The popular syrup and pancake brand Aunt Jemima was recently “canceled”, as it perpetuates racist stereotypes with its image of a “mammy”, an offensive caricature of a Black woman. The brand has since announced that they will be rebranding, changing their image and name. The author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling has also been “canceled” following a series of transphobic tweets. She has signed onto a response to cancel culture in Harper’s Magazine, where many notable names have taken a stance against canceling.
According to dictionary.com, the term cancel culture is “the popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” This usually includes some form of group shaming of a person, product or even an entire company. This is not a new concept, as boycotts have been happening for centuries.
Although it can be helpful in holding people accountable, it can take a major toll on both what or who is canceled and the canceler. The internet gives people a way to voice their opinions in a manner that they could not have done before, meaning everything people say about the person that has been canceled can be seen and absorbed by them. This can be very detrimental to their mental health as the negative opinions of the public are forced onto them. Engaging in canceling can also create a harmful and hostile environment, especially if the person is using it as an outlet for their own personal stress. Projecting hate and anger blindly at a person or brand for disagreeing with them is not productive. Cancel culture is toxic, but that does not mean that those guilty of harmful or offensive actions should not be held accountable. If the person or brand that is being called out does not apologize or show remorse for their inflammatory actions, they have most likely not learned from their mistakes, and are responsible for their actions.
“I think cancel culture is okay to a certain extent but at a certain point it gets ridiculous. It’s good to call out people (especially people who are put on a pedestal) when they’re not doing the right thing, but in a lot of cases it is taken to an extreme and that’s when cancel culture can be toxic,” said Jake Minch, a senior at Masuk. “I think cancel culture is dangerous because there’s no real line of when you should stop supporting a certain person. I guess it comes down to morals, but honestly it’s really difficult to understand when or how intense of a situation should be to stop supporting someone”.
People are human, prone to making mistakes. The most important thing is to learn from these mistakes and to make amends. Canceling a person and not allowing them to grow is not constructive, but harmful to both the person and society, as there is no place to make errors and to improve from them. There is a difference between holding those responsible accountable and deliberately trying to ruin lives and casting stones.