Why did Yoga Girl get cancelled – the problem with cancel culture

Cancel culture has been problematised of late, due to its efficiency or lack thereof, which was highlighted during the 2020 social media storm of Yoga Girl.

Cancel culture is a popular term which garnered popularity in the mid-2010s, and formally became a consensual term towards the late 2010s. The term is meant to refer to the mass practice of cancelling someone, in order to show disapproval of their actions. Arguably, the term began to garner traction with the muting of R. Kelly, which was a social media activation from 2018. The aim was to have mainstream media remove all R Kelly-related content.

Following the successful push to have R Kelly muted, the mainstream popularity of the term started garnering not only attention, but the popularity of the term also resulted in the practice being used so much that it arguably watered it down and began to highlight where it was problematic.

A case study

One such example of the result of the overuse of the practice, especially on social media, is that of Yoga Girl, real name Rachel Brathen. Brathen is a yogi and a digital entrepreneur with an online yoga community and a page titled Yoga Girl. She also has physical businesses that focus on yoga, including lessons and a studio. In August 2020, Yoga Girl experienced a social media storm which she feared would negatively affect her business as she faced the possibility of being cancelled.

During the height of the panic over the coronavirus breakout and ahead of the vaccine, Yoga Girl, who relocated and has created a life for herself in Aruba with her Aruban husband and their daughter, had shared a post which stirred the anger of some people in Aruba. This is as she posted a since-deleted post asking her followers to postpone their trips to Aruba. The post was in light of her own growing concerns of people contracting the virus, more so as Aruba had not closed off its borders at the time.

However, her post did not translate as she had intended it to. One of Aruba’s highest contributors to the GDP is tourism. Therefore, when people from Aruba read the post, they believed that she was attempting to discourage tourism, which would negatively affect the country. As a result, there were calls to have her and her brand cancelled.

The aftermath thereof

Opting to be in front of the storm, Yoga Girl used her platforms to contextualise her previous post through a podcast. In the post, she was quoted as having first asserted, “I am so deeply, deeply, deeply sorry; for anyone I offended with that comment, I am so sorry for anyone who felt like I disrespected them, or disrespected the island, I am so, so, so sorry.”

Thereafter, she contextualised her sentiments by further stating, “What I should have said is (something) like, ‘Travel responsibly,’ right? ‘Really travel responsibly, follow the guidelines, listen to what the government of the country you’re visiting is saying. And if you can’t travel responsibly, like if you’re coming from a place with 10,000 new infections every day, that makes it near impossible for you to travel responsibly, then don’t travel,’ right? But it came off as, ‘Don’t come to Aruba.’”

While initial responses were to have her cancelled, over a year later and Yoga Girl has seemingly survived being “cancelled.” She still has a strong following on Instagram, with 2 million followers. Her website is still standing and offering the same offerings as before, along with an active community of over 139 000.

Problematising contemporary cancel culture

The case study was just one recent example of the problem with cancel culture as a tool used to instil fear. The first and biggest problem with the culture is the mob mentality. Mob mentality usually strips a situation of its context. For instance, Yoga Girl was posting from a point of fear. However, this was not what was addressed. What was addressed was the suggestion that she was calling for a ban on travel to Aruba. In contextualising her post, the mob mentality shifted as understanding resulted in a revocation of her being cancelled.

Secondly, due to its popular use, the practice has lost its function or gravity. A recent example which has been highlighted was the cancelling of musician, Chrisette Michele, who performed during former President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The same rule was not applied to other performers like 3 Doors Down, Toby Keith, Big & Rich and Jackie Evancho, who also performed during the inauguration.

Due to this, the efficiency or purpose of cancel culture has come under fire as the big question has now become, who gets cancelled and why?