We Must Talk About Miley Cyrus, Testicles, and Cancel Culture

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In an article that ran last Wednesday, a writer at Out Magazine went after singer and former Disney child star Miley Cyrus for comments she made regarding her sexual preferences.

The article, titled “How Miley Cyrus’ ‘Preference’ Remarks Show Underlying Transphobia”, only really started making the rounds on Sunday night as folks on social media — particularly conservatives — started sharing screenshots from it.

Perhaps the linked tweet simplifies matters a bit too much. The writer at Out is arguing that assigning genitalia to a specific gender is dangerous and damaging to the trans movement. If genitalia is exclusive to a gender, then someone who is biologically male or female would not be able to label themselves as the opposite without surgical assistance.

I tend to be far laxer on the issue of trans issues than most on the right, but largely because I have known a few who have suffered from not knowing who they really are, and their own discovery has helped their lives in many ways. So, I tend to not jump into these conversations simply because I am a heterosexual male who has very little in the way of stakes in this game.

However, my concern here is with the greater issue of this whole “cancel culture” business we seem to be seeing more and more of in mainstream discourse. A single mistake that a person makes, whether it’s a celebrity like Miley Cyrus in an interview or an old tweet, or a kid going to college who did something stupid on social media years before, is held against them. Often, it is held against them to the point that activists try to ruin others’ lives over them.

Miley Cyrus / AP/Reuters Feed Library

It is a practice that is encouraged by the media (if they aren’t outright taking part in it). We are far more interested in settling  these social grudges against people we largely haven’t met all to make ourselves feel better, as though we’ve somehow made people safer by ruining someone’s life.

In July, I wrote about the problem we would soon face if we continue to destroy the lives and legacies of people who were in any way even remotely problematic:

We should be extending a level of mercy to those who have said or done offensive, racist, sexist, or other hurtful things in the past. If it is something that happened once, or was a belief that was once held, but that person has shown change and sincerity in that change, then they should be given another chance, shouldn’t they? Do we no longer believe in forgiveness? Or do we simply cancel and forget them, moving on?

Youthful indiscretions, uninformed mistakes, or whatever you want to call them do not discriminate by race or creed. They don’t happen solely among Republicans or Democrats. If you judge one person by a mistake, you are judging all people who make that mistake. If you cannot find it within you to forgive them (if they have shown they have grown and matured, learning from it), then it is you who are flawed, not them.

Whether it’s Miley Cyrus and her sexual preferences or whether the Founders owned slaves, the compulsion we have to jump on them and say “They have made a terrible mistake and we must destroy them” isn’t saving our culture. It’s hurting culture and discourse — both of which are already in tremendous disarray thanks to the social climate in which we’ve found ourselves.

And to be fair, it is not solely a left vs. right thing. People on the right have gone after folks on the left and gotten them fired, too. You see it more often from the left, but it’s not unique to them. It is a social disease, and it’s one that we have to begin healing. Our society can’t really handle much more self-destructive behavior, can it?

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