Addressing Cancel Culture

As of late, the whole idea of “cancel culture” has received a lot of flack, particularly from some conservatives in the United States political discourse.

But why all the flack, and is it deserved?

As far as I can tell, cancel culture is a term used to describe how, in the eyes of some, too many things get “cancelled” (in other words, boycotted by some people). In a way, the term seems to come from a place of frustration.

And I can understand the frustration. If something I like is cancelled by a group of people, I might feel frustrated as well. I would feel especially frustrated if something I like is cancelled by a group of people, and the reason for cancelling it seems petty or pointless or something I disagree with.

At the same time, however, it must be acknowledged that there have been times when cancelling something brought about some form of change. Here are three notable examples:

  • In the mid-1950s, after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, there was a bus boycott in Montgomery. A young minister by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. led the boycott. This boycott led to an ordinance being passed that allowed people to sit virtually anywhere on the bus in Montgomery. It also put Dr. King on the path to becoming a prominent and successful voice for African American civil rights.
  • The National Farmworkers Association, led by Cesar Chavez, led a strike against grape growers in Delano, California, in protest of the exploitation of migrant workers. Not only did the boycott eventually lead to a settlement, but it also put into the national limelight the issue of the treatment of migrant farm workers.
  • In protest of South Africa’s system of apartheid, there was a movement toward divestment from South Africa until it ended said system. This movement started in the 1960s but gained momentum in the 1980s. Some credit this divestment movement as a crucial component of ending apartheid in South Africa.

There are other, smaller, examples, but I highlight these two because of how much of an impact these particular boycotts went on to have.

However, I also acknowledge that there are many boycotts that are not successful. For example, movements to divest from fossil fuels have yet to curb global warming, boycotts against Chick-Fil-A for certain anti-LGBTQ+ stances company leadership has taken in the past have not been successful in any way, and Jeff Bezos continues to get richer in spite of all the people (including yours truly) who try to boycott Amazon as much as possible. In fact, it is with great frequency that a boycott, a cancelling of something, gets publicity for maybe a day and then fades into the background.

When considering the fact that some boycotts work, but many don’t, perhaps one should find a medium between mocking any boycott as “cancel culture” and thinking that boycotts are always a recipe for success. Instead, I suggest that perhaps the detractors of cancel culture remind themselves of the times in history that cancelling something actually worked, and that its most ardent supporters get smarter about when and how they cancel something (so as to maybe make a lasting impact). Cancelling something does not guarantee change, but it can help create change, if done effectively.

14 Replies to “Addressing Cancel Culture”

  1. When J.K. Rowling released her latest book, I happened to notice that something to do with her being dead was trending on Twitter. A certain segment of people seemed to be saying that she should no longer exist as a writer, and to me, that seemed like a far less effective strategy than boycotting her books to make a statement against her views on trans people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm…

      Though what would it even mean for someone to no longer exist as a writer? What does that even mean? How is that possible? (I haven’t heard of this particular trend, mostly because I don’t spend tons of time on Twitter, so I was wondering.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, okay. Now I understand better.

        Yeah…I’m not sure about the effectiveness of just saying that her public platform is dead. Saying that and acting in ways to ensure her platform has less power are two different things.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. While I think most of the boycotts don’t work because people lose focus and they go back to their old ways. Unfortunately, the businesses that people object to are so huge that even if they lose 1/4 of their customers it makes no difference. I think the fact that issue are brought to light and do make a difference to some. I won’t shop at certain stores or buy certain products because I do not want my money used for things I do not agree with so I am achieving something that is important to me.

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    1. These are all good points. Yes, you look at something like the Chick-Fil-A example (which I cited in my article), it may not have affected Chick-Fil-A, but it certainly brought a heightened awareness in how employers treat LGBTQ+ employees (which is important).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed the post and I think you explained it really well. I agree that some boycotts can help bring awareness but at the same time are not always successful because people only care about it when it’s trending.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I do think that some boycotts can bring awareness (and even at times substantive change) but they are not always successful. Long story made short, I think some of the reactions to cancel culture can be a bit harsh, but at the same time proponents of canceling things need to think about how to be most effective in their work.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It depends on the type of change one wants to create.

    South Africa and other African nations have established BLACK SUPREMACY and forced the remaining White Population into ghettos. In one nation after dispossessing the White farmers, murdering some and chasing others out of the country, the nation lost the ability to grow their own food thus causing a man made famine. Just as Lenin and Stalin did intentionally in the Soviet Union after coming to power.

    Here in the USA Cancel Culture is being used to silence any and all those who dares to disagree with the far extreme liberal left. A group that fully intends to establish Black Supremacy, destroy the Constitution and size the reigns of power by any means necessary.

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    1. I think it depends on what’s being canceled in the United States as well. For example, those boycotting Amazon, while they won’t bring down Amazon, does seem to be shining more of a light on certain problematic labor practices at the company. But, I can’t help but dispute the assertion that cancel culture is just a tool of the left–it’s a tool of the left and the right. I mean, Trump called for a boycott on Goodyear tires, AT&T, and more. Of course, the left has called for boycotts with their fair share of things too.

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