Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Understanding Cancel Culture
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
This is Part Four of the “Musings from a Millennial” series. View past articles here.
You may be starting to hear it more and more: “X celebrity is canceled.” “X politician is canceled.” “X brand/company/group is canceled.” It seems like every other day someone or something is being canceled.
But what does being canceled mean? And, more importantly, what does this mean for your association?
What Does ‘Canceled’ Mean?
According to Merriam-Webster, “to cancel someone (usually a celebrity or other well-known figure) means to stop giving support to that person.” The reason behind the cancelation can vary, but it usually is because an individual “expressed an objectionable opinion, or [has] conducted [oneself] in a way that is unacceptable, so that continuing to patronize that person’s work leaves a bitter taste.” In short, someone did or said something that is not acceptable or appropriate in the eyes of the public.
Canceling is part of the overarching umbrella of cancel culture. Cancel culture has become a common term in recent years, and prominent examples of cancelation started to appear with the #MeToo movement (Vox, 2019).
Millennials, Gen Zers and Cancel Culture
Millennials and members of Generation Z are not afraid to say what is on their minds, speak out against injustice and find ways to make their voices be heard. These generations are also savvy with technology and know their way around social media platforms (the birthplaces of many cancelations).
Due to the power of social networks, a hashtag about ending someone can become a trending topic on local, national, and international levels with common canceling hashtags of #[person]isover, #isoverparty and #canceled all being used.
When someone or something is canceled, these two generations are quick to note what happens next as well. Does someone apologize? Does a brand or celebrity ignore the situation at hand? Furthermore, if someone or something has been canceled, there is a good chance that even years later, the situation will come up again and/or be referenced again.
Cancel Culture and Associations
So how can you make sure your association isn’t canceled? As millennials and Gen Zers begin to phase into associations and become a targeted demographic of membership, it’s important to understand that these groups are going to be more critical in how they view the people leading your association and your association as a whole. If a prominent leader or member of your association is speaking or acting in a way that could get them canceled, chances are millennial and Gen Z members will notice and demand action. If your association finds itself in the position of being canceled, it’s best to be transparent, address the concerns and move on in a forward-thinking manner.
Cancel culture isn’t going away any time soon. While it may seem like each week brings on a new batch of people and companies being canceled, canceling someone has a purpose. Whether it’s to bring light to a movement or to hold a public figure accountable, millennials and Gen Zers are looking for change, justice, and accountability—whether on a large scale like social media or a smaller scale like certain industry sectors.
Monica Roselli is a content associate at SmithBucklin
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