I believe that cancel culture exists.
I didn’t always believe this. I used to think that “cancel culture” was something only right wing men complained about when there were consequences to their hate speech. Yet, at the same time, I was always having quiet, offline conversations with leftie women who would confess to me that they were afraid of voicing their opinions in case they said the “wrong thing” and had the wrath of their communities come down on them. As an autistic woman, I myself have been deeply afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing which is hard because I have a mind that is forever questioning the “why” of things.
I believe that cancel culture exists and that it has continually triggered my childhood trauma, keeping me in a perpetual state of insecure attachment.
When I first encountered the work of Clementine Morrigan, a writer who speaks with conviction and integrity about the cancel culture problems in the left, I was deeply challenged. I would find myself constantly arguing with them in my head, I kept following and then unfollowing their Instagram until one day I saw a post they had made that simply read “FUCK THE POLICE MEANS WE DON’T ACT LIKE COPS TO EACH OTHER”. Those words broke me open. I’ve always prided myself for being able to see complexity and nuance, yet inside myself I was still trying to categorise people as “good” or “bad” in a misguided attempt to keep myself and my loved ones safe. I realised this was a form of hypervigilance which kept me from forming secure attachments within my community. I didn’t feel safe anywhere, not even inside myself.
I believe that cancel culture exists and that it has always existed in one form or another as a means of control through social punishment.
I believe that we humans are hierarchical social animals who tend to value community harmony very strongly. Subsequently, this can result in us punishing those who do not adhere to social norms and rules through ostracisation, banishment and exile. Of course, how we deal with violent offenders and the likes is a complex subject but if you, like me, believe that some of the answers lie in defunding the police and spending more of our resources on community support, mental health care, housing, climate justice and so forth, then you start to see how cancel culture is utilised as a punitive and abusive form of coercive control. After all, who needs cops when we’re so busy policing ourselves and each other?
I believe that cancel culture exists because I am afraid to post these words.
I’m a queer, autistic woman, artist and sexworker with CPTSD due to childhood trauma. I learned through my lifetime to hide who I was and when I moved to the city in order to find like minded community, I hoped that I might be able to show myself for who I am. However, having experienced slutshaming, witnessing the punishment of people and activist organisations for saying or doing the wrong thing, not to mention the general rise of fascism just outside my leftie bubble, I have found myself increasingly afraid to speak my thoughts and opinions on many subjects in case I am ejected from my communities and thrown to the wolves.
I have never been cancelled but I do not need to be.
I’ve seen it happen to others and unfortunately have even removed people from my social media simply when I’ve heard unsavoury whispers about them from people who I barely knew. Though I made these removals during the height of the #metoo movement and my intentions were only that I hoped to help make the people in my life feel safer, though I believe in the importance of listening to survivors of abuse and assault, I now wonder after the people I unfriended unquestioningly. In particular, I wonder about the cancelled queers who, having already been disowned by their biological families, were then ejected from their queer communities. I cannot with conviction say that I did the right thing by unquestioningly taking part in their cancellation.
I don’t think this is simple but one thing I know is that I shouldn’t live in fear of my community disowning me to the point where I am afraid to speak up about my thoughts, opinions and personal experiences. I don’t want to be forever afraid of the day when the SWERFS come after me and I don’t have people by my side because I said the wrong thing and upset the wrong person.
I have come to see how cancel culture can be used to silence people from using their voice and speaking their truth. I used to think perhaps cancel culture was simply a way of fighting the people in power but when I look around me, I see the rich getting richer, the rest of us getting poorer and the world literally on fire. I now believe that we needs politics of working class solidarity and that embracing diversity requires embracing complexity.
I am inspired by the bravery of people like Clementine Morrigan in speaking up, yet I still remain afraid that if I do the same, I will lose the community and connection it’s take me a very long time to build for myself… but I’m tired of being so afraid. Cancel culture has been telling me for a very long time to shut up and stay in my lane but I’m tired of the way it tightens my chest, strangles my throat and suffocates my artistic expression. I used to write with great ease and flow but writing this has taken me a painfully long time because I feel like I need to make airtight points that cannot be argued, lest I bring a storm down upon myself. That’s profoundly sad. People should be able to disagree with me without my fearing I will lose access to community and connection so that I am isolated like I once was in my childhood.
I believe that cancel culture exists. I also believe that the world is literally on fire, that the climate crisis is going to kill most if not all of our children in nightmarish ways and that fear is a perfect breeding ground for fascism. I believe that if we are going to have a chance at surviving and perhaps someday thriving, we need to build solidarity and strong bonds with each other. I am immensely grateful for the brave and important work of Clementine Morrigan and if they are brave enough to stick their neck out and speak their complicated, imperfect, human truth then I want to learn to do the same. I want community that is built upon foundations of compassion, care and solidarity.
I don’t want to be afraid of everyone anymore.