Vivy Yusof’s Tearful Apology Reminds Us That COVID-19 Is Not The Only Disease That Needs A Cure
This is a conversation we’re going to need to have – and it revolves around the viral infection that is cancel culture.
While obtaining information from the internet is nothing new, we now see ourselves having more opportunity to respond to the information we’re receiving. And although it seems that nothing much has changed pre-movement control order and COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing more toxicity in a world where we should be focusing on the positive. As we start to spend more of our lives online, we’re unconsciously creating a cancel culture that we soon won’t be able to escape from.
What Is “Cancel Culture”
Whether you prefer the term “#___iscancelled” or “#____isoverparty”, cancel culture is the public’s way of blocking someone from having a credible public platform or career. It usually comes up after someone does something that gains them flak. This usually entails celebrities or politicians who have said or done something that is seen as offensive, inappropriate or morally wrong. Once this mistake has been picked up by the media and social sites get a hold of it, that’s when the public “gets to decide that the person is cancelled”, effectively removing their rights as people; to make a living in their chose career, to live their lives without criticism and to make mistakes. We’ve seen it play out for years, from the exclusion of certain people in our games at the playground because they like to pick their nose to the refusal to offer someone a spot in your group project because he/she is a notorious slacker.
While these actions have not explicitly cancelled them, it is a start in our ability to accept exclusion based on what we define as “acceptable behaviour”. Cancelling someone is not much different from boycotting them – it’s a refusal to engage with them or anything related to them. And despite it starting out as a form of social justice – to call out socially unacceptable behaviour with the intention of creating a change, like the #MeToo Movement – it has now spiralled into cyberbullying, shaming and abuse. Trolls are now flooding social media platforms with the intention of shaming, blaming and harassing. With that behind said, how effective is cancel culture actually?
Remember when Scarlett Johansson was “cancelled” after she defended her right to act as whatever race/gender/character she wanted to? She is still the face of Black Widow in the Marvel universe. Or when Kevin Hart was “cancelled” after old tweets of him being racist reemerged? He still has specials airing on Netflix and starring roles next to Dwane “The Rock” Johnson in movies.
What about our very own Vivy Yusof, who has been criticised over and over again for her choice of words and most recently, gave cause for the hashtag #VivyYusofIsOverParty to trend on Twitter? She’s going to continue with her brand and continue doing what she does best.
Because, after all, cancel culture is not real…right?
How Is Cancel Culture Toxic?
On a daily basis, someone or something is “cancelled”. It could be a fashion trend that is “cancelled”, a makeup artist for releasing a bad product, or even your boyfriend/girlfriend as a joke for forgetting to send you a good morning text. It’s become a one size fits all term for people to face the consequence of their actions. And as appealing as it is to continue “cancelling” things that are not up to par or are not deemed socially acceptable, we are forgetting the impact of such a negative culture.
On one hand, it can be used as a powerful tool against people as problematic as sexual predators, on the other, we’re using it to take to our Twitter accounts to slam a mother of three for not choosing her words wisely. Instead of creating stories of transformation, we are creating a platform for punishment, public shaming and ex-communication. And the impact of this? We are messing with the emotions and lives of real people. As most cancel culture is directed at celebrities, people with powerful platforms and even bigger fanbases, it is often easy to forget that these people are human too.
Case in point, Vivy Yusof – Malaysian entrepreneur, co-founder of FashionValet and The dUCk Group, mother of three, wife, daughter and human being. As a result of comments that seemed to be disparaging towards people who are less fortunate than herself, she received a cascade of backlash on all her social media platforms. She eventually went on to release a tearful apology on her Instagram account, both to clarify the misunderstandings against her as well as to ask people to, “if anything, choose to be kind”.
From the way she wrings her fingers together to the tremor in her voice, it doesn’t take a certified psychologist to know that the backlash has taken a toll on her. Remember how it felt to receive criticism from your parents for not doing something right? Or to hear untrue rumours about yourself spread amongst your classmates? Now imagine that multiplied by the number of people in the country, then again by the number of social media accounts one person could have. That’s a lot of hate. More than any one person should have to deal with.
After Taylor Swift was subject to her own #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty, she disappeared from the limelight, only to reemerge stronger than before – but not everyone can do that. As she told Vogue,
“When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being. You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, kill yourself.”
And if you’ve been thinking that comparing “cancel culture” to a pandemic like COVID-19 is ridiculous, given how many lives COVID-19 has taken and continues to take, you might be forgetting just how many people commit suicide as a result of bullying, abuse and public shaming. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the number of deaths as a result of suicide will increase to one every 20 seconds. And in the past 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. These statistics for suicide are shocking, and while it is not “cancel culture”, per se, that is causing the increase in suicide rates across the world, we cannot rule out the fact that it is a factor. With the deaths of K-POP sweethearts Sulli and subsequently Goo Hara, who were both subject to incredible amounts of unwarranted hatred online, as well as British presenter Caroline Flack and countless others – not to mention the countless other people who have taken their own lives after experiencing online bullying.
So, is there a way to ensure that people are still held accountable without needing to resort to such toxic behaviour? Yes, by realising that a more transformational approach with the understanding that, in the same way that we need the space to honour our feelings of sadness and anger, they need to be given the compassion to allow them to change.
You are not alone, never. Speak to someone you trust if you are going through emotional, psychological or even physical abuse. You can also call the following organisations (no matter if you are a man or woman) for help:
1. Women’s Aid Organization – +60 37957 5636
2.Talian Kasih Hotline – 15999 (24h)
3.The Befrienders KL – +603 7956 8144 / +603 7956 8145