The problem with ‘cancel culture’

Imagine this: The year is 2029. It’s a typical Saturday morning and you’re ready to start your day. However, moments before you dive into a bowl of Frosted Flakes,— your phone begins to vibrate repeatedly. Curious about the commotion, you scroll through your Twitter mentions and nearly drop your phone in shock. Someone has screenshotted a tweet you made ten years ago in which you jokingly stated the movie Frozen was better than the Lion King. It was a joke — but the internet is ablaze at your incindious statement. You begin to lose followers — as many are pressured to do so — and people flood your inbox with mean comments and even a few death threats. This is cancel culture — well, this is what many fear cancel culture will become if it remains unchecked.  

The act of “cancelling” is to stop supporting something financially, digitally or morally. This is because the person or entity has done something or posted something online that is viewed as problematic. Those that are cancelled are often celebrities, but corporations like Starbucks (2018) and Chick-fil-A (2019) have also been under fire by cancel culture.

However, while I can understand why some would want to cancel Chick-fil-A, I do not think Starbucks deserves cancellation. In response to the racial profiling incident which occured at one of it’s smaller chain Philadelphia stores, Starbucks called for a mandatory shut down of all it’s stores for racial bias training, provided the victims with an undisclosed sum and offered them full tuition to it’s online University of Arizona program. This is an example of a proper apology — it acknowledges wrongdoing and makes the effort not to have the incident occur again.

Chick-fil-A, on the other hand, initially lied in 2012 about funding organizations with anti-LGBTQ causes. They have never apologized for doing so in the past, and as of late have made no promises to stop doing it.

Let’s be clear — bigotry, racism and sexism are vile. I am in no way excusing such behavior. However, I am concerned about a part of cancel culture that seems to discourage opportunities for education, forgiveness and growth.

For example, in 2017, olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas was hit heavy with cancel culture after tweeting “It is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy. Dressing in [a] provocative sexual way entices the wrong crowd.”

I strongly disagree with Douglas’ statement, however I don’t think she deserved to be canceled. Douglas’ comments were uneducated and ill-formed, but one must factor in that she was still young at the time and raised in a strict household. Furthermore, weeks after she made the tweet she revealed herself as one of the many gymnasts who were sexually assaulted by the team doctor, Larry Nassar. Unfortunately, many women who experience sexual assault side with their abusers because they believe they put themselves in the situation. Unfortunately, her views mirror many of the ideologies around sexual assault.

I’ll be honest — I myself wasn’t always this woke. Douglas should have had an opportunity to be educated on why her views were problematic and given the chance to grow from it. Instead, she received hundreds of mean tweets attacking not only her achievements, but also her character — even after she issued an apology.

Another problem with cancel culture is the ruthless dragging of celebrities — especially for little to no reason. In 2011, singer Keri Hilson became one of the first victims of cancel culture after refusing to wish Beyonce a happy birthday during her red carpet interview with Juicy Magazine.

Was this action rude? Perhaps. But certainly not worthy of cancellation. The video which captured the interview has been nicknamed Hilson’s career suicide, as her album sales plummeted following the incident. In 2013, during an emotional plea to the Beyhive, Hilson said “You have no idea what your hateful words could do to someone’s spirit. Years of verbal abuse from strangers all day long. enough is enough!” The abuse Hilson faced was so brutal she took a five year hiatus from the music industry.

Hilson is just one of several cases where cancel culture has crossed the line between debate and cyber-bullying. Furthermore, instead of holding people accountable of their actions — it is now used to demean and rob others of their opportunity for redemption.

It’s okay to cancel — but let’s be sure to do so for the right reasons.