What, if any, is the in-group term for "SJW"?
November 10, 2013 7:26 AM   Subscribe

Is there an in-group term for "Social Justice Warrior (SJW)"? That is, I definitely think there is a signified there, the strain of progressives focused on privilege, intersectionality, and oppressor/oppressed group identities, so I think it's a term with useful meaning, but it is also an out-group term with mildly negative/mocking connotation so not the best for writing seriously. Plenty SJWs here, what do you call yourselves? The closest I've heard is "intersectional feminist" which I don't even see all that often & also many SJWs are more focused on another area like race.

Inb4 claiming all of "progressive" and RINO-ing all the non-SJW progressives as "fauxgressives"/"brogressives"/"special snowflakes".
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
The "social justice" part, taken alone, is really common within the group you're talking about. To my ear, it's specifically the "warrior" part of "social justice warriors" that reads as snarky and marks the speaker/writer as an outsider.

So, I mean, people will describe themselves as "social justice activists," or as members of "social justice movements" or the "social justice community," or will declare an organization or a community institution to be a "social justice space," or will announce that their blog is a "social justice blog" — and none of that has the sort of negative or mocking tone that you're worried about.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:46 AM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I definitely think there is a signified there, the strain of progressives focused on privilege, intersectionality, and oppressor/oppressed group identities

I am more of a broad strokes person (and a member of this group) and to me this is just "progressives" or "people concerned with social justice" or just "$TOPIC activists" I think some people use SJW to refer to people who visibly engage specifically in online arguing/debate activism. When you take this stuff into the offline realm I think it's just activism and that most people in those arenas in the progressive left directions are concerned with power imbalances and intersectionalities (though maybe don't call it that).
posted by jessamyn at 7:53 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Social justice activist or organizer.
posted by lunasol at 8:04 AM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've always just used activist and activism.
posted by rtha at 8:10 AM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The problem with just "social justice" or just "progressive" is that a lot of people who describe themselves with these terms don't fall into the "social justice warrior" stereotypes. I'm a progressive concerned with social justice issues, and while I think privilege is a thing, and oppression is a thing, and I respect discussions about intersectionality, my understanding is that you're probably talking about a group I not only don't belong to, but tend to broadly disagree with.

A lot of people who do exemplify this sort of thing are not "activists" or "organizers" at all, they're people talking on the internet. Which is fine, that's just not what those words mean.

I think Left is better than progressive, for sure. (When I hear "progressive" I think of people who voted for Obama, listen to NPR, drive a hybrid, shop at the farmer's market, etc, not necessarily people who are heavily into discussing intersectionality.)

I would maybe say the Social Justice Left?
posted by Sara C. at 9:15 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would disagree with the idea that the label "Social Justice Warrior" is used to identify an actual group of people who would self-identify as a distinct cultural group. It is usually used to identify a very specific behavior (merely talking about oppression on the internet is enough to get one labeled this way) which could be exhibited by many, many different people who would not see other "SJW" as compatriots.

If I were writing seriously, I'd probably think a little bit harder about who exactly I was trying to identify. Everyone who talks about oppression on the internet? Self-identified activists? Social justice tumblrs?
posted by muddgirl at 9:37 AM on November 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I might fall into that category. We usually say "anti-oppression organizer/activist" or "anti-racist organizer" when trying to differentiate from other activists with different frames for understanding power and society.
posted by femmegrrr at 9:40 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think you might want to reexamine the premise that there's a usefully descriptive term here, rather than a muddy pejorative that doesn't really designate a coherent group beyond "people who annoy the speaker." The SJW stereotype covers both actual activists (you know, the kind who do real-world politics stuff) and Internet-only slacktivists equally and indistinguishably. It leaves out the actual issue or issues being warriored about, so it covers everything from the entire spectrum of identity-politics stuff to pretty much every other policy issue, lumping together a huge diversity of "progressive" and liberal causes with everything else to the left of, well, the right. And even though "warrior" is presumably, at least in the uses I've seen, a pejorative about using dumb belligerent rhetoric, there doesn't tend to be much distinction drawn between different forms of rhetoric either: in plenty of online communities (e.g. almost all of Reddit) just talking openly about any kind of identity politics, without being very aggressive about it, is enough to get the "warrior" tag thrown around. There isn't a single "in-group term" here, because the term doesn't designate a coherent group that could self-describe.
posted by RogerB at 10:21 AM on November 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Two words that I've heard used in this context are "advocate" and "ally." Possibly "defender," which seems a little closer in meaning to "warrior" but without the mocking overtones.
posted by désoeuvrée at 10:55 AM on November 10, 2013


Australian context, specifically that of a particular political party (speaking with my personal voice, not the party's, etc) where we don't tend to think of ourselves as warriors. In this bit of Oz we're widely known for having a quaker as one of our best known founding members.

We tend to break initial interview/induction/training terminology into simply social justice, environment and sustainability, peace and non-violence, participatory democracy, then move onto very specific terms for areas of organisation or activism once someone's actively involved.

So the term "social justice" itself falls a bit by the wayside when people are either describing themselves or being described from outside. Instead they're GLBTX, mental health, single parenting, refugee rights, indigenous rights, addiction, feminist, (etc) spokespeople, organisers, advocates, activists, campaigners. The role terminology can get complicated when people are working at multiple levels (or on multiple elements) of a campaign structure. To the extent that there's overlap and intersectionality on the issue terminology front, that tends to be made explicit.

The one that springs immediately to mind after a recent conversation is a friend who's a mental health/addiction advocate, organiser and campaigner. That's what she calls herself. That's what we call her. The two intersect in this part of Oz due to government department policies that tend to bounce clients back and forth with neither govt. agency wanting to deal with someone's issues first. If you're a bipolar meth addict, neither addiction treatment agencies nor mental health facilities want to deal with you. At all. Both will tell you to sort out your other issues before they'll treat you.But I think that's probably not unique to here.

All that said, the public terminology we use most commonly tends to just be "community organiser" or "community campaigner" because anyone who's out there working in public is going to be asked a broad spectrum of questions that may not be their area of speciality, but which they need to be able to answer.
posted by Ahab at 10:59 AM on November 10, 2013


+1 for organizer.
posted by wuwei at 11:14 AM on November 10, 2013


Besides just progressive, which we do use in the way that you appear to be deprecating, my friends and I tend to use the words intersectionality and social justice a lot. However, most folks have specific issues on which they spend most of their time, including in some cases what their day job is, whether it's gay marriage, prison reform, addiction/harm reduction, or outreach to and advocacy for the homeless. I think activist, advocate, and ally are all fine words, and that for most progressives there are issues to which they devote all of their time, for which activist might be the best word, and issues which they care about but do not spend all their time working on, for which ally might be a better word.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:18 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did social justice work for many years, and the common term among all groups was always activist. It's been awhile since I have been active, but I have never, ever, ever heard anyone within progressive circles refer to themselves as a "social justice warrior." Additionally, activists within socialist-identified circles may refer to each other (nonironically) as comrade.
posted by scody at 11:28 AM on November 10, 2013


The term SJW is sort of similar to how you might, in a moment of irritation, refer to an anti-abortion activist as a 'Jesus warrior'. It's just a term that means "a person with X beliefs who is especially strident in a way I disagree with." It's not a distinct subcategory from progressive activists. It basically means "a progressive activist who the speaker believes is wrong and also a loudmouthed asshole."
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:09 PM on November 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Two words that I've heard used in this context are "advocate" and "ally."

Again, I would be careful not to choose an overly broad term that describes the people you're talking about and also a whole lot of people who disagree mightily with the "social justice warrior" approach.
posted by Sara C. at 12:21 PM on November 10, 2013


I would disagree with the idea that the label "Social Justice Warrior" is used to identify an actual group of people who would self-identify as a distinct cultural group. It is usually used to identify a very specific behavior (merely talking about oppression on the internet is enough to get one labeled this way) which could be exhibited by many, many different people who would not see other "SJW" as compatriots.

Yeah, the 'warrior' part is generally directed as a dry (and mild, imo) dig at indefatigable zealotry rather than the actual causes that are being fought for. Social justice activist are the words you'd use if you wanted to avoid any hint of criticism.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:09 PM on November 10, 2013


i agree that it's basically a term that means, "i think that person is silly and strident." it strikes me as, "what's a better word for feminazi our welfare queen?" the answer is that there isn't one because those groups don't exist in the way they're described by the out group.
posted by nadawi at 9:07 PM on November 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


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