Social Justice Warrior



Social justice warrior (commonly abbreviated ‘SJW’) is a pejorative term for an individual promoting socially progressive views, including advocacy for women’s rights, identity politics, multiculturalism and civil rights. The motivation for using the term has been described as being an effort to degrade the motivations of the person accused of being an SJW, implying that their motives are ‘for personal validation rather than out of any deep-seated conviction.’

Gamergate is a blanket term for a controversy involving sexism and progressivism in video game culture, stemming from a harassment campaign conducted primarily through the use of the Twitter hashtags #GamerGate and #SJW. ‘Vice’ observed: ‘It’s awfully convenient to have a term at the ready to dismiss women who bring up sexism.’ The magazine assessed the problematic use of the term: ‘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.’

Dating back to 1824, the term ‘social justice’ refers to justice on a societal level. Abby Ohlheiser wrote in ‘The Washington Post’ that ‘social-justice warrior’ or variations thereof had been used as a laudatory phrase in the past, and provided an example dating to 1991. She quoted Katherine Martin, the head of US dictionaries at Oxford University Press, who said, ‘All of the examples I’ve seen until quite recently are lionizing the person.’ According to The Washington Post, use of the phrase in a positive manner continued from the 1990s through the 2000s.

The term has also been classed as an outgrowth of the men’s rights movement, a counter-feminist movement, and the  2015 ‘Sad Puppies’ campaign (a voting campaign intended to influence the outcome of the annual Hugo Awards, the longest running prize for science fiction or fantasy works). The campaign was called a reaction to ‘niche, academic, overtly [leftist]’ nominees and winners in opposition to ‘an affirmative action award’ that preferred female and non-white authors and characters.

According to ‘New Literary History,’ a social justice warrior is a negative stereotype of a feminist as as ‘unreasonable, sanctimonious, biased, and self-aggrandizing.’ In 2015, the term was one of several new words and phrases added to Oxford Dictionaries. It was compared to the pejorative use of ‘political correctness’ to denigrate something, stating that ‘the perceived orthodoxy [of progressive politics] has prompted a backlash among people who feel their speech is being policed.’ Hussain Khan, president of a group at University of British Columbia lamented that use of the term was a method of stopping open debate and discussion. He commented: ‘These days, if you speak even mildly about social inequality, instead of people having conversation, people will be like, ‘Oh, you’re an SJW (social justice warrior) or something,’ and it really just silences the conversation.’

English columnist and author Laurie Penny wrote in 2014 that the term was ineffective: ”Social Justice Warrior’ just doesn’t work as an insult, because a great many people care quite a lot about social justice and are proud to fight for it.’ In the article ‘Social Justice Warriors and the New Culture War,’ she reappropriated the word itself, writing: ‘Us Social Justice Warriors—this is me, stealing that word in order to use it against my enemies—are winning the culture war by tearing up the rulebook, and there’s nothing the sad, mad little boys who hate women and queers and people of color can do about it.’





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