Jameela Jamil says celebrity cancel culture is ‘pointless waste of time’ amid JK Rowling criticism

‘You can’t cancel a white billionaire’, says activist 

Sarah Jones
Tuesday 14 July 2020 15:46 BST
JK Rowling criticised over ‘transphobic’ tweet about menstruation.mp4

Jameela Jamil has said cancel culture is a “pointless waste of time” and called on powerful celebrities to accept criticism.

Speaking to Laura Whitmore on BBC Radio 5 Live, the Good Place star discussed her thoughts on social media, including its ability to encourage activism and how she copes with being trolled.

Jamil also opened up about the concept of cancel culture, with Whitmore referencing a recent letter that was signed by 150 writers, including JK Rowling, “condemning the stifling of open debate”.

The Harry Potter author has repeatedly been condemned for spreading “anti-trans misinformation” after criticising the use of the phrase “people who menstruate” and claiming that transgender hormone therapy is “a new kind of conversion therapy” for young gay people.

“It’s not about allowing people to say things that are offensive or that would harm someone else’s human rights,” Jamil said, arguing that there are times when it is right to speak up online.

“Speaking on trans rights for example and putting out a lot of fear mongering and misinformation is not a difference of opinion. That is hateful and actively harmful behaviour that can put people’s lives in danger. It’s very important in understanding that free speech does not give you freedom to engage in hateful speech.”

The activist went on to say that a lot of the complaints regarding cancellation are coming from very powerful people, adding that “you can’t really cancel a white billionaire”.

“You can criticise them and maybe say you don’t want to hear from them for a while but you can’t de-platform them because they have so much power,” she said. “Cancel culture is real and I think us calling for people to be de-platformed, silenced and thrown away forever is a pointless waste of time but I do think that sometimes when very, very powerful people are mistaking that just being called out isn’t the same as being cancelled.”

Jamil added that she believes people can change and should be allowed to “re-enter society” as long as they try to do better.

“I feel very passionate about being very vulnerable and being the anti-celebrity in that way and being willing, refusing, to be forced to be the perfect woman,” she said. “I am a fallible human being. I try not to make mistakes but when I slip up, I refuse to then be cast away forever. Most human beings are capable of change and decency and doing better.”

Jamil called on people to not be afraid of putting their hands up or admitting to their own ignorance.

“This moral superiority obsession of the last couple of years is stopping people from asking really important questions and that scares me. We have to be more open to criticism, we have to be less afraid of it," she said.

"I think that when we criticise people we should look at it as a criticism, as a call out, but we don’t have to say that they are never allowed to re-enter society unless they have done something that is actively, truly, either illegal or so harmful that they could never come back from it.”

Earlier in the conversation, Jamil revealed how she copes with receiving hateful comments online and highlighted the importance of “self-defence of the mind”.

“I feel very empowered by the mute button. I think it is one of the greatest things that has ever been invented for the online world," she said.

"I very much so believe in self-defence of the mind, we’re taught about self-defence of the body but not how to protect ourselves and our emotions,” she said, adding that it can be “scary to put yourself out there".

She continued: “People are so offended, especially when a woman is vulnerable or outspoken in public. We go out of our way to silence her.

“They can’t take us out and kill us anymore so they discredit us, so they kill our reputation, they kill our credibility.

'Discredit is the new death I think of an outspoken woman. So, it is a big risk.”

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