In defence of 'Cancel Culture'

Faye Navesey considers what it really means to be 'cancelled'

Faye Navesey
21st July 2020
'Cancel Culture' can sound intimidating and ominous. As if social media has the power to simply make anyone with an outlandish opinion 'disappear'. But when people use their public platform to complain about how the internet has 'cancelled' them, are we supposed to believe that they're victims of the dark side of social media?

'Being cancelled' was never meant to be a serious term. It came from Twitter to draw attention to public figures who had done wrong. It wasn't a tactic to silence people, it was an attempt to call out problematic behaviour.

Many articles discussing the 'toxicity' of cancel culture seem to focus predominantly on high-profile individuals who deserve valid criticism. For instance, J.K. Rowling, who received enormous backlash in June after posting a Tweet which mocked the term 'people who menstruate'. This was considered transphobic because it failed to recognise trans women as 'real' women because they had not yet had transitional surgery.

Rowling's comments could have had a real-world effect on trans youth that saw her as a role model, and so she faced criticism accordingly. Despite this, she still has a very public voice, and is still a multi-millionaire. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but that doesn't strike me as the life an 'oppressed' person.

Of course, some other people are 'cancelled' in a way that means we no longer give them a public platform. These tend to be people that have done severe social damage, namely sexual predators and bigots. And if you don't think these types of people deserve to have society ignore them, then the problem might not be with 'Cancel Culture'.

Being questioned isn't the same as being oppressed

Opinions voiced from positions of power will naturally face opposition. I find it ironic that the same people who champion free speech when it allows them to voice extreme opinions, are the first to throw a tantrum when others criticise them. Being questioned, and having someone tell you that they think you're wrong, isn't 'oppression'. If you think it is, then you likely have no idea what true oppression feels like.

Many people in this country are constantly battling to have their voice publicly heard. This includes: people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, and people in difficult economic circumstances who all face their own struggles. All have every right to protest how society has turned its back on them. But forgive me if I refuse to sympathise with middle-class writers who can't deal with people calling them a transphobe on Twitter.

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