Why Is Cancel Culture Within The Bookish Community Toxic – A Discussion

Hi. You can tell from the title of this post what I’ll be talking about today. I wanna preface this post by saying that the opinions I am stating on here are my own – I am not claiming I am right – but this is what I think and how I feel about the current situation. I am willing to discuss this issue further in the comments, and I welcome people to disagree with me in a respectful manner, as what I am writing on here is not aimed to harm anyone and I will not welcome any harm directed back at me. I have a voice and I will use it in a way I see fit, as long as I am not harming others by it.

We all know what this is about – the absolute shit storm concerning Emily A. Duncan and Jay Kristoff. In the light of the current stop AAPI hate movement, and an ongoing BLM movement that has gotten a lot of traction last summer, both authors were called out as racist and bullies, for different reasons. I am not basing this post off those two and their behaviour, on anyone else who is involved in the conversation and controversy, and I am definitely not here to make excuses for anyone. If you expect a post shit talking an author and pointing out every single thing they did and said wrong, move along. I am here to talk about the fallout after these things were mentioned, and how we handle it as a bookish community, and why I think that’s wrong.

I don’t know a single person who has never in their life been disrespectful, racist, dismissive or oppressive in any shape or form. Whether we did things intentionally and meant it in a malicious way, or said things due to miseducation or simply ignorance, we have definitely done things that harmed others in some capacity. There is always room to improve, always a stance we can educate ourselves on, especially those who are not part of a minority. Yes, I am a white, straight passing female – I was born into a life where I didn’t have to worry about being oppressed, because of my race, religion or culture. My opinions on this issue may not be the most valid as I don’t have the authority to speak on things that don’t concern me personally. However, I can do my part in spreading awareness, and try to reach people who already listen to what I want to say and maybe change their opinions. Doing that is great and I think everyone with a platform should speak up on issues concerning racism, sexism, bullying and many other.

Where is this going, then, you ask? I have been noticing every single time someone calls out a famous author, many other people jump on that hate train without doing any research themselves and without educating themselves on the matter. It’s not enough to repost Instagram or Twitter posts, bashing said author and telling people to stop reading their work and promoting it, if you yourself don’t look deep into the issue and make sure that you really understand what’s going on. I have seen so many stories, linking to an Instagram post, basically captioning it – I don’t know the whole story, BUT read this post to educate yourself. I know, I know… it’s not their JOB to tell me, the follower, what is happening and why it’s bad, but if they really felt strongly about the matter, they would do EVERYTHING to reach the people who might still be ignorant, and not just repost an info graphic etc. That is not doing the work. That is false accountability just to not be called out. It creates a vacuum of people repeating the same things without really understanding them. People who tell you to educate yourself half the time forget to do the same. Those people then take the time out of their day to, for a lack of a better word, harass others because they post or read books by certain authors.

Do you see where I’m going with this? The time and efforts are completely misplaced. Instead of going onto someone’s post to shit talk them for posting about a book they’ve enjoyed, how about you make sure that you post alternatives to said books on your platform. Uplift marginalised voices ALWAYS, instead of posting a story saying “I can’t believe X amount of people I follow STILL follow that author and didn’t delete photos of their books off their feed”. Being bitter achieves nothing.

This is what cancel culture does, in a nutshell. It’s okay to call out an author who appropriates cultures that are not their own. It’s okay to take a stance and say it’s not a voice that should be uplifted. But there’s a fine line between appropriation and inspiration. Jay Kristoff can’t write about anything Japanese inspired, because he’s not Japanese, and a white male, but Sarah J. Maas can base her world on the UK and Ireland and make the Irish the evil fairies? Is it okay for Kiersten White to write about genderbent Vlad the Impaler, or for Leigh Bardugo to base her world of the Russian Empire? If the answer is no to any of these, then why are those books still insanely popular, and those authors reaching the bestsellers list with any new books they come out with? Why are bookstagrammers, book bloggers and booktubers those who suffer the most in the fallout? For such a small community, we should be uplifting others, instead of bringing them down. We should be making sure that our voices are heard by the authors doing wrong things and their teams and their publishers. And we should let those authors apologise and give time to do better. And lastly… we need to respect people’s boundaries. No, not everyone has the privilege to be comfortable at all times, and there are situations in which we need to step out of that comfort zone to have important conversations. But it’s no one’s right to impose on other’s comfort zone, as in can do more harm than good.

This post is really long, and I’m not sure if in the end I made myself clear. The subject is very broad, and this is just one side of it. And anyone who knows me knows I get rambly all the time. It’s probably not good enough for many as I haven’t called out authors on anything, but, like I said I am not the authority on the issues and no one needs another white person getting outraged on the Internet.

If you’ve read up to this point – thank you. I’d love to know your thoughts, if you’re willing to share them in the comments.

Talk soon.