When it comes to the label of “Social Justice Warrior,” most of my friends are like, “Fuck yeah, social justice is awesome.” The big exceptions are the friends whose SJW experience involves college-age kids and/or Tumblr. It seems to be a purely generational divide, at least in my limited experience. People willing to accept the SJW label who are 30+ seem to be a much different crowd than the younger generation. I personally would be amused if some fedora-wearing asshat called me one, and pleased that I’d caused that reaction.
I think the difference in the young adults and teenagers calling themselves SJWs is a combination of the oneupmanship that happens to a lot of kids, with the group polarization effect making people become extremists. Almost every young person wants to be special in some way, competing with their peers to be the best at something: the biggest fan of their favorite band, the best football player, the best singer in school choir. It even applies to the dark side of young adulthood: which anorexic is the best at avoiding food, which mentally ill person is the “craziest,” and so forth. (I’ve seen these two examples in young adults I know personally, so I’m not just pulling them out of thin air.)
Group polarization is the tendency for a group of people to become more extreme in their views. If you get a bunch of people together who mildly dislike bananas and ask them to meet regularly to discuss bananas, the group will (most likely) truly hate bananas after a few meetings. The group feeds off its members, causing extremism.
So you get a bunch of young people who all want to be the greatest, purest SJW, and then stick them in a group — Tumblr, in this case — and what you get is people policing each other’s words in a totalitarian fashion. Extremists. Zealots, even. That’s what my friends who see SJWs as a product of youth are seeing. Those of us who stay away from that community don’t have those thought-police connotations to the label, so we’re cool with it. I don’t think any of us have our identities wrapped up in the term like some young people do, but we’ll roll with it if it applies.
I’d be interested in feedback from people in both camps. What’s your impression of SJWs, and why?
Update: a friend just said this:
My opinion on the SJW label is fairly negative, due to the Tumblr aspect of it. Those whom I would truly consider social justice warriors are far more about action than words and don’t see the need to affix a label to what they consider a perfectly reasonable way of behaving.
This. Nobody I know personally goes “Hi, I’m –name– and I’m an SJW.” It’s not a primary identifier. More like, “hey, those douchebags are calling me an SJW! That means I did good!”