Are there actually SJWs
"SJW" - One word, many reactions.
The most heard reaction these days is probably negative. SJWs are terrible people, loud, annoying, arrogant, prejudiced, they advocate censorship and close their ears to anyone who disagrees with them. This is the common understanding of the term in the niche of the video game communities and other marginalized groups who either deal with socio-political issues or are “imposed” on them. And in this paragraph alone there are so many problems that I hardly know how to go on. So let's start with the basic question.
What does "SJW" mean? Easy, "Social Justice Warrior". You know that. Let's translate this expression directly: Fighters for social justice. Doesn't sound that bad, actually. Social justice, fairness in basic life situations, equality and the will to stand up for it. So what's the problem?
Actually, this text should already have been eaten, but unfortunately the reality is different. The term "SJW" was created and enforced as an insult. Not by these self-proclaimed warriors of justice, of course not. From GamerGate. From video game fans. From right-wing to right-wing radical personalities of the current Internet era. By opponents of modern feminism as well as opponents of .. well, women. And Men’s Right activists. And and and.
Incredibly, it is precisely the dictated hatred of "political correctness" and the apparently obvious problem with its proponents that unites genuine Nazis, dangerous and harmless internet trolls and thoroughly self-reflective gamers on a level that many of the groups addressed are not even aware of.
Oh, something. Another paragraph full of starting points, which in turn challenge a long text. Chronologically - at least in relation to video games in the broadest sense - the whole story begins with one of the greatest frenzies in recent video game cultural history: GamerGate.
What is a gamergate
Zoë QuinnIt’s entry into the world of video games with the magazine “Nintendo Power” - it did not have its own console. She marveled at the screenshots and especially the cards and help with games that she didn't have. It was not until 1999, at the age of 12, that her father found a used 3DO for her at a flea market. Finally Zoë was able to hold her own joypad in her hand.
However, a carefree childhood stood in the way of a little: Quinn was diagnosed as depressed at the age of 14 and despite the constant risk of suicide, she received little support or understanding from friends or official bodies. But she persevered. At the age of 24, she moved from the USA to Toronto and got to know the indie dev scene there. She developed her first game, and with it her own calling. She first taught herself Stencyl, then Flash, and created - according to her own statement - "the silliest point & clicks ever". Like other indie devs, she slowly built her own community - until one project changed everything. Their first, bigger game came under the name "Depression Quest" Around 2013 on Steam’s Greenlight program in the public eye, and the tweets, emails and phone calls started: "I saw your game on Greenlight and I hope you kill yourself".
The gasoline over this igniting match came in the form of a blog post mirrored on 4Chan and 8chan by her ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, who implied that she had betrayed not only seven times, but one of those men Nathan Grayson would have been an editor on the games news site Kotaku. The Post advocated everything that some - male - channers feared: the gaming press is corrupt, women sleep with reviewers to get good reviews. That Nathan Depression Quest never even mentioned, let alone tested that his only article that even mentions Zoë was about the TV show Game Jam - none of that mattered anymore. The match burned.
Anita Sarkeesian grew up in Toronto, the city that Zoë was yet to get to know, but later moved to California. There she studied communication sciences and earned her master's degree in social policy in 2010. Since then she has been working as a media critic and video blogger for her self-founded platform FeministFrequency.com. She is concerned with viewing and analyzing the portrayal of women in popular culture, in particular, and most relevant to this story, video games. After Anita started the Kickstarter project "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games" in 2012, a new chapter in her "Tropes vs." series, the gaming internet became aware of her. Shortly after the project became known, Anita received rape and death threats and can only watch her website and social media accounts get hacked.
#Games and lies
If the actions against Anita Sarkeesian, who dared to talk about problems in the game industry in connection with her work as a media critic, despite her not exactly gaming-related background, were the warming engine of the GamerGate movement, it was the hail of hatred against Zoë Quinn the ignition.
8Chan and a few more platforms forced these incidents into a context that never existed - GamerGate began. Other - of course female - developers and people from the gaming scene were marked as targets, in particular Brianna Wu, who commented on Twitter as ridiculous activists of the GamerGate movement: "They are fighting an apocalyptic future in which women make up 8 percent of the proportion of programmers and not 3 percent". For this tweet, she also received countless threats of murder and rape, photos of brutally killed animals and threats that also included her personal address. Brianna had to leave home and start a new life.
During all this time, the self-proclaimed "leadership" of the actually leaderless movement established both the hashtag #thequinnspiracy, which was actually used by Zoë Quinn in hate messages, threats and comments, as well as the tag #burgersandfries, derived from the name of the IRC channel in which the Movement activities were targeted and planned.
It was there that the idea arose of taking a self-proclaimed position “against corruption and for ethics in video game journalism” with the appearance of the “Zoe Post”, Grayson's blog post - a lie that was propagated throughout the history of the movement from the start. This code designation should turn out to be a brilliant idea of the 8Chan-controlled leadership of these actions in order not only to blur one's own goals, but also actually completely impartial video gamers, who actually couldn't care less about the said cases, in the circle of the still officially nameless movement to pull. #GamerGate, the hashtag that was supposed to become the actual symbol of these targeted hate actions under the camouflage of the socio-political progressives, arose from a tweet by actor Adam Baldwin, who retweeted #burgersandfries videos with the hashtag #GamerGate (as an allusion to Watergate).
Future hate actions could also be brought into harmony with the gamer world - all that had to be done was simply to relate all actions directly or indirectly to the topic of "gaming". So you could be sure that the self-knitted image would fit, and that real Gamers would jump on the bandwagon. After all, who would want their hobby to be boycotted from behind by corrupt businessmen and ignorant feminists? The potential of one's own "army" was suddenly expanded many times over, and campaigns also seem much more inviting for newcomers than the much more transparent, real goal of "women, feminists and progressivism".
SJW as a target
Now at home on 8Chan, 4Chan and Reddit, GamerGate's circle of victims expanded: In addition to game developers and feminists who openly spoke out against #GamerGate, anyone - still mainly female - who had a public contradiction to the movement was now approached. Actual actions that could lead to the containment of problems of "ethics in video game journalism" were of course kept within very narrow limits. But: With the increasing awareness of the movement, more and more sites and communities took the danger seriously and criticized the actions and behavior of GamerGate. These circumstances - and the danger of seeing their lit fire burn out - led to a renewed expansion of the enemy image: "Political Correctness", i.e. from GamerGate's point of view, any opinions that support women, feminism and minorities in the social struggle, was declared to be the opponent, and with it the so-called “Social Justice Warriors”, the imaginary army that has set itself the task of defending the rights and human dignity of the actual enemy images and socially progressive views. The actual term arose in the late twentieth century as a positive to neutral expression for what it also expresses: a person who campaigns for social justice through activism. It was only with Twitter - or more precisely - with Gamergate that the term received its current, generally familiar identification of an insult.
Since even stubborn GamerGate supporters noticed that social justice does not actually invite hatred, the image of this "group" - which was of course invented by GamerGate itself - was caricatured at its own discretion. An SJW is illustrated as an eternally screaming, scribbling and complaining joke that loudly confirms his views on Twitter, but is actually only a very small light. He is the never-ending opponent who is exposed to ridicule through “factual argumentation” and “facts” - regardless of whether they are true or not. The actual statements of the “SJW”, i.e. the literal “struggle” for social justice, are mostly ignored in this “factual argumentation”; instead, points are attacked that are suitable for ridicule. It is implied that the SJW is only looking for personal validation, its arguments are dishonest and only intended to keep discussion going for the sake of discussion. In this way, any, actually meaningful points of a potential opponent in the discussion can simply be frayed and ridiculed. An SJW is not a real group of people, not a real category. The label is just a simple way to discredit and ultimately ignore anyone who discusses social justice. She classifies any potential resistance as a mere parody and frees from any self-criticism, instead of ascribing value to an actually substantial opinion.
The problem with "SJW"
The problem is: social justice is not a gag. We cannot avoid putting the scales if we really want a fair world. Feminism is important. Stopping the declassification of minorities is important. Understanding that women have the same rights as men, that dark-skinned people have the same opportunities and qualifications as fair-skinned people, that gay men and lesbian women are just as normal as straight people is important. That's what Social Justice Warriors want. This is what GamerGate and unsuspecting or ignorant gamers are fighting against with this label. No feminist wants to steal anyone's video games, no developer wants to prevent the “white cis man” from gaming through “enforced diversity”.
Yes, there are more female leads in games, cinema and TV these days. Yes, a higher rate of homosexual or transgender people in the media is desirable. All of these people really exist, and all of these people deserve to star in a fraction of the daily media world after decades, if not centuries, of oppression, ridicule and violent removal from society. And in contrast to the actions of GamerGate, this does not happen through hate mail, death and rape threats and verbal abuse, but only through work on the status quo.
That's what an SJW wants, and that's why I like to be called that. Social justice is a good thing, and I believe in it. And maybe - hopefully - the anti-SJW portion of the readers of this article is wondering if they really hate feminists, women, and trans people so much that they offend and actively oppose both them and their supporters, whether on purpose or not. I still have hope.
Photos by Lucas Ortiz, Kal Visuals, Giantbomb.com
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