Some Nuanced Thoughts about Cancel Culture

The backstory here is that a conservative Christian motivational speaker Natalie Fikes from Georgia posted this rape culture-y meme, it went viral, and now there is online backlash against her.

1) So, clearly this is repugnant. Women are never obligated to have sex with anyone they don’t want to; people are never obligated to have sex with anyone they don’t want to. This sort of thinking is what people refer to as “rape culture.” I wish this first point didn’t need to be said still, but society is a process, humans are a process (more on this later), and the conversation sparked by this outrage is probably good in the end. For those ready to listen to the outrage, hopefully this online controversy will educate some people on consent, boundaries, relationship communication, patriarchy, and rape culture.

2) I think there’s some truth to that people who engage in online “cancel” culture are mostly Internet leftists. It’s a very, very small minority of people, but they are very vocal. The reason I say this is that if you look at the online backlash, there’s a significant chunk of it coming from polyamorous/ethical non-monogamists. And, like, the proportion of self-identified polyamorous people in society is quite low, certainly not to the proportion to the online backlash. What this suggests to me is that the type of people who engage in online “cancel” culture is a whole new culture of people, born of the Internet and Facebook groups: highly Leftist, highly theoretical, and highly “online organized.” (Many of these people who spend a lot of their time dedicated to online cancel culture, which is a minority of vocal Leftists, are probably going through a lot of trauma, is the reality, but more on that later.)

3) My experience with organizing tells me that it takes many, many, many conversations, and building relationships with people over months and years, to even begin really educating people, way deep down, on political issues. Our upbringing, our parents, our trauma, our identities and culture, the people we hang with, our material and emotional needs and the ways in which we’ve accessed them, the ways in which we haven’t been able to meet our material and emotional needs — it’s all that deep stuff that inform our political beliefs, and so of course changing those political beliefs, in a real way, takes deep relationships and a lot of effort and time.

4) So I am skeptical that the online backlash (and cancel culture, in general) is really changing too many hearts and minds in the way deep down sort of way. Because of the format of online Facebook/Twitter communication, deep emotional conversations are not happening, and I am skeptical of the format of online Facebook/Twitter communication’s ability to have those deep conversations. Honestly, when you watch the follow-up response videos Natalie Fikes made, it is clear to me, energetically, that she is having a trauma response. It is also clear to me, energetically (from the subtext), that many of the online backlash posters are having a trauma response too. Trauma is real, and without addressing it, it can get in the way of deep transformational conversations and organizing.

5) That said, society needs to have boundaries too. There *should* be a societal boundary around this type of thinking. This type of stuff is unacceptable.

6) So what’s my ultimate conclusion? Like I said earlier in this post: society is a process, humans are a process. We should continue having online discussions about consent, boundaries, relationship communication, patriarchy, and rape culture — and politics in general. Also, I think we need to have really, really deep discussions in real life, too. About trauma. About healing. About the ways in which we have come to arrive at our politics. And that takes a lot of time, energy, and really good, really smart conversations and organizing.

Do organizing. In real life too. Have deeper conversations. Learn how to have deeper conversations.

It’s not the most profound conclusion ever. But it is, at least to me, that sort of Deep True.

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