The Anthro Community and the Weaponization of Cancel Culture
I'm sure many of you read that title and went, "Whoa, Mariah, this is a minefield. You don't have to do this. Save yourself!" But, I'm asking you, please just stick with me and read the entire article to the very end. I bet you won't find this nearly as polarizing as the title might suggest. I promise, AnthroBrand isn't going to become some Anthro "trashmag" or news site either; this is just something I feel needs to be brought into the light and discussed. My ultimate goal of spreading positive knowledge for the benefit of our community hasn't changed.
To be completely transparent, I didn't grow up on the internet and I'm definitely not an expert on this subject. The term "cancel culture" did not exist in my lexicon until just a few weeks ago when I came across a disturbing tweet about how an artist was still popular after drawing a particular subject. This caught my eye and made me curious about when it became acceptable in our community to turn crosshairs on one another just because of a particular style or content. After doing a bit of research, I discovered cancel culture and realized that, as someone looking from the outside in, it seems to be abused on a daily basis.
So, what is cancel culture? According to Merriam-Webster, cancel culture can be defined as:
"...to stop giving support to [a] person. The act of canceling could entail boycotting an actor’s movies or no longer reading or promoting a writer’s works. The reason for cancellation can vary, but it usually is due to the person in question having expressed an objectionable opinion, or having conducted themselves in a way that is unacceptable, so that continuing to patronize that person’s work leaves a bitter taste.
The objective behind canceling is often to deny that [individual] attention, so that the person loses cultural cachet. Bromwich quotes Lisa Nakamura, a professor in the Department of American Cultures at the University of Michigan, who says, “People talk about the attention economy — when you deprive someone of your attention, you’re depriving them of a livelihood.”
Nowright away, I can see that there is the potential for a lot of good to come from the textbook definition of cancel culture. Especially in the world of Hollywood celebrities, politicians, or anyone else who has a significant impact on society or great influence over a vast majority of people. If someone in any of those circles should do real harm or express some truly vulgar opinions, then cancel culture would be excellent tool to show them where they stand in the eye of the greater public.
With that being said, however, there doesn't seem to be many examples of it being used like the textbook definition would suggest. Is it just me, or has what was originally intended to be a social utility just become a cover for call-out culture? Overall, from what I have been able to read and understand, cancel culture has brought considerably more harm to our society than good. This is my opinion, but it's not one that I hold on my own. Even more, when you think about the definition of cancel culture and how it's being used in our community, especially on social media, you can quickly see how something that was created to be a utility for the people has been weaponized by individuals who simply don't like something they see.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not advocating for any specific cause. I'm not an activist and I don't take part in any specific circles within the community. The purpose of this article is to expose the real harm and toxicity that the cancel culture movement has brought into the Anthro community. How a single tweet can potentially ruin someone's entire life, maybe because of a misunderstanding, maybe because an individual just isn't comfortable with something, or simply because two people happen to disagree. There are better ways to handle all of these scenarios than public shaming.
Destroying someone's life through public broadcast of your opinion because of what they create artistically is never worth the cost. If you truly believe it is, I would simply ask you why. People lose their livelihood, their friends, and in some cases, even their families. If what they are creating is not fit for judgement by our society's legal system as a whole, why do we see fit to punish them within our own walls? Our community, by nature, is different and that's part of what makes it so great!
When you take a step back and look at the Anthro community, and I mean all of us, what do you see? We're pretty different, right? All of us share a common love for anthropomorphic animals, people, creatures or some other type of critter that has been given sentience. Some anthropomorphic creatures walk on two legs, others on four, some on six, or even none at all! Some of us, me included, even adopt an image of one of these creatures as our very own to display online to everyone around us. This image becomes us, it is us, and not in a creepy sense but generally accepted fashion. Rather than sharing a picture of my actual face to my friends online, they get my character instead because that's how I like to be!
So stop and really think about it, isn't that kinda weird? Aren't we all kinda weird?? What quirks do you have? I know I definitely have a few. For starters, I abuse the tilde like it's going out of style~ And I treat the blue heart emoji like it's punctuation💙 But that's just how I communicate with friends online. They all know me as Mariah, just like all of your friends know you as your sona/character. It's how we represent ourselves in the community and it's been this way since, well, forever! Around here, I'm 4' of ferocious "tinydeer" and nothing is going to take that away from me. Isn't that just one part of what makes our community amazing?
Now, let's take a second to look at our artists. The hundreds of thousands of individuals from around the globe that enjoy all of the same things we do. How it's possible that there are so many I will never, ever know, but isn't it incredible? The fact that there are so many talented people in our community that are willing to create and share. Every single day I find new artists on Twitter to follow from Japan, Poland, South Korea, South America, you name it! And all of them are people, just like you and I, who love this fandom. I see their art, love it, and not even the language barrier stops us anymore. We live in such a fantastic time of sharing and our community is always growing.
So I have to ask, why do we need to judge each other so harshly? Especially over something as simple as, "I don't like what they draw."
Cancel culture was created to be a social utility that could be deployed against individuals with a significant public influence. I don't know of anyone who creates in the Anthro community that holds a high political office or is a Hollywood celebrity. Even if they are, I still think we should all take a second before sending out any tweets or posts on social media that contain harsh judgments about them. It doesn't work like you think it will.
I don't follow politics at all, but I ran across a quote from President Barack Obama that rings true to the point I am trying to make with how toxic cancel culture has been in the Anthro community:
"...there is this sense that the way of [individuals] making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that's enough."-President Barack Obama
When I was still working with large corporations, I had the privilege to attend many different training sessions about unconscious bias in the workplace. I came away with an acronym that I am going to modify and adapt for use in our community when it comes to cancel culture. So, before you click the tweet button after encountering an artist or creator that has done something you don't agree with, I want you to P.A.U.S.E. Please?
P- Pay attention to what you encountered
A- Acknowledge your emotions and judgments
U- Understand other points of view
S- Search for a constructive, empowering solution
E- Empathize while executing your plan
To expand on each of these points a little, when you pause and pay attention to what you encountered, I want you to do your best to precisely understand what it is that you are seeing. What about this certain stimuli is creating an emotional reaction? Once you know and understand, you should acknowledge your emotions and your judgments and analyse them. Are you angry, disgusted, sad? What are you feeling and why?
Then, try to understand other points of view. Things like, "why was this created?" or "who was the target audience?" or even, "why am I seeing this in my feed" and "did I follow this person?" Next, search for a constructive solution. Often, the simplest is to unfollow, or remove the artist from your feed if you do not like their content. Deciding to go on a cancel crusade isn't going to help anyone, especially if you have never spoken to the individual who has offended you. You have no idea what they are like! And to borrow another quote from President Obama: "People who do really good stuff have flaws." If you really like the artist, then reach out to them and simply talk to them. But remember to be polite. The goal is to be constructive, not destructive.
Finally, as a last step, I want you to empathize as you execute your plan. Do your best to see things from the other person's point of view. If you are talking to them about their work, this step is very important. Maybe they were brought up differently than you with a different set of principals. Religion, culture, and politics vary wildly around the world and the Anthro community is a definitely global one. If the person is doing something you find morally questionable, you have every right to remove them from your feed. If you can't see their creations anymore, are they still harming you? Remember, you don't have to support them, but shaming them and everyone who does isn't the answer. Why do you need that level of toxicity in your life?
"Because what they are creating is NEVER acceptable under ANY circumstance and EVERYONE needs to know how BAD this person is for creating it."-Anonymous Twitter User
If we decided to create an organization within our community to police artwork based on the morals of whatever individual is looking at it, what would be left? Who would decide what is ultimately acceptable? Do you want to be the one to censor and take someone else's happiness away when they are doing no harm to anyone else by creating artwork? To quote President Obama again, same video as before:
"If all you're doing is casting stones, you're probably not going to get that far. That's easy to do."
As I was preparing to write this article, I interviewed several artists who had encountered cancel culture already. One of them had been publicly shamed so severely that they had to move across the country and completely restart their life. They were falsely accused of so many things that the FBI came and searched their home even though no one had ever gone to the police or filed any charges. Things that were said online, over Anthro artwork, lead to the complete destruction of someone's real life.
Another artist I spoke to is afraid, to this day, to draw or post online because of the public backlash they received over a certain kind of content that is generally accepted within our community. It wasn't fetish art or some strange niche, but they were shamed because they simply followed an artist who did that kind of art. They happened to enjoy another artists style, and were shamed for it. So they gave up drawing all together. Stories like these are sadly more common than you might think, all because we don't agree.
It's okay to disagree with someone, or not like the content they draw, and if you see someone posting things that are genuinely illegal you should contact the proper authorities. But if you are jumping on the cancel wagon over a single tweet and screenshot of a message that may be years old, you really should PAUSE and reconsider your actions and the consequences they might have. At the very least, talk to the person who has been accused and find out for yourself.
Allowing social media to manipulate your opinion of another individual is a very poor way to go about your life, and fact checking every single tweet is going to be very time consuming. This is why we should all let go of the toxic nature of cancel culture and learn to use the tools at our disposal like unfollow and block. It's not your job to "punish" people over the internet and creating toxic environments in the community by publicly shaming others for what they create or follow isn't fun for anyone. In the real world you have to attend years of schooling before you can judge the behavior of other people against the laws of our society; and I'm pretty sure there is a good reason for that.
Cancel culture wasn't invented to destroy small creators who have no impact on the greater fabric of society. What's more, calling people out and ruining the lives of others because you don't agree with what they create doesn't make you a better person either.
It actually makes you a bit of a jerk.