On Hating Yourself, And All Of Your Selves »« Occasional Link Roundup

“Tumblr Social Justice,” “Social Justice Warriors,” and Their Discontents

I wrote a Daily Dot piece about the weird Reddit subculture that hates on social justice Tumblr bloggers obsessively:

Most people don’t like to think about social justice because it’s rarely pleasant to think about. Unless they pause and ask themselves why their initial reaction to reading a social justice Tumblr is so negative, that reaction is likely to remain a superficial annoyance rather than a more nuanced disagreement. It’ll be closer to “This is so dumb” than “I don’t agree with this view because [reason].”

Of course, while important and nuanced social justice discussion can and does happen on Tumblr, most of the examples you see on subreddits like r/TumblrInAction were never meant to engage or educate outsiders. They’re meant to vent about individual struggles and build community among like-minded people, which isn’t that different a goal from the one pursued by many subreddits and other types of communities.

Reading these Tumblrs and calling them “social justice activism” is like overhearing a conversation between a few friends about books they like and calling that “literary criticism.” Mocking such a casual conversation as shallow and non-educational misses the entire point of it. It’s not necessarily there for you; it may be there for the participants.

“But Tumblr is public!” you may retort. That’s true, and the fact that blogs on Tumblr are public is what helps people find each other and connect. (Twitter works similarly.) Just because a blog is viewable by the public doesn’t necessarily mean its intended audience is literally everyone who happens to stumble across it.

Read the rest here.

~~~

Liked this post? Please consider donating so I can speak at conferences.

Comments

  1. Phillip A says

    TL;DR r/TumblrInAction is an outlet for frustrated people to vent, but our rules and procedures are designed to leave the targets of our mockery in peace.

    Likewise, subreddits like r/TumblrInAction allow Reddit users to gang up on bloggers by sending dozens or hundreds of pageviews their way—some of which may translate into hateful messages and responses. In that sense, it’s less like “trolling” and more like bullying.

    This is a little dishonest. You carefully word this passage to avoid directly saying that it’s the r/TumblrInAction folks that are sending hate, only that it “may translate into hateful messages and responses”. In other words, you know about our Rule 1, our Prime Directive, yet you deliberately refuse to acknowledge it. You also include nothing about more recent steps we have taken (such as encouraging screenshots rather than direct links, and strictly requiring the redaction of any personal information) to protect the targets of our mockery from harassment and abuse, and more generally to follow the spirit, and not just the letter, of r/TumblrInAction General Order Number One.

    Most people don’t like to think about social justice because it’s rarely pleasant to think about. Unless they pause and ask themselves why their initial reaction to reading a social justice Tumblr is so negative, that reaction is likely to remain a superficial annoyance rather than a more nuanced disagreement. It’ll be closer to “This is so dumb” than “I don’t agree with this view because [reason].”

    When Laci Green rose from an obscure atheist vlogger to a reasonably popular sexuality vlogger and Tumblr-er, it was discovered that, in her early atheist videos, she had made negative comments about Islam, and also had casually used the word “tranny” in passing. For the latter, she apologized and removed the video in question. But this did not stop people from making Tumblr posts such as “Why Laci Green Can Go Fuck Herself”, and it did not stop one user from revealing Laci’s real surname and home address. There are numerous other examples of this sort of toxic, more-radical-than-thou, social justice hipsterism, including ones targeting John Green and Wil Wheaton. Any popular (especially white, especially male) person with progressive views is fair game. Any attempt to criticize this will always be decried as “tone trolling”, “respectability politics”, etc. So what if we tell her to drink bleach; this is a struggle, don’cha know?

    The purpose of r/TumblrInAction (and Twitter accounts such as @tumblrtxt) is to provide an outlet for those who are frustrated with the entire environment, which has also leaked into places such as the Atheism Plus forums. If you look at our flair, we do a lot of mockery of the jargon (which happens to drive me up the goddamn wall) and the more unusual doctrines such as “colonized minds” and “cultural appropriation”. It may seem petty, but it is downright therapeutic after reading a profanity-laden piece on why white women wearing henna are racist fucking shitlords who should die in a fire already.

  2. Robert B. says

    I don’t reddit, so I don’t know what r/TumblrInAction does, but I’ve seen some things on Tumblr that really should be shamed and/or educated out of existence. Like telling people to die. Like telling people to die when they’re in the middle of a depression crisis and about to be hospitalized. Because of, I don’t even know what it was that time, not thinking this person deserved to use reclamatory language? Wanting them to tag for obscure/improbable triggers?

    It’s weird to talk about “Tumblr” like this, because while it is a community and it does have some general tendencies that distinguish it from other communities, it’s still entirely possible that no one reading/posting here is thinking of any of the same people when they say “Tumblr.” But whether you know it or not, some of the internal conversations you mention that aren’t meant to engage outsiders, are in fact meant to hurt other insiders. There are some very poisonous things going on in there.

    • says

      I agree that such things should be shamed out of existence, but they’re not what I really see on r/TumblrInAction. You should take a look at it. It’s mostly making fun of people for having obscure pronouns or identifying in some obscure way or claiming that they’re oppressed because of something or other.