If you spend as much time on social media as I do you may have also noticed that “influencers” (for lack of a better word) are cancelling people and brands left and right. For those of you not in the know, to be “cancelled” is exactly what it sounds like—you are now a pariah of the community and are no longer to be held in a place of respect.
A few months back, a popular influencer who was always quick to cancel someone was found out to be problematic themselves. This led me to sit on two questions:
- Should we continue to collectively cancel brands based on the opinions of one or two vocal people?
- If a brand has been cancelled, can they ever be redeemed?
Influencers are just people too—so therefore their word isn’t really law. I have found that sometimes I don’t necessary agree with the reasoning behind the pseudo-boycott. Other times I see brands that seemingly turn themselves around after either being educated or educating themselves. I know a great deal of emotional labor goes into educating people. I don’t think that the responsibility of teaching people should always fall to those who are in the marginalized groups. So this certainly is not a call to arms for the already tired folks out there dropping knowledge on people.
If I’m being honest I’m pretty over the constant public shaming. The big brands who are set in their ways are not going to change because of it—there are plenty of people who are not on social media that will still continue to buy from them. Shaming smaller brands sometimes feels kinda icky because it has the potential to mess with a person’s livelihood.
On the other hand: It is kind of helpful when a brand (or person for that matter) does something that goes against my beliefs to have the heads up before they get any of my dollars.
So what say you, fellow sewcialists?
Is continuing to support this cancel culture helpful or harmful to the sewing community? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Amanda is a mother of two trying to craft her way through life. She can be found on instagram at @mandabe4r where she shares superfluous pictures of her kiddos and current projects.
The term ‘cancel culture’ is pretty divisive because it suggests an over-reaction or a mob behaviour, I think, and it leaves little room for nuance. A lot of the high-profile celebrities who were accused of sexual misconduct or worse complained about cancel culture but are now profiting from it (eg Aniz Ansari or Louis CK). It’s also highly emotive to suggest that people using their consumer power not to shop with someone who has acted in a harmful way is threatening anyone’s livelihood…what on Earth is ‘icky’ about trying to make sure your spending is in line with your values?! Nobody is entitled to be a business-owner and if their actions alienate their customers… well, they should do better. Call-out culture can be an important way of speaking truth to power. Calli
I don’t think there is anything wrong with putting your money where your beliefs are! I also agree that entrepreneurship is not a given. I’m more so referring to the blind following of influencers opinions on things rather than doing work and researching the brands. I also think that there are people who are quick to cancel any and everyone who does something wrong rather than suggesting they educate themselves in that subject matter. Influencers can be quick to allow themselves to be a monolith for the culture and who’s to say they aren’t problematic either?
Sure, but I don’t think those things are equal. An influencer criticising a business in a public manner isn’t the same as a business owner having harmful business practices. Where is the evidence that ‘cancel culture’ is having a harmful impact on people who haven’t done anything wrong? I’m not sure that it is. It’s certainly true that it would be reductive to just put someone in the bin because they hold a view you don’t agree with – that would in fact be a cancel culture – but is that actually happening in the sewing community or anywhere else? I don’t know if it is. I think actually the opposite tends to be true in the sewing community where it’s very difficult to raise a criticism (legitimate or otherwise) of a business without being told that it is ‘icky’ to do so.
I think you may be missing my point. I’m not saying that calling out problematic actions is always negative. I’m not saying cancelling a brand is always negative either. I’m also not implying that doing either is always a witch hunt.
I don’t think I *have* missed the point. Your post asks ‘Should we continue to collectively cancel brands based on the opinion of one or two people?’ – I am asking, is this something that is actually happening, because I’m not sure that it is? Which brands have been ‘cancelled’ on the say-so of ‘walking advertisers’? Whose livelihood has been affected? The use of the term ‘cancel culture’ is problematic to describe brands having accountability for their actions because it suggests that criticism is the same as cancelling… and cancelling isn’t actually happening. Maybe some bad actors who have been held accountable for their bad actions (eg a white supremacist knitter who published hateful videos on YouTube) are saying their business is being affected by ‘witch hunts’ but they’re still there, making a profit from people who share their views or aren’t hurt by them. They haven’t been cancelled at all and I am struggling to think of anyone who really has.
I think many people have lost or never had the ability to distinguish between being personally offended by something and true injustice. There is a big difference in how each is addressed.
I’m less concerned with cancel culture and more concerned with how many people blindly allow themselves to be influenced by influencers. Just because someone calls themself an “influencer” doesn’t mean they have any actual expertise, experience, or training in what they’re talking about. Most influencers are *professional* influencers yet we don’t stop question how much of their opinion is based on being paid to speak out or based on their loyalty to the brands they work with. Afterall, they need to keep their names in the media in order to make money. We tend to forget that. Having a knee jerk reaction of joining the “boycott them!!” bandwagon just because a popular blogger or Instagrammer tells us to is really the problem here.
Exactly! I think that when people who are essentially walking ads it may be problematic to just blindly agree with them
I think cancel culture is a construct that has little meaning for me. I seldom pay much attention to “influencers’ anyway and tend to more of an empirical thinker when it comes to products and services. I prefer to make my own decisions
Do I read reviews? Yes, but then I “read between the lines”. I think that there are always many shades of grey when appraising things,people, products, etc. Things are seldom just black (no) and white (yes).
I like GreenDoors comment!
Guess you have to follow an influencer to buy into cancel culture. Personally I’d rather make up my own mind and do the research myself… Unless sewcialists count as influencers? !
I love cancel culture. Nobody is entitled to my money, time or validation through attention. Cancel culture to me means voting with my money and time. It’s democratic. I’m not going to make a big deal out of it all over the internet and I like there to be room for growth, apologies and human error.
I think that sometimes there are valid reasons for a company/person to be “cancelled,” like a history of racist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc remarks while refusing to see why what they did was offensive. However, I also think that cancelling is often taken too far. For me, canceling should always be about the action and not the person, e.g. we shouldn’t attack them about who they are but rather what action they took.
There is a great video on the topic of cancelling done by ContraPoints on YouTube, if anyone wants to delve deeper into the nuances and goals of cancel culture. It is a dive into her personal story of how she was cancelled and the process that most “cancelling” follows, using the James Charles drama as an example. I do caution that the video may be triggering for some people ( I think she tries to list possible triggers at the beginning of the video though, and transcripts are available for reading). Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjMPJVmXxV8
Ultimately I think we have to ask why we are cancelling the person/company. Is there a goal in mind? If they change will we support them again? Would we never support them again? Hannah on the channel Smokey Glow on YouTube talks about these kinds of things a lot in regards to the beauty industry. Likely we have different reasons for cancelling people/brands in the sewing world, but I think the ethical questions stay the same.
I agree that sometimes it can be justified! Thanks for the share I’ll have to watch that later
I really don’t see how “cancel culture” is any different from endorsing products or businesses. I am happy to read someone’s opinion, but I don’t take any influencer’s opinion for Gospel. I also don’t see this as any different from advertising. An ad is just an endorsement for a product. We all need to look at adds and criticisms for what they are, opinions possibly based on fact, maybe not. It is each person’s responsibility to determine which.
So that being said if an influencer is doing the canceling should we be taking it seriously or with a grain of salt? Influencers are essentially just walking ads, no?
I’m glad to see this addressed by the Sewcialists and to see differing perspectives presented. Where I’m uncomfortable with cancel culture is the use of public humiliation and shame to bring people into line. Shame has been used for centuries as a social conditioning tool especially to keep women in line and often by women against other women. This is the part that sticks in my throat, the feeling of shame and that it is still being used by women against women. I’m conflicted however in that I often agree with the complaints that have been made, and fully supportive of having all voices being heard especially ones that have been rendered invisible previously. So I have no answers and appreciate seeing a discussion about this issue.
I’m not a huge fan of this post as a conversation starter – I think it might have needed some specific examples to underpin it, and to illustrate why you think it’s a problem or how it can go bad. For me, the online sewing (and knitting) community is better when it offers no space for bigotry and when it calls people out on empty promises (whether that’s on size inclusion or whatever). In wider society, like the comment above says, I don’t think we need to rush to figure out how to reintegrate a Louis CK or whoever when they’re unrepentant or not doing serious heavy lifting to effect cultural change from their platform.
Many of us aren’t following highly compensated influencers, and within the sewing and knitting communities, I’m seeing a lot of work done by people who are rewarded only with free Nazis arriving in their comments, or at best with a few tips from those of us grateful to them for taking the lead.
I think this really depends on who is doing the cancelling. If the action is coming from a person who has lived experience of the oppression in question, then I think it’s really important not to tone police or try to control how they share that experience, and to support those folx who are speaking out. But I’ve been noticing a lot of relatively-privileged people (based on their self-identifications) participating vocally and in what seem like performative ways to show that they are ‘woke’ or ‘on the right side of history’. I don’t doubt their genuine concern, and I don’t think they are simply doing it to be trendy. Based on what I’m hearing from friends and colleagues, I think it comes at least in part from deep-seated fear of public shaming – not only a lack of belief that they can tolerate or even survive being publicly called a racist/ableist/homophobe/transphobe (see Robin Di Angelo’s work on this) but also the intense emotional and social fallout of large online shame campaigns. When large groups of relatively-privileged people (ie not the people with lived experience of the oppression) jump on board to publicly shame people of similar levels of privilege, they may be doing so to distinguish and protect themselves from the same treatment if they, too, unwittingly reveal a bias or oppressive belief. This is destructive because, speaking as a white cis-het woman, I think those of us with relative privilege need to doing the work of constructively supporting each other to get past this fragility and actively confronting oppressive habits and practices. This doesn’t always mean being polite or doing things discreetly. But I think this work is done best when we ask ourselves what is most likely to bring about the necessary change – not what might protect us (those with relative privilege) from getting ‘caught’.
This is such a timely post. I purchased a sewing book recently. I was a bit hesitant to do so, because the size chart wasn’t included on the book listing, nor could i find it anywhere online. The patterns within the book aren’t what I would consider to be size-inclusive, but I am really, really hesitant to review the book or post that feedback online anywhere. I know the author put a ton of work into it. It’s her baby! I know the community would have things to say and questions about why the patterns haven’t been graded for larger sizes. But I feel icky about calling the attention of the Internet to this particular individual and resource.
I’m returning the book, and I let some of my sewing friends know in a more selective and private way. But I sure would have appreciated this information before I ordered the book.
So dangerous to continue to believe the notion that calling out small businesses is icky because it affects their livelihood. If you do something shameful, you don’t deserve to continue making money because that’s how you support yourself. People have every right to call out poor practices or bad service publicly. Usually, its the awful reaction that gets the business in hot water with the public.
I don’t automatically cancel brands/stores because of someone else’s experience. But you’d better believe that when I see the brand/shop come back and double down, etc? Yeah, you’ve done that…not the person who posted about their experience.