Is it appropriate to call someone a ‘Social Justice Warrior’?

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The connotations for the term Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) has seen a huge change in the last two decades.

Allegedly, the term was first used in 1991 for Canadian Unionist Michel Chartrand to positively describe his role as a Union Activist.

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However, in the last decade, the word has garnered a sizeable negative connotation.

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As per the Collins Dictionary, Social Justice Warrior is a ‘usually derogatory’ noun referring to “a person who campaigns zealously and vociferously for causes associated with social justice

GamerGate Scandal and the attack on Social Justice Warriors

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Is it appropriate to call someone a ‘Social Justice Warrior’?
Image Source- Al Jazeera

It all started in 2014 with Zoë Tiberius Quinn, a female video game developer. She had launched an interactive indie game the “Depression Quest”.

 Her ex-boyfriend published a blog post, accusing Zoë of cheating with several men for getting positive coverage for her game.

Many in the gaming community started raising issues over unethical journalism. Media houses like Buzzfeed, Destructoid and Kotaku were attacking this demographic, by calling them tribalistic, emotionally charged and dead.

Some women involved in the gaming industry voiced how they faced consequences for their critique against the gaming community. 

Anita Sarkeesian, a gaming vlogger tweeted that she had to contact the authorities for some serious threats made against her and her family, due to which she had to leave home and stay with her friends for that night.

Mattie Brice, a media critic in games announced her withdrawal from the community because of the harassment she received.

In opposition, the gaming community felt that it was being singled out.

There was a large-scale consensus that the media was politicizing and propagating an ideology in a place that didn’t require it.

They started denouncing people who they believed were self-proclaiming themselves as social activists in order to push their own narrative.

Is SJW an acceptable insult in 2020?

The GamerGate scandal played a huge part in popularizing the usage of SJWs as we know it today. However, it didn’t originate there.

Some believe that it came from Tumblr and started becoming a popular slur around 2011.

The term ‘Social Justice Warriors’ has largely turned into a jab at people who virtue-signal and shame others for having a different opinion.

A politically dogmatic person can be labelled as an SJW, but it is also used by people to deflect meaningful conversations about real social issues.

Its careful usage is inescapable.

Do you feel comfortable with how the expression has changed its meaning over time?

Other articles: Decoding the Cuss Words, Street Art and Dissent

Image Credits: KurtMetz (featured image)

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Vanshika Yadav
She is currently studying English Literature from the Hansraj College, University of Delhi. Read her other writings at

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