Watching stuff unfold on Twitter and the net over the past couple of weeks has me thinking about boundaries, and how often they are crossed. And how objecting publicly to having your boundaries crossed is seen by so many as crossing a boundary in itself—and a much worse one.
A young writer wrote an article detailing sexual abuse from an editor (she used a pseudonym for him, but a friend responding to her original post named names). Two librarians named a library “rockstar” as a known harasser that women warned each other to be careful of at conventions (now he’s suing for defamation). And a woman named and criticized the person she blames for turning her hotel room at a convention into a party room without her knowledge or permission.
In each of these cases, someone has called out someone else for behaving badly. The type of bad behaviour is wildly variable, and reactions to it (of people not directly involved) also vary, from seeing the behaviour as potentially criminal to seeing it as relatively innocuous (if tacky). But they also have two things in common: the original actions of the person being called out cross someone’s boundaries and a significant negative reaction has followed the calling out.
Negative responses vary in their approach and details, but many share a common thread: it’s unfair and unjust to name the accused. The reasons given for this position vary, but that’s the bottom line.
There are many other important issues at play here, but that’s one thing that struck me about all this: the commonality of this belief. It’s universal. Even when there seems to be no real issue of protecting the accused against having their life ruined by (for example) losing their job and becoming a complete social pariah (which is certainly possible for some kinds of issues), there seems to be this belief that people accused of bad behaviour should never be publicly named.
Why is naming names regarded by so many people as a worse offence than the behaviour of the person being named? Why is crossing someone’s boundaries seen as a lesser offence than calling out a boundary-crosser, no matter whether the offence is criminal or social? Why is this true for such a wide range of behaviours?
Why is this reaction so goddamned reflexive?