Cancel culture has become a polarizing issue in and of itself. For some, it is a movement that speaks necessary but often difficult truths on issues that have long been silenced. For others, it has become a platform to validate cyberbullying and mob mentality without delivering true progressive change; then there are those more neutral in their perspective that argue cancel culture does not exist and is simply free speech.
The idea behind cancel culture is to apply social pressure to a person or institution based on their perceived wrong opinions and actions — these can be recent or historical. If there is enough backlash, this can lead to that individual or company being “canceled” through the loss of their job, their customer or political base, or an irrevocable stain on their reputation.
Since cancel culture’s arrival into the zeitgeist, we’ve seen it touch every sector including entertainment, politics, education, business, and our own industry — wellness.
Most recently, we have witnessed holistic beauty brand Wildling come under scrutiny for its alleged cultural appropriation of gua sha, an ancient facial massage practice that has roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The claims against the brand argued that Wildling did not properly recognize the origins of gua sha.
In response to the allegations, Founder Gianna De La Torre (a licensed TCM practitioner for over 15 years), took to Instagram to share the brand’s perspective, as well as acknowledge their growth areas and action plan. Moving forward, some of the brand’s commitments include but are not limited to: bringing on an Asian American TCM practitioner internally, creating a Clubhouse dialogue for two-way conversation and feedback, diversity coaching, and donations to organizations that specifically support the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
Although Wildling has an evidenced history of referencing TCM and generational Chinese knowledge from the beginning of their business, there were those that suggested their response to the claims has been reactive and performative.
In a statement to The FULLEST, Gianna (on behalf of the Wilding founders) expanded on the brand’s perspective.
“We welcome the opportunity to step into this uncomfortable conversation because it benefits the greater good. Growth happens when we take a deep look in the mirror and ask ourselves, what more can we do to support the AAPI community? How can we honor the practice of Chinese Medicine even more? The most toxic thing about cancel culture is a sense of paralysis. No matter what steps we take, someone will call us performative or insincere. If positive action is interpreted as a performance, we are fine with that. As a brand, we are looking inward and taking action that feels authentic and true for us. The best thing we can do is stay in alignment with our higher selves and our higher purpose.”
As a wellness brand that exists to share the healing wisdom of ancient and traditional cultures, this has been an equally reflective moment for THE FULLEST internally. On one hand, we acknowledge that cultural appropriation and whitewashing in beauty and holistic health are very real issues. However, we have also been privileged enough to learn and experience the power and benefits of ancient healing practices from a broad range of cultures. It is our opinion that — if done in integrity — there is much to be gained by sharing these tools. They can also provide low-cost alternatives to allopathic healthcare that have the ability to assist people in reclaiming and improving their health.
Cancel culture can be a dangerous game that can be counterintuitive to open conversation and real change. Although we must all continue to learn and grow in the area of appropriation, it’s necessary for us to ask ourselves what is more important, sharing the history and technique with as many people that are interested, or shaming and silencing someone because they are not born into the culture?
In the case of Wildling’s approach to both gua sha and their product line, we believe they have genuinely created their brand out of a specific desire to help people create healthier lives. Each of their founders is highly trained and based on our conversations with the brand, we believe they view their company as an avenue to empower, not as a business opportunity to commercially exploit. Thanks to Wildling’s willingness to share their knowledge and reverence of ancient practices, we are able to become exposed to new modalities that enable each of us to heal ourselves. For this reason, and Wildling’s commitment to improving their support of the AAPI community, we stand by Wildling and all brands committed to genuine cultural exchange in pursuit of true health.