Monday, September 17, 2012

the cognitive dissonance of the social justice warrior

"It's racist to write anything about any other culture whatsoever. That is "appropriating". It is also racist to not write anything about any other culture. That is "erasing"." —Julio Siete

Feminists and anti-racists share two principles that sound good:

1. We should treat people who are not part of our identity group with respect.

That's a great principle. It's a shame SJ warriors ignore it—see the problem with social justice fandom's "tone argument".

2. We should give more weight to the opinions of people in an identity group than the opinions of outsiders.

That sounds great, but it has at least three problems:

1. If SJ warriors truly believed that, they would favor the opinions of white people on whiteness and men on maleness. Instead, they look at economic power in the world, see that it's been dominated by white men, and conclude it must be understood in terms of whiteness and maleness. This is like looking at traffic and concluding what matters is the color and size of cars, so white midsize sedans must be the privileged source of everything that's wrong with the automotive industry.

2. The notion that members of a group understand their group best is the argument of devout members of every group.  It's endorsed by people who will earnestly explain to you that the world is run by lizard-people, Satan, Jews, blue-eyed devils, the Illuminati, or thetans who have forgotten their true nature. What cult doesn't think it knows itself best?

Moreover, the moment a woman or a person of color disagree with a warrior, their social identity is revoked—they'll be dismissed as race traitors or pawns of the patriarchy. Group identity only matters to social justice warriors so long as the person of that identity shares the warrior's worldview.

3. While SJ warriors claim they oppose privilege, they fail to see that giving more weight to the views of people in a group is privileging that group. The reasonable way to understand anything is to reject privilege of all forms. Study the evidence of both insiders and outsiders, then draw a conclusion.