Rules for thee but not for me - Internet purity culture

What is Internet purity culture?

To quote the Fanlore wiki "purity culture is an environment that developed mainly on Tumblr that criticized the use of certain "problematic" tropes and content in fanworks."
Not to be confused with evangelical purity culture.
While at first this phenomena was locked to only fandoms and niche communities and usually it would only concern shipping and similar silly activities, in the recent years the term spread outside of Tumblr and people started applying it to everything. It stopped being contained to simply tropes and content, instead it now applies to real people and their published works too. Combined with the power of callout and cancel culture, we have the current Internet mainstream - where you're not really allowed to enjoy anything. Or are you?

Hypocrisy? Impossibility?

This article is mainly going to be centered around two aspects of online purity culture when it comes to media consumption, and some things I started noticing more and more often. The impossibility of it, and hypocrisy.
First of all I'd like to point out the fact that it is impossible, purely impossible, to find and only consume media that is completely unproblematic. Meaning that a specific piece of media was worked on, made, published, created, whatever by the hands of completely "good" people. Or the subject matter involves some not "good" things. At some point, you will end up liking something that was made by a person that holds "bad" opinions. This is normal. You can't read the mind of every artist, you can only judge them by what they have said openly. You can try your best, but things will slip through the cracks. I'd like to bring the now infamous J.K.R. as an example. She is transphobic and thus, deemed problematic. Reading her books now is not "good". You are supporting a problematic artist by talking about Harry Potter. But what about all other books made by writers that are now long dead? If we read their books, do we enforce their misogyny and the outdated views of their time? How do we find out whether they were -phobic or -ist? Can we ask them their opinions about the Israel/Palestine conflict? What about their views on women's rights, which we would, without a doubt if they're male, not be granted a positive answer? Should we just not engage with their work at all? Are we locking ourselves out of knowledge, enjoyment, insight to be gained, new viewpoints to consider (unrelated to the problematicness of it all)? This is where the dilemma begins for me, personally. I'm not going to ramble about morals and consuming things critically, things most sane people should already be aware of. And it's a truly hard thing to answer anyways.
If you are a person that perpetuates online purity culture, you're probably having a hard time. To help you with your very noble journey, I'd love to bring up a few funny situations you should watch out for.

  • User x is really outspoken about hating pedos, loli-lovers and so on. Whenever someone has something slightly associated with those topics on their profile (e.g. a pic of an anime character from a sus show), they publicly call them out and take delight in their social downfall. User x's profile is entirely dedicated to tkmiz, an artist with pedo tendencies (to say the least).
  • User x is a big anti-shipper, also an adult. User x's favourite ship is an underaged high school couple.
  • User x frequently calls out anyone with anything problematic on their profiles. Very loud, outspoken and confident. User x has multiple pictures of Chi from Chobits on their profile.
  • User x calls someone out publicly for having Lana Del Rey songs on their profile. User x has The Smiths songs featured on their profile. They get called out instead and user x silently removes The Smiths from their profile.
  • Now this one I started seeing more and more. User x has a MASSIVE DNI list. All the possible -phobes and -ists are on it, but of course. Hoards neopronouns, all their mental illnesses and kins listed. User x has 4chan screencaps on their website.
  • User x is a purity culture perpetuator. User x is obsessed with gore and wishing death on people that made a single mistake.

All of the people mentioned aren't just randoms in their respective communities (well, the 4chan ones kinda are since they're just a new brand of edgy online kids). They're liked, well followed and are active. Why are they not getting called out? Maybe people aren't aware of their accidental problematic faves, fear of being called out themselves etc. In my opinion, this proves that Online Purity Culture is just an exercise in futility. Even if you're a frenzied and agressive enforcer, you're bound to have something problematic tied to you. You can hide it when called out but the fact stays - you've been a fan of it, you enjoyed it enough to feature it, you are now Tainted. You enforced this culture, yet you yourself have not been faithful to it.

What the fuck do I do then?

The answer is, I don't know the best course of action myself. Here's what I try to do. I don't engage with Internet purity culture. I stay out of all big online communities. I'm not a degenerate. I don't assume things. I don't argue. I am outspoken about my likes and dislikes in media (e.g. my anime/manga reviews page), but I will not force others to be like me, nor will I always follow my own guidelines. I don't call out others, knowing I am not perfect. I don't engage with fandoms in general, but especially the perpetuators of the current zeitgeist. I realise that this is a Sisyphean task. For better or for worse though, this leaves me quite lonely online. Except not really. I am a part of a few small communities I stumbled into by pure chance, and all of them are dear to me.
At the end of the day, this shit doesn't matter so much. Instead of obsessing over these things, you could continue to read and learn and grow, and become more affirmed and secure in your beliefs and opinions. Or even end up changing. You could offer people a helping hand, instead of bringing them down. Or you could also just leave them alone, and let them sort things out in private (or sort things out in private with them). You don't need to engage constantly to prove yourself to be the most pure and moral. You can positively affect people around you, in real life, because humans just weren't meant to socially engage with so many other humans at once. I too, hate sexists for example, but if I truly devoted myself to calling them out that's the only thing I would be doing online, all day. My time and energy are not unlimited. I don't have anything to prove. I am a human being, and I'm hypocritical.
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