Saturday, February 22, 2014

about my Social Justice Warrior book, and a thank you to John Scalzi

If you have no interest in social justice warriors or scifi fandom's politics, be glad. This will be the last post I make about either on this blog, and I hope I won't make many more at Social Justice Warriors: Do Not Engage, because the point of writing the book was to be done with them. The book is about done, and so am I.

If you'd like to make comments on the latest draft, see A guide for Social Justice Warriors: Do Not Engage. Any comments left this month may inspire changes immediately; any comments after that may inspire a revised edition. What I love and hate most about ebooks is there's no excuse for not fixing mistakes.

John Scazi tweeted: "I've noticed an extremely high correlation between folks who use the phrase "social justice warrior" non-ironically, and complete assholes."

If you don't use Alanis Morisette's dictionary, it's impossible to use "social justice warrior" non-ironically. The term's just ironic. There are people who accept it the way many suffragists accepted "suffragette", but that does not make their use non-ironic. It makes it doubly ironic. Really, you cannot use "social justice warrior" non-ironically. The idea of being a warrior for a liberal pacifist approach to justice is inherently ironic, no matter how hard you spin it.

The non-ironic version Scalzi might've been thinking of is "social justice worker". But most people use that phrase with respect, because actual social justice workers work for justice and treat everyone with respect.

Now it's true there are assholes who use the ironic phrase "social justice warriors" because "asshole" is an all-purpose term of annoyance for people who won't accept your version of how things should be: "That Jesus of Nazareth, what an asshole." "That Malcolm X, what an asshole." Etc. If you're a social justice warrior, people who criticize social justice warriors are assholes.

I grant that referring to a group by a name they don't use can be rude—I always try to call people by the names they use for themselves. That's Manners 101. But social justice warriors don't have a name of their own. They only have an ideology. The ideology is very identifiable—it comes from the intersection of Critical Race Theory and 1980s middle-class feminism—but the believers don't have a name that their critics can use. So we're stuck with "identitarians" for people who see power primarily in terms of social identities and "social justice warriors" for identitarians who flame online in the belief they'll make a better world by tweeting and blogging and mobbing.

Some people say identity politics is a term only used by the right, but KimberlĂ© Crenshaw, the woman who offered intersectionality to the feminist lexicon, wrote about it favorably in "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color". When I use the term, I don't mean it as a pejorative—there have been points in history when identity politics were the only practical politics. But I prefer "identitarianism" because it addresses the attitude that underlies identity politics.

Well. I hope it helped to clarify that, so, John, thank you for inspiring this post.