Does cancel culture have value? 

Photo courtesy of Markus Winkler, via Unsplash

By Abigail Kim

Cancel culture is a form of ostracism where people withdraw their support of someone who has acted or spoken out in an unacceptable manner. Cancel culture has become more and more prominent in our society, especially with the aid of social media.  

Although being socially aware and boycotting immorality is valuable, we must ask ourselves whether cancel culture is truly ethical. When we cancel anything, we do it because we find it to be offensive to our own beliefs or ideas, forcing down the beliefs and values that go with the person or thing being canceled. 

“Cancel culture is not actually about justice.  It is about control.  People use cancellation to force conformity to ideals,” bestselling author Teal Swan tweeted. 

While many see cancel culture as boycotting people who act or speak out in an inappropriate way. aren’t we just coercing them to follow what the majority of society believes? Doesn’t this also go against the right to freedom of speech? 

The increasing popularity and improvement of social media and the internet only worsen the effects of cancel culture because information can spread quicker than ever. 

J.K. Rowling, the author of the popular fantasy series “Harry Potter,” was canceled after she expressed her opinion on sex and gender. Critics and many online labeled  J.K Rowling as a transphobe when she mocked a headline about people that menstruate. 

“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Rowling tweeted. 

Twitter users quickly fired back their responses stating that her tweet had excluded transgender men and women, and cisgender women who no longer menstruate. Rowling later tweeted that she merely wanted to point out that “erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives.” 

“I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” Rowling tweeted. “I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

Yet, because of one tweet, social media would have Rowling completely canceled.

Cancel culture extends far beyond Twitter, however. 

During the 2021-2022 school year, more than 1,600 books were banned from school libraries, according to CBS News. Books are banned for being too sexually explicit, for offensive language, or for simply not being suited to an age group.

These books range from “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

According to a national FIRE survey, almost one in four Americans fear cancel culture because of the risk of stating their opinions and losing jobs or standings in school. The survey cites that cancel culture can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 

Cancel culture has been extremely effective when combating sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. It holds people accountable for their actions and demands for social change. Cancel culture also addresses the inequalities about the oppressed and advocates for the prevention of maltreatment of anything and everything

Cancel culture can indeed be a positive force for change when used appropriately. But people more frequently use cancel culture to get rid of things that they merely disagree with. We must look past that and realize that we are human beings that make mistakes. There is always room for self-improvement and growth. Instead of ostracizing people and condemning them to isolation, cancel culture should be a method to encourage accountability and growth.