This entry’s actually been cross-posted to my Tumblr and facebook blogs–I figured some of you might be interested in these sorts of matters, so I copied it here as well.
I have, in a stroke of the most thorough irony, acquired a rather sturdy tolerance for the people called “Social Justice Warriors” over the past two years or so. This was largely due to hanging around a small chat largely comprised of these “SJWs.”
Before I continue, allow me to make a bit of an aside on the term “SJW.” The term certainly has its problems; you could fairly argue it’s just used by reactionaries to tar anyone they dislike. However, as far as I can tell, in the popular consciousness SJW has come to describe a particular set of left-leaning politics that places a high degree of emphasis on defending both the rights and feelings of marginalized groups (such as women, racial minorities, and non-heterosexuals) and views media (ranging from videogames to anime) as an important battleground for the struggle. This is a considerably (IMO) less pejorative and more objective summation of the third-most popular definition of SJW on urbandictionary, so I assume it has some widespread purchase. Thus, when I use the term “SJW,” I do it only for ease of communication with the widest audience possible given this platform, not to be insulting or dismissive. I would prefer another term, but more accurate ones might be more confusing–if I called them ‘progressives,’ I would get questions about the actual Progressive Party, and so on.
So anyways, while I had grown to be more accepting of many “social justice warrior” beliefs over time as a result of hanging out in this chatroom, as it so happens, I was actually quite recently unceremoniously ejected from it. My former compatriots found me stupid and tiresome, so they…didn’t kick me from the chat, but they did abandon it and make an entirely new one, this time without myself and a good friend of mine. I can’t really blame them; I treated the chat as more of a goofing-off place than a serious endeavor. I was under the impression they felt the same way and reacted to my goofing-off accordingly, but I suppose they just weren’t fond of my particular brand of jocularity (partly enthusiastic affection, like lots of *hugs* and stuff, partly some off-the-wall zaniness, like pretending to buy everyone in the chat a big house). I had thought it all in good fun, and assumed that many of their responses (saying I possessed a ‘perpetual confusion aura’ and threatening to kick me, which they never really did) were playing along. I suppose now it really was more ‘laughing at’ rather than ‘laughing with.’ Oh well; the longer one is the butt of a joke, the more one deserves to be.
I’m not angry in the least, as you can tell, though somewhat saddened, I suppose. My dominant emotion was and is a bit of good-natured curiosity; I wonder if the dynamic has changed meaningfully since I’ve left or if it’s pretty much the same (I’ve been told it’s the latter), along with why they chose the curiously obtuse method of evicting me that they did, though that’s fairly unimportant. The thesis of this entry, however, is far more significant. It’s what I’ve learned both in general and about myself as a result of my time in that chat.
I don’t regret joining it, not at all. As you could probably guess from the overall positive tone of my writing, I actually had a pretty decent time “among the SJWs.” I got into several games and anime, such as One-Punch Man, thanks to their recommendations, and learned a wide variety of things about a wide variety of subjects, ranging from pixel art to a bit about the Soviet-Afghan war. More philosophically, spending so much time around people I disagreed with, even if I never came around to their views, and even if they didn’t like or respect me much, broadened my intellectual horizons in very beneficial ways. It’s one thing to talk about something from a distance, but another to learn about it and engage with it up-close. Thanks to that community of them, I’ve gained a much better grasp of what SJWs actually believe, making me much better equipped to critique them when necessary, *and* internalize whatever salutary beliefs they hold while rejecting what they’re wrong about. Sure, I’m certain they’d say the fact that I didn’t end up buying into their worldview entirely means I “didn’t learn anything” from them, but I’d be very willing to wager most of the other people I know would disagree. In short, I’ve become a little smarter and a little stronger thanks to those folks, so even if they kicked me out, I can’t stay too mad at them.
Alas, I have to admit, while it may have been an entertaining venture, it was difficult, in its own way. My former compatriots might tell you I’m lying, but I really did make a good-faith attempt to at least uphold what they perceived to be proper conduct, though I never really internalized it. Yes, perhaps all my zany jokes were more tiresome than I thought, but when it came to the important stuff they cared about, like treating ‘marginalized’ people well, I tried to take their advice. Whenever I used a term or turn of phrase they deemed offensive, I apologized, listened to the explanation of what was wrong with it, and endeavored not to use it again. If they thought a given piece of media was offensive, I accepted their assessment and chatted about it less (I may do a post on this later). When another person in the chat said something offensive, I encouraged him to apologize and to respect others’ feelings. I suppose such efforts may be commendable, but they can also be tiring, especially in a chat where you just want to goof off and have fun, not concern yourself over the political ramifications of what you watch, play, or say.
Once again, my former compatriots would likely say, “Hah! just more proof you’re big and stupid and we were right to kick you! Social justice is so easy, if it doesn’t come naturally to you you’re just a dumbo!” Well, whatever–in my own defense, I’ll point out that not everybody would be as willing as I was to make a good-faith (even if ultimately futile) effort to respect your beliefs. You couldn’t really call me an anti-SJW, though you could call me a 4channer (I primarily hang out in /m/ and I’m proud of it, thanks to the fansubs it puts out and its general positive actions for fans of mecha anime), but even “regular” people who aren’t anti-sjws or 4channers or “otakus” or whatever would seem to have a tough time with social justice. It’s not hard to see lots of people on regular gaming forums, facebook, or just about any other venue saying and doing things that are ‘problematic.’ Call me dumb and misguided as you will, but at least acknowledge that I put in more effort than most would.
So, at the very least, I learned something important about myself: Despite my moderate-leftist leanings, and despite my good-faith and relatively strenuous attempts to accede to the ideology, ‘social justice’ just doesn’t mesh well with me. I think I can get along quite well with people who might be broadly sympathetic to the SJW thought process, or even adhere to it to some extent (I avoid the “SJW” and “social justice” tags on tumblr and reddit, but a lot of folks I’ve met on other forums tend to be moderately liberal like me, and I find their company quite pleasing), but over a certain level, as was apparently experienced in that chat, it’s just harder for me to deal with–or in other words, fitting in at a heavily “SJW” place as opposed to a mild one is more of a conscious effort than something that comes naturally to me. For other people, it may be different. But for me, it’s definitely an aspect of my personality I ought to keep in mind for the future.
And really, knowing oneself can be as important as knowing others. So I think I can be thankful for quite a few things from my time at that “SJW” chat: What I’ve learned about SJW politics and what I’ve learned about myself are two of those things. But not the only things! As excessive as it may seem, there are a few other tidbits of knowledge I’ve gained from that chat, and I’d like to share them here, probably on Tuesdays (Fridays will be reserved for my dissertation. Once again, my former compatriots would likely call me foolish for doing so–but if any of my experiences can give anyone even a bit of guidance or wisdom, I’ll gladly be called a fool.