By Tanya Mwamuka.
Much like the fashion industry, social media and today’s modern society continue to have influxes of trends. As political correctness has seen an increased surge of controversy, platforms such as “black twitter” have allowed the flourishing of the new trend of “cancelling culture”.
For those who don’t know, cancelling culture is when a person or an organisation do something that is seen as problematic. The reaction is a group effort from ‘social justice warriors’ to “cancel” said person/organisation. The increase from coverage the scandal gains in twitter, facebook and instagram and other social media outlets results in more people retracting any support to them or their endeavours.
I myself have been a prime contestant of the game. My first cancellation began with me no longer affiliating with fashion brand H&M. This was after their debacle of a campaign where an image of a black boy dressed in a green hoodie with “coolest monkey in the jungle” printed across it was advertised for sale on their website.
The jumper that caused outrage from the public and various celebrities. Source: HM.com
Most would agree that the pairing of the model to the garment wasn’t an intentional attempt to humiliate and marginalise an entire group. Others suggest that it was a deliberate action to gain publicity; after all any publicity is good publicity.
Nonetheless the failure of the stylist, the photographer, the editor and the marketing team to step back and think about how inappropriate and potentially offensive it was, shows a lack of care and likely reflects lack of diversity within the framework of the company. Were one of those positions held by a black person, I highly doubt they would have let that image slide without warning the team of the repercussions. Those repercussions were certainly impactful as celebrities such as G-eazy and The Weekend immediately stopped their collaborations with them.
Statement from rapper G-eazy following the release of the jumper. Source: Twitter
For the majority of us, we joined the cause by boycotting the store and on this occasion I do believe the cancellation was just. Why promote and spend my hard earned money on a brand who doesn’t take the time to consider cultural sensitivities that affect me daily.
Whilst I do think people should be held accountable for their actions, the question comes to mind how productive is cancelling as a method of improving social awareness? The culture is now turning into a witch hunt; a way of ridiculing rather than a just calling out. Could it be that cancelling culture is more damaging then it is empowering?
Most recently, TV presenter Maya Jama was under fire for the resurfacing of old tweets. These tweets contained a joke where it bashed dark skin black women. Whilst these tweets are a reflection of the trend of degrading dark skin women at the time, I and many others feel this doesn’t excuse this hurtful behaviour. Just because everyone was saying it in 2012 doesn’t give her a free pass.
Some people will suggest that cancelling Maya was a huge exaggeration but an important point made by Tolani from the Receipts Podcast was that the tweet, whilst seemingly looking like a mild joke, is part of the constant degradation this group of women face daily. Colourism is present in pretty much all communities excluding whites, but dark skin black girls have arguably been at the forefront of the butt of jokes for many years. So it is expected that many people were angered by Maya’s tweet. Perhaps working to educate and help improve people’s self awareness would be far more productive then simply cutting ties without rehabilitation. On the counter, for those offended groups they’re just too tired of trying to educate people who won’t listen.
This culture has even been spread to our personal lives. When someone in your life has wronged you, common advice steers away from working through the issue but rather cancelling them and cutting them out. Off course, disposing of toxic people out of your life makes perfect sense but this doesn’t give room for people to learn and grow. Instead of speaking to that friend explaining where they went wrong they are simply written off and what’s worse, perhaps allowed to continue that behaviour because no one spent the time to tell them where they went to wrong.
Just like any trend, we seem to cancel someone and move straight on to the next scandal. So realistically, what does all the fake outrage help? Sometimes I wonder if all the internet anger is just a way for keyboard warriors to seem “woke”. Despite the bad publicity, the public apologies and changes made by brands don’t seem permanent and are somewhat superficial. Furthermore, the world isn’t so simply divided between the self aware and the ignorant, there is a definite in between and people are always learning. Take Maya Jama for example, the tweets which are very unlikely her opinions or thoughts in present day. Like many others who have come to validate the significance of colourism, Maya has also acknowledged that the tweets from 2012 are not part of her present reality.
My verdict is that cancelling culture needs to be cancelled. I’m tired of having to cut all ties with everything. Day after day someone will do something wrong and in my opinion we need to spend more time educating rather than binning, especially if they are willing to. And for those who refuse to admit their mistakes … well goodbye to them.
Tanya is currently studying Biomedical Sciences at the University of Manchester and hopes to get into science journalism and media after completing her degree. She is an avid lover of fashion and travelling and enjoys learning languages in her spare time. Right now she is learning French and Spanish.