Let’s Talk About The Feelings Ignored In Cancel Culture
I'm gonna start by asking you a question.
Shivangi is an undergraduate student studying English Honours in a Delhi university. She is also an active Twitter user who's cancelled quite a few people in the past.
"Henry Cavill was the most difficult to cancel," she laughs. Cavill had joked about the MeToo movement in an interview to GQ Australia.
But why cancel someone you like so much, some might think? Here's Shivangi's simple explanation.
"You follow a person, idealise them, and only then cancel them," Shivangi says as she explains the emotional graph of a canceling.
For the 20-year-old, who has cancelled a lot of public figures and friends, canceling one woman was particularly difficult.
Shivangi's relationship with Jha is a mixed bag. While she is grateful to her for making feminism palatable to millions of youngsters struggling with a short attention span, over time, she began to be critical of her. And seeing Instagram stories of hers attending the Nh7 weekender this year (the founder of OML was accused of harassment) was the last straw for her. For Shivangi to cancel someone she adored and aspired to be like has not been easy.
The hurt feelings, though, can sometimes be at both ends. Which brings me to question no 2.
I reached out to many artists who were 'canceled' last year. None responded.
However, I did ask counsellors what it could possibly feel like, to be cancelled.
"I am of a Romani and OBC lineage/background and a survivor of domestic violence and we have been harmed by these belief systems for eons while being unheard and invisibilized so I don’t oppose calling out fascism or racism or misogyny," says Scherezade Siobhan, a psychologist and author. But adds, "However, lets all be mindful of how easy it is to turn into a cyber version of the Animal Farm."
"I can speak from personal experience of having been subjected to a reprehensible smear campaign based on hearsay that false allegations can have severe psychological as well as physical repercussions. In my case, I have chronic illness and complex PTSD. I was retraumatized so severely, I experienced lower body paralysis and couldn’t get out of bed for days," says Shioban.
But Shioban believes it's important to call out people to build better communities.
Canceling, historically, has been an important tool for women, queer folks and DBA folks to 'hold power in some arena where they can point out widespread oppression,' says Sioban. And canceling is still being done all over the world to chuck powerful people out of their dens of power, which are built over the tears of oppression.
As a journalist, Khalid was called out severely two years back for a reporting assignment. Friends, batchmates, seniors - everyone had severely criticised him. Many had canceled him from his college. He quit the profession soon after. I asked him what it felt like.
Khalid is not against calling out people on facts; in fact, he says calling out is the nature of all academic arguments, but he says he now refrains from attacking people personally.
Explaining the psychological impact of a calling out, Dr Kamna, a clinical psychologist explains
There's another panicking thought - that everybody knows. And Dr. Nivedita Singh, counsellor and psychotherapist who is also the Founder of CoCreate Change says there could be a lot of shame associated with this.
In severe cases, there could be physically uncomfortable conditions too.
For Japleen Pasricha, founder of Feminism in India, this is a very tricky topic.
Seeing it (canceling) on Twitter, I try to alienate myself from it because I feel it’s very detrimental to my mental health... but again, not everybody has that kind of option. And a lot of women have to go public because that is the only option for them. Even I went public during MeToo, and only when a group of women came out alongside me, was the man firedJapleen Pasricha
For the spectator too, it gets exhausting to see cancelling becoming a daily spectacle.
For those who fear being canceled by friends, or on social media, but are generally empathetic people (and not horrible people doing horrible things), Dr. Nivedita says it's important to understand that there will always be a gap between our real self and our idealised self, and that we need to be comfortable with that.
For the rest of us, it's important to understand that for people, and friends of those called out, it's important to let them be for a while.
Another difficult question to answer, really, is if our cop logic really is helping us?
Meanwhile, Khalid says he still finds it hard to believe how the same people who were abusing him in public at the time he was called out, could also send messages of support in DMs. "You don't know what to take at face value," he says. But adds he has forgotten everything. "I guess it's my own amnesia," he wryly says. What he is sure of though is what the experience taught him. 'It helped me realise why it's important to be cautious about every small step you take.'
'"What I have learnt is that being civil is a fundamental of any conversation. If you’re not being civil in your disagreements with others then you have no moral right to call them out no matter how problematic their views are," he believes.
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