“Scum”, “She is everything wrong with the world”, “Cockroach”, “#CancelHer”.[1] If you have any sort of social media presence you are probably not surprised at the level of cruelty seen in these quotes. If you are not active on social media then you are probably wondering what is meant by the term ‘cancel’ in this context.  Cancel culture is “a form of boycott when, typically a celeb, has shared a questionable opinion […] called out on social media”.[2] This doesn’t sound too bad, right? In fact, this sounds like a positive way for society to correct offensive behavior. The only problem is that cancel culture is not being utilized in this manner. Instead, it has been used as a catchall for cyberbullying and hateful speech. This has effectively limited the number of prominent female activists operating through media platforms.


In 2019, an ill-received Twitter post can diminish an individual’s credibility, despite the amount of good they have done. This has been predominantly targeted at prominent women. Media influencers, celebrities, and public figures are constantly scrutinized on the content of their media posts. Many of these individuals are also tied to a certain social issue and use their personal platform to advocate for these issues. The problem with cancel culture is that it undermines all of the work that these individuals have done because of one inappropriate post. This is not to say that debate is never justified. An online discussion could be a crucial educational tool in which individuals are able to be corrected and grow without being completely rebuked. Unfortunately, due to the unrelenting character of cancel culture, individuals are viewed as either being culturally “woke”, making them inherently good, or if there is any flaw when discussing a subculture of society, they are seen as innately bad.  Labeling people in this way eliminates tolerance and room for learning. Cancel culture, also known as call-out culture, has instead created platforms for hate and insults.


So how has this affected young girls and women? Personally, with the emergence of cancel culture, I have found it particularly difficult to share my opinions online. In fact, the ever-present threat of social ostracization by way of online media platforms has compelled me to limit my social media presence altogether. I am not the only young woman who has dealt with anxiety due to the rising prevalence of cancel culture. As the content of social media has moved into a realm of callouts, clapbacks, and cancellations, anxiety and depression among young girls have increased.[3] Additionally, cancel culture has made women very risk-averse. It has encouraged women to refrain from speaking their minds, sharing their opinions, and having original thoughts. This has erased women from places of influence and silenced their voices and authentic experiences surrounding important issues. The fear of being “canceled” and therefore, humiliated and isolated, has led to a decrease in the number of female activists. The virtual deletion of women from places of influence is misogynistic at its core and it is crucial that we, as the generation of social media, refuse to accept the creation of cancel culture in any form.


Fortunately, cancel culture has not been entirely effective. Some women have continued to persist online despite facing harassment and threats. Rahaf Mohommad has utilized social media to rebel against the male-dominated, abusive society of Saudi Arabia. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez uses Twitter to emphasize the importance of authenticity and transparency online. Even Cardi B uses media platforms to encourage individuality, specifically in young girls. [4]


We cannot wait for the Internet to become a safe space for women before we begin to share our experiences online. We must motivate our girls to continue to persist despite inevitable discrimination in the comments section. One way to do this is by creating environments where women can share their ideas and grow together. It is crucial that as women, we support other women. This does not mean that we always have to agree with one another. Disagreements are natural, especially when diverse groups of people are engaging in constant interaction online. As women, we should utilize these interactions to educate and encourage each other as we share our ideas and different points of view.

– M.M.


[1] Sykes, P. (2019). The Internet Trend for ‘Cancelling’ Women Has Got to Stop. Retrieved from https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/elle-voices/a26881483/pandora-sykes-on-cancelling-women/

[2] Mahan, L. (2019). Youthsplaining: Everything You Need to Know About Cancel Culture. Retrieved fromhttps://www.insidehook.com/article/internet/youthsplaining-everything-you-need-to-know-about-cancel-culture

[3] Rogers, Stockdale, Zurcher & Booth. (2019). Overall time on social media is not related to teen anxiety and depression. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191022174406.htm

[4] Time Staff. (2019). The 25 Most Influential People on the Internet. Retrieved from https://time.com/5626827/the-25-most-influential-people-on-the-internet/


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