Cancel culture

It’s all very well complaining about people being “Cancelled” for transphobia, but every day people come out as trans, and are immediately cancelled. We lose our jobs, families, and friends. People abuse us in the street, and on social media. I think that’s a bad thing.

What kind of opinions justify “cancellation”? Opinions prejudiced against people simply because of who they are deserve cancellation. Racism including antisemitism, sexism, and homophobia are all disgusting opinions, which should make people disgusted with those who hold them. There is some fuzziness around the edges of these things, for instance, when does criticism of the government of Israel shade into antisemitism? But they have a clear core- a reference to “bum-boys” is clearly homophobic. Boris Johnson’s use of the term, and others, show he is racist, homophobic and misogynist. He has not been cancelled, but he should be.

Assertions of falsehood which damage other people justifies cancellation. Oil companies claiming climate catastrophe is a matter of opinion, or that nothing should be done about it, and their shills, should be cancelled.

Trans is simply something people are. I am sorry, fellow trans people, I am arguing I am “born that way”. Born that way arguments are problematic, implying that there is something pitiable about being trans. A man has a right to choose a male partner, whether he is “born that way” or not. But then cis women are “born that way”- born with a uterus and not testicles, mostly, which is enough to be a woman unless you choose not to be- and sexism is wrong. With the current levels of societal transphobia I am wishing I were not trans, even though I know that means wishing I did not exist, and someone else was in my place. There is no “I” that could be separated from transgender, any more than there could be an “I” separate from being a human. I would be otherwise if I could, but I can’t.

The casual prejudice against trans people, which some Christians and some feminists would pretend is a moral view, but which has no more value in an academic paper than as abuse screamed in the street, hurts me. I don’t deserve that. There is the moral argument against transphobia. Transphobes should be cancelled.

JK Rowling clearly hasn’t been cancelled. Possibly someone approaching forty should not be wearing Hufflepuff slippers, but some fans wanted to value the work separate from the views of the author, and might even keep buying the merch. Gillian Philip has been cancelled, to an extent. She was one of a team of authors using the pen name Erin Hunter, which is owned by Working Partners. She tweeted, “#IStandWithJKRowling”. She had “associated the Erin Hunter pen-name with her personal views on Twitter”, and so they sacked her, though said in a statement this was “not in direct response to the nature of Gillian’s personally expressed views”. People had complained to HarperCollins about Philip’s transphobia. Philip said she was not transphobic, only “concerned about women’s legal rights and spaces”. I don’t think it will stop her getting another job, and if she had not publicly said she was Erin Hunter she might have kept her job.

Are “concerns about women’s rights” transphobic? Yes they are, if they are groundless claims of threat to women’s rights from trans inclusion. Opposing trans inclusion is transphobic. Certainly fearmongering about “predatory men” or about trans women in women’s loos is transphobic. For “concerns” about a rape crisis centre to avoid transphobia, they should be about individual trans women doing particular objectionable things beyond just turning up there, and not about trans women in general.

Cancelling is about losing your reputation as a worthwhile member of society. Transphobia is bad, and transphobes are bad for spouting transphobia. That should have consequences for them, because it has consequences for us. Would that we could cancel The Times! Liverpool managed to cancel The Sun. Until trans people and our allies, speaking out for trans rights, have louder voices than transphobes, transphobia will persist, transphobes will get plaudits, and trans people will suffer.

11 thoughts on “Cancel culture

    • I think there are two basic objections to cancel culture. One is “we need freedom of discourse so people can change their minds positively. Why cancel people when you can educate them?” The other is, “hey, just because I think you/someone you love is subhuman and I advocate denying certain people their basic human rights, you decide that you can just ignore me and everything I’m saying! No fair! Listen to me when I say some humans are trash!” I agree with the first and find the second the pinnacle of hypocritical stupidity.

      The trouble is the variation in how much people are willing to actually listen and amend their own personal narratives. It does genuinely take time and patience to get through to some people, but it’s also often worth the work once you do. But also some people won’t listen no matter how patient you are, and when that combines with a platform of enormous social power… well, you have to draw the line somewhere.

      Where is the line? I don’t have a better answer than anybody else.


      • Why cancel people when you can educate them? This long essay indicates you might not be able to educate, claiming the internet is without feedback loops. So women join forums with anti-trans campaigners getting more and more extreme, and no-one challenges what they say. I don’t think it possible to change minds online about trans, just possibly to appear more winsome to undecided people, when they see you debate with a transphobe.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Very true: context matters, and the internet is a difficult arena for arguing for your own humanity. In my experience, radical shifts in ideology tend to happen after real world experiences. The internet is where you hash out the details once you have already picked a side.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. In terms of cancel culture, the cancel culture that seems to need addressing is the cancel culture that results in parents disowning their kids, employers firing their employees, friends cutting off friends just for coming out. Just my two cents.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Precisely. There is a destructive “morality” which says LGBT is Bad, and punishes us for being LGBT, and a growing morality which says people should be allowed to be ourselves in order to flourish and benefit the whole community, and may sanction bigots parroting the first “morality”.

      Liked by 2 people

      • “Cancel culture” is just a term, like, say, “political correctness” or “Obamacare”. Republican voters could hate Obamacare but love the Affordable Care Act. “Cancel culture” implies that cancellation is vicious and random, an attack on someone for saying sensible things. It implies a New Puritanism, which is Against Fun and Normality. “Ooh, unfair,” cries your opponent, as he tries to gouge your eye out.

        Liked by 1 person

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