Social justice warrior
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“”I beg you, look for the words “social justice” or “economic justice” on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes.
“”When black trans women are murdered in the street, it doesn’t happen in a polite manner. This is not a polite thing. When someone has their foot on your neck, you don’t tap them and say, "Excuse me."
|—Lourdes Ashley Hunter|
"Social Justice Warrior" (abbreviated "SJW") is a once-positive term which has devolved into a snarl word today.
While there are several groups that have defined a Social Justice Warrior in a certain way —
- A snarl word used by those liberals, progressives, feminists, moderate conservatives, and others critical of what they regard as eccentric and aggressive political activism, especially on college campuses by radical left student groups. Examples of such actions include: calls for safe spaces to expand from the widely accepted need to provide safety to people who have faced serious abuse, assaults, and incidents that have triggered a person's post-traumatic stress disorder, to expand it to include microaggressions and content in courses that is claimed to be triggering for some students; the need for trigger warnings for course content; seeking to forcibly disrupt lectures or speeches by people they oppose based on allegations of bigotry by the speaker; calls being openly heard among some protesters promoting collective guilt upon straight white men people by implying that they have dominated public discourse for ages through white privilege and that their privilege means that efforts to include marginalized voices are needed. This use of the snarl word is more aimed at the methods and claimed mis-perceptions of the said SJWs that have been criticized for being hysterical and excessively confrontational. There are concerns by the liberal critics that identity politics and victim mentality connected with that identity politics are playing a large role in the SJW phenomenon at the expense of individuality.
- A snarl word used used by the reactionary and radical right to dismiss the concerns of liberals, progressives, feminists, and perceived supporters of "political correctness." The reactionary and radical right focuses on SJWs as being an example of the degeneracy of modern Western culture, and steel to use this to call for a return of the Good old days, they often assert the rise of liberalism, communism, and other political values they disagree with has encouraged the "degeneration" of Western societies, they often seek to note how young men among SJWs are effeminate, and among the racist crew among them likely see SJWs as a fronts for Jews and other conspiracy theories.
— users of the term usually claim to label a specific kind of social justice advocate, rather than stereotyping all social justice activism as negative. However, the considerable variety in definitions used makes the term next to useless as a descriptor.
Some of the assorted negative traits attributed to SJWs include:
- A needlessly hysterical, permanently outraged attitude to social ills
- Being too dogmatic and black-and-white in their views; refusing to acknowledge the nuanced complexity of human society; painting large groups of people in broad strokes
- Enforcing a confrontational and incendiary style of discussion; eagerness to label others as oppressors; holding ordinary people personally responsible for atrocities
- Demanding that others change their attitudes and behavior without a willingness to engage in respectful dialogue; refusal to see respect and tolerance as a two-way street
- Loudly broadcasting their own views while attempting to deprive their opponents of a platform
- Smugly self-aggrandizing their own slacktivism
- Equating pious humorlessness with moral rectitude
- A complete inability to laugh at themselves
Most revealing about the above traits is the fact that so-called "anti-SJWs" tend to display the very same insufferable characteristics themselves.
In its pejorative meaning, the negative connotation of the term is often used as a way of dismissing contested issues out of hand, merely through the latter's association with SJWs (e.g. as with cultural appropriation or trigger warnings).
- 1 Pejoration
- 2 The term itself
- 3 Problems with the term
- 4 SJW websites
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
Although there were a few positive usages of the term previously, the term's first sighting as a pejorative was its use in 2009 by SF writer Will Shetterly as a blog title criticizing what he calls "social justice warriors" in contrast with "social justice workers", with the former being what he considers more extreme activists.
It is often used by modern conservatives on the internet—especially Gamergaters, MRAs and reactionary and neoreactionary bloggers—to refer to anyone who expresses a point of view that is to the left of /pol/. As a result, use of the term "SJW" as a pejorative is now a handy shibboleth of the aforementioned groups and a good indicator that this person will not at any point henceforth say anything worth hearing.
People who think social justice (a term with a history back to the 1840s) actually sounds like a pretty good idea worth fighting for, and aren't fond of reactionaries' racism and sexism, have in turn self-labeled as SJWs, particularly in the context of talking about the reactionaries.
Disconcerted at the actually-decent people reclaiming the term for themselves, reactionaries reached deep into their knowledge of the one half-chapter of 1984 they read once and coined the ridiculously clunky "socjus" (pronounced either "Suck-jews" or "Sock-juice"), correctly realising that this is too silly a term for anyone to try to reclaim, but failing to realise how ridiculous the clunkiness makes them sound saying it.
The reclamation of the term has spread to people who have never had it used upon them, and as a result, it is seen by many social justice advocates as a legitimate and accepted label for people who promote social justice. This has, in many circles (for example, Tumblr), heavily mitigated its pejoration, and consequently, heavily increased its positive usage by (those who would be called) SJWs themselves.
Those who do use "SJW" as a pejorative expression these days, however, overwhelmingly use it to mean "somebody who really supports social justice", not "hypocritical fighter for pseudo-social-justice", and themselves do not even agree that "social justice", in any shape or form, is a good thing and sexism or racism bad.
The term itself
The term "social justice warrior" was first used as a pejorative in the blog "Social Justice Warriors: Do Not Engage", launched by Will Shetterly on 6 November 2009. The blog wrote that SJWs "rage, mob and dox in the belief that promoting identitarianism will make a better world." (by "identitarianism" he appears to mean identity politics, rather than its more recent usage as a euphemism for white nationalism).
Urban Dictionary user "poopem" defined "social justice warrior" on 21 April 2011 as:
A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of. They typically repeat points from whoever is the most popular blogger or commenter of the moment, hoping that they will "get SJ points" and become popular in return. They are very sure to adopt stances that are "correct" in their social circle. The SJW's favorite activity of all is to dogpile. Their favorite websites to frequent are Livejournal and Tumblr. They do not have relevant favorite real-world places, because SJWs are primarily civil rights activists only online.
The definition on oxforddictionaries.com (which is owned by Oxford University Press, but is not technically the OED) is simply "A person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views", but one of the example sentences is "Some of them admit they're afraid that social justice warriors will ruin video games." Obviously an SJW plant.
On 26 May 2011, the Tumblr blog "Fuck No Tumblr SJW" started, with the goal of "exposing tumblr's most heinous social justice warriors". The author recently stated, in response to "I'm just a bit confused on your mission or perspective. I only found it trying to figure out what sjw even meant.":
Well as I’m sure you’ve figured out, “sjw” stands for social justice warrior. Back when I and a few others started this tumblr several years ago, “sjw” seemed, to us, to be more of a criticism on people who used social justice to further their own bigoted ends, push already marginalized people out of their own spaces, and dominate discussions with bigoted rhetoric.
In the years since this blog died out, “sjw” came to stand for anyone who supports social justice, a favorite go-to insult for white male nerds/libertarians/redditors. This blog is now followed by people with that attitude, and still gets asks of that nature. Hence the (partial) reason why I no longer update, even though I’ve somewhat returned to tumblr.
For the record, I am not opposed to social justice, and I never will be. I still think there are toxic elements of tumblr social justice underlying a lot of the discussions here. I think it’s important to criticize those elements, but I no longer want to be someone that does it, when my audience has changed and the audience for these types of blog posts has changed to something I don’t support.
On 22 December 2012, the Tumblr "Social Justice Warriors of OKCupid" was launched, to mock "SJW"s (here, persons who reject a gender binary or mention "patriarchy") who were trying to get a date. On 13 November 2013, SomethingAwful forum user "Bo-Pepper" created thread "Hey what does SJW mean?" (Best response: "it doesn't actually mean anything but if someone sincerely uses the term it's a good sign that they're a piece of poo poo".) At this point, SJW had gained middling popularity, and was a known term to many denizens of the conservative parts of the internet.
On 3 March 2014, Will Shetterly released book How to make a Social Justice Warrior: On identitarianism, intersectionality, mobbing, racefail, and failfans 2005-2014, which follows the "history" of the SJW movement. On 1 May 2014, YouTuber "That Guy T" uploaded video "My beef with the (SJW) transgender community". And finally, on 29 June 2014, Redditor "bluedude14" submitted a post "Social justice warriors and feminists ganged up on Richard Dawkins", which received over 4000 upvotes. After this point, shit-storms like Gamergate expanded SJW from anti-feminist and conservative groups to more general usage.
Internet Aristocrat's video on SJWs typifies the views of Gamergate and conservatives.
With its evolution into a conservative dogwhistle, "SJW" has more or less become a substitute for whatever sort of bigoted epithet the speaker wanted to say but knows that they cannot without being labeled a bigot. However, when the ideological opponent is a white male ally, then the reactionaries are free to say "beta" or "cuck" rather than self-censor with "SJW". Another idea is that "SJW" has replaced "Liberal" as a pejorative, that way the speaker doesn't have to automatically identify as a conservative when using it as a snarl word.
Since reactionaries are starting to realize people aren't taking them seriously when they say SJW, the synonym "virtue signalling" is now taking prominence. It was popularized in a 2015 column by James Bartholomew (a non-frothing conservative) in The Spectator and originally referred to the type of people that buy organic food, recycle absolutely everything, and like lots of activist messages on Facebook so they can appear to be good people or feel like they're making a bigger difference than they really are.
However, it got seized upon by reactionaries almost immediately and broadened to just about every instance of somebody publicly expressing a desire for a better world. Just like SJW and whiteknighting, the user assumes being a prejudiced, oppressive asshole is the default and knows saying as much won't get them any traction, so they throw terms around that assume bad faith of "the other side" in order to poison the well.
Among the social justice community itself, the term has been replaced by the concept of "performative allyship", which carries a similar connotation to the original sense of SJW: someone who claims to support social justice but really only uses it as a means of self-glorification, and cares more about respectability and validation than the cause they supposedly champion.
SJWs ruined gaming!
SJWs have become the bogeyman of conservatives and "gamers", who think that SJWs (and their shadowy network of Cultural Marxist friends) have infiltrated their sources of information and filled them with feminist political correctness. As Roosh V puts it, SJWs "ensure compliance and homogeny of far left thought. [....] They have also been successful at positioning themselves in the upper echelons of universities, media organizations, and tech companies." Apparently, it is unthinkable that publishers can become more liberal over time, and so an insidious conspiracy becomes the preferred conclusion. In addition, SJWs are often believed to be in it strictly for monetary gain/personal glory/sex.
Since some Social Justice players think Warriors have sub-par mobility and boring class features, there's been some study into the optimum way to play the other Classes in the Social Justice League, such as Social Justice Rogues, Social Justice Mages, and Social Justice Clerics. But don't bother being a Social Justice Bard, because what are you going to do, write songs about Social Justice? That'll never work.
In March 2015, a satirical RPG studying this concept leapt onto Steam for PC, called Social Justice Warriors. The player is tasked with eliminating five different categories of internet trolls. Eric Ford, the game's designer, has this concept come about when he saw the phrase being used to invalidate concerns about another person's opinions and decided to make a video game since the label was too empowering to be wasted on a pejorative label.
Problems with the term
“”Systematic bombardment about the menace of SJWs in anti-SJW internet echo-chambers has produced beliefs not unlike religious indoctrination.
“”If you think it's an insult to accuse someone of being for social justice or against fascism, you need to work on your "savage burn".
The problem with this term is the usual problem with all snarl words: it is used to discredit/smear ANYONE who dares to criticize the social status quo in terms of gender and race relations. Recent incidents of internet drama have revealed that many people on the internet believe in a vast "SJW" conspiracy to "ban hurt feelings." This snarl word has no meaning because to the average anti-equality reactionary, absolutely anyone with any kind of open opinion that minorities are human beings is apparently enough to saddle people with the "SJW" moniker.
Of course, as with any ideology — humans being humans and therefore not angels — people do exist who take the language and ideas of social justice advocacy and weaponise them into tools to serve power and dominance (in ordinary language, these people are called bullies). And again, as with any ideology, there are people who ride the social-justice train of thought too far, into a bitter version of Cloud Cuckoo-land that interfaces poorly with the reality-based community. This cannot be helped. Every identifiable group of people has its share of assholes, and whatever has power for good can be subverted. The error of the thinking behind the phrase "social justice warrior" is to claim that all advocates of social justice are equivalent to their cause's worst representatives.
Reasonable people, however — both within and outside of social-justice advocacy — are quite able to address and label such behaviour without resorting to snarl words or tarring an entire community with a broad brush.
Shutting down conversation
As much as conservatives might attempt to deny it, the term "SJW" is almost never applied positively and is virtually always used only to discredit the person rather than their points. Why bother calling someone an SJW when you can call them wrong? Max Hill writes:
Problems that social justice advocates have been stressing for decades are finally finding themselves in the spotlight — issues of sexual abuse and coercion, objectification and sexualization, gender imbalance in the cultural industries — and this has forced those who cling to tired, oppressive ideologies to find an insult for those who dare to challenge the systems of oppression that have kept white, straight, able-bodied men on top of the heap. Hence, the social justice warrior.
Another issue with taking "SJW" seriously is that some of the most popular "examples" of SJW nuttiness were created by trolls on 4chan and elsewhere. For example, "free bleeding" and #EndFathersDay, allegedly examples of "SJWs" going too far, were actually part of of a trolling campaign called "Operation Lollipop": an attempt to divide feminism along racial lines through the creation of an army of sockpuppets posing as "feminist" black women.
A common criticism of SJWs is that they are themselves not members of the groups that they defend. Hill describes the typical SJW strawman, stating that: "SJWs are generally young, white, and spend their time on social media condemning those who fail to live up to their own moral and ethical standards." Yet there is no clear evidence that this is true or how this deflects from SJWs' arguments towards equality among disenfranchised identity groups.
The occasional overly pedantic Tumblr user targeting white men in power is dwarfed by the thousands of racist, sexist, and homophobic tirades which flood online comments sections every single day. Who’s the real problem here?
Who has the all-powerful SJW conspiracy infiltrated? Are you next?
Are you now, or have you ever been, an SJW?
Essentially everyone who wishes to publicly respond to any tweet by Donald Trump must join Twitter, along with all those who wish to retweet or defend him. This plus an extremely lax enforcement of bots (about half of Trump followers are bots) make Twitter a cesspool comparable to 4chan or Breitbart or Stormfront or Daily Caller but with the addition of many militant social justice warriors who enjoy taking them to task, but would not join those more right-wing sites to comment.
The Tumblr social justice community, pejoratively labeled as Tumblrinas tends to be pro-minority rights, supportive of people with mental illnesses, pro-LGBT, pro-fat acceptance, and pro-feminist. While the more extreme users make up a small sub-section of the social justice community, they're disproportionately noisy, so they make for easy nutpicking. As a site that allows users to set up an unlimited number of blogs and where it isn't hard to set up multiple Tumblr accounts, none of which have to trace back to any concrete identity, it is also ripe for false flag attacks; indeed, Tumblr recently announced that several purportedly pro-social-justice Tumblrs were run by Russian troll farms. Nutpickers not infrequently parade obvious hoax accounts and transparent parody posts from serious users as evidence for the "insanity" allegedly infesting the website. If something sounds too nutty to be serious, one should consider the possibility that it is, in fact, not serious (also compare Poe's law). Tumblr being a photo sharing site that is essentially free advertising for models & copyvio central, it would be rare to actually have a serious conversation there.
Tumblr as a SJW breeding ground may be largely a stereotype, much as other sites garner other stereotypes. The "Discursive Spaces" blog writes that "[there may be] certain stigma suggesting that the average Reddit user is a fedora-touting neckbeard or that a person on Tumblr subscribes to the 'social justice warrior' mentality."
Tile Wolfe praised the Tumblr SJW population, writing that it, "with enough characters to write a novella, are actively educating each other in super-active queer corners of the platform."
There is plenty of sane, well-informed stuff.
Assuming, of course, RW is not a manarchist brospace populated by MRAs in ladyface, RationalWiki has obviously been taken over by SJWs, who control every facet of its operation. Or, so think people who don't like RW.
Of course, we in RationalWiki never allow people with different points of view to debate, making us SJWs!
Reddit, according to a subset of their userbase (very much a reliable source as anyone will surely agree), has apparently been infiltrated by a cabal from the "SJW" subreddit ShitRedditSays (SRS). SRS, a sub created for the purpose of calling out racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. posts getting upvoted on the site, was regularly treated as a boogeyman within the community, which later culminated in whatever the hell this is. Following a change in policy a few months after that which prohibited harassment subs, resulting in a ban of the popular subreddit /r/FatPeopleHate, this crowd promptly went into meltdown and spammed the front page with posts insinuating that Interim CEO Ellen Pao was literally Mao "Hitler" Zedong, and attempted to leave for a Reddit clone called Voat, which crashed under the strain of traffic. SRS, of course, had little to no influence over anything that happened, but decided to claim credit anyway because they thought it would be funny.
Now and then, some users and communities on Reddit continue to claim that the Admins and moderators of certain subreddits are SJWs or their puppets, accusations which usually spike around the time controversial subreddits or posts are quarantined (i.e. requiring opt-in) or removed.
Simply admitting that there is such a thing as systemic bias at Wikipedia itself, and taking any step whatsoever to counter it by recruiting persons who are more typical of Wikipedia's readers than writers, invites social justice warrior input and recruiting to balance who is commenting. But obviously, North American and British and Israeli males comfortable with wiki editing are a completely objective community when it comes to feminism, Marxism, socialism, ecology, climate change, Islam, Africa, etc., so there is no need for such SJW meddling.
- "SJW", Hey Ash Whatcha Playin'?
- "Fuck Yes, I'm A Social Justice Warrior"
- "Social Justice Warrior", Gamergate Wiki
- "Social Justice Warriors" (game), Nonadecimal
- Not to be confused with Smooth Jazz Waluigis or the Workers' Party of Social Justice.
- "Gamers Misogynistic? Some Certainly Are". Irish Times. 18 October 2014. "The term "social justice warrior" (surely a good thing) has been used pejoratively to describe those writers who choose to examine the social and political subtexts of contemporary video games"
- "The Only Guide to Gamergate You Will Ever Need to Read". The Washington Post. 14 October 2014. "...'SJW,' for social justice warrior—a kind of shorthand insult for liberals and progressives."
- Johnson, Eric (10 October 2014). "Understanding the Jargon of Gamergate". Re/code. "A Social Justice Warrior, or SJW, is any person, female or male, who argues online for political correctness or feminism. 'Social justice' may sound like a good thing to many of our readers, but the people who use this term only use it pejoratively."
- North, Anna (29 August 2014). "Why a Video Game Critic Was Forced to Flee Her home". The New York Times. "[citing Vice] 'For certain segments of the gaming world, she writes, the term refers to "people who, according to Urbandictionary, engage in 'social justice arguments on the internet ... in an effort to raise their own personal reputation.' In other words, SJWs don't hold strong principles, but they pretend to."'"
- Ringo, Allegra (28 August 2014). "Meet the Female Gamer Mascot Born of Anti-Feminist Internet Drama". Vice. "People who, according to Urban Dictionary, engage in 'social justice arguments on the internet ... in an effort to raise their own personal reputation.' In other words, SJWs don't hold strong principles, but they pretend to. The problem is, that's not a real category of people. It's simply a way to dismiss anyone who brings up social justice—and often those people are feminists. It's awfully convenient to have a term at the ready to dismiss women who bring up sexism, as in, 'You don't really care. As an SJW, you're just taking up this cause to make yourself look good!'"
- e.g., 17 July 1998, 13 March 2001, 30 July 2007, 1 Feb 2008, 3 Nov 2008, Summer 2009 — and one from a 1995 novel, which appears more commentary than approbation
- Will Shetterly. "Social Justice Warriors: Do Not Engage". sjwar.blogspot.com.
- From the horses's mouth: "The true definition of SJW is up for debate, but most generally it has become a catch-all term that describes feminists and liberals who actively try to solve the perceived social injustices of modern society by organizing in online communities to disseminate propaganda, censor speech, and punish individuals by getting them terminated from their employment. They have also been successful at positioning themselves in the upper echelons of universities, media organizations, and tech companies." (rooshv.com)
- "Urban Dictionary: SocJus"Urban Dictionary.
- Intentionally invoking 1984's own Ingsoc, whose primary concern in the book, as we all know, was people's feelings.
- For a fuller discussion of this, see the Wikipedia "Social justice" article.
- "No, ‘SJW’ is not used to deflate pompous Comstockian moralists. That’s not how it’s used at all.", Slacktivist
- "Urban Dictionary: social justice warrior". Urban Dictionary.
- "The OED and Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford English Dictionary.
- social justice warrior, Oxford Dictionaries
- "Fuck No Tumblr SJW". tumblr.com.
- "Fuck No Tumblr SJW". tumblr.com.
- "Fuck No Tumblr SJW". tumblr.com.
- "Social Justice Warriors of OKCupid". tumblr.com.
- "Social Justice Warriors of OKCupid". tumblr.com.
- "The Something Awful Forums". somethingawful.com.
- "The Something Awful Forums". somethingawful.com.
- "Google Trends". google.com.
- "How to make a Social Justice Warrior: On identitarianism, intersectionality, mobbing, racefail, and failfans 2005-2014, Will Shetterly - Amazon.com". amazon.com.
- "My beef with the (SJW) transgender community...". YouTube. 1 May 2014.
- "Social justice warriors and feminists ganged up on Richard Dawkins this week after he dared to imply that old White men are good at things. Here's a snapshot of a much longer argument that took place on Twitter. : TumblrInAction". reddit.
- "InternetAristocrat explains how SJW's work.". YouTube. 14 September 2014.
- James Bartholomew, The awful rise of 'virtue signalling', The Spectator
- Riley Sailer. "GamerGate: An Example of False Consensus". Medium.
- "What Is A Social Justice Warrior (SJW)?". rooshv.com.
- So, as I see it, this is how SJW-stuff works.
- "Slay Internet Trolls in Social Justice Warriors, the Game," Vice
- Betty Bowers. Speak English? YOU FIRST! YouTube.
- "Articles: Is 'Social Justice Warrior' a Pejorative?". americanthinker.com.
- "Are gamers misogynistic? Some certainly are". The Irish Times. 18 October 2014.
- Caitlin Dewey (14 October 2014). "The only guide to Gamergate you will ever need to read". Washington Post.
- "In defence of ‘social justice warriors’". The Peak.
- "4chan is trying to make 'free bleeding' the latest Twitter trend". The Daily Dot.
- "Here's How A Fake Feminist Hashtag Like #EndFathersDay Gets Started And Why It'll Keep Happening". BuzzFeed.
- "#EndFathersDay". Know Your Meme.
- "No, feminists aren't trying to #EndFathersDay—it's a hoax". The Daily Dot.
- "#EndFathersDay: Trolls being trolls, or “black propaganda” designed to tear apart feminism? | we hunted the mammoth". we hunted the mammoth.
- "Activists Are Outing Hundreds Of Twitter Users Believed To Be 4chan Trolls Posing As Feminists". BuzzFeed.
- "#YourSlipIsShowing Busts Men Who Are Pretending to Be Feminists to Attack Black Women". clutchmagonline.com.
- Lola Okolosie. "Sexists and racists are resorting to online sabotage. But they still won't win". the Guardian.
- Tumblr's Ban Of Russian Accounts Adds Detail To Targeting Of Black Americans
- "Who Holds the Controller? Power in Gaming and Other Virtual Spaces". discursive spaces.
- "In Defense of the "Social Justice Warrior"". The Huffington Post.
- A somewhat prominent example is Your Fave Is Problematic, a Tumblr that serves as one-stop shopping for questionable celebrity quotes, although see this post of theirs.
- "Anti-GG is trying to put together a RationalWiki page to spread disinformation about "Gamergate claims" : KotakuInAction". reddit.
- "SRS/Anti-SRS, Secret Cabals, and Meta Reddit Cancer Recap. : OutOfTheLoop". reddit.
- "[RECAP A RECAP OF THE FPH FALLOUT AND LIVE FEED : SubredditDrama"]. reddit.
- "ArchangelleJoan comments on [META The cabal scores a major victory as FatPeopleHate and other harassing subs are banned!"]. reddit. "We claim full responsibility. I mean, that's what y'all are going to assume anyway."