Social Justice

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See also: warnings, triggers, Ironic Racism, Race and Fandom, International Blog Against Racism Week, Dark Agenda, Cultural Imperialism in Fandom, Real World Events in Fanworks, Homophobia in Fandom, Misogyny in Fandom, Ableism in Fandom, white knighting, fail
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Contents

Social Justice (SJ) means different things to different people. Racial issues, issues surrounding disability and access, proper portrayal of mental illness and respect for mentally ill fans, triggers and warnings, standards of (male and female) beauty and attractiveness, feminism, LGBT rights are frequent topics of "social justice" discussions.

To some "SJW," or "Social Justice Warrior" is not seen as a flattering term; however some fans use it to describe themselves and do not object to its use.[1] Context of use seems to be key, as well as whether this is a self-applied label or one applied by others. (E.g., the acronym "SJW" is sometimes explained as "Social Justice Wanker," probably rarely by those who would consider themselves Social Justice Warriors.)

Fannish social justice really picked up around RaceFail '09.[2] It now appears in discussions surrounding a wide variety of fannish community events such as Wiscon, Vividcon, and the OTW elections of 2011. Also appears in numerous small groups and communities discussions as well as in one-on-one discussions.

Permeates all aspects of fannish life, from blogging, to writing fan fiction, to archiving, vidding, running conventions, and simply hanging out on twitter and tumblr. It is not unusual for fans to find themselves in the midst of a social justice discussion when they thought they were talking about the story they just read or the plot of their favorite TV show.
A Fandom Secret

Social Justice Controversies

  • Some people say SJ has made fandom a safer place for them. They are able to speak up about painful issues, and people will listen to them. [citation needed]
  • Also, some feel that social justice has allowed them to discuss the "isms" topics more freely.[3]
  • Fandom is a microcosm of the real world and while many of us use fandom for escapism, many more of us use fandom as our main social interaction. Part of that social interaction is the need to engage each other and discuss ways to reduce prejudice.[4]
  • Some people say that SJ debate has had a negative impact on fandom. "Calling out" -> "signal boosting" -> dogpiling. SJW as bullies. [5] Pick and choose who gets dogpiled. Refusing to accept apologies unless they met strict criteria. [6] This practice is not limited to fandom or to tumblr; it is endemic on lifestyle and social websites.[7]
  • People familiar with actual social justice work say that most 'social justice' arguments in fandom are not true social justice at all. [8][9][10]
  • Others point to instances where SJ results in "POC feeling harassed, marginalized, and mocked by the very actions and "activists" that purport to be on their side" (their POV being labeled white/racist and when their minority status is revealed social justice activists continue to label them as privileged and racist).[11][12]
  • Criticism of American-centric bent to SJ discourse: too much focus on what is offensive to Americans and not enough attention to what is not offensive everywhere else. ESL fans are often attacked for not getting the cultural context right. For example, this FFA thread about the reality TV series X-Factor: "I don't know if they're British or not, but they sound like they've internalized American SJ issues. This British nonny did the same way back in her baby SJer days, before she actually read the work of British anti-racists and realized you can't just shove one country's workings on another, and British anti-racist activists have been griping about people trying that exact thing for a long time." [13]
  • SJ discussions often result in "flattening of experiences". As one anonymous poster said: "But it is not a black and white thing where there is a Right Opinion and everyone who doesn't agree is a vile monster. And I think it's pretty shitty for allies to be more concerned about raging than actually listening to the people they're supposedly defending." [14] In connection with the role that allies can and should play, one fan pointed out the following in reaction the the "Derpy Hooves" controversy in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom:
"Conflicts about complex issues should happen within a marginalized group. Allies stay the fuck out of an argument like that when you see it happening because your contributions/opinions in those instances are neither worthwhile nor welcome.
If you can't accept that marginalized people are going to disagree amongst themselves about things and that when you see that happening you need to back the fuck off and engage somewhere else, then you have no business calling yourself an ally." [15]
  • Example of the impact of SJW on fandom: Hurt/Comfort Bingo wank - all participants = ableist. However, nuances are lost - some fans actually disabled, like h/c anyway and appreciate more representation in fan fiction/fan art.[16] The Fail Fandom Anon Wiki has a roundup of links about H/C Bingo that go into these issues and opinions in greater detail.
  • Some members of the groups that SJW are attempting to help believe that their struggles are in fact being appropriated and used to further the SJW's agendas and/or to "win points" in Internet arguments.[17]
  • Other fans look back at their social justice days as a developmental phase they traveled through: "Getting too deep into SJ is something that happened to me a few years ago. The worst, most uncomfortable part of that phase was how I saw other people...everything became about categories and I could barely relate to individuals any more....Being a self-declared 'ally' against someone's oppression is all well and good but it isn't what friendship is made of."[19]
  • A few fans appreciate the efforts of social justice activists - both in fandom and IRL:"Personally, though I've had a really scarring IRL experience with "SJWs", I still respect that people are trying to do what is right, and I prefer that to hypocritical apathy & cynicism any day (sooo easy to do nothing and act superior about never having to make difficult choices), though I'd prefer some sanity in my activism."[20]
  • Some fans make an effort to distinguish between the awareness of social justice issues and the means used by those who try to implement that awareness: "There is an oceans-wide difference between "needing to be more aware of social justice issues" and "needing SJWs" [social justice warriors]. Wishing the latter is like wishing an A-bomb strike on a fandom - it'll work, but only because there'll be nothing left."[21]

From a Real Social Justice Worker

There are a lot of problems facing social justice movements today, but this is the biggest one. Because it’s holding us back internally. People learn and read about social issues and oppression and abuse online and suddenly they think they know everything. And of course they’re angry - there’s a lot to be angry about. And yes, it’s a great, wonderful thing that they’re aware and are working to better themselves.

But omgosh, please just stop trying to teach it and spread it because you are doing it wrong. Lashing out and yelling out buzzwords and SJ jargon and calling people racist and sexist and writing people off with no compassion - these are literally the opposite of what we should be doing. Anyone who’s actually been trained in social justice, SJ communication, facilitation and dialogue sees that and gets embarrassed to be associated with that form of “social justice.”

Because it’s not social justice. It’s not fighting racism and sexism and classism and homophobia. All it’s doing it’s turning people off, closing their minds further and making everyone who knows what they’re doing look bad. All it’s doing is spreading more hate, more negativity and generally making everyone feel like shit about themselves - except of course for the OP, who feels great about themselves for supposedly doing their part and helping the movement.

But they’re not. All they’re helping is the oppressive structure holding everyone back.

I’ve been there. I’ve been pissed off and angry and lashing out at everyone and everything. And it bit me in the ass more times than I can tell you. So I stopped and I learned. I was trained in social justice education by the university that developed the most widely accepted program for social justice education. I have practical experience, both in my daily life and in dialogue, that proves that these methods are not only better, but the only ones that actually work.

That showing compassion for agents and those who are uneducated gets you much farther than writing them off as hateful assholes and refusing to teach them in a way they can understand. That listening to where a person is coming from is far more important than listening to what they say. That we must all understand that most *people* are not maliciously racist/sexist/classist/ableist, but the society we were all raised in *is*.

We are all trying to work within this structure set in place long before any of our great grandparents were born and we all have our own starting point on the journey.

The other, possibly biggest and most widespread problem among the untrained crowd is the complete and total lack of understanding of teacher/learner. You do not know everything. You only know your own experiences. That’s it. In order to actually teach someone about social justice, you have to teach them about your own experiences. In order to do that, you must be willing to learn theirs, too. You must have compassion and empathy or you will get nowhere. This is literally the most important thing I ever learned and it’s the one that I see lacking the most in online SJ.

Now this is specifically directed at fandoms (and more specifically the Teen Wolf fandom, which I call home) but this is a message for everyone. It pains me to see the field that I am so incredibly passionate about get dragged through the mud because people who consider themselves to be a part of it do such horrible things in such horrible ways. Online SJ has a bad name because it has earned it and I cannot tell you how much I hate that. Social justice is not only my work, but it is also my life. I will not stand any longer for people abusing it and using it to spread hate. [8]

Migratory SJ Fandom

Migratory SJ fandom is a perceived phenomenon in which social justice activists supposedly glom onto a fandom perceiving it to have good portrayals of minorities, then lecture fans (and in some cases the creators) about inadequate representation in their art and stories.[22]

External Resources

An Attempt To Lighten The Mood?

An anonymous limerick circulated in 2012 using the Harry Potter metaphor of of sorting social justice fans into groups or "Houses". The writer titled it: The SJW Sorting Hat.[24]

For easy reference we've compiled
a short yet catchy song
to assess your life experience
and tell you where you belong.
First, there's sparkly GLITTERBAG
where dwell the varied queers
be they gay or trans or merely more
questioning than their peers.
Then there's Chromaticity
for those who aren't white
often asked to look over
things clueless people write.
In Spoondom[25]
if you're disabled or have triggers,
be prepared to discuss traumas
and be judged by whose is bigger.
If you belong to none of these,
join Privilege in a hurry,
just make sure to never mention if
you're poor or Welsh or furry.

References

  1. Social Justice Activism in Fandom post by sharpestscalpel, 25 Jan 2011 (Accessed 7 Dec 2011)
  2. See for example the 300+ "racefail09" bookmarks and their associated tags at the delicious account of Metafandom. (Accessed 7 Dec 2011)
  3. "I think social justice has done some great things for fandom. I'm involved with steampunk and there have been some great conversations about historical -isms and representation that might never have happened had people not spoken up. But there are also some pretty toxic SJWs who get held up as "experts" (both online and in books and conventions) that don't make anything better for anyone and just end up convincing the dudebros in fandom that everyone concerned about inclusivity is a raging SJW who thinks all white men in steampunk are genocidal colonialists."comment in Baby's First SJW post dated Jan 7, 2013.
  4. "Yes, fandom may seem small and insignificant, but when taken apart and looked at individually, every single thing that perpetuates oppression can be small and insignificant. “Fandom isn’t srs business” may be a valid argument but… you can apply that argument to just about everything. Where do we start? How do we destroy the cage if we’re going to label every thin wire as insignificant? We have to start somewhere, right? I’m not saying it’s a good idea to randomly throw the word “privilege” around or start attacking people for being in fandoms, but sitting here and pretending that privilege doesn’t exist in fandom, fandom doesn’t mold our way of thinking, and it’s stupid to care about social justice is… well, just a little ignorant." ‘Social Justice’ is bullshit and it’s killing fandom dated June 15, 2011; WebCite.
  5. "I don't think many SJWs are yelling and screeching and bullying because they're really trying to do what is right. I think it's more an excuse to bully and, in some fandom-specific cases, rip into ships and characters you don't like. It's a fandom-approved excuse to bully." comment in The most annoying hatedoms post dated Oct 16, 2013 in fail-fandomanon; reference link.
  6. "...it doesn't help that 9 times out of 10 when I have seen someone called out for saying "I'm sorry if", it's not because they didn't seem genuine, it's because the SJWs weren't ready to call the dogs off yet and didn't want to let no apology get in the way of them telling the person how terrible they were for a little while longer. Assuming bad faith at all times is a great tool for continuing to wank nastily at someone who's trying to spoil your fun by attempting to be decent and reasonable." comment in Most patronising phrases in fandom? post dated August 16, 2013; reference link.
  7. Ariel Stallings, Online bullying – a new and ugly sport for liberal commenters. The Guardian, October 18, 2012.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Tumblr blogger chasingshhadows, Fandom Petition for People with No Background in Social Justice to Stop Trying To Teach It. July 24, 2013.
  9. "Tumblr 'social justice' is a fucking travesty that values self-righteous fury as an argument sufficient unto itself and devalues careful, measured reasoning as 'coddling bigots.' That praises and rewards the shutting-down of communication. That teaches smug superiority and frowns on compassion and empathy. That took 'lashing out in anger is an unproductive but somewhat excusable reaction to injustice, and is not a reason to dismiss a sound argument' and dragged it into the realm of 'everyone subject to systematic oppression has an absolute right to lash out in anger to whatever extent they please, and no one else has the right to criticize their behavior or be hurt by it,' and thence into an echo chamber where performative displays of anger become the goal of communication. I’m not pretending to sainthood here. Getting patted on the butt for a righteous smackdown is dangerously seductive, especially when you have a short temper on certain subjects. And the danger of this particular echo chamber is that it’s easy for normal, intelligent, well-meaning people to get sucked into it. But it’s not a healthy model of communication. Healthy models of communication (a) encourage empathy and reasoned dialogue and frown on incoherent rage explosions, and (b) treat anger, rudeness and cruelty as undesireable but sometimes excusable -- in proportion to the provocation and the circumstances. Tumblr 'social justice' rejects any notion of proportionate response and has its priorities in communication neatly reversed." Tumblr user tenlittlebullets, Response to Fandom Petition for People with No Background in Social Justice to Stop Trying to Teach It, July 28, 2013.
  10. "I’m not against social justice itself, I’m against the toxic and stupid tumblr brand. Let’s see if I can find a few examples real quick..." Tumblr user the-pietriarchy collected screenshots of common examples of SJW that serves no purpose but to hurt and shame others.
  11. List compiled on fail-fandomanon on April 12, 2012 :"...this OP and secret here are proof that white people do sound white. they are ignorant, racist, and disrespectful to every other culture and ethnicity but their own stinking white-privileged asses. [...] OP isn't white, as we find out in the first few comments of the secret thread." on fail-fandomanon; and ""As a black woman I don't feel that many of the loudest participants in these discussions give a damn about equality. They want the accolades, they want the popularity, they want the capital to be as self-righteous as they wish." on ontd-feminism; and ""I'm posting because I'm not racist nor do I perpetuate racism just because I understand irony." on godofwine; and ""I spoke with an girl at a con this weekend who was more or less chased out of the community when on her very first comment she was accused of being privileged over something relatively innocuous, responded that she was not white and did not have white privilege, and then was snarked for that because she was confused over what privilege she was being accused of, and now she's been lurking and not leaving any comments at all for some time because she wants to learn but is too afraid to say anything." on ontd-political; and ""I'm a Black, Puerto Rican and Native American woman who is in the middle of questioning her sexuality. I'm really new to academic race/sexuality/feminism discussions and sometimes don't understand one view point and when I ask to have it explained, it's always "Pick up a book" and questions of "Well, what book would you recommend" are often met with laughter." on ontd-political.
  12. No Night Vale SJWs, Please is run by a Filipina woman. It is a collection of observations, insights and links about SJW as it is practiced on Tumblr and how it has negatively affected non-white and GLBT fans of Welcome to Night Vale, a notably inclusive show.
  13. thread at Fail-Fandomanon (Accessed Dec. 13, 2011)
  14. comment in the MLP:FiM Wank thread at fail-fandomanon dated Jan 22, 2012; reference link (Accessed Jan. 25, 2012)
  15. This comment is going to be kind of blunt. (Accessed Jan. 25, 2012); WebCite.
  16. comment in dammed colonial's post "Hurt/comfort and the real world" dated June 12, 201: A dear friend completely turned my thinking around considering h/c as a genre in emphasizing the *comfort* as therapeutic and transformative not just for the characters, but for the author and readers. We can't fix traumas in real life, but undergoing their treatment, comfort, and possible resolution in fiction can be immensely liberating. Further, the writers may well not be writing about "probably people they know", but *themselves* and/or their loves. This then led to damned colonial responding: "I kind if feel like if your personal healing is hurtful to other people, then perhaps you need to do it in private. (Maybe with a trusted group of friends, or something.)" reference link.
  17. "For the record, I am a Canadian indigenous person who has family and friends who live on Canadian reserves, and while I agree with you that the way the government has handled funding for First Nations housing has been disgraceful, I am deeply offended and angered that you would use a tragedy like the one in Attawapiskat as part of a bizarre and disingenuous argument about something unrelated and comparatively unimportant....I'll tell you something honestly: I think this argument is such absurdly obviously grudgewank that it's really beneath notice. But it doesn't stand alone, and it's so outrageously offensive to me in a personal way that I am commenting despite my best judgement. I am just so fucking sick of seeing this happen, of seeing people like you make fandom an uncomfortable and unfun place for people like me, all in the name of defending my rights. Look around you. Who agrees with you? Whose voices are missing? Are you achieving what you claim to be trying to achieve? Or are you, in fact, silencing or driving out everybody who isn't college-educated and middle class? If you are a member of a privileged group, social justice is about listening more than it is about talking. Find out what the people you claim to want to champion actually need from you. I doubt it is going to look anything like this." sprat commenting in recessional's post dated January 12, 2012.
  18. comment in the SSBB: the queer issue? thread at fail-fandomanon dated March 29, 2013; reference link: A discussion on whether the term "queer" should apply to transgendered people, with some people saying it sounded insulting because it implied that transgendered people were not really their stated gender. Several people explained why "queer" was appropriate, and then there was this comment: "Please study LGBT history before you start white-knighting for us. Trans people always been queer and it's nothing to do with us not really being the gender we identify as."
  19. "When good friends go SJW" thread at Fail-Fandomanon (Accessed Jan. 11, 2012)
  20. comment in The most annoying hatedoms post dated Oct 16, 2013 in fail-fandomanon; reference link.
  21. anonymous comment in Fandoms that could benefit from SJWs thread dated March 25, 2012.
  22. "[T]hey get into a canon because it's supposedly got good good PoC/female/LGBT characters, pronounce it THE BEST THING EVER, and then slowly start to turn on the fandom from within. The canon does something problematic, either a big mishap or a relatively minor thing, and they rage over it; they start to go after other fans for Not Doing It Right; they stir up lots of wank and make the fandom tense and unpleasant. Then they burn themselves out, lose interest in the canon or flounce out because the fandom is soooo awful, and leave the remaining fans to deal with the fallout from all the wank." Migratory SJ Fandom at Fail Fandom Anon Wiki, 2013-08-08.
  23. WebCite for My Problems with the Tumblr Social Justice Culture.
  24. Source:The SJW Sorting Hat posted on fail-fandomanon on April 16, 2012.
  25. "Spoondom" refers to a theory advanced in the early 2000 by advocates seeking to educate the public about the difficulties of living with chronic invisible disabilities. The concept applies a metaphor of comparing spoons to the energy required to do daily tasks. For those with disabilities, even the simplest daily tasks (eating, bathing) often use all the available 'spoons' leaving them in pain and weak. During the Ableism debates of 2010, the Spoon Theory was appropriated by SJW and used in contexts that had nothing to do with disabilities - an act that some find offensive, and others find ironic. See fail-fandomanon's Is Spoon Theory actually part of social justice thought? dated April 16, 2012.
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