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The Cancel Culture Dilemma

January 2, 2022

Cancel culture seems to have eyes everywhere. Whether you have learned and grown as a person by the influence of your own ideals, beliefs, and values, cancel culture always finds a way to alter someone’s growth deeming their newfound education to be irrelevant and useless. It always manages to claw its way into someone’s personal, social, and professional life. 

In this new 21st century era, where we have all of this digital media at our fingertips our mistakes are basically public knowledge. As the saying goes, “what goes on the internet stays on the internet.” If you posted something controversial or not acceptable to today’s society years ago, you could fall prey to cancel culture because as long as the internet remembers it, so will everyone else. 

To put it simply, “canceling” someone is the act of ruining a person’s reputation or career over a controversial act. This is important to mention because if you are a victim of online harassment or bullying, but it does not result in a tarnished reputation or loss of employment, then you are not being “canceled”. Cancel culture in itself is a term coined by Twitter; it originated from a hashtag in tweets that appeared when someone did something the community collectively found offensive or wrong. Usually over things like racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic statements. 

In theory, “canceling” makes the person recognize their wrong-doing and experience the consequences of their actions, supposedly holding everyone to the same standard of accountability. However, in practice, it doesn’t always affect everybody the same. Especially when it comes to A-list celebrities. 

Kanye West has been no stranger to scandals and controversies. Back in 2018, when he was on a TMZ interview, he made a statement regarding slavery saying that the enslavement of black people was their choice because, if they had wanted to, they could have left. After the interview of him went viral, many tried to cancel him on his inaccurate statements about slavery. The interview got vast media attention for a couple of weeks but was eventually forgotten about after “the next big story” took the spotlight.  

It seems that when it comes to celebrities getting canceled, people seem to take it as either a big joke or as just the “story of the week”. Many people never actually hold more well-known celebrities accountable for their actions, but when smaller creators get canceled, they receive much more hate and backlash. 

This was the case for a TikTok-er Erika Thompson, or you might also know her as the TikTok Bee Lady. She got canceled in the middle of quarantine over a few TikToks she made where she was seen handling beehives. In the video, she was seen in just a dark-colored outfit with her hair down to her shoulders, with her sleeves rolled up. This caused uproar in the beekeeping community and the LA Honeybee Rescue account called her out for not wearing protection, and for wearing inappropriate attire when handling the bees. They went on to essentially say that bees can find dark colors threatening and that not wearing protection when handling them can be dangerous for her and the bees. After they called Thompson out, her comment section was filled with death threats and people attacking her, leading her to disable her comment section. She lost a lot of followers and didn’t post for months on end, however, experts came out and clarified that what she was doing wasn’t as dangerous as others made it out to be. And has since been posting videos on TikTok.  

Although the idea that people should be held accountable for their actions is correct, cancel culture executes it in a very toxic and selective manner. Two different people could get canceled for things that the majority find offensive or wrong, yet one of them could manage to leave with an untarnished reputation whilst the other is left to pick themselves back up. There is no point in trying to show morality in canceling someone because they deserve to face consequences for their actions, even if everyone isn’t being held to that same level of accountability. The person with the bigger following did not face as many consequences as the smaller creator, showing that cancel culture picks and chooses who gets canceled and to what extent, not only making it toxic but also ineffective.

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