Challenge the Use of SJW as an Insult


Conservatives use social justice warrior/SJW as an insult for people who speak up for equality and human rights. A surprising number of socially conscious liberals and moderates also use the word in a negative way. That only helps conservatives perpetuate the idea that fighting for social justice is trivial, in a time when increasing hate and discrimination is making protecting people’s rights even more important.

The earliest uses of “social justice warrior” were complimentary, meaning “a hero or crusader for equality and justice”, and date back to at least the 1990s. Between 2009 and 2011, the term began to appear in blogs and on Twitter as an insult. The insult implies an ill-informed individual without deep convictions, who is attempting to appear virtuous, cool, caring, or be politically correct.

Those implications are why many liberals use the term. They use it to describe people who they think are reactionary, uncommitted, phony, or spouting views just “to be hip”. Regardless of whether those are valid complaints, we need to stop using the term “social justice warrior” for such people.

Why? Because one of the most insidious, subtle, yet dangerous things the right does is redefine constructive and noble ideals to sound dumb, petty, shallow, selfish, phony or dangerous. “Progressive”, “liberal”, “intellectual”, and “feminist” have all become political slurs.

When we use such conservative rhetoric, we are helping to publicly degrade our causes and ideals. In this case, we are helping popularize the idea that social justice is something silly and petty. Generally, when conservatives call someone an SWJ, they are implying the person’s views can be written off. Socially conscious people need to stop passively spreading this idea.

Some will say that words such as the N-word, “bitch”, or “fag” have been reclaimed by the people who they were used to insult, and that can be done as a form of empowerment. But liberals are not using SJW as a form of empowerment; we are using it in the same way that Rush Limbaugh would, just on a smaller group of people.

Many of us have bought into the “social justice warrior is bad” rhetoric so much that we apologize for ourselves, like, “yeah, I am a bit of an SJW”. Stop! Standing up for equality and justice is not something to be ashamed of. If anything, people who are complacent about social justice should be ashamed.

Personally, I hope to do enough to call myself a “social justice warrior”, but either way, I am happy to say to anyone, “Yes, I stand for equality, rights, and justice; and I am proud of it. Why don’t you?”