This past week alone an activist had rape allegation leveled against her, a FIR against the rapists of a 10 year old happening after a viral campaign was started and the Meesha Shafi-Ali Zafar case made headlines again as 7 witnesses file affidavits against Meesha. All these cases, and more, have all come to light because of the call-out culture. This got us thinking here at Proporgaanda, how effective is call-out culture?
Call-out culture is a set of behaviors, usually displayed on social media that aim to hold individuals and groups accountable for political and social transgressions through public shaming. The related cancel culture phenomenon is “a call to boycott someone – usually a celebrity – who has shared a questionable, unpopular or a controversial opinion on social media.” Call-out culture is related to a number of different issues, and has existed for a long time. Humans have historically used public shaming as a means of social control. As a Pakistani, the most common use of this for us is “log kya kahenge”. However, with the advent of social media and the rise of the #metoo movement, call-out culture took a whole new turn.
As the #metoo movement started to spread, actress started to name their alleged harasser and rapist, producer Harvey Weinstein. This lead to a number of different women and men calling out different public figure, and the ripple effects of this were seen all over the world.
To understand this, we must first understand why so many people turn to this tool to gain justice. Sexual harassment and rape are crimes that are rarely prosecuted. In the United States of America, during March 2017-2018, just 5% of total recorded rapes were assigned a charge or summons, according to the Office for National Statistics. In Pakistan, the situation is dire. In January 2018, it was noted that no conviction were made in the 141 child rape cases reported in Lahore.
So the point of this phenomenon is to create some form of punishment for the individual because the justice system does not. If that punishment cannot be criminal, then it should be financial. Why should celebrities earn money of their “good” image, when it’s not the truth? Time and time again, the justice system fails victims of sexual assault or harassment. So they turn to social media.
The laws surrounding rape and sexual harassment are problematic to say the least. The Hudood ordinance is still in effect. Through this, if the women’s claim of rape is not “prove” to be true, she could be punished for adultery. This is partially why many women do not come forward with these cases, because they may be the ones punished. There aren’t even any laws protecting men and boys from rape. It’s just punished under sodomy, in which both partners are punished.
Moreover, ineffective police action against cases is also plays a huge role. There have been multiple cases this month alone that showed the police only taking action after social pressure was added. The Farishta case, the Urooj case and even the Zainab case last year all only took off after public outrage. Why do our institutions not believe our women?
This is because cases of rape and sexual harassment are always taken with some form of doubt. Even with DNA evidence, the character of the victim is usually questioned. The blame is always partially shifted onto the victim. What’s the point of telling your story to the police, through the legal system, when no one is to believe you? Just look below at some of the responses people had to a 22 year old being raped by multiple policemen.
In cases of harassment, these problems are even more obvious. The laws on harassment are vague, and do not apply to every situation. Moreover, because evidence is much harder to find, but not impossible, this allows social perceptions to guide the investigation by everyone.
Well it honestly depends on the situation. In Harvey Weinstein’s’ case, he has lost his job, his company and is in the middle of a trial. So is R.Kelly. Bill Cosby has been sentenced to prison time. And a huge number of different celebrities have either lost their jobs, or are facing some form of prosecution.
In Pakistan, it has had a mixed perception. Meesha Shafi, for example, was hit with a defamation case and has been villainize. However, as mentioned earlier, cases of rape have created social outcry that has pressurized the state into acting in these situations. In all the cases mentioned about Pakistan, all it took was for social media outcry to get these FIR registration.
Well, that’s also a little confusing to answer. But the best way to answer it is that callout culture relies heavily on mob mentality to get the message across. It biggest advantage, getting people to support a case, can also be its downfall. Mob mentality, as we have seen in Pakistan, is when a group of people create an environment of strong, stubborn emotions. Call-out culture carries this to the social media world. Most people do not need proof of who is guilty or who is innocent. They hear the news, and they go with it.
With these cases actually being taken to trial, let’s see what the truth is in these situations. Just be aware of the radicalization of your belief, no matter what side you are on. Call-out culture is an answer to a problem that is far bigger than it; society’s inability to prosecute and punish rape and harassment case. However, it is not a perfect solution to the problem.