Cancel “Cancel Culture” on Campus

“Cancel culture” is the phenomenon of holding influencers, brands,  and even shows and movies publicly accountable for remarks or ideologies that are considered offensive. “Cancelling” a social media influencer usually results in a drop in followers and harsh verbal abuse – sometimes from their own fans. Cancel culture has risen in popularity in the last few years, but does it actually facilitate societal awareness? I believe the answer is no.

Proponents of cancel culture argue that it encourages people to take accountability for their actions. Cancel culture creates a society with a zero-tolerance culture for hate, which is important in minimizing the detrimental effects of hate speech on marginalized communities. However, in the long run, cancel culture is harmful to society and will not foster long-term awareness of real-world issues.

The rising phenomenon of cancelling people and groups creates a culture of ostracism and animosity among communities. When people police one another, it weakens the bonds holding communities together. 

Additionally, the focus on punishment instead of growth deprives people of an opportunity to grow and learn from their mistakes. In particular, most members of the School community are adolescents who have room to grow. At the same time, the repercussions of being cancelled may sometimes exceed the gravity of the offense. If an offensive comment is made with malicious intent and after conscious consideration, then the offender should be cancelled; however, the nature of cancel culture makes it so that someone may be cancelled without the chance to receive a proper education on why, exactly, their actions or words were offensive. Student Lydia Bullock ’22 said, “Even if an opinion is so obviously demeaning and incorrect, it is important to open a discussion and try to respectfully listen to and potentially influence someone’s opinion rather than exile them.”

Cancelling someone may not even result in true “punishment.” Take, for example, fashion designer Alexander Wang, who was cancelled due to allegations of sexual assault. Major retailers still carry the label, despite the allegations. Though Wang garnered hate on social media, his brand continues to be successful, and the sexual assault scandals have not produced long-term consequences. On a smaller scale, members of the School community who have been cancelled by fellow students are almost never reported to the administration. As a result, they do not face severe repercussions for their actions and continue to hold leadership positions within our community. 

Those who are cancelled only face ineffectual and temporary social repercussions. We need to find an alternative method of holding people accountable for their actions. Time and again, cancel culture has simply promoted a negative mindset rather than real awareness.