Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
What do James Charles, Doja Cat, Shane Dawson, Jimmy Fallon, R. Kelly, and Ellen all have in common? If you are active on social media you might know that they were all ‘canceled’ at one point or another. Which beckons the question: what does it mean to be ‘canceled’? To ‘cancel’ someone means to stop giving support to that person- usually a celebrity or person with power. Cancel culture (also known as callout culture) is a very polarizing topic as there are people who believe cancel culture is appropriate and others who want to “cancel cancel culture”. This is a very prevalent topic especially in our community’s culture as we bring our attention to the demanding accountability protest and its fallout. Furthermore, I have witnessed students speaking out for and against cancel culture on social media. I can see both sides but I thoroughly believe that cancel culture is effective and an important tool to be used by people who have been victimized to speak up for themselves and for others.
Cancel culture is appropriate and necessary in today’s society. Cancel culture allows us to hold people with power accountable when the justice system fails. An example of this is the #MeToo movement; powerful people in Hollywood were called out for their actions, canceled, and eventually fired. This effective process continues to encourage others to speak up against sexual assault and hold these celebrities accountable. These people were able to seek justice for what happened to them when the “typical” route such as HR departments and courts failed them. In the past years, social media has become a common place where ‘canceling’ happens and in this case, it was used as a platform for these victims to ruin the reputation of the men who took advantage of them and negatively impacted their lives. This canceling was extremely successful as just in the first year 429 people faced 1,700 allegations of sexual misconduct and 201 men in positions of power lost their jobs due to the allegations that were posted on social media. Harvey Weinstein was one of the men convicted of sexual misconduct. He was originally convicted of third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sexual act and as of recently, is now facing six more charges. Without cancel culture, it is very possible that Harvey Weinstein would still be in a position of power.
The people who proclaim “cancel cancel culture” may argue that cancel culture is just bullying under the guise of activism or it is unproductive to bring real change. While that may have happened in certain cases (perhaps against a few of the celebrities that I mentioned in the beginning), that is not what cancel culture is about. The main purpose of cancel culture is to withdraw support for people who have done something objectionable in order to get justice. Cancel culture has proven results from Harvey Weinstein and the Me-Too movement to the racial unrest that became more mainstream this summer. It is extremely important to hold people accountable; we need to keep calling out injustice when we see it in order to make our society better for everyone.