Social justice warrior
Social justice warrior
"Social justice warrior" (SJW) is a pejorative term for an individual who promotes socially progressive views, including feminism, civil rights, and multiculturalism, as well as identity politics. The accusation that somebody is an SJW carries implications that they are pursuing personal validation rather than any deep-seated conviction, and engaging in disingenuous arguments.
The phrase originated in the late 20th century as a neutral or positive term for people engaged in social justice activism. In 2011, when the term first appeared on Twitter, it changed from a primarily positive term to an overwhelmingly negative one. During the Gamergate controversy, the negative connotation gained increased use, and was particularly aimed at those espousing views adhering to social liberalism, cultural inclusivity, or feminism, as well as views deemed to be politically correct.
Dating back to 1824, the term social justice refers to justice on a societal level. From the early 1990s to the early 2000s, social-justice warrior was used as a neutral or complimentary phrase, as when a 1991 Montreal Gazette article describes union activist Michel Chartrand as a "Quebec nationalist and social-justice warrior".
"the 'social justice warrior,' i.e., the stereotype of the feminist as unreasonable, sanctimonious, biased, and self-aggrandizing." Scott Selisker
According to Martin, the term switched from primarily positive to negative around 2011, when it was first used as an insult on Twitter. The same year, an Urban Dictionary entry for the term also appeared. The term's negative use became mainstream due to the 2014 Gamergate controversy, emerging as the favoured term of Gamergate proponents to describe their ideological opponents. In Internet and video game culture the phrase is broadly associated with the Gamergate controversy and wider culture war fallout, including the 2015 Sad Puppies campaign that affected the Hugo Awards. Usage of the term as a pejorative was popularized on websites such as Reddit, 4chan, and Twitter.
Use of the term has been described as attempting 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".
The negative connotation has primarily been aimed at those espousing views adhering to social progressivism, cultural inclusivity, or feminism. This usage implies that a person is engaging in disingenuous social justice arguments or activism to raise his or her personal reputation. Allegra Ringo writes for Vice that "[i]n 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."
Vice reporter Clinton Nguyen quoted the term during a report which analyzed the aggressive behavior behind 'social justice'-oriented Tumblr users, citing an example in which Tumblr users engaged in sustained harassment towards an artist on the site over the content of the artist's work. The subsequent torment was so vicious that the artist attempted suicide. Users who supported the artist reported at least ten attackers to the police, and led to at least one arrest.
The term is commonly used by participants in online discussion in criticism of feminism. Scott Selisker, writes in New Literary History, "[Forum participants] often make personal criticisms of what they see as a type: the 'social justice warrior,' i.e., the stereotype of the feminist as unreasonable, sanctimonious, biased, and self-aggrandizing".
In May 2014, the concept was incorporated into a parody role-playing video game titled Social Justice Warriors. Developed by Nonadecimal Creative, Social Justice Warriors involved the concept of debating online against Internet trolls who make racist and other provocative comments by choosing from different responses such as "'dismember their claims with your logic,' rebroadcast their message to be attacked by others, or go for the personal attack." Users were able to select a character class, and gameplay involved changes to user meters of Sanity and Reputation. Game creator Eric Ford explained that the game was designed to foster critical thinking and was not "intended to suggest that racist, sexist, or other offensive comments shouldn't be confronted online. The goal is to encourage critical thinking on how it can be done more effectively, and at less cost to the real-world social justice warriors."