Hello My Imaginary Friends,
I’m sure you’ve heard about Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss. If you haven’t, let me explain quickly. Dr. Seuss has some books with extremely racist imagery and his estate has decided not to publish them anymore. Mr. Potato Head has changed the brand to Potato Head and will sell the base set as gender neutral to make it possible to build any sort of family. Unfortunately, the press release forgot to mention they were still going to sell the legacy Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head.
All this has brought back cries of “Cancel Culture” (I talked about this back when a certain millionaire author felt cancelled. Part 1 and Part 2, I also talked about being problematic here.).
There’s a lot of stuff to unpack when it comes to Cancel Culture and I don’t have the energy to write a book about it. Instead I’ll tell you a story.
I’m a Geek or Nerd, whatever you want to call me. I live in pop culture and spend way more time reading about tech than is necessary for me. A few years ago, someone confronted me about how problematic the idea of “Talk Like a Pirate Day” was, considering their ancestors had been kidnapped and enslaved by real life pirates. (Pirates, corsairs, and privateers were a big part of the slave trade.)
I thought they were kidding; it wasn’t about real pirates, but just a silly internet meme based off cartoon versions. I swear I went through the full gamut of grief. I still have no idea why I was so attached to the damn thing.
In the end, a friend messaged me and said something like, “I get that you’re upset but maybe you should listen to the victim about what bothers them.” I’m sure it was better worded than that, but it’s what made me stop and think. I don’t have the right to question what hurts other people. With that and a cooler head, I realized that, yeah, the day was glorifying a group of people who stole people from their homes and families. Beyond that, they facilitated the complete erasure of multiple cultures. That’s stories, myths, religions, customs, food, etc, everything that makes people feel like people. That’s horrific, and if you don’t think so you need to think some more.
Being told that something hurts others when you thought it was part of you makes you feel like you’re the one to blame. It causes an internal struggle that makes you have to choose between something you think is part of you and another person’s pain. It’s guilt and sorrow and it’s completely on your shoulders.
It’s our responsibility as privileged people to listen to those who have been hurt and try to be compassionate. If something that hurts others is part of you, it might be time to consider if it’s that important and at the very least, admit that it’s a problem.
The calls of “Cancel Culture Gone MAD” and other bullshit is a self defence reflex, but it serves a major purpose, it’s a form of bullying.
Yelling and writing article after article about how sensitive people are and how they should just leave “culture” alone is a backlash that is meant to silence victims and make them question their own hurt. It’s also a way of bullying victims into having to defend their reasons for being hurt.
Next time you are confronted by something that makes you feel like you have to defend yourself against a victim, take the time to think about their point of view and why you have internalized something that was hurtful.
Be safe and be kind,