A Case Of Call-Out Culture In Richmond, Virginia: Does It Actually Help Enforce Change?

A Case Of Call-Out Culture In Richmond, Virginia: Does It Actually Help Enforce Change?

Social flogging and punishment were used to reinforce society's moral code, and Wrangham, when asked what he himself thought of it, he said "it's not personal. It's just what people do."


On January 14, 2019, columnist David Brooks published an article in the NYTimes over the role of call-out culture stifling social change. He references an NPR podcast, Invisibilia, about callout culture against sexual harassment in the hardcore punk rock community in Richmond, Virginia

Emily was in a van with her best friend heading to a performance in Florida. On their way, they got a call from the venue: their performance was canceled. A woman had publicly accused Emily's friend of sending her a sexually explicit photograph and told the promoter of the show. While the bandmate's friends mostly defended his character and dismissed the allegations, Emily was extremely conflicted. "In her head, there was no easy way, no middle ground. She felt she had to choose between her very best friend in the world and the cause she was becoming passionate about."

But there was a voice in her that felt "betrayed...because what he was accused of doing had happened to me." She wrote a Facebook post in which she outed and denounced her friend as an abuser: "I disown everything he has done. I do not think it's O.K. These are horrible things. These are not OK. I am not OK with it. I believe women."

Within months, the bandmate left the band, disappeared from the punk environment, got fired from his job, kicked out of her apartment, and moved to a new city. He was not doing well. She thought about texting him several times to reach out, but didn't. In her mind, she was doing the right thing. "We as punks are supposed to be better than that...We're supposed to, like, police each other."

However, months later, the same thing happened to Emily herself. In 2016, Herbert Rafael Vasquez-Castro, a friend from high school, accused Emily of cyberbullying, replying with an emoji making fun of a girl at her high school that had a nude photo posted online. She was only one of several people who engaged in comments and behavior making fun of the girl, whose pseudonym is "J". J would tell NPR that any time she saw a post about Emily's feminist activism, "it really just pissed me off. It just - I felt like it was very unfair."

Yet, according to Brooks, the "post denouncing Emily also went viral. She, too, was the object of nationwide group hate." Despite taking responsibility for her actions, Emily, like her former bandmate and best friend, was kicked out of the punk scene, dropped by her friends, and alone. She tried to leave Richmond and vanish. "It just wouldn't stop. It just, like, wouldn't stop. I was scared." Emily said.

When Herbert Rafael Vasquez-Castro was asked if he knew how Emily was doing and what happened to her, he responded, "I don't care because it's obviously something you deserve, and it's something that's been coming...I don't care if she's dead, alive, whatever."

The podcast became so interesting that Richard Wrangham, prestigious anthropologist, commented on his own experience in the world of anthropology academia. His colleague, Jean Briggs, became embedded within the Inuit community in the late 1960s, and she lost her temper several times at the tribe because of the tribe's sensitivity to displays of anger. They taught Briggs a valuable lesson: they socially isolated her.

According to Wrangham, for his friend, Briggs, "the social pain is intense. It is an extremely effective way of trying to get other people, someone who has offended the community, to change their ways." For prison inmates and prisoners of war, there is a similar effect in that solitary confinement is as painful as physical abuse. Social flogging and punishment were used to reinforce society's moral code, and Wrangham, when asked what he himself thought of it, he said "it's not personal. It's just what people do."

Wrangham then tells us more about the arbitrary nature of human life, as we can all be the victims, much as we can all be the executioners. "The human dynamic is so strange because we feel morally uprighteous, and yet circumstances can move us in one direction or another to be on the top or the bottom." I'm sure each of us in our own groups and group dynamics have been on both sides of executioner and victims, violators of moral code and reinforcers of it. As someone who has been on both sides of the spectrum, I resolve to be high in empathy, towards both the victim and the aggressor in whatever way I can, because moral uprightness and condemnation are plentiful enough.

Emily did not allow herself to tell her story or speak publicly about herself in her situation. It would signal to others that she was focused more on herself than her community. She said that "she had no right to tell her story" to the NPR interviewers. Yet she suffered, and suffered profoundly. "I didn't leave my house for, like, what felt like months. I was scared. I did nothing for so long. I hid." One time, when Emily did go out, she ran into a woman from the hardcore punk scene who grabbed her arm and urged her not to go to an upcoming show. She did not want to be in the same place as Emily, because she would fear for her life. For the woman, "Emily's presence triggered her PTSD."

"I don't know what to think of myself other than, like, I am so sorry. And I do feel like a monster," Emily said. The message for her was that she should not be around, and even good friends unfriended her on social media and refused to say hi to her. "It's just psychologically, like, fucked me up for so long." In the call-out culture of her hardcore punk community, Emily knew she would never be forgiven. Mostly, she hoped that people would forget about her.

"I just feel like I'm in a limbo. Like, it consumes me. Like, I lay awake. And I'm like, fuck. This is my life now. Nobody's around. I have nobody to talk to." Emily began erasing herself from public life. All she wanted to do in her community was be invisible. She felt in pain, all the time.

Herbert, when asked again about Emily, felt like Emily doesn't deserve any mercy. Emily directly harmed a girl in high school, and when Emily approached Herbert about it, she allegedly referred to him being a person of color in an offensive way. "She was like, I was initially nice to you because you were a person of color." Those words meant that "Emily deserved to suffer." The reasoning behind it was ultimately spun as being for Emily's own good, that she needed to learn from her actions and that progress required people to be hurt along the way.

To the interviewer, it didn't seem like Herbert cared at all about Emily's well-being. He wasn't even a committed part of the hardcore rock scene any longer. Herbert, himself, was abused by his father when he was younger, with bruises on his body until he was a teenager, and constantly called into the principal's office. One day, he stood up to his father and fought back, and his father never beat him again. "Herbert in his own life had proof of how pain could move you forward. He'd confronted his abuser. It was painful for both of them, but now they were good."

To Herbert, the suffering of the abuser has purpose and a point. It was vigilantism, "a way of proving that you are owning your sins and would not sin again." For the sinner, the exile and condemnation are ways back into that world and community. Herbert refers to the dopamine rush sensation of inflicting pain on Emily like an orgasm and "getting high," something that he now regrets feeding into. For the interviewers of NPR, this justice seemed imperfect: others were possibly harmed by Emily worse than J, and there is no doubt that there are far worse abusers than Emily towards women who are not called out. The call-out culture has also created a community of fear. However, was that the only option to cleanse the scene of hardcore punk sexism in Richmond? Some say the change was happening anyways.

Wow. That's the only word I can think when I read the story of Emily, her friend, Herbert, and the hardcore punk community of Richmond. And I don't think the instance of call-out culture exhibited by this community is a stretch: I have personally seen it happen in communities of my own that have completely shut individuals out for not following the group's unspoken code and creed. Our cultural moment often calls, now, for martyrs. And if there's something that seems dreadfully wrong with call-out culture, Brooks best puts it into words: "You've immediately depersonalized everything. You've reduced complex human beings to simple good versus evil. You've eliminated any sense of proportion."

In Brooks's perspective, abuse is never over, but perpetuated in a "vengeful game of moral one-upmanship in which annihilation can come any second." This podcast about call-out culture rings to me like Schadenfreude on steroids: although Emily accepted her actions in high school with responsibility and accepted her banishing from the hardcore punk community, there has to be another way, and a better way to advance civilization and humanity forward than ostracizing the people we once loved who we discover have erred. It's admirable that some people prioritize the good of the whole group over themselves, but call-out culture is a brutally and, dare I say, regressive way of doing it. I side with Brooks in saying that the quest for justice must be "infused with a quality of mercy, an awareness of human frailty and a path to redemption." We don't need more martyrs and scapegoats. We need more compassion.

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.

When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...


"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"


Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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