Cancel culture holds people accountable for their actions and reveals that there is a line between free speech and hate speech that cannot be crossed. Cancel culture is when someone, usually a celebrity on social media, is boycotted and “cancelled” because of their problematic or questionable views or actions. Although cancel culture can occasionally go too far, it is needed in today’s society. This is especially true in the case of Megan Murphy, a Canadian journalist and founder of a feminist blog and podcast, “Feminist Current.” Murphy has been called out for her controversial views on transgender women; most recently, the Toronto Public Library has been under fire for refusing to cancel her event. The Vancouver Public Library faced a similar controversy earlier this year in January after allowing her to host an event at their location. The library was later banned from participating in any Pride events in Vancouver.
Free speech can be classified as the legal right to freely express any opinions one may have without censorship or restraint. Hate speech is defined as threatening and abusive speech containing prejudice against a certain group of people, usually minority groups, involving race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, etc. The line between these two can be very blurry to some, but an undeniable difference between the two is the attitude towards minority groups. Hate speech holds a very obvious prejudice against minority groups; whereas, free speech protects and values a positive and accepting attitude towards minority groups.
After receiving waves of negative feedback because of their decision to allow Murphy a platform to speak at their venue, The Toronto Public Library released a statement: “While TPL encourages public debate and discussion about differing ideas, we also encourage those with opposing or conflicting viewpoints to respectfully challenge each other’s ideas (…) As a public library and public institution, we have an obligation to protect free speech.”
…I also don’t believe there should be discussions about people’s human rights.
Libraries do have an “obligation to protect free speech,” but they also have an obligation to serve as a non-discriminatory and accepting environment for everyone; most importantly, minority groups. Allowing Murphy to spread her messages, which are based on exclusion and hatred, fosters an unwelcoming space. The library says they “encourage those with opposing or conflicting viewpoints to respectfully challenge each other’s ideas.” But, one may point out that Murphy is not being respectful about “challenging” those with differing ideas. Murphy has knowingly mis-gendered transgender women and referred to them as men as well as use “he/him” pronouns while, again, knowing they use “she/her” pronouns. On top of this, Twitter permanently banned Murphy after repeated offences involving transphobia; what finally got her banned was a tweet she posted writing that “men aren’t women.” Other transphobic tweets that she has been told to delete include: “Women aren’t men,” and “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?”
Kaleb Robertson, also known as the drag queen “Fluffy Soufflé” and a part of the duo “Fay & Fluffy’s Storytime” who read to children at libraries, ended his professional relationship with the Toronto Public Library after they refused to cancel Murphy’s event. Robertson says that Murphy wasn’t looking for a discussion about her views. “She’s not inviting trans people to be a part of the conversation. So, it’s not a discussion and I also don’t believe there should be discussions about people’s human rights,” said Robertson. “It’s not something subjective, it speaks to people’s lives. And the speeches that Murphy does are hate speech that lead to violence.”
One may say that Murphy was simply exercising her right to free speech, but it is hate speech; her attitude towards transgender people, a minority group which commonly face discrimination, is evidence of this. One has a right to free speech, but when this “free speech” promotes exclusion and discrimination, it is not free speech but hate speech. Murphy deserves to be cancelled, she should not be given a platform to spread hatred.
Libraries are taxpayer funded institutions, which means they should listen to the protestors who do not want Murphy to speak at the library. Hundreds of protestors showed up at her event at the Toronto Public Library; although she may have some supporters, it is hard to ignore the number of protestors she has garnered. There have also been multiple public figures who have called on the library to cancel her event, including a group of authors who say they will no longer participate in events at the library. John Tory, the Mayor of Toronto, as well as other Toronto-based politicians and LGBTQ+ activists have also been vocal about their opposition against the library’s choice. A petition, created by a group of three authors after the controversy with Murphy to protest hate speech from being spread at the Toronto Public Library, has been signed by nearly 10,000 people so far.
Cancelling Murphy serves as a way to show her and others that one cannot do and say whatever they want without repercussions. What some may not understand is that there is a limit to free speech, and Murphy has exceeded this limit.
Cancel culture does have some problematic aspects and can occasionally go too far, but the core idea of this concept is to provide minority groups with a voice. Cancel culture provides those without power a voice to speak up against people who abuse their power. This is an important tool in today’s society, which should not be viewed badly. If someone does not show remorse or regret for their offensive and hateful speech or actions, then cancel culture will show them and others that it is not okay.