If you’re familiar with recent internet events, you’ve probably heard the phrase “cancel culture” by now. The term refers to the removal—or “cancellation”—of support for celebrities and brands who have engaged or are currently engaging in problematic behavior. Some people believe that cancel culture is a toxic trend that does more harm than good. However, the phrase has become a buzzword for people to both defend and dismiss the wrongdoings of famous figures.
In the last week, pop and R&B star Rihanna and her brand Fenty were criticized for using the song “Doom” by CouCou Chloe in their lingerie fashion show because it misused the Islamic Hadith. The Hadith is a holy text with advice and guidance given by the Prophet Mohammed. Many Muslims took to social media to express how offensive this misuse was. However, non-Muslims responded to many of these concerns by virtually downplaying the severity of the issue. Some even claimed that pointing out the show’s carelessness was useless since Rihanna was noncancellable to them.
However, the reality was that no one was trying to cancel Rihanna. Muslims called attention to the song because it disrespected an important aspect of their faith. Their advocacy resulted in apologies from Rihanna, her brand and CouCou Chloe, and the song was edited out of the show’s recording.
In their haste to defend Rihanna, fans completely missed the point the Muslim community was making. The fan’s arguments completely disregarded the personal experience of Muslims in the situation. Fans prioritized their speculative opinion over the discontent of a group that was personally impacted by the song. This contributed to the feelings of marginalization felt by Muslims. People get so caught up in cancel culture that they delegitimize the concerns of marginalized groups. Denying accountability inherently gaslights the person or group affected by the action.
The backlash celebrities receive can be more intense than the average person because of the large size of their platform; that doesn’t mean that their actions aren’t worthy of being criticized. Part of the education process involves bringing attention to what was done wrong and explaining why the people impacted feel disrespected.
The harsh truth is that no one is “cancelling” anyone. This incident with Rihanna shows that there’s a growing lack of awareness for cultural sensitivity. When people downplay issues they aren’t personally impacted by, it adds another layer of pain to those who are affected. Everyone has the ability to state their opinion, but when you use your opinion to overshadow the validity of others’ concerns, you’re contributing to the problem.
By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer