This, by Jessica Valenti, is angry and true: The People ‘Cancel Culture’ forgot.
That’s why a man who is accused of sexual harassment or abuse is ‘canceled’, while the women who accuse him are said to be taking part in a ‘witch hunt’. It doesn’t matter if those women left their school, jobs, or town because of their abuser’s behavior. In the eyes of cancel culture, they’re the real wrongdoer. They became the perpetrator as soon as they tried to hold someone more powerful than them—in this case, men—accountable.
Despite how ridiculous and clearly illogical this kind of thinking is, it’s also effective. Because who gets called ‘canceled’ has become shorthand for whose lives and happiness matters.
I read Valenti’s piece as various Scots media types posted about how awful it is that Joanna Cherry is getting online abuse. And it is awful. But I don’t recall seeing them making the same posts when the people doing the attacking were Cherry supporters going after young mothers, queer kids, trans women, disabled people and rape crisis volunteers, although they were quick to rally around JK Rowling. And that suggests that only some voices matter: the ones of the affluent, the privileged, the well-connected. The powerful.
If you react with horror at someone telling JK Rowling or Joanna Cherry to fuck off but are just fine with the demonisation and dehumanisation of marginalised groups and attacks on those who stand up for them, you’re not the good person you like to think you are. You’re saying that the only lives that matter are the ones you’d invite to dinner.
When the powerful lose out on privileges, it’s cancel culture—but when anyone is deprived of their rights, it’s just politics.