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We don’t demand perfection, we demand improvement

Demanding someone take responsibility for their problematic deeds is not censorship: a post on what’s problematic, cancel culture, and allowing space to learn and do better.

Disclaimer// This isn’t aimed at anyone in particular. These are just my thoughts, do not come here to troll or harass.

With current conversations I thought I’d put what I said on Twitter on here as well and expand on those thoughts. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about “cancel culture” and with the frequent critiques happening within the Twitter YA community there’s people claiming there’s mob’s happening and censorship and what not. Usually I’m on the quiet side of things like this, but I feel like I need to speak up sometimes. These things are important to me.

Disagreeing on what’s “problematic”

So on the topic of “problematic” people or books, or whatever, I think not everyone is defining the word in the same way. I’ve noticed multiple people using it to mean something being problematic as them not agreeing with it. That someone who’s problematic is just someone with different views. I get why people would use it like that, but I think that using it like this cheapens the word. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

First I want to explore a bit why people would use the word like that. First I think because they see other people around them use it like that. Describe it like that, etc. Because I see it happen a lot too, but it’s usually people who disapprove of call outs. It’s usually from a point of privilege. I personally believe calling out problematic behaviour or products is beneficial.

What I often see is people just don’t understand why something is called problematic and called out. They don’t see the harm in whatever is done or has happened, and so they view it as a difference of opinion. But that’s just not how this works. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t make them problematic. It’s when someone’s views are harmful, or oppressive that they become problematic.

That’s how I see it when we call out problematic books. It’s not about not agreeing with what’s written or how it’s written. It’s about how what’s written adds to existing stigmas and furthers oppression. It’s when they actively harm people’s lives through playing into systems of oppression. Friends can disagree on pineapple on pizza and if cats or dogs are better. I cannot be friends with someone who thinks eugenics is fine when its disabled people, because they think we’re lesser humans.

Siding with unapologetically problematic people is a problem

When people use “problematic” as meaning a difference in opinion they cheapen the meaning of the word. People won’t understand that often when it’s initially used in a call out or critique, it’s being used to tell there’s a problem. People are being hurt, and I don’t mean just feelings, I mean lives.

I’m going to add in here, that there’s lots of people who don’t believe in this hurt. They trivialize whatever feelings are expressed, think people are being overly sensitive and playing into victimhood and what not. They have all kinds of ways to discrediting why something or someone is problematic. Calling it censorship is another. When you actually look at what’s happening and dissect everyone’s stances you will see that these people just don’t believe in the oppressive systems at play which are at the basis of whatever’s problematic. They don’t believe racism, ableism, queer-misia, etc. is at play. Their actions often enforce the oppression. You see this behaviour with abusers as well. They won’t listen when told their behaviour is abusive so they say their victims are the one being abusive and because there’s a power dynamic often in their favour, they are often also the one people believe when others get involved.

Anyway, it’s a little simplified the way I put it. There’s more to say on the topic, but that’s the gist of it.

None of us want to be part of the problem (except trolls I guess)

So with that being said, these call outs are scaring people. People are scared they will be mobbed, they will be cancelled forever, and that they can’t make any mistakes. Not any, no matter how small. Now I get this feeling. I’m a very anxious person. I’m afraid of making mistakes, of putting people off, of angering them, of rejection. They can set me off real bad and I’ve had anxiety attacks over them. But we also need to understand that it’s disingenuous to believe that’s really the truth. Yes, there are people who go to the extremes, cancel people over small things, but there’s lots of people who don’t, and it doesn’t negate the fact that people need to take responsibility for their actions and the harm that may come with that.

Saying there will always be someone offended so just do whatever you want, that trying has no use because there will always be someone who’ll come at you, trivializing the harm you caused and calling them overly sensitive because you cannot relate, emphasize or muster up the respect and common decency is the opposite of taking responsibility. It’s not caring. And that’s a solid reason for people to cancel you, because you are dangerous to their wellbeing. If you don’t take responsibility, there will be consequences. Like there should be.

But yes. I also don’t want to say people aren’t cancelled forever for the littlest things. The thing you have to remember is that something that may seem small and insignificant to you, can be very harmful to another. You’re views and experiences aren’t superior to another’s. Instead of calling people overly sensitive, stop being an insensitive jerk.

Who gets a second chance, and who gets cancelled forever

If you genuinely care, there will people who’ll forgive you. If you learn to do better and don’t respond with non-apologies you should be okay. And I will admit that people are soon to cancel and people are not always giving people space to learn. We need to allow space for that. We need to do better in this regard. That’s true.

I also want to say I understand where that’s coming from though. When more people act like a decent human being, people will have an easier time of giving people the benefit of the doubt again, and this cancel culture will lessen. For now, we’ve been burned by betrayal too many times to do that yet. I can understand cancelling someone forever out of protecting your own mental health. Sometimes the damage done is too much. We’re allowed to not forgive unforgivable things.

Because we have to be honest. It’s always the same people who’re demanded free labor of. Who are always used as a learning opportunity instead of an actual human being and always expected to be pristine while other people are allowed second third fourth and so on chances… there are some context and nuance that is needed sometimes to understand where people are coming from. Think of women always being demanded to do free emotional labour, to be the carer, how Black women are used as mules to get people their rights and then quickly side-lined and told to wait their turn by those same people they helped, how books by people of color get bad reviews because they didn’t submit to the white gaze and teach the reader about their culture.

Yes, there are enough people who want to help, and who want to educate, just don’t take them for granted and don’t demand anything, especially not from just any random person. Paying attention to who gets how many chances and by who can be a big eye opener….

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