Maybe We Shouldn’t Call it Cancel Culture

Arielle Isaac Norman
5 min readApr 1, 2021
They forgot to mention the featured cleavage.

Don’t get me wrong: cancel culture obviously exists and needs to be discussed, or you wouldn’t’ve intuitively understood what I meant by “it.” Maybe the “it” is simply a culture of people who have lost their senses of proportion and humor.

Then again, there may be several sometimes overlapping phenomena we refer to under that term’s umbrella. The term being so catchall, and so appropriated by Trump and now by conservatives as a reactionary whinging point, renders it at worst polarizing and at best vague and impotent as terminology in a constructive conversation about the pros and pitfalls of the crowd’s/mob’s/squeaky handful of people’s power in the social media era.

So many people, across the sociopolitical spectra, criticize “cancel culture,” that one begins to wonder whether anyone is actually in favor of “it.” The phrase appears to have followed the same trajectory as the word “hipster.” No one seems to think the term applies to what they’re doing, yet we all see the phenomenon everywhere around us.

But perhaps some people do still think of “cancel culture” as righteous. Those seem to have reframed (or rebranded) “it” as “consequences” or “accountability” culture. But is what we have going on really a “consequence culture?” There are often consequences to people in the culture that wouldn’t’ve happened 10+ years ago. There are professors losing their jobs for saying the-word-that-must-not-be-named aloud in a discussion of whether or not a democratic culture is best served by having no-no words for some demographics. Powerful sexual predators have also been sent to prison and/or killed in prison (or whatever it was that happened). Are these both examples of “cancel culture?” Are they both examples of “consequence culture?”

I’m all for legal consequences for illegal actions, but we don’t need a “culture” for that, just good laws and good prosecutors. I’m all for social consequences for shitty but legal actions, but this has been and always will be haphazard. Should Katie Herzog and Jesse Singal be labeled “transphobes,” with attendant death threats arriving via every type of mail and social media, for daring to look into the underbelly of the current genderqueer landscape? Shouldn’t we focus more on not supporting corporations and companies that don’t provide living wages…

Arielle Isaac Norman

Comedian and podcaster (Gender Fluids & Wrong Questions Only)