the only reason why I felt safe calling out a homophobe in that situation is that I was in a Starbucks on the UES. I didn't call out a homophobic bus driver when I was on Staten Island over the summer, and what he was saying was worse.
posted by TrishaLynn 20 October | 20:06
With strangers speaking loudly in public places I try to stick to something like "I really don't want to hear about that topic while I'm [relaxing/eating/working], can you lower your voices or talk about something else while you're here, please?" Said while smiling pleasantly and in a tone of voice that implies I'm one of their group -- mainly because they've made me one of their group by having a loud offensive conversation. Any pushback gets answered with a "Really, I'd rather not hear about that right now." So I just focus on the wrongness of the location for the conversation rather than on the wrongness of the content, because I don't want to get into neverending "Hey, that's racist/sexist/homophobic/offensive and idiotic"/"No, it's not" arguments with strangers (there's a reason I've severely cut back on my online interactions....); I'd rather save my energy for people I actually care about.

(All of that is assuming I'm in a place where I can't reasonably just move out of earshot. If I can, that's what I do.)

With people I do know and care about, it depends on my relationship with them, my energy level, their level of openness, etc. A lot of time, though, especially with "ironic -isms," I just firmly and irritatedly say, "Don't use that word around me." Pushback gets met with "I don't care. Don't use that word around me."

I guess I just try to phrase the call out in a way that makes the behavior stop right then, rather than coming at it from a "I need to educate you" place. I'm happy to educate if people seem interested in having a good-faith conversation about it (and if I'm in a mental place where I can maintain a good-faith approach to it), but I'm way too tired to do 101-level shit with hostile audiences any more.
posted by occhiblu 20 October | 23:31
I'm with occhiblu when it's someone I do know. I'll just say "Please don't use that word around me." I did have a friend try to argue and I said I wasn't interested in a discussion, I just didn't want her to use that word around me. She sulked for a couple of hours and then got over it.

I don't police people I don't know. I don't see that being productive for them or me. I had a roommate who would make frequent comments about "the mexicans" or people on welfare, and her ignorance was so deep seated I found it best not to get involved and to extricate myself as quickly as possible from all conversation. When I could make a neutral comment that demonstrated I disagreed with her, without provoking an argument or lecture, I would say something. Eventually she knew that I didn't agree and I was not interested in listening to her complaints. She was older, and considered herself much wiser than me, so I knew any attempt to engage would result in a lecture from her backed with the same amount of "logic" supporting the Tea Party. I try to pick my battles.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration 21 October | 10:48
So I'm walking West on 34th Ave between rows of industrial buildings . . . || Well hey, it's a Welcome New Users thread!