Along with any sane person who spends a lot of time online, I have a love-hate relationship with the internet. On the one hand it’s an invention right up there with fire and public sanitation in terms of its significance to human development. And on the other, its labyrinthine and anonymous nature provides the perfect breeding ground for some of the most insanely ridiculous drama you can possibly imagine. Drama so petty, complex and extreme that it would be near impossible for it to come into being offline, because everyone involved would be shunned so hard by society that they would spontaneously go into orbit.
If only that were an option here, I wouldn’t have to be writing this article. Even if the drama could just stay online, I would be so happy. The pre-teens, basement dwellers and narcissists could have their flame war, and while I would find it annoying to constantly bump into stupidity online all the time, at least I could just ignore it and move the hell on.
Don’t make eye contact and just keep on walking
Sadly, this is not the case. Contrary to common belief, the online world is not separate from reality but rather a really weird extension of it, and what we do there can and does influence what we do here. Whether that involve affecting our mood, occupying our attention, enabling communication, or creating and spreading ideas, the internet has consequences for our ‘real’ lives and the lives of others – what a pity it is then, that so many of the ideas the internet creates and spreads are less informed and rational than your average toilet graffiti.
The great scholarly resource that is Urban Dictionary, defines the term ‘Social Justice Warrior’ (or ‘SJW’ for short) 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. They are very sure to adopt stances that are “correct” in their social circle.”
In other words, an SJW is not just someone who supports progressive social issues such as gay marriage, racial equality, and feminism, and opposes regressive ideas such as homophobia, racism and sexism, but rather someone who uses these causes as a way of getting themselves attention, usually making a mess of the ideals they are using in the process.
Simply put, they’re that irritating facebook friend that constantly posts some variation of “I don’t know if I can go on…:(“ and then says they “don’t want to talk about it” when worried friends ask what’s up. They’re attention seekers who use progressive social issues as their way of getting attention, with the nice side benefit of having a real issue to bolster their self-esteem with.
Case in point
But that alone wouldn’t be noteworthy whatsoever. In the great wide ocean that is the internet, there are swamps and backwaters FAR nastier and horrifying than attention-seekers out there. So why write an article about them? Because ironically enough, SJWs have become the perfect strawman for every bigot on the internet looking for an excuse.
A strawman, for anyone wondering, is a rhetorical fallacy (or illogical argument) where you exaggerate, misrepresent or lie about someone’s opinion to make it easier to attack – metaphorically setting up a straw man you made, so that you can knock it down and declare victory over an opponent that didn’t exist to start with.
This sort of thing is obviously pretty common in any debate, largely because it’s a very easy way of gaining support from people who think with their hearts rather than their heads (ie. pretty much everybody). A classic example is the abortion ‘debate’, where pro-lifers accuse pro-choicers of “murdering babies”, while pro-choicers declare that pro-lifers “would prefer women were chained to the kitchen sink”. Notice how neither side even attempts to respond to the arguments of the other?
For someone who has a problem with feminism, or controversial progressive efforts like gay marriage or Affirmative Action (and there are a lot more than you’d likely believe) then Social Justice Warriors are a godsend. Why? You’d think that loud (if selfish and kinda dumb) voices for progressive causes could only be a good thing, right? But if you’re looking for a way to attack those causes, what better than to use particularly aggressive and stupid examples of that movement to attack it?
And, holy mother of God(s), there are plenty of example of stupidity to choose from. How about this one, where a ‘feminist’ argued that men sitting with their legs apart on the subway was “a crotch display, used to show dominance and confidence”, completely ignoring the existence of testicles?
Or this person criticising rapper Macklemore for supporting gay rights because he’s a straight white guy, as if that somehow makes it a negative thing?
Or this guy arguing that “2014 is just the new 1964” in terms of race relations in the USA, in complete defiance of any and all evidence?
Or, my personal favourite, a recent post by ‘feminist’ Tumblr blogger Every-Flavoured-Bean that argued that “every female Pixar character has the same chin” whereas the male characters have very diverse chin lines:
I cannot believe I have to write about this shit. Seriously.
Every-Coloured-Bean responded to this discovery as follows:
This isn’t just the raving of some random blogger I’m picking on here either; this issue got covered by the Daily Mail and actually somehow forced a response from Disney itself. Over chins.
There are quite a few arguments one could make against this chin theorem, but let’s just focus on the most obvious one: WHAT THE FLYING FUCK DO CHINS HAVE TO DO WITH FEMINISM? I’m well aware that sexist stereotypes hurt women – I wrote a series of articles about it – and yes it may be true that Pixar/Disney has a habit of giving female characters fairly similar chin-lines in their animation. You know what else Pixar/Disney give their female characters? SUBSTANTIAL DEPTH OF PERSONALITY, WILD UNTAMABLE SPIRITS, AND A STRONG ANTI-STEREOTYPICAL STREAK YOU DUMBARSE. This is a company that has frequently created the most progressive images of women on screen, and you are ignoring all of that to focus on the one thing you could possibly consider sexist – their jaw lines.
For someone aiming to prove that the entire feminist movement is bullshit that we should stop supporting, these examples are pure gold. These aren’t just strawmen we made up; they’re living, breathing strawmen that actually make more strawmen if you poke ‘em! Because since Social Justice Warriors became a ‘thing’ in mid-2014, this entire mess has become a ginormous feedback loop.
1. SJWs post something idiotic under the banner of a good movement
2. Bigots looking for a strawman, or opportunists looking for attention, post it up on sites like Imgur, Reddit or Facebook to attack social justice movements/get imaginary internet points respectively.
3. Well informed/intelligent supports of the movements in question defend their cause, either by trying to explain that fringe idiots don’t represent their movement or by distancing themselves from said idiots.
4. Bigots and opportunists use these defences to get further attention, usually by making even bigger and stupider strawmen, blaming totally unrelated social issues on social justice movements (because feminists totally support women raping men, apparently), blatantly misusing the No-True-Scotsman fallacy, or by making some grand statement about why the movement is no longer necessary that completely fails to address the aims of that movement.
5. If it gets nasty enough, the mainstream media gleefully covers the entire trainwreck.
6. All of this fresh attention sets off the SJWs to post yet another round of idiocy, which takes us back to step 1.
And just to top off this glorious shit-show; this is the internet we’re talking about here, so no one has any goddamn idea if the original SJW posts that started everything are even real.
The net is the ancestral home for trolls, and what better drama could a troll hope for than baiting a flamewar between serious political movements and their opponents? So while I have zero doubt that plenty of the tripe SJWs post on the net is some idiot’s real opinion, I also have zero doubt there is plenty made up by the same bigots/attention seekers/trolls who then use it as fuel for the drama fire.
I mean…c’mon. At least put some effort into it, 13-year-old-with-computer.
So where does all this fucking mess leave us? Well I’m going to lay it out for you real simple like: a political movement is based on values. Those values are measurable things that can and should be judged, and if found ethical, should be celebrated (if not, fix ‘em or ditch ‘em).
The people involved in the movement, on the other hand, either fit these values or they do not. If they accurately advocate for those values then they are part of the movement regardless of whether they identify as such – it doesn’t matter if you don’t consider yourself a feminist; if you agree with feminist values then you’re a feminist. Deal with it.
Conversely, it doesn’t matter squat if a person screams their allegiance from the rooftops; if you don’t match the values of a movement then you are not part of that movement. I don’t care if you declare yourself an advocate for gender, race and sexual equality. I don’t give a shit if you have a Masters in Women’s Studies and work for the Fawcett Society. And I most definitely don’t give a rat’s arse if you write a popular blog on the interwebs that you claim is feminist. If you do not match the ethically justifiable values of the feminist movement, if you consciously agree with statements that are anti-men or demonstrably unjust, then
It’s as simple as that.
Contrary to what people often believe, ethics, values and morals are not flexible concepts that change depending on the circumstances. Ethics are a rather the cold, methodical study of the facts and the judgement of what is and is not justifiable based on those facts. What a person believes themselves to be is not a fact. What they say, do and work towards – those are facts and they are the only thing we should be concerned about.