We’re all kind of tired of cancel culture. Sometimes we’re oscillating from “It’s bad” to declaring that we are canceling somebody.
J.K. Rowling, for example, has been pretty thoroughly divorced by the Harry Potter fandom after years of issues.
Michael Jackson has been posthumously canceled more than once. Scarlet Johansson keeps ending up on thin ice.
And numerous books have been pulled, usually because of content issues, but there was also the woman who said some racist stuff about a Washington Metro employee and got into a legal battle with her publisher.
But what if it’s somebody you know?
When you Know Them
Over the weekend, I got a shocking message from a professional colleague asking if I knew anything about the behavior of an “online predator.”
The individual concerned was a cis man who wrote erotica under a female pen name. This is fairly standard in the industry; erotica written by women tends to sell better and a lot of male writers use female or gender neutral pen names.
He had taken it too far. He was sexting and catfishing lesbians, forming friendships with people who had no idea he was in fact a man.
I was absolutely shocked.
See, I had had multiple dinners with him. I knew about the female pen name through professional work.
I did not know what was going on.
And what I will say is that I went through the five stages of grief in about five minutes.
Denial — there is no way he would do that.
Anger — How dare he?
Bargaining — He came clean, maybe he’ll change now. No I can’t…
Depression — I can’t forgive him. I’ve lost a friend.
Acceptance — He made his own bed, now he has to lie in it.
Maybe somebody else would have made a different decision, but I made the decision to cut personal and professional ties with my former friend. I am not revealing his name here (you might be able to find out if you do some digging) and I was not petty enough to tell his wife.
But he betrayed multiple people and potentially endangered trans lesbians. I could not let it pass.
It’s A Personal Decision
Again, somebody else may have made a different decision. Maybe I’ll regret this. Maybe if he behaves for a couple of years, I’ll let him back in my life.
But when you find out a friend has done something that warrants being “canceled” it will hurt. (Unless, of course, you knew all along and thought whatever their views or actions were were okay).
In another case you might find a friend being “canceled” for something utterly trivial, a misunderstanding, and your choice might be to defend them. (Be careful, being too defensive can make these situations worse).
But it may happen that you’ll find out that in some arena you were not in a friend was doing something awful.
And that’s when you have to make the hard decisions. Can the friendship be salvaged? Or not…