What the Hell is a Social Justice Warrior, Anyway?


sjw

 

Hi, I’m your friendly new FtB blogger Trav! Welcome!

I want to start my new blog with a question I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: What the hell is a social justice warrior (SJW), anyway?

Back when I first started becoming aware of social justice issues on the wonderful world of Tumblr (I don’t use it much anymore because of reasons), SJW was a slur towards anyone who talked about racial justice, feminism, LGBTQ rights, disability justice, economic justice, and how they all intersect. Which pretty much describes me, so I wore the SJW badge with honor. Whenever some asshole online ragged about how SJWs were ruining everything, I’d jump right in and tell them flat out why they’re wrong and they’re the ones who are ruining everything. My motto was, “If you ain’t down for smashing the white supremacist cisheteronormative capitalist patriarchy, GTFO!”

Then I realized there was another definition of SJW. According to Urban Dictionary, an SJW is:

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.

Well gee, I don’t think I’m that bad, am I? In fact, my friend Paul Sating of the Q Podcast did an episode a few weeks ago praising me for having conversations with people who disagree with me.

Of course I wasn’t always this pragmatic. I used to be the kind of person who thought only the Atheist Plus atheists were the “good atheists” and everyone else was a bastard. But the more I got to know other atheist activists online, the more I realized people are way too complicated to fit into either the nice box or the naughty box. We’re all learning, and we all fuck up. This is something I’m still learning, to be honest.

Yet even when I do calmly explain feminist issues using facts and nuances, I still get called an SJW.

At this point, the phrase SJW has been tossed around so much, it’s lost all meaning. The same goes for the phrase “regressive left.” Now I’m not saying there aren’t toxic people online who do block everyone who disagrees with them. Trust me, I’ve met quite a few. However, what started as labels to describe that kind of behavior is now a pejorative people toss out to avoid tough conversations about racism, sexism, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, and ableism. A friend recently shared a satirical article that imagines Milo Yiannopoulos blaming the regressive left for locking his keys inside his car. Of course it’s silly, but one look at the real Yiannopoulous’ Twitter feed will show it’s not too far from reality.

So am I an SJW? I don’t know, and I frankly don’t care.

If you think trying to start civil conversations about racism, sexism, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, ableism, and classism automatically makes me an SJW, fine. If you think an SJW is just for extremists, fine. I just say what I need to say and hope that people will listen.

Better yet, you can just call me a humanist.

Comments

  1. says

    Hello and welcome!

    I wear the SJW label proudly. It’s always struck me as a profoundly ridiculous attempt at a slur, particularly because it came from people who either have no interest in social justice or are actively working against it.

    As for the “regressive left”, they do exist, but the irony is that it’s not those who tend to get that label thrown at them. It’s the racist “liberals”, the anti-feminist “liberals”, the homophobic and transphobic “liberals”. The regressive left are those who label themselves as “liberals” but actively work against progress and equality.

    • beanybag says

      That’s because “liberals” are actually just liberals? Liberals aren’t left-wing, they are right wing. All of them. Best you get is center-right with liberalism.

    • Vino says

      ??? How very articulate indeed (sincerely) yet you are still performing a tremendous level of mental gymnastics. Keep wearing that badge proudly. I shall wear the badge of humanist as crossing that threshold of wanting more than equality is a typical path in which sjw-“ism” can quite easily lead. You must watch a lot of buzzfeed and get your “news” from it even Fox News is better (and they are terrible). Who actually watches cspan these days. I know it can be boring but it is still what once was considered unbiased information and fair and balanced news. Did you go to Wesley ??? Is your name Timothy? Are you crying for your safe space now? Should you check your privilege, should I ???? I welcome your critique and dialogue. Peace.

  2. abear says

    Hello fellow humanist and congratulations on your new blog!
    As a feminist and a progressive I too am disturbed by the regressive types in our midst. They do a great deal of harm to our cause, not just by causing division in our ranks, but also by causing discredit to the causes of secularism and reason with their pseudoscientific nonsense and goofy politics.

  3. Steve Bruce says

    social justice warrior (n): someone who has hijacked the language of social justice to either become the bully they always wanted to be or to scam people out of money. Comes from “keyboard warrior” a term for someone who fights for causes so small and petty that they can be solved from behind a keyboard.

    see: crybully, keyboard warrior, slactivist, regressive left, special snowflake, outrage culture

    example of real social justice causes (state of education in the inner cities, treatment of women in Islam)
    example of social justice warrior causes (jiggle physics in video games, not enough PoC in the Oscars)

        • StevoR says

          Actually both kinda are problems and, y’know they just may even be causally related along with underlying issues as well.

          (Hint : do you think poor people – especially of colour find it easy to get education along with opportunities to become major actors and might y’know face a few bigger obstacles to becoming Hollywood stars than those coming from families with different racial-cultural-social educational backgrounds and matrices?

          Do you think the roles and images of heroes and villains as portrayed by Hollywood might affect the lives and aspirations and expectations of Americans from poor especially non-white backgrounds?

          • Steve Bruce says

            you make a fantastic point. Yes, i do think that that the state of education in the inner cities is an obstical for minorities in all fields not just the arts. The problem is that increasing funding, getting better student/teach ratios etc won’t help black adults today. this is the sort of thing that will would take 20 or more years to bear fruit. I don’t think that the images of heroes and villains have much of an effect. Hollywood has been sensative to making blacks villains for a long while now.

            Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    • says

      social justice warrior (n): someone who has hijacked the language of social justice to either become the bully they always wanted to be or to scam people out of money. Comes from “keyboard warrior” a term for someone who fights for causes so small and petty that they can be solved from behind a keyboard.

      Do you have an example of this bullying?

      see: crybully, keyboard warrior, slactivist, regressive left, special snowflake, outrage culture

      *yawn*
      Yes, yes, I’ve heard the insulting characterizations and they are quite boring at this point. A characterization is only as useful as the ability of the person using it to unpack it.

      example of real social justice causes (state of education in the inner cities, treatment of women in Islam)

      Yep, those are important and they should be addressed.

      example of social justice warrior causes (jiggle physics in video games, not enough PoC in the Oscars)

      So what makes these causes small and petty? Because the missing part is that they are small and petty to you. Why should I give a fuck?

    • StevoR says

      Why not you?

      Note that what and which things are “injustices” of course may vary in mileage but that’s a whole other story. Why the quotation marks?

  4. says

    “because one is a problem and the other isn’t.”

    Because you are tolerant of casual racism, which is enough for me to dismiss you as a racist yourself. And yes, I AM a SJW and I do not give a damn what a pest like you thinks about it, Mr Bruce. You don’t get to define terms and actions to suit your bigotries without getting laughed at in public. Indeed, it is the height of arrogance for anyone to tell anyone else what is or is not a legitimate social justice issue.

    • Lance H. says

      “Because you are tolerant of casual racism, which is enough for me to dismiss you as a racist yourself.”
      How very tolerant of you.

      ” I AM a SJW and I do not give a damn what a pest like you thinks about it, Mr Bruce.” My, my. Blind to your own hypocrisy, you are. He does not get to define terms? Exactly who gets to do this?

      I suspect you are a graduate of one of the many adolescent day care centers that are passing as universities as evidenced by the infantile whining of your comment and delusional sense of outrage. Is this or is this not a free thought blog? Should ALL opinions not be welcome to debate? Do these opinions offend you? Scare you to the point that they must be silenced? How can this be a haven of free thought when folks are viciously attacked for the thought crime of not agreeing with you? Do you not see your comment is very arrogant as well?

      Opinions. Everybody has them. If you want to impress, try backing up your argument with evidence and remember that emotion and feelings are not an argument.

      • says

        I suspect you are a graduate of one of the many adolescent day care centers that are passing as universities as evidenced by the infantile whining of your comment and delusional sense of outrage.

        Oh noes! Comparisons to childlike behavior associated with quotes functionally acting as an assertion! I see some whining in your words. Some things should not be tolerated. The whole idea behind tolerance on a political level was to combat irrational intolerance. Intolerance of acceptance of racism is just fine. On top of that you are confusing tolerance with acceptance. I don’t see anyone suggesting you get tossed in prison and I doubt that anyone here wants to see such.

        To what hypocrisy are you referring? You can bleat out all the insulting characterizations that you want but they remain little more than name calling if you don’t unpack them.

        <blockquote cite=””Is this or is this not a free thought blog?
        You are ignorant of the nature of Freethought as a philosophical movement. It does not mean all beliefs and thoughts are accepted or acceptable. Some useless things are better off in the dustbin of history.

        Should ALL opinions not be welcome to debate?

        No.

        Do these opinions offend you?

        Yes, just as some opinions and conclusions clearly offend you.

        Scare you to the point that they must be silenced?

        You are not owed a platform in other people’s social spaces. If you are unwilling to conform to their behavioral preferences it is perfectly acceptable that you be booted out.

        How can this be a haven of free thought when folks are viciously attacked for the thought crime of not agreeing with you?

        I don’t see any blood and guts. So perhaps if you got to examining the harsh criticism you are receiving you would appear to be more than someone whining about behavioral preferences. “Thought crime” is quite laughable, you know you are attacking the thoughts of others yourself right?

        Do you not see your comment is very arrogant as well?

        Oh noes! Claims of arrogance! It’s almost like you are referring to a social tool that our species evolved because it was useful without showing how it’s actually arrogant. Like just because you say it’s there that it’s enough.

        Opinions. Everybody has them. If you want to impress, try backing up your argument with evidence and remember that emotion and feelings are not an argument.

        Good advice, now try following it and back your shit up.

        • Lance H. says

          “Good advice, now try following it and back your shit up.” What do I need to back up? Evidence to support exactly what?

          Why is it called Free Thought Blog? I was browsing for a forum that actually supports free discussion and I fell into this shit hole trap of contrary blog titles that have nothing to do with free thought and are actually a place for like minded folks to intellectually masturbate each other. I see enough of that on forums both left and right and am sick of it. By all means carry on! I will write this experience off and learn to dig beyond the blog title.

          Regarding claims of arrogance, the following statement is a text book definition of arrogance:

          “Because you are tolerant of casual racism, which is enough for me to dismiss you as a racist yourself. And yes, I AM a SJW and I do not give a damn what a pest like you thinks about it, Mr Bruce. You don’t get to define terms and actions to suit your bigotries without getting laughed at in public. Indeed, it is the height of arrogance for anyone to tell anyone else what is or is not a legitimate social justice issue.”

          Need I break out the crayons and draw you a picture? It is an arrogant statement to call one a racist without proof of such. To have proof that the Oscars and the academy are racist would support a social justice issue. I have not seen this proof and would love for someone to furnish it. Until then, it may be suspect, but until a foundation of evidence is established, it is nothing but speculation and baseless claims of racism. That is arrogant in my opinion.

          “I don’t see any blood and guts. So perhaps if you got to examining the harsh criticism you are receiving you would appear to be more than someone whining about behavioral preferences. “Thought crime” is quite laughable, you know you are attacking the thoughts of others yourself right?”

          Let me be clear: Thought crime as used in my example is the attacking of Ideas by insult rather than evidence.By vicious, I refer to resorting to insult.

          I will leave your safe space and move on. If you found yourself triggered and offended, might I suggest calling your therapist to get over this incident? I must go now as my wife has my sammiches ready.

          • says

            @Lance H.

            Why is it called Free Thought Blog?

            I answered you already when I mentioned the freethought movement. Since my explicitly stating “You are ignorant of the nature of Freethought as a philosophical movement. It does not mean all beliefs and thoughts are accepted or acceptable.” appears to have been ignored here is a link.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freethought
            It’s not a synonym for “any and all thoughts”.

            I was browsing for a forum that actually supports free discussion and I fell into this shit hole trap of contrary blog titles that have nothing to do with free thought and are actually a place for like minded folks to intellectually masturbate each other. I see enough of that on forums both left and right and am sick of it. By all means carry on! I will write this experience off and learn to dig beyond the blog title.

            Let me get this straight. You:
            1) Say you came in here looking for a place for free discussion.
            2) Mentioned in your first comment

            Is this or is this not a free thought blog? Should ALL opinions not be welcome to debate?Is this or is this not a free thought blog? Should ALL opinions not be welcome to debate?

            3) Are sick of specific kinds of debate practiced by forums on the left and the right?
            Those don’t go together given what you seem to think “free thought” means.

            Need I break out the crayons and draw you a picture?

            If that makes you feel better.

            It is an arrogant statement to call one a racist without proof of such. To have proof that the Oscars and the academy are racist would support a social justice issue. I have not seen this proof and would love for someone to furnish it. Until then, it may be suspect, but until a foundation of evidence is established, it is nothing but speculation and baseless claims of racism. That is arrogant in my opinion.

            How is it arrogant? I don’t see that as arrogant. I see that as dalehusband having the opinion that someone who dismisses racism in hollywood is a racist.

            Let me be clear: Thought crime as used in my example is the attacking of Ideas by insult rather than evidence.By vicious, I refer to resorting to insult.

            So you think that racism is only an insult?

            I will leave your safe space and move on. If you found yourself triggered and offended, might I suggest calling your therapist to get over this incident? I must go now as my wife has my sammiches ready.

            Ah irony.

            The person who could have simply asked dalehusband why they thought a person who dismisses racism in hollywood was racist, the same person who came in making allusions to adult daycare centers, is flouncing out because of perceived insults. And THAT makes them think this is a safe space.

      • tonyinbatavia says

        …folks are viciously attacked for the thought crime of not agreeing with you.

        Citation needed.

        Wait! Before citing your source, don’t forget that whole emotionless evidence thingy you mentioned. Careful, there. You just tossed around phrases like “infantile whining,” “delusional sense of outrage,” and “viciously attacked” when you could have instead presented emotionless evidence for each of those, so it’s apparent your default is the opposite of what you expect from others as you connote all sorts of emotional feely feels to make your point. But maybe you honestly have some emotionless evidence demonstrating that someone has actually been viciously attacked because they disagreed with someone else?

        Oh, and bonus points for eliminating your outrage while lamenting others’ sense of outrage. Since you failed to keep your outrage in check in your original comment, maybe you can get it right this time.

  5. Hoosier X says

    I was on IMDB, on the message board for “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles,” and I started arguing with a guy who said that people only pretend to like “Jeanne Dielman” because they think it makes them look cool. So I asked him to point me to a comment for any movie, any movie at all, that supported his idea that people ever pretend to like something because it makes them look cool.
    It’s a ridiculous assertion, that anybody ever says they like a movie just because they think a movie makes them look cool. But you see it a lot on IMDB, for just about any old classic film, or any foreign film. It’s an assertion made by self-absorbed ding-dongs who just can’t step out of their bubbles long enough to conceive of the possibility that anybody could like a movie that they didn’t like or understand. (And there’s usually very little evidence that he or she watched the movie that’s upsetting them so.)
    So instead of providing any evidence of what he was talking about, the guy dismissed my insidious tactics of asking for evidence by calling me an SJW.
    (I’m still trying to figure out who one might be trying to impress by pretending to like “Jeanne Dielman.”)

  6. Steve Bruce says

    Yes. Because I’d rather worry about real problems rather than a Hollywood circle-jerk where useless awards are handed out makes me racist. If you think I’ve somehow misdefined sjw then I’d welcome a correction. This definition comes from my own lived experiences.

    • says

      Funny, the people are actually referring to things that exist.

      I have an idea, how about instead of that non-literalism “real problem/not real problem” that merely allows you to feel better about things you think are problems, you discuss the things other people see as problems so that if by some chance you are right about it being unworthy of attention there is a chance of educating us poor ignorant fools.

  7. smrnda says

    Steve Bruce :

    Everybody is free to decide what issues are worth their time. We all only have so much time. Maybe certain issues you don’t feel are worth your time and attention, for whatever reason. There are some issues that I think are more important than others, but I don’t choose to disparage people who focus on the other issues. So I think cops shooting Black people is a more pressing concern than lack of diversity at the Oscars, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t express an opinion that perhaps that Hollywood is too white. I’m also not sure the issues aren’t entirely disconnected. After all, cinema has been used by propagandists.

    • Steve Bruce says

      yes. we all do only have so much time. There was a boss i once had a story he told us

      They agreed that it was full.

      So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and watched as the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The professor then asked the students again if the jar was full.

      They chuckled and agreed that it was indeed full this time.

      The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining open areas of the jar. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar signifies your life. The rocks are the truly important things, such as family, health and relationships. If all else was lost and only the rocks remained, your life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are the other things that matter in your life, such as work or school. The sand signifies the remaining “small stuff” and material possessions.

      If you put sand into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks or the pebbles. The same can be applied to your lives. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly important.”

      social justice warrior activism is the sand. FOCUS ON THE ROCKS

      • smrnda says

        I would imagine that it is more important that people have food than it is that they have video games. Should I therefore declare that all efforts to create video games are a waste of time because they are ‘sand’ and not ‘rocks?’

        And there is also a difference between saying “I don’t think this issue is one I can devote time to” and saying “nobody should devote time to this issue” and even more “anybody who even brings up this issue should be criticized for mentioning it.” What issue people should deal with might also be subjective. Maybe you don’t think sexism in video games is a big deal. I don’t play video games. I don’t design them. Maybe though, someone who designs games or plays them thinks it is worth their time? Do you get to be the Arbiter or What Counts and what doesn’t?

        I mean, among other things I am involved with prison literacy. I used to do STEM programs for young kids. Even though I’m probably more qualified for the latter, there were more people who were interested in getting young kids interested in STEM than teaching inmates basic literacy. No surprise. Which is a bigger issue? I don’t see a need to make it a pissing contest about whose cause is *bigger* than the other one.

        Perhaps another comparison is research areas. I’ve met people who are researching rather obscure, niche areas.

  8. tonyinbatavia says

    You are so bitchen, Steve Bruce. I want to be just like you!

    For example, I want to be worried about real problems, like the apparent urgent problem of putting SJWs in their place by acting all superior because, uh, I’ve lived and I’ve had experiences. I want to solve a problem like that by being a lame-assed keyboard warrior while assuming my readers are too stupid to realize I’m just being a lame-assed keyboard warrior, just like you did on this very post!

    And you did it without showing even a hint of self-awareness. How do you do that?

    It’s artful, that, being so outraged by SJWs — hint, though; you probably don’t want to be so blatant about participating in outrage culture in the same moment you are decrying it — that you appear to be completely blinded to your own rank hypocrisy. I mean, there must be real, real problems to worry about, right? And yet, you spent your time here, on this blog, addressing this issue.

    Truly, Steve, you are operating at a different level in your efforts to solve the problem of SJWs. I mean, failing spectacularly is a level, right?

    P.S. The takeaway message from “Dear Muslima” was heinous. You are heinous for continuing to perpetuate it.

    • Steve Bruce says

      lol my 15 minutes at my computer constitutes what i do with my whole day. i work two jobs and volunteer as a big brother at “big brothers and sisters of america”. What the hell do you do? That alone on one weekend probably constitutes more work towards social justice than you’ve done in your life.

      • tonyinbatavia says

        Oh, isn’t that so cute? You get to spend a couple hours a week as a glorified babysitter playing games, flying kites, and doing stupid shit with a child from the most prosperous country in the world. Whoopdy-fricken doo. Meanwhile, 21,000 children will die of poverty today. Kids. Twenty-one thousand. Dead. I thought you said you were working on real problems. Why don’t you focus on the rocks?!

        /sarcasm

        But nice try, Sparky. I was matched as a Big in February of 1991 in DeKalb, IL. We stayed together for 11 years and through nine moves his mother made, the final move three hours away, and I still got him every other weekend through high school. He and his sister spent summers with me. I was the best man in his wedding. We are still close, and I am now contributing to his son’s college fund. When you get to a tenth of the number of hours and dollars I’ve invested in my Little and his family, come talk to me.

      • tonyinbatavia says

        Putting aside the combative tone momentarily to say: Good on you, Steve. Big Brothers/Big Sisters is a great program and too many people, especially men, drop out way too quickly. I encourage you, with full enthusiasm, to stay with it. It makes a massive difference to the Littles.

      • says

        lol my 15 minutes at my computer constitutes what i do with my whole day. i work two jobs and volunteer as a big brother at “big brothers and sisters of america”. What the hell do you do? That alone on one weekend probably constitutes more work towards social justice than you’ve done in your life.

        Well that was utterly irrational and illogical.

        The fact that you can point at something good does not imply that something else is good or bad. The fact that you do something good does not imply that something someone else is doing is good or bad. Do you know what makes something good or bad? Showing how it’s good or bad.

      • smrnda says

        I’ll provide my own CV :

        I’m a professor of computer science who advises graduate students. I also work as a data scientist for several startups. That’s my employment.

        Volunteering I’m working in prison literacy (providing classes in mathematics), I’m currently active in fighting police brutality and demanding greater accountability in my area, and I volunteer several times a week at an organization that provides free child care for people in need.

        In terms of caring about other causes, caring and being aware is so low effort that I don’t feel a need to disparage anything as beneath me.

  9. throwawaygradstudent says

    Yep, totally not important. Movies and television totally aren’t a multimillion dollar industry whose messages reach millions of people. Completely and totally trivial.

    Remember, you have the focus on the absolute worst injustice or it doesn’t matter.

  10. Siobhan says

    Welcome Trav! Maybe we should compare SJW sashes? I’m a bit jealous because you’ve already got a Dear Muslima in your comments. x)

  11. says

    Hello Trav, welcome to Freethought Blogs!

    I’m a commentator just might make you want a commenting policy, and not because of anything that I wanted to do. I have Tourette’s Syndrome which is a bit like being overloaded with a section of social instincts that includes instincts associated with authoritarian dominance, in fact that part of my brain is looking at a couple of the people above like they are prey. So if you ever need to ask that I do something or avoid doing something don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m actually very socially flexible from a lifetime of learning to handle that sensory torrent.

    My experience of SJW is the same as yours. The people using the characterization basically did not like certain forms of social justice and they actually displayed the characteristics that the term was supposedly pointing out. I could almost never get any of them to unpack that term into what it was that they were seeing. Now I just have fun with it and am happy to be one of the people to take away it’s power. I guess we will see if the people above are going to be any different.

  12. Vivec says

    As far as I’m concerned, SJW means “person who actually gives a crap about matters of oppression and won’t excuse microaggressions to pander to moderates”, which is definitely something I support.

  13. birdterrifier says

    The most important part of the definition for SJW is their penchant to shut down conversation. Especially by insults (e.g. rape apologist, misogynist, white supremacist) which is a serious problem. First, it’s an effective way of abandoning the process of convincing your opponent that their wrong. The insulted usually flings an insult back and feels even stronger about their rightness so nothing was accomplished. Second, there truly are terrible people with horribly prejudiced views but disagreeing with the goals and tactics of #ConcernedStudent1950 doesn’t automatically make one a white supremacist.

    By the looks of your free flowing conversation in the comment section, I can’t label you an SJW!

  14. says

    Those aren’t so much insults as character smears, my brother. Great way to shut down a conversation, at any rate. Seen it happen too many times to count.

    Incidentally, happened to come across the best definition of SJW ever in my reading earlier this week:

    Functionally defined, “SJW” designates someone who monitors cyberspace for slights or miscues that reveal bias, and then exploits the various tools of social media to shame the offender, express outrage, and summon the digital mob, whilst achieving for themselves a righteous fame that ties their identities and their actions to the heroes and achievements of the civil rights movement, the landmark moments of which preceded their adulthood. SJWs divide the world, GWB-like, into the evildoers (“shitlords”) and the oppressed, with the possible, but problematic remainder, being allies, whose status is ever tenuous and usually collapses into shitlord.

    More here: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2015/03/social-justice-warrior-defined.html

    By this definition, anyone who believes “people are way too complicated to fit into either the nice box or the naughty box” is No True SJW.

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