argument top image

How do we think about cancel culture?
Back to question

Cancel culture redresses systemic oppression

Cancel culture empowers marginalised individuals to fight back against structural inequalities that have traditionally held them back.


Cancel culture empowers marginalised individuals to fight back against structural inequalities that have traditionally held them back. Existing channels of protest have failed them. That is clear enough from the rampant inequality that still characterises our societies. Cancel culture offers them a route into the conversation, and an equal position at the table. It is as journalist Shamira Ibrahim writes "“Cancellation isn't personal. It’s a way for marginalized communities to publicly assert their value systems through pop culture.”

The Argument

Cancel culture can provide a voice for people who, in times past, were not able to speak up. As an outlet, cancel culture allows people to point out systemic issues. Through the act of speaking out, they gain the ability to affect change. Canceling is an act of revoking social and/or financial support in response to disagreeing with the "canceled" individual's politics or behavior. Cancel culture is comparable to the boycotting practices used by the civil rights movement [1]. The only difference between boycotting and canceling is that boycotting is directed towards businesses while canceling can be directed towards a person or a business. Both methods try to bring attention to a person or business's conduct that they feel is unacceptable. Once the targeted individual or business feels the desired amount of pressure, the pressure the target feels should affect the desired change. In the case of cancel culture, most activity takes place on social media. There, people who do not have a major public platform can effectively interact with the person or business they want to hold accountable [2]. Overall, social media acts as a medium for people who have experienced systemic oppression. Through it, under-represented people can hold individuals or businesses accountable for contributing to systemic oppression.

Counter arguments

While cancel culture can address systemic oppression, it also has the potential to ruin someone's life needlessly. Part of cancel culture is looking for evidence by which to mount a person or business's canceling. Often this comes in the form of a social media post, sometimes older posts these individuals or groups may have made. The issue with going through older posts is that they may not reflect the target's values in the present day. An appropriate example lies in the case of Steven Pinker. Pinker is a linguist and cognitive psychologist who almost lost his status as a distinguished fellow within the Linguistics Society of America over some years-old tweets [3]. The only thing that prevented the linguist's removal was that a group of established scholars argued that the canceller's findings did not match up with Pinker's work. If that group of scholars did not intervene on Pinker's behalf, the graduate and undergraduate students would have successfully removed Pinker, ending his career over comments that do not speak to who he is now.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Tuesday, 8 Sep 2020 at 21:51 UTC

Explore related arguments