Social Justice and Fandom
Social Justice (SJ) is a philosophy term coined in the 19th century meaning "the fair and just relation between the individual and society"; 21st-century progressive social activists emphasize the importance of social mobility, safety nets, and economic justice in achieving social justice.
In fandom, social justice 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.
Fannish social justice really picked up around RaceFail '09. 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.It 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.
Social activists sometimes self-identify as Social Justice Warriors, but "SJW" is also used pejoratively by others, in some cases to describe activists and in some cases to describe wankers who deploy social justice terminology.
Social Justice Within Fandom - A Multitude of Voices
- 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. 
- Some fans feel that social justice has allowed them to discuss the "isms" topics more freely. An example: "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." 
- Fandom is a microcosm of the everyday 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. An example: "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." 
- Some people say that SJ debate has had a negative impact on fandom. "Calling out" -> "signal boosting" -> dogpiling. SJW as bullies. Some examples: "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."  Pick and choose who gets dogpiled. Refusing to accept apologies unless they met strict criteria. An example: "...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."  This practice is not limited to fandom or to tumblr; it is endemic on lifestyle and social websites.
- People familiar with actual social justice work say that most 'social justice' arguments in fandom are not true social justice at all.  A sample comment: "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."  
- 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).
- 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." 
- 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."  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." 
- 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.  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. One comment: "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." 
- Some groups do not appreciate efforts at White Knighting. In a 2013 discussion on whether the term "queer" should apply to transgender people, some people said it sounded insulting because it implied that transgendered people were not really their stated gender. Several people explained why "queer" was appropriate; a 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.".
- 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." 
- Some 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."
- 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." 
From a 2016 Discussing: Privilege, Imbedded Politics, Permission to Enjoy, Gamergate...
[ ]: tumblr discourse has truly taken away the right to subjective opinions and its exhausting 
[brendonuri.es]: like now instead of saying “i like this tv show because it is entertaining and engaging” you have to come up with totally ridiculous reasons as to why this random television show on like, the CW or something is Actually the paradigm of feminist media even when it isnt at all
instead of saying “this celebrity is obnoxious and overrated and annoying” you get people searching meticulously through their twitter or interviews in order to find something incriminating enough to end up on a yfip list, and now you can pretend that your reasons for disliking this celebrity arent entirely personal and have some kind of Righteous Cause backing ityou dont need to put politics into everything you love and you dont need to bend over backwards trying to explain why this Thing you love is Actually Totally Political. you are allowed to subjectively enjoy things. conversely you can hate looking at a celebrity’s dumb face without acting like theres always some kind of social justice reason fueling it 
[alakeeffectgirl]: OCCASIONAL REMINDER, as the above poster said: YOU ARE ALLOWED TO SUBJECTIVELY ENJOY THINGS. It’s okay. It’s mentally exhausting to attempt to explain your faves all the time, especially when really - you like them because you like them, and you can’t always explain it.Remember: if we quit everything that was “problematic” - tv show, actor, director, artist, writer - there wouldn’t be a whole lot left to enjoy.
[ ]: Lol i an so grossed out by these conversations, which all assume there’s this overreactive, over-sensitive (often young, naive) hivemind at work on tumblr, attacking your fave for no reason, DIGGING UP DIRT ON TWITTER FOR NO REASON???? just to be ~political.
This is borderline “those sjws are ruining everything!” that we see coming out of fucking gamergate and it’s gross and ridiculous.“You don’t need to put politics into everything!” Like this could have been said by a whiny, white teenage boy on a femfreq video. 
[ ]: politics are inherently inside everything we consume. no one needs to “put it” in anything, its already there. “tumblr discourse” is unearthing these problematic characteristics in effort to improve the way we view art, entertainment, etc in order to subsequently improve the way we develop art, entertainment, etc.
being able to turn a cheek to erroneous material in media you consume indicates privilege that you have and, conversely, some one else does not.so yeah, everyone may have opinions, but lots of these opinions can really define where you stand politically whether you like it or not. 
[rhodanum]: Perhaps it’s my age speaking, but I’m starting to miss the way fandom used to be fifteen years ago. Mostly since back then the concepts of ‘darkfic’ and ‘don’t like, don’t read’ were properly understood and adhered to (usually). The situation with darkfics was interesting in particular, because the entire premise was that the author could write incredibly fucked-up things, with the understanding on their part that shit was indeed very messed-up and with no pretense to the contrary (what usually gets termed ‘romanticization’ these days). Now? You’ve got to run an entire rigmarole of explaining the difference between romanticization and just straight-up exploring a horrible dynamic in writing as, you know, a writer. And even after that, you’ll probably have to deal with the whole invasive ‘explain every trauma you might’ve gone through, so strangers who otherwise don’t care if you exist can decide if they give you Permission to use writing as a coping mechanism’ mess. Fucking hell. I’ve said it before. Learn to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Learn to tell the difference between what someone explores on the page as a writer and what that same person believes and advocates in their day-to-day life. 
[sharkdazzler]: Fifteen years ago, we didn’t have an entire generation raised in a culture of moral absolutes. Now we’ve got a lot of people who were tiny babies when we first started seeing headlines in the US like, “Polls Show America More Divided Than Any Time Since Civil War.” Fifteen years ago there was a lot more grey area between radicalized and apolitical. I feel this post 100%, but I want to remind everyone that this is the internet bed we made, when we were younger. We were fed a lot of the slime, yes, but we didn’t question much of it. Anyone who’s interested in undoing this mess, consider doing things like recognizing the cultural/personal context and GENERAL HUMANITY of a person who disagrees with you. Recognize that you
probably make them feel “unsafe” as well, and that unless you’re in actual danger of each other you should both probably chill. You don’t have to like them or hang out with them or pretend to agree with them. Just don’t treat them like an eager fucking Nazi. It’s a start. Don’t be a gatekeeper. Be nice even though it’s “not your job.” Speak up, but don’t resort to hysterics or cruelty. Realize that something is not automatically immoral because you don’t like it. Stop thinking that you need moral/political justification for thinking something is shit. Stop arguing with people who think something you like is shit by shoving political moral/political words into their mouths. Let people make mistakes without ruining their goddamn year. It’s 2016. We know now, this shit isn’t working. Equal and opposite reactions and all that. Fight the good fight without eating our own fucking young and maybe one day we can have darkfic again.I need to resurrect this icon again. 
[daktasinsanity]: #indeed #i personally feel like i have been taken away the freedom of surprise#i mean by tagging every single shitty thing that goes wrong in a wfic #that just isn't right
[meeedeee]:I need to resurrect this icon again. 
[sqbr]: So, full disclaimer: I only got into fanfic about 10 years ago, and have usually (though not always) avoided anything too squicky/dark during the decade since then.
But from what I saw 10 years ago, at least, it wasn’t the utopia people are describing. I dislike the current environment of moral panic/bullying with a social justice excuse as much as anyone, but I also disliked the environment where the idea of having triggers, let alone wanting warnings, was mocked. The push back against warnings involved some vicious attacks on trauma survivors. People were also MUCH more resistant to even the most polite and mild of social justice criticism (even just on your own blog not bothering anyone), and many people thought the idea of ableism existing was ridiculous. I was always worried some defensive BNF would send their minions against me for being too “whiny” about social justice.
Plus a lot of the crappy things happening now are the same old fandom crap in a different hat: finding excuses to attack people who make or ship things you don’t like or who you dislike for some other reason. People used to attack each other for being “OOC”/”not canon”/”Mary Sues” etc, and coming up with reasons why your NOTP is abusive/unhealthy is nothing new.
And when “it’s OOC” was the worst thing you could say, it was much less acceptable to do racebends/lgbt headcanons etc, and you could definitely be attacked for doing them. Or for even pushing back against whitewashing of canon POC, ATLA fandom got pretty nasty around the time of the film casting (which was around Racefail, another example of how nasty fandom could be).
Also! Parts of fandom were more open to a variety of fic, but other parts were more conservative, it was much more acceptable to flat out ban slash for example. And society outside of fandom was very unaccepting indeed.I feel like I’m not describing this very well, sorry /o\ But I think if we want to make fandom better we have to look at the way things have changed honestly and not oversimplify the way they have both improved and gotten worse. 
[myowndeliverance]: Seriously, all that is idealistic rose tinted glasses talking. There was no “moral panic”, you say? Yeah, unless you count people being HORRIFIED at anyone writing slash fic for things even tangentially related to a child audience!
It was so great when people were open about being “squicked” by gay people. That was soooo fun for me as a queer kid. Sooo… fun……..Tags: #but also yea ppl need to bring the term squick back tbh it was so useful
[meeedeee]:“Morality” tests for reading/writing/enjoying art can be a two edged sword. One that usually cuts both ways. Deeply. 
[coffeestainanalyst]: "The weakest link theory of darkfic.
Or more accurately, the “you’re only as morally acceptable as the nastiest character in your fic” theory. Because it genuinely baffles me.
There’s a frightening increase of wannabe SJWs concern trolls that look at fic people write or enjoy, and JUDGE THEM BY THE MOST ~PROBLEMATIC~ CHARACTER THEY CAN FIND IN THAT STORY. That’s right, doesn’t matter if it’s the designated villain, or what other characters and concepts are part of that fic. They assume we, as authors/readers, glorify the nastiest person in our story, full stop......
..... If I’m writing a story about the villains torturing/raping the heroes, THEN I’m glorifying them, surely? Nope. Because consider this: VILLAINS DO VILE THINGS. Psst… that’s why they’re the villains. Wow, unimaginable.
And heaven forbid the villain isn’t 100% evil laughter and swirly black coats all the time. What if they’re – gasp – gray villains? Imagine: people who are capable of doing good AND bad things. Sacrilege. Heaven forbid we get used to that idea and maybe recognize real life abusers earlier. No way, you’re an apologist.
And of course, random strangers on the internet get to choose what exactly it is you’re glorifying. Because they, people who don’t know you and probably haven’t even read the fic in question, know exactly what which bad guy represents to you, personally......
...Still, an increasing number of people on tumblr think they can pick what *someone else* gets out of writing a story and then call them out for it. Which is such an oversimplified way of viewing the world, and coupled with the self-rightous attitude of most of them, I’m left baffled. And hurt. And angry.
Of course authors draw from life, but jfc, you can’t judge an author by the deeds of their villains???!! What’s the goal, should nobody be allowed to write characters that do worse things than their creators would do in real life? .....Tags: #coffeee talks writing #hydra trash party #hydra trash party edit #fandom meta-ish #long post #wank cw #nazism mention cw #i am so done with this #and I'm terrified of a world where the darkest thing you can write #is that someone used vasiline instead of water based lube"
[not-a-single-fuck]: "This applies to artists, too. I more than support properly labeling your art, perhaps putting it under a Read More so people don’t see it by accident, but when you do something that is considered a no-no and have to.
- Show the characters consenting to the no-no
- Apologize profusely
- It better not involve any sex!
- Tell everyone about your personal life
- Still get a witch hunt against you
Maybe… perhaps… just don’t look at that art. It’s fiction, they’re characters, sometimes our own characters. They don’t have to consent to anything because they aren’t real people.
We shouldn’t be required to have experienced anything, or have some sort of chaste reason as to why we do what we do, we shouldn’t even have to be good artists.If we are stating to everyone first and foremost “This is something I made up. This is a bad thing. Never is this okay.” And never showing it to people who don’t want to see it, then we should be able to stay in our own lane without people coming in because they want everything everywhere to accommodate to what they wanna see."
Thoughts From Social Justice Workers
Those fans who are employed in social justice activism outside fandom are often frustrated with how the activism is expressed within fandom:
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. 
Often they express unhappiness that their experiences in fighting social injustice outside of fandom seems at odds within fandom:
I work in the social justice field. I do research into social inequality in education. I spend my days reading reports and current research into social inequality in Australia, its history, what its patterns are, what makes it worse, and what improves the situation. I do original research about the barriers students from disadvantaged backgrounds face. I make recommendations on how to improve institutional culture and practices so these students have a better chance of success.
I do this, because I want to be an agent of positive change in the world.....
....Then I come onto Tumblr, into this fandom space, and it’s like entering topsy-turvey world. Every lesson I’ve learned about being an effective ally from my Indigenous colleagues, post-African colleagues, Asian-Australian colleagues, Muslim colleagues, and the many students from a multitude of backgrounds who have generously shared their stories with me, is basically called into ill repute and thrown back into my face as examples of me not listening hard enough.
But worse than that, no alternative course is offered. It’s just hatred and abuse, in a form that means I can’t negotiate these different ways of thinking about racism and intersectional discrimination and come to some new understanding which informs my practice in a better way.And the conclusion I’m coming to is that I have to choose between my colleagues and their teachings – the people I know, and who are actively working to change the world for the better – compared to a group of people on the internet who have no consistent message except hate, and who never listen while expecting everyone else to. Logically, the outcome is clear enough. My colleagues will win every time."
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. The term was suggested on Fail_Fandomanon and modeled on Migratory Slash Fandom.
Is Tumblr To "Blame"?
Some fans blame the negative associations with social justice fandom on the platform structure of the social media service tumblr, with its lack of threaded conversations or ability to follow discussions. Beginning in 2011, Tumblr was the primary blogging service used by fans -- and by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
However, fandom social justice activism predates the rise of the tumblr platform by several years.
Also, powerful social and political forces outside of tumblr and outisde of fandom have reshaped public discourse in the United States since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"There’s a surprisingly sharp generation gap on Tumblr -- when I first got on the site in 2011 it was between high-school age and college age, but I don’t think it’s defined primarily by life stage or maturity level, because it’s tracked steadily upward ever since..... My hypothesis for the generation gap boils down to “how old were you on September 11, 2001?” Those solidly on the older side of the gap were at least vaguely aware of a pre-9/11 political landscape, witnessed how disruptive the first term of the Bush administration was, and have a visceral reaction anything that smacks of neoconservatism or Religious Right propaganda. Those on the younger side attained political awareness in a world where the changes wrought by the Bush administration were the new normal, and their right-wing bogeyman uses Tea Party and GamerGate rhetoric......
These things are not normal. These things are not how just societies are built. They are the hot water that an entire generation of lobsters has been raised to swim in without noticing. The undercurrents in the internet movement calling itself Social Justice that disturb the older generation are, essentially, the dirty tactics of the Bush administration and its unholy marriage of neocons and fundies -- rebranded with a new set of acceptable targets, but with the tactics themselves unquestioned. Are they the younger generation’s fault? Fuck no. They’re what happens when the most culturally and politically powerful nation on Earth tries to pretend it’s moved on from the Bush years, but without ever having confronted the devastation those tactics left in their wake, dismantled the self-sustaining fear-and-repression machine, or held the perpetrators accountable for their officially-sanctioned torture, shredding of civil liberties, and thinly-justified wars of aggression......The bad guys will not win if you ease off the attack a little and give your opponents room to tell you where they’re coming from. Opening yourself up to argument-counterargument with Bad, Unacceptable, Forbidden ideas is a form of vulnerability, but finding and evaluating the weak spots in your beliefs ultimately strengthens them and strengthens your ability to win people over to your side. Doubling down on the repeated assertions that you shouldn’t even have to argue and that disagreement is harmful or immoral is an alluring way to get what you want in the short term, but it produces superficial compliance out of fear rather than genuine agreement, and the backlash it causes is ultimately more dangerous than the vulnerability of opening yourself to disagreement. And it blinds you to the possibility that you may not be entirely in the right. This isn’t some MRA sneak attack to manipulate you into ceding ground. This is how discussion normally works in a functional society. You have been handed a dysfunctional, toxic system for exchanging ideas, in online SJ as well as in wider politics–and no, it’s not normal or effective, and no, you do not have to buy into that system’s claims that it’s the only thing standing between the innocent and an orgy of destruction and victimization.....
These observations seemed to have resonated within parts of fandom, with one fan commenting:
Still for some, the belief remains that while social justice is a force for good, the real problem within fandom is "Tumblr social justice":"This would explain a lot about how fandom conversations have been going down recently. The absolute us/them nature of some of them, and the way SJ tools are used to bully people in order to win an argument. I thought it was largely to do with Tumblr being a poor design for actual conversation, but this makes more sense, given the patterns I’ve seen."
And of course, a few are content to let Livejournal share the "blame" for the rise of social justice within fandom:"I’d like to disagree: I hate it when Tumblr “social justice” mixes with any fandom, let alone Les Mis. I hate Tumblr “social justice”, period. That is a rant for another day, but in a nutshell, at least 80% of the stuff posted on this site as “social justice” is unresearched, manipulative drivel. Throw in the world “problematic” and go wreak some havoc. It’s great there are people out there who want to fight for a better world and spread knowledge. It’s horrible that most online “social justice warriors” use their knowledge to bully people with differing opinions than their own."
Even slash fans were given some of the credit:".....But the contemporary version of social justice internet began with some online communities on Livejournal. These communities were undoubtedly shaped by their counterparts on Usenet and various BBSes as what others have noted. While some of those discussions were undoubtedly meta in nature, several of them focused on things like sexism and racism. Even before I stumbled on Tumblr, there were already online discussions of these topics though they were more intelligently and tactfully handled before the Tumblr and even Livejournal sjws came around. Some of them related to fandoms be it Xena: Warrior Princess and X-Files as well as a bit of Buffy and animu cartoons. Livejournal was a blogging website that doubled as a social networking site.....That lent itself to allowing fan communities to grow and develop outside of message boards, email groups and Usenet groups. As I said, discussions ranged from trivial matters to something serious. But most especially that of the emerging social justice warrior scene. Some of these users weren't just fangirls but also ones with albeit misguided attempts at becoming feminists. It's an interesting coincidence to note that the development of the social justice warrior was tied to third wave feminism. As in the heyday of Xena, Buffy, Spice Girls, Sailor Moon and Power Puff Girls had feminist ideologies and mindsets sans the stigma associated with second wave, bra-burning feminism ala Gloria Steinem and her ilk."
"It wouldn't come as a surprise that some of these proto-SJWs were fans of Sailor Moon, Xena and Buffy. Others were involved in communities where male characters are often paired with one another in fan fiction. It's likely that there were slash fans who acted like this before everybody has heard of programmes like Supernatural. From what I and others can remember, some of them were into 1990s anime and others in buddy cop programmes. They also intermingled with some of these fangirls and thus help shaped the current version of SJW."
A Case Example: Zamii and the Steven Universe
Starting in 2013, disabled fan artist Zamii came under fire after drawing fan art that many felt ran afoul of gender, ethnic and other hot-button cultural themes. Over the next two years members of Steven Universe and Homestuck fandom reportedly created more than 40 critical blogs and other social media accounts directed at her.
"During her time in fandom, Zamii had been accused of a litany of flawed portrayals of characters, including perpetuating "racism/stereotyping, transmisogyny/transphobia, apologism, incest, pedophilia, fatphobia, and ableism" in her art. For example, when Zamii drew a Japanese character from the popular anime Yowamushi Pedal, she came under fire for giving the character yellow skin and slanted eyes; when she drew a black character, she came under fire for removing her Afro and giving her blonde hair; when she drew a "Native American Fluttershy" from My Little Pony, the response was mixed and often critical, pointing out that she had further stereotyped the character."
"...her detractors continued to accuse her of making the character too thin, tagging her work with "#fatphobia" and other accusatory descriptions, though the artwork doesn't appear significantly dissimilar to the official imagery from the cartoon. And criticism continued [into 2015], independent of the size argument..."
In late October 2015, there were reports that Zamii had attempted suicide.
Responses to the events varied - many fans wrote in support of Zamii and some fan artists began drawing one of the characters as thin. Others felt that it was important to criticize problematic art and people and not to not be "pushovers for oppression." When Steven Universe co-producer Ian Jones-Quartey tweeted that "artists should be allowed to draw what they want" he too came under fire.
In spite of the reports of a suicide attempt, some fandom members continued to work their anti-Zamii campaign claiming that she had faked the suicide attempt. Others felt that any health related problems she was experiencing were not due to the social justice campaign:
"And that’s why I feel no guilt over her suicide/suicide attempt. I know we didn’t contribute because she didn’t care about us. In fact, her last tweet was “i wish i could blacklist things in real life”. She has a lot in her life - she’s always talked about her struggle with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, her cat, and her abusive mother. Have you never thought to blame those things, or only to guilt-trip (minor) “SJWs” over tumblr?"
This led Facebook commentator Joshua Ellis to point out that:
"Whether the girl actually tried to kill herself is irrelevant. The comments directed at her are contemptible. Aside from the attempts to "correct" her artistic choices, a lot of it is just straight up bullying by people who call themselves righteous. It isn't about her, it's about them."
Criticisms of tumblr and the "social justice culture" showed a wide range, some with blunt and pithy language.
"Fuck the Social Justice Thought Police. Fuck you for perverting the cause and efforts of so many people to build a better world.
Fuck your unexamined self-righteousness. Fuck your selfish and self centered abuse of the tools of progressives and true advocates. Fuck your half-baked academic theory thought casserole. Fuck your call out culture that is a front for abuse all prettied up in the name of doing good, because putting the Superman S on Lex Luthor doesn’t make him or his actions a good and social minded thing.
Fuck your hatred of and utter abjuration of rational thought and nuance. Fuck your feeble intellects that never seem to grok the fact that the non-binaryness of the world does not apply only to gender and sexuality.
And fuck anybody, and twice on Sundays, who pulls that “tone argument” bullshit every time somebody tries to point out that maybe, just possibly, you’re the unmitigated asshole in the equation and that you’re abusing and perverting the name and the cause of social justice with your shortsighted and self absorbed viciousness. You fuckers make it all but impossible to defend the “brand name” of Social Justice with your twisting of the rules, with your using the letter of the law to defeat the spirit of the law anytime somebody tries to point out how you’re driving the social justice bus off of the cliff. You’re the equivalent of the women who have lied about being sexually assaulted, and because of your appropriation and abuse of the terms and theory of social justice it’s so much harder for the cause of social justice to be taken seriously. Fuck you selfish slimeweasles most of all.May you someday have a great awakening, meditate on the monstrosity of what you have done, and work – in a real, practical, and tangible way – to amend it."
After claims began circulating that the Zamii campaign may have been fueled by a jealous romantic rival:
- "Bigots are using this as an excuse to say “lol Tumblr SJWs” because we have one person who managed to manipulate dozens of people to harass a young woman to depression and suicide just so their crush would be single again. I mean fucking plebcomics started a “Je suis Charlie” thing to draw SU characters skinny in “solidarity” with Zamii.
- "Don’t stand for this bullshit. Don’t give into the mindset that one person’s fanart is a problem. Don’t allow someone’s stalker and harasser to win. And don’t let the asshole 4chan bigots win either."
- "This is a good and important post. However, the fact that the manipulative asshole was able to use progressive language and SJ discourse to their benefit in this way, and that these “callout blogs” did not get told to tone it down, shows that we do have an issue with the current discourse in progressive circles on this site (and others; it’s not unique to tumblr).
- "The prevalence of “fuel your rage” and “you don’t owe anyone an explanation” creates a bad, anti-analytical environment that reminds me of some maoist circles. Like, these mindsets can be useful and I’m not saying subjugated groups have to always be polite and nice, but in some circles, anger has been treated as a virtue by itself, and that can be used as a tool by manipulative people. I’ve seen it in real life, and now I see it here."
- ^^^^ This so much.
- Social Justice is losing its “brand name” if you will because of the behaviors outlined in the post above.
- Because, more and more, calling out is nothing but a bully pile on that is neither Social nor Just."
The level and duration of the vitriol directed at the fan-artist even drew negative comparisons from members of reddit, an online community well known for its own problems with cyber-bullying:
A Case Example: The Harry Potter Alliance
In 2005, a group of Harry Potter fans formed The Harry Potter Alliance, with the goal of harnessing the energy of Harry Potter fans to doing social justice works outside of fandom:
From their About Page:
"The Harry Potter Alliance turns fans into heroes.
We’re changing the world by making activism accessible through the power of story. Since 2005, we’ve engaged millions of fans through our work for equality, human rights, and literacy.
- A creative and collaborative culture that solves the world’s problems.
- We believe in magic.
- We believe that unironic enthusiasm is a renewable resource.
- We know fantasy is not only an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it.
- We celebrate the power of community—both online and off.
- We believe that the weapon we have is love.
- A partnership with Walk Free that engaged over 400,000 fans and resulted in Warner Bros. changing the sourcing of their Harry Potter chocolate to be 100% UTZ or Fairtrade.
- Raising over $123,000 for Partners In Health and sending five cargo planes of life-saving supplies to Haiti.
- Donations of over 250,000 books across the world through HPA’s Accio Books campaign.
- A partnership with Public Knowledge that brought over 20,000 fans and online video creators together for Net Neutrality.
- The use of broad cultural messaging to link the Hunger Games with real-life inequality.
An Attempt to Lighten the Mood?
- 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
- 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.
External Resources/Meta/Further Reading
- Urban Dictionary Definition
- coffeeandink - How to Suppress Discussions of Racism, Archived version (June 7, 2006)
- The more things change, Archived version by marina on dreamwidth (October 31, 2010)
- Rhetorics of Social Justice Debates in Anonymous Fan Memes Online - a study proposal by Robin Anne Reid. (February 19, 2011)
- ‘It’s Not My Job To Educate You!’: FailFen and Social Justice as Fandom” - report on by Barbara Lucas' International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, a panel that argues that social justice is like a fandom in terms of community and consumption, Issue 32 (2011) (report is offline as of 2016, not archived)
- A Guide to Calling Someone Out (Fail-Fandomanon) (July 2, 2011)
- Community, Trust, Responsibility, Consequences by K. Tempest Bradford - discussing how the misuse of social justice activism by individuals can undermine communities that seek to "discuss, deconstruct, and fight against bigotry and prejudice." (August 8, 2011)
- My Problems with the Tumblr Social Justice Culture, written by blaitzen on tumblr ("You see, in this culture we have created there is a wide-spread need for people to be victims. And they don’t only need to be victims—they need to be the most victimized. A sort of literal Oppression Olympics....What I have witnessed is a circle of people that are waiting to feel self-righteous and attack other people, because getting mad feels good.....We have misappropriated the word oppression.) (January 24, 2012)
- SJW Calling Cards (Fail-Fandomanon) (January 7, 2012)
- How The "Trigger Warning" Took Over The Internet, a Buzzfeed article detailing trigger warnings and the role that Livejournal played in popularizing the practice (May 4, 2014)
- fail_fandomanon:fail_fandomanon: Re: Things you wouldn't admit unanon, Archived version (April 2015)
- More musings on writing advice, Archived version by shinelikethunder on tumblr (22 December 2014) and a response by staniamstan: imaginedmelody: shinelikethunder: More musings..., Archived version (6 March 2016)
- Looking back on a decade in online fandom social justice: unexpurgated version and A decade in online fandom social justice: Abridged by sqbr on dreamwidth (May 2016)
- See for example the 300+ "racefail09" bookmarks and their associated tags at the delicious account of Metafandom. (Accessed 7 Dec 2011)
- comment in "Baby's First SJW" post dated Jan 7, 2013.
- ‘Social Justice’ is bullshit and it’s killing fandom dated June 15, 2011; WebCite.
- comment in "The most annoying hatedoms" post dated Oct 16, 2013 in fail-fandomanon; reference link.
- comment in Most patronising phrases in fandom? post dated August 16, 2013; reference link.
- Ariel Stallings, Online bullying – a new and ugly sport for liberal commenters. The Guardian, October 18, 2012.
- Tumblr blogger chasingshhadows, Fandom Petition for People with No Background in Social Justice to Stop Trying To Teach It. July 24, 2013.
- Tumblr user tenlittlebullets, Response to Fandom Petition for People with No Background in Social Justice to Stop Trying to Teach It, July 28, 2013.
- "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- thread at Fail-Fandomanon (Accessed Dec. 13, 2011)
- comment in the MLP:FiM Wank thread at fail-fandomanon dated Jan 22, 2012; reference link (Accessed Jan. 25, 2012)
- This comment is going to be kind of blunt. (Accessed Jan. 25, 2012); WebCite.
- 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 [of] 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.)" In a follow-up comment damned-colonial clarified: "if you are working through something specific, and you know in advance that the particular way in which you are doing it is likely to trigger or upset people, then unless you want to hurt/trigger those people you probably shouldn't post it where they will see it (or at least give them a way to avoid it, by providing warnings/cut tags/opt-in filters/mechanism of your choice). (I would apply this equally to fic and to non-fic posts.) What I didn't mean to say: you shouldn't post H/C fic publicly because it is inherently hurtful. (I don't actually believe that to be true.)"reference link.
- sprat commenting in recessional's post dated January 12, 2012.
- comment in the SSBB: the queer issue? thread at fail-fandomanon dated March 29, 2013; reference link:
- "When good friends go SJW" thread at Fail-Fandomanon (Accessed Jan. 11, 2012)
- comment in The most annoying hatedoms post dated Oct 16, 2013 in fail-fandomanon; reference link.
- anonymous comment in Fandoms that could benefit from SJWs thread dated March 25, 2012.
- comment by rhodanum (offline as of March 2016) at rhodanum-perhaps-its-my-age-speaking-but-im.tumblr; WebCite, January 10, 2016
- sharkdazzler.tumblr sharkdazzler.tumblr; WebCite, January 10, 2016
- tags in an undated post.
- , Archived version
- The weakest link theory of darkfic - Ring the bells that still can ring, Archived version
- Like I give a fob, Archived version
- Compare this mindset with the words "I'm not here to educate you", which is almost a mantra among many SJWs. You did something wrong, but I'm under no obligation to tell you what it was.
- cupidsbow Untitled Post dated Feb 16, 2015, Archived version
- "[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.
- Imagining Social Justice Through Sci-Fi TV: From "Trek" to "Torchwood" by Lauren Smith - Academia.edu, Archived version
- glorious-spoon: sidneyia: I realize most..., Archived version
- cupidsbow Untitled Post dated Aug 17, 2015, Archived version
- Social Justice In Les Mis Fandom, Archived version
- The failure of a social justice warrior - By Ada Mina - Wattpad, Archived version
- The failure of a social justice warrior - By Ada Mina - Wattpad, Archived version
- screencap of sites compiled by members of reddit.
- 'Steven Universe' fandom is melting down after bullied fanartist attempts suicide, Archived version, The Daily Dot
- what happened to zamii070? : OutOfTheLoop, Archived version
- screencap of tumblr post; archive link.
- , Archived version
- Tumblr blogger tartymae, Joshua Ellis - This is gross. I gather Steven..., Archived version
- Tumblr blogger ryulongd, I’ve seen this thing going back and forth across Tumblr for a few days now, October 29, 2015.
- Tumblr blogger jackbetackarmig, deleted journal.
- Tumblr blogger tartymae, "I’ve seen this thing going back and forth across Tumblr for a few days now...", Archived version.
- what happened to zamii070? : OutOfTheLoop, Archived version
- What We Do - Harry Potter Alliance, Archived version
- Source:The SJW Sorting Hat posted on fail-fandomanon on April 16, 2012.
- "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.
- From the panel: "ABSTRACT: This paper will examine the online Social Justice (SJ) community in SF fandom, focusing on that portion of it that began organizing during “RaceFail 09,” an exchange between professional SF editors, writers, and fans that took place primarily on the LiveJournal platform. While the SJ community is being studied through the lenses of online activism and critical race theory, this paper will explore the extent to which the structures and dynamics within the community mirror those found in more conventional SF media fandoms and the impact fannish performance has on how fen respond to SJ discourse."2011 Program Guide.
- WebCite for My Problems with the Tumblr Social Justice Culture.