"If I sound angry here, it's because I am."
October 8, 2014 5:20 PM   Subscribe

Social Justice Warriors and the New Culture War, by Laurie Penny and her in-your-face feminism.

Laurie Penny’s “Unspeakable Things”
There are two reasons it’s taken me longer than it should have to write out my thoughts on Laurie Penny’s newest book, Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution. The first is technical: I’ve been ostriching from pretty much everything for the past couple of months while working on other projects, and am only now coming back to things like blogging and social media and leaving the house.

The second is personal: It made me mad.
9 Arguments From Laurie Penny's Unspeakable Things Every Feminist Should Know
posted by the man of twists and turns (182 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
The first article put me in mind of this Guardian column from today, about what Jennifer Lawrence's response to the photo theft and leak represents in terms of cultural change.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:31 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really like Penny's writing, and I'm really hoping she's right, and that the Social Justice Warriors (SJW) are actually beating the, um, Anti-Social Injustice Trolls (AIT). I would love to see evidence of victory, because I when I hear about SJW's beating AIT's, it's almost always some whacky AIT claim of persecution.

I'm not trying to be super-negative, but AFAIK there has been no repercussion for any of the horrible gamergate/Sarkeesian/stolen-photogate/Reddit-being-gross stuff that flooded through the internet for the last 10 weeks or so. I'm not trying to derail (so mods delete me if this is out of line), but could anyone point me to positive victory stories?


But Damn, the 9 arguments she makes are great. Go her.
posted by DGStieber at 5:42 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


SJW's are definitely moving the window. You can see it happen.

The largest shift pre-internet was via MTV.

"...but could anyone point me to positive victory stories?"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/05/15/the-rapidly-evolving-state-of-same-sex-marriage-in-1-map/

posted by vapidave at 5:51 PM on October 8, 2014


Anti-injustice trolls sound like good folks. I'm also against injustice.
posted by rustcrumb at 5:52 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I loved this at the bottom of the first post:

Comments are open and heavily moderated by the Don't-Push-Your-Luckdragon. Deal.

DGStieber, I think the victory she's talking about is cultural, rather than justice meted out in specific cases. A lot harder to quantify, but a lot more important in the long run.
posted by lunasol at 5:53 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was going to make a parody comment here throwing a tone argument at Penny, along with requests for more information to help me understand feminism etc, but after a few attempts I realised when it comes to this stuff there's a Poe's law just like there is for fundamentalist Christian parody.

Short of an emoticon, it's almost impossible to parody unthinking forum sexism because you just can't get stupid enough. No matter how stupid you go, you'll still be believable.

(That said, it's hard to even think of how to get more stupid than GamerGate. If only it wasn't hurting actual people as it rumbled its cackling way along.)
posted by bonaldi at 5:53 PM on October 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is probably a useful moment to rehabilitate SJW as a term for positive activism, but the big rhetorical focus on anger in this article gives me pause - I'm not sure that the negative label usage of SJW began with misogynist/rightwing trolls. Personally, and maybe I'm in a minority, I first encountered the SJW label when it was being used both positively and negatively in amidst the recent debates and controversies around the toxic call-out and more-radical-than-thou culture amongst feminists (and also intersecting with other social justice issue communities e.g. as in Suey Park's activism) on Twitter and elsewhere online e.g. 1 , 2
posted by Bwithh at 5:54 PM on October 8, 2014 [19 favorites]


I think she's right. the only thing that these hate campaigns have accomplished is make feminism The Coolest Fucking Thing Ever. Made Zoe and Anita and Leigh into cultural rockstars.
posted by young_son at 6:03 PM on October 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


The first time I heard the term SJW was from renowned troll Glenn Beck, for what it's worth.
posted by lumensimus at 6:06 PM on October 8, 2014


I'm not trying to derail (so mods delete me if this is out of line), but could anyone point me to positive victory stories?

California's "Yes Means Yes" law. AFAIK "Yes Means Yes" was a slogan coined by SJWs on college campuses; you'd hear it around, and eventually it became semi-official (like, part of freshman orientation), and now it's mainstream enough to pass in both houses of the legislature. And most people, when you ask them about it, agree that it's a reasonable definition of consent. This shift is a huge deal.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:06 PM on October 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


but AFAIK there has been no repercussion for any of the horrible gamergate/Sarkeesian/stolen-photogate/Reddit-being-gross stuff that flooded through the internet for the last 10 weeks or so.

What kind of repercussions could there be for people being dumbasses on the internet?

Ok, the stolen photographs are an actual crime. A felony. But the others are not with the exception of anyone who made specific threats against Sarkeesian (as opposed to being your garden variety dumbass).

As others have said, you win by moving society as a whole forward and that's happening.
posted by Justinian at 6:20 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


SJW came out of the 4chan/ED trolling and brigading days as a pejorative for anyone that thought their racism and misogyny and other related harassment wasn't harmless fun and/or edgy "ironic" performance art. Unlike MRA, it wasn't meant to be self-applied. In any case, it's been co-opted back by the racists and misogynists and harassers for anyone who dares speak about problems in the tech/gaming/atheism/etc world, so what it meant in the past is kind of moot.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:20 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


SJW seems to be one of the dumber things an anti-SJW person could possibly have coined, because where exactly are the negative implications? Social--okay, most of us are in favor of society, there's a good start. Even people who describe themselves as antisocial rarely actually have anything against the notion of human beings interacting with each other, as long as it doesn't involve them personally. Then we've got the justice bit, the "liberty and justice for all" bit, the "what kind of human can look in the mirror and say yes, I'm against justice" bit. Finally, anybody who I can picture as pacifist enough to think the warrior bit sounds bad are not anti-SJW.

MRA is exactly what they elected to call themselves and only sounds awful at this point because the movement itself is awful. The fact that anybody would think this sounded pejorative says a lot about them, I think.
posted by Sequence at 6:25 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Woah hold on a minute here.

From the 9 Arguments link:

Again, this has been another sticky point for feminists, especially in the past — there was, for example, a group named the “Society for Cutting Up Men.”

Wikipedia link in original text.

Apparently the Bustle.com author did not bother to read the wikipedia text she linked to. It has a subheading entitled SCUM organization that clearly states there was no such organization, it was just Valerie Solanas. The author apparently did not even read as far as the second paragraph of the wikipedia entry, which clearly says that Solanas "..insisted that the organization was 'just a literary device' and never really existed."

Did Laurie Penny actually say that SCUM existed, and used it in her writing? Or was it just the Bustle.com writer making shit up?
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:29 PM on October 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't read this so much as progress, but as invented triumphs to compensate the left for real losses incurred at the hands of neoliberal administrations they desperately supported.

And they're usually trophies taken from what's left of the middle class. If you're asking a barista who lives with four other people in a one bedroom apartment to check their privilege while drowning in student debt, what kind of victory is it when they go along with that? Pretty meager.

The kinds of people who should check their privilege generally won't when asked.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:33 PM on October 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


Thank you for the links. I've just been reading a lot about Kathy Sierra and weev and, combined with all the other things going on over the past month or two, it's been easy to feel like women are in a losing position, just like always, only this time with more technology.

So it is refreshing to read another point of view, one that doesn't leave me feeling helpless and powerless and like I don't do enough because there's nothing I can do. Maybe this needs to be my own mutiny. “We must stop trying so hard to hold ourselves and others up to impossible standards, standards we didn’t set ourselves.”
posted by Athanassiel at 6:33 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't read this so much as progress, but as invented triumphs to compensate the left for real losses incurred at the hands of neoliberal administrations they desperately supported. The banksters walked, the war resumes, and the middle class continues to evaporate like the Aral Sea. Imperialist capitalism chugs on, leaving hopes bloodied by the tracks.

I agree that it would be much better if the Left were effectively fighting both the class war and the culture war.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:34 PM on October 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


SJW seems to be one of the dumber things an anti-SJW person could possibly have coined, because where exactly are the negative implications?

Just imagine Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy saying "Citizens of Twitter, behold your social justice warriors! What fruit have they wrought?" Like the similar "white knight," it's intended to mock the target's supposed self-importance.
posted by skymt at 6:37 PM on October 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think that Bwithh is right; I've seen a similar comment somewhere very recently, but can't find it now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:44 PM on October 8, 2014


Also, "Social justice" should probably not be treated as individual words if you're trying to dissect what "SJW" refers to.

Though I'm sure a lot of gaters are probably ignorant of that meaning and think it just refers to social media, so I don't know what I'm contributing. My faith in good faith is long gone.

Grumble.

I liked this article though. Thanks.
posted by dumbland at 6:45 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Every time someone says, "You're right, we are going to war against your culture," a Republican political consultant gets his wings.
posted by corb at 7:04 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you are tired of being called a SJW, you can always give one of the other classes a try.
posted by fings at 7:24 PM on October 8, 2014 [24 favorites]


I've never understood why people object to it tbh social justice warrior seems a good thing as it means you fight for social justice &c?

I have a strong feeling the pendulum has reached (or is near) the highest point of its current swing and is swinging back, that being the way these things work; but change has been effected, and minds have been altered, and new patterns have been formed and that is a Good Thing.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:32 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, you recall the phrase "keyboard warrior," right? Same thing. The social justice part is just a modification of that.
posted by adipocere at 7:55 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Did Laurie Penny actually say that SCUM existed, and used it in her writing? Or was it just the Bustle.com writer making shit up?

I didn't look into this but am guessing the latter. Reading Bustle articles (including the one linked in the fpp) is like nails on a chalkboard for me. Terrible, juvenile writing, terrible editing. Mostly I think it's a function of Bryan Goldberg's bringing on such a young staff, but man I wish MeFi wouldn't send him traffic. It irritates me no end that Bustle is putting out the message that this is good writing by women on the one hand and interesting writing to women on the other. Ugh.

Interesting post, however (the rest of it)!
posted by torticat at 8:11 PM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm a white dude who hasn't read the artical and skimmed the comments, so I know that my views are both universal and highly valued in this conversation.

Tumblr and SJW have helped me, helped my wife and helped society as a whole. Every fight moves the window.
posted by Uncle at 8:24 PM on October 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


I always thought Social Justice Warrior was an ironic pejorative that started with evangelical Christians calling themselves "_____ warriors," which itself was lifted from a modern US military meme where soldiers used the "warrior" term as self-aggrandizement.

For example, Marguerite Perrin.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:40 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I didn't look into this but am guessing the latter. Reading Bustle articles (including the one linked in the fpp) is like nails on a chalkboard for me. Terrible, juvenile writing, terrible editing. Mostly I think it's a function of Bryan Goldberg's bringing on such a young staff..

Yeah I figured it's the Bustle writer. Well you have to get writers from somewhere, although apparently the editorial staff of the Harvard Crimson isn't a very good source. Maybe they want to grow their own writers. That might take a while. A long while.

But this just surprised me since I, as a lowly SCUMmy male, have actually read the SCUM Manifesto. Making a serious citation of the ravings a paranoid schizophrenic like Solanis does a disservice to Laurie Penny by associating her with such junk.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:53 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am seriously weirded out by people using the term SJW positively, since I'm used to seeing it in the context of shitheads using it as the internet age version of "n----rlover".
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:57 PM on October 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


Unlike Laurie, Valerie was brilliant, though. And fucking funny. I'd rather discuss S.C.U.M. than Penny any day of the year.
posted by clarknova at 8:58 PM on October 8, 2014


I saw it pointed out once that MRA assholes are (in their twisted, ill-informed way) a type of SJW. They are seeking social justice for what they see as the giving of special privileges (like not being assaulted, being considered on their merits for jobs, etc.) to women. They're still ill-informed/willfully ignorant assholes, but they are fighting for what they see as justice. So I propose that they be reminded of this fact whenever they trot out the phrase Social Justice Warrior. While unfortunately cognitive dissonance does not make people's heads explode, it is a quarrel removed from their quiver.

I'm curious about the white strike idea with eating disorders. Is there research around this idea? It makes sense, but the people I know who had eating disorders did not seem to have this as a mental construct in any way.
posted by Hactar at 9:25 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Like the similar "white knight," it's intended to mock the target's supposed self-importance.

Yeah, unfortunately, our amused embrace of the term Social Justice Warrior doesn't cause the gamergate types as much consternation as one might hope. They use the term SJW sarcastically, like "chickenhawk." They mean someone who is all puffed up by fighting imaginary self-righteous battles about nothing important. Proudly making SJW t-shirts fits just fine into their narrative. To them it's like someone saying, "That's right, I'm a Chicken Hawk, and proud of it!"
posted by straight at 9:46 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


You may be right, clarknova, which is probably why we're discussing her. But we shouldn't threadjack, so maybe Solanis deserves an FPP of her own.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:50 PM on October 8, 2014


Anti-Social Injustice Trolls (AIT)

I have seen "status quo warriors" used for this purpose.
posted by Corinth at 9:58 PM on October 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


"Social Justice Warrior" is about as effective an insult as "Financial Responsibility Mage" or "Good Personal Hygiene Cleric".
posted by jklaiho at 10:24 PM on October 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


They use the term SJW sarcastically

I think that's changing and SJW, while still a pejorative, is becoming a seriously-meant catch-all term indicating a vast conspiracy. A sample of actual Reddit (/r/KotakuInAction) headlines:
  • "SJWs are using KGB tactics to conquer communities."
  • "Why should SJWs be allowed to stoop to these tactics and steer society towards George Orwell's 1984 while we sit around only laughing at them but doing nothing to combat this plague?"
  • "SJWs exist as a way to force gender norms on women, to keep them away from nerd culture!"
I've seen it in a ton of comments as well. SJW is used in anger as much as it is for mocking, and a lot of people outside the pro-GG / anti-GG camps are noticing the pro side are making the word meaningless since they apply it to anyone they disagree with.

In the near future, the only serious use of the word will be a red flag that the poster is a conspiracy freak and / or a very reactionary conservative. And the ones using it sarcastically will be the people on the left.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:43 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


SJW may have started out as sarcasm but I've been seeing more and more people who seem to think that it's a real life identity and/or ideology and that the term is unironically self-applied.

Much like how cultural conservatives think that "political correctness" is a concept that liberals actually hold dear.
posted by brundlefly at 11:07 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


In the near future, the only serious use of the word will be a red flag that the poster is a conspiracy freak and / or a very reactionary conservative. And the ones using it sarcastically will be the people on the left.

Echo chambers define themselves by thier enemies, and identify them by thier shibboleths.

What you're really saying is "In the near future, the only serious use of the word in the places I hang out will be a red flag..."


Much like how cultural conservatives think that "political correctness" is a concept that liberals actually hold dear.

As I alluded to in a comment Matt deleted (because a bunch of you red-flagged it), I was around for exactly this same kind of discourse during the Clinton administration. There was absolutely nothing ironic about "political correctness" at the time. It got turned into a point of ridicule by the Limbaugh types —in fact almost singlehandedly by him— but until about '95 it was a real term real liberals were using without a trace of irony.

I did so myself.

In the political sphere positions change, terms change, and memories are incredibly fluid. The catchphrases you use today will be someone else's red flag in a decade or two.
posted by clarknova at 11:38 PM on October 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


I first saw the term SJW on Livejournal four or five years ago, around 2009 - 2010. It was used by liberals/progressives to describe people who say they are fighting for social justice but they're really just assholes, like Will S-h-e-t-t-e-r-l-y* and the assholes in this thread.

(Background on the thread - apparently, WWII parties are a thing British/English/the RAF (I'm not really clear on who exactly) does and evacuees are children who were sent to the country from cities doing the war to keep them safe.

At first the people in the thread assumed that "evacuee" meant "displaced persons from war zones" and/or "concentration camp inmates". When informed about the fact that the RAF throws WWII parties and what evacuees really are, most reasonable people would conclude that they don't have enough knowledge of British culture to judge this as offensive or not. Is that what people in the thread do? Or course not. Because clearly this British girl is doing her culture wrong and WWII parties are always offensive, full stop, and she's just appropriating and making light of the traumatic experience of actual evacuees. Who does she think she is being British in Britain?)

It's only the last year or so that I've seen sjw used by MRAs, red pillers, random misogynists, etc, as an insult/derogatorydescription for anybody who talks about social justice issues in a way they don't like.

*Name slightly obfuscated cause dude self googles like a son of a bitch.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:49 PM on October 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Unlike Laurie, Valerie was brilliant, though. And fucking funny. I'd rather discuss S.C.U.M. than Penny any day of the year.

You know, it's not like there's only one woman at a time whose ideas are worth discussing. There can be more than one woman worthy of the public spotlight! At once! ASTONISHING BUT TRUE.
posted by KathrynT at 11:49 PM on October 8, 2014 [35 favorites]


the acidic use of "white knight" and "social justice warrior" were my first indications that these people were simply the next generation of "typical angry conservative guy". the language is just too similar to the vehement opposition to "goodie goodies" and "nanny politics" you saw in the 80s and 90s. any mainstream person asks "why wouldn't you want people to be goodie goodies? white knights are the heroes, right?" they are using these terms in a very specific, inside-joke manner, but (much like everything else about them) they can't comprehend that people outside of their bubble will read this completely differently, and so they look and sound exactly like the villains they are.
posted by young_son at 12:06 AM on October 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


This a song we know by now. It starts and ends, almost always, with attacks on our sexuality, on our bodies as meat and function: our sexual and relationship history is broadcast everywhere, which is what happened to games developer Quinn, after an ex-boyfriend posted a disturbed, disturbing novella-length attack on everything she is and everything she stands for. The gamersphere then collectively wet its knickers over not being allowed to mercilessly slut-shame their chosen target without being called out, because freedom of speech.
Hey, this is a really great summary of the #GamerGate fiasco. If I ever have to explain it to someone, I'll just forward them this.
posted by heathkit at 12:21 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


What you're really saying is "In the near future, the only serious use of the word in the places I hang out will be a red flag..."

What I'm saying is: SJW will be equivalent to "truther", "vaxer", "birther", "Benghazi", chemtrails, Zionists (in certain contexts), Illuminati, etc. The serious use of the word will mark the user to the unaffiliated as well as to the people in my favorite circlejerks.

Middle-of-the-road people will generally reject, out of hand, anyone who wants to get to the real truth behind 9/11, someone who's panicking about the president's birth certificate, or anyone who thinks chemtrails, or Zionists, or Zionist-created chemtrails are a thing we should worry about. I think these same people, who otherwise give very little thought to social issues, will react the same way when they read someone using "SJW" earnestly.

In addition to the list of words above, there's also the precedent of the otherwise straightforward word "atheist" which, in certain contexts, has become a common joke because of the over-earnestness of /r/atheism and the idiotic behavior of some prominent atheists.

You can already start to see the change regarding "SJW" in places on Reddit where the pro-GG, anti-GG, and unaffiliated meet. /r/SubredditDrama for example.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:33 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


[Clarknova, please don't continue to derail with the conversation/fight you seem to be wanting to have about the Clinton administration. Everyone, if you want to make this entire thread into a discussion of the term "SJW," you can continue down that road I guess, but there's actually a lot interesting thought and content in the post links other than that one aside.]
posted by taz (staff) at 12:39 AM on October 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


As I alluded to in a comment Matt deleted (because a bunch of you red-flagged it), I was around for exactly this same kind of discourse during the Clinton administration. There was absolutely nothing ironic about "political correctness" at the time. It got turned into a point of ridicule by the Limbaugh types —in fact almost singlehandedly by him— but until about '95 it was a real term real liberals were using without a trace of irony.

You may have used it in this sense, but this totally conflicts with my understanding of the broader history of the term. My understanding (and the Wikipedia entry seems back me up, for whatever that's worth) is that it started out as a derisive term on the left, describing excessive adherence to the Communist party line, and didn't enter the mainstream at all until conservatives started using it as a pejorative.

I've never heard of a liberal using it approvingly in reference to what would now be called SJW concerns. Then again, I'm a tad too young to speak from experience on 90s political lingo, so I'd be interested to read how others recall it.
posted by brundlefly at 12:44 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Literally the only person I've ever heard say "politically correct" unironically and approvingly is Stewart Lee, and even then he's mostly making fun of people who use it in inane ways.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:47 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Social Justice Warrior" was coined as an insult based on irony. The idea was to use exactly the sort of pompous, grandiose title the irony-challenged and self-righteously fired-up might actually give themselves, or be proud of.

So, you know.
posted by Decani at 1:09 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


What I'm saying is: SJW will be equivalent to "truther", "vaxer", "birther",

Like I said, in the places you hang out.

Here's a fun observation I made talking to people outside the Anglo triangle: we may see the truthers as egregious, and rejected by the middle of the road. But we're it. The rest of the planet believes the conspiracy theories. If majority opinion is your yardstick for sanity we're the crazy ones.

This isn't to debate trutherism. For the love of God no. But I want you to understand what you believe to be the right-thinking person's opinion is a lot narrower in scope than you probably imagine. Bandwagon logic is something to avoid. The wagon moves. You can fall off.
posted by clarknova at 1:17 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


clarknova: “I was around for exactly this same kind of discourse during the Clinton administration. There was absolutely nothing ironic about ‘political correctness’ at the time. It got turned into a point of ridicule by the Limbaugh types —in fact almost singlehandedly by him— but until about '95 it was a real term real liberals were using without a trace of irony. I did so myself. In the political sphere positions change, terms change, and memories are incredibly fluid. The catchphrases you use today will be someone else's red flag in a decade or two.”

As some have said above, you and others may have used it that way, but I think the change from obscure leftist slogan to conservative insult was more sudden and jarring than you are remembering. From Wikipedia:
The term "political correctness" in its modern pejorative sense became part of the US public debate in the late 1980s, with its media use becoming widespread in 1991. It became a key term encapsulating conservative concerns about the left in academia in particular, and in culture and political debate more broadly. Two articles on the topic in late 1990 in Forbes and Newsweek both used the term "Thought police" in their headlines, exemplifying the tone of the new usage, but it was Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (1991) which "captured the press's imagination". "Political correctness" here was a label for a range of policies in academia around supporting multiculturalism though affirmative action, sanctions against anti-minority hate speech, and revising curricula (sometimes referred to as "canon busting"). These trends were at least in part a response to the rise of identity politics, with movements such as feminism, gay rights movements and ethnic minority movements. That response received significant direct and indirect funding from conservative foundations and think tanks, not least the John M. Olin Foundation, which funded D'Souza's book.

In the event, the previously obscure term became common-currency in the lexicon of the conservative social and political challenges against progressive teaching methods and curriculum changes in the secondary schools and universities (public and private) of the U.S. Hence, in 1991, at a commencement ceremony for a graduating class of the University of Michigan, U.S. President George H.W. Bush (1989–93) spoke against: "... a movement [that would] declare certain topics ‘off-limits’, certain expressions ‘off-limits’, even certain gestures ‘off-limits’...."

Herbert Kohl (1992) pointed out that a number of neoconservatives who promoted the use of the term "politically correct" in the early 1990s were actually former Communist Party members, and, as a result, familiar with the original use of the phrase.
That last bit is interesting because it begins to explain the strange provenance of a word that was a ridiculously obscure leftist / feminist idea – almost nobody outside of radical feminist and leftist thought had even heard the phrase until around 1989 – and then immediately became a conservative insult almost overnight, without ever having become popular in the mainstream beforehand. It seems as though neoconservatives knew the term specifically because neoconservatives by definition had been leftists in the 1970s.

But then, words get used by a lot of people to mean a lot of things. I can't hear the term without thinking of Stewart Lee's fine standup bit about political correctness.
posted by koeselitz at 1:56 AM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Mostly I think it's a function of Bryan Goldberg's bringing on such a young staff, but man I wish MeFi wouldn't send him traffic.

The irony, the irony...
posted by ennui.bz at 3:23 AM on October 9, 2014


Regardless of how it started, SJW is now used as shorthand to mean "cultural Marxist" which is another term that, as far as I can tell, means nothing.
posted by Biblio at 3:27 AM on October 9, 2014


When I saw the headline for this article, I thought it was one I read in the Washington Post yesterday. It focuses more on culture in terms of the arts, and depictions of non-white-straight-males in contemporary pop culture, which Laurie Penny does talk about in her article as well. I found it quite interesting and informative, did anyone else see it?

The culture wars are back, and this time, everyone can win
"The fierce arguments of today often center on whether culture is changing fast enough, and whether change means chucking out old ideas, storytelling tropes and character types.

"Among the questions at issue: Are enough women, people of color and LGBT people represented on the page and screen and working behind the cameras and monitoring where pop culture gets produced? How much should sports leagues police the private behavior of athletes and team owners? What responsibility do storytellers have when they depict extreme violence? How does fiction influence our perception of American military and intelligence operations? And what is the relationship (if there is one) between the quality of a work’s politics and the quality of its art?

...

"However these debates play out across the political spectrum, they are really about fundamental questions. Do politics or craft determine culture’s worth? How do values and aesthetics work together? And how can they work on each other to take our political debates beyond where the language of campaigns and public officials can carry them?"
posted by malapropist at 3:28 AM on October 9, 2014


is that it ["political correctness"] started out as a derisive term on the left, describing excessive adherence to the Communist party line

I first heard it on the West Coast in 1989, from a Stanford student, describing another student, and there was definitely some ironic component to their usage - they were pretty clearly implying that there was something too dogmatic or rigid about the person being discussed.
posted by thelonius at 3:34 AM on October 9, 2014


What I'm saying is: SJW will be equivalent to "truther", "vaxer", "birther", "Benghazi", chemtrails, Zionists (in certain contexts), Illuminati, etc. The serious use of the word will mark the user to the unaffiliated as well as to the people in my favorite circlejerks.

These things aren't all the same, and I think confuses use/reference. Calling someone a vaxer is a slight on the person referred to, and does not (generally speaking) diminish the user of the word. Using the word "chemtrails" seriously does diminish the user, because it marks the user of the word as a loon.

But I agree the whole SJW thing is not nearly the most interesting thing about all that's going on here. I actually dropped by to post this fantastic piece about GamerGate, best I've read yet.
posted by bonaldi at 3:44 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I was hearing "politically correct" as a term of derision in Australia in 1981, both as a barb from the right and a snigger from the left. I doubt either use originated in this particular backwater. En tout cas, it's a Communist thing.
posted by Wolof at 3:52 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Anyway, to get back to the topic of the FPP, the piece that bonaldi links to is a really good companion to Penny's work. Katherine Cross has a really good examination of the philosophy behind the attackers, even if it's not something they spend a lot of time reflecting on themselves. It strips away all of their excuses and the attempts to handwave away the movement as anything but another rearguard movement by its conservatives to keep a boy's club together. Cross' discussion is worth it just for the parts of the hypocrisy of the movement as it relates to ethics, as well the teardown of their repeated assertions that it wasn't about women or feminism when that's pretty much all they talk about. I'd like to hope that Penny's assertions are right, and that the cases like Kathy Sierra's are becoming outliers rather than evidence of something even worse to come. I thought the light shined on Elliot Rodgers' mindset would have marginalized these kinds of philosophies, but instead it seems to intensified them. I know I dread the day I come here to an FPP about Sarkeesian or Quinn or Sierra or someone else who had the temerity to expose the festering nastiness being the victim of a threat someone finally followed through on.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:53 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, right-wingers have taken the term and run away with it. On the other hand, and this could just be a product of my own bias in the kinds of sources I read, but there is an astonishing degree of identity- and language-policing going on in discussions around gender, sexuality, race, and disability. It is not, "you are a bad person for supporting discrimination." It is, "you are a bad person who supports discrimination because you used that word over this word or subtly disagree on matters of ideology or identity." I find that to be really astonishing as a middle-aged queer who spent the first half of my adulthood marching on the premise that many of these identities were socially and politically constructed, self-selected to various degrees (in dialogue with larger structures of oppression), fluid, overlapping, and permeable.

That is happening parallel to the blow-up regarding keeping certain entertainment media a "boys club. " That makes the infighting even harder to address.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:04 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Also, here's a good Storify by Adria Richards documenting the tactics and amounts of work behind attacks against women online. What's even more appalling is that it's just the first in a series she's going to do on harassment. This isn't just boys being boys or idle pranking, it's directed campaigns with the goal to silence people (and especially women) from saying or doing anything that upsets the status quo.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:09 AM on October 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think she's right. the only thing that these hate campaigns have accomplished is make feminism The Coolest Fucking Thing Ever.

That's what gets me about the MRA community. They are the lamest version of a sexist patriarchy I have ever seen. It's not like Don Draper, Mad Men-style early 1960s sexism, where you could say, "Yeah, he was sexist, but damn, he could really wear a suit!"
posted by jonp72 at 5:50 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


when someone uses sjw derisively towards me, i just hear "feminazi! political correctness gone maaaaaad!" and realize i don't need to listen to anything they say. same shit different decade.
posted by nadawi at 6:53 AM on October 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted; if there is any way to completely derail this even more than it already is, I guess a fight about gun control would be one reliable way to get there. Please try to stick to the topic, and don't use the sidebar convo about the term "SJW" as open season to pursue your favorite {X-politics} etc. arguments.]
posted by taz (staff) at 7:01 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


There was absolutely nothing ironic about "political correctness" at the time. ... until about '95 it was a real term real liberals were using without a trace of irony.

I concur with this observation. In college in the late 80s - early 90s, there were earnest discussions about how to ensure things could be properly politically correct. I mean, this was the age where there were real, non-ironic attempts to evangelize the use of verbal gymnastics such as "differently abled," as opposed to "disabled."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:31 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


differently abled is still in use today.

it's always surprising to me to go back to things made in the 70s, 80s, 90s and see just what sort of shitty bigoted things were deemed perfectly ok. there's always someone complaining about the earnestness of college progressives, but the things we mock change as we adopt some of what was once a joke. same shit, different decade.
posted by nadawi at 7:50 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


> You may be right, clarknova, which is probably why we're discussing her. But we shouldn't threadjack, so maybe Solanis deserves an FPP of her own.

She had one, and it provoked a very interesting discussion. (My thoughts: "Me, I've read a lot of crackpot political ranting, from Hitler on down, and for my money there's very little that can compare with Solanas's brilliant explosions of bile.")

> I was going to make a parody comment here throwing a tone argument at Penny, along with requests for more information to help me understand feminism etc

Why? This is not meant as a personal attack, there seems to be a widely shared desire to do this kind of thing judging by the number of times it goes wrong and gets called out, but I really don't understand why people still give in to it. It accomplishes nothing except to give you a momentary thrill, and you can get that by typing the comment, enjoying it, and then deleting it instead of hitting Post and embarrassing yourself. Again, this is not directed specifically at bonaldi (who did, after all, back out and post something else), it's just an attempt to remind people: don't do that, it's pointless and counterproductive.

Oh, and thanks for the post, the man of twists and turns—the growing triumph of feminist views in the culture at large is deeply satisfying to me.
posted by languagehat at 8:00 AM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


"...realize i don't need to listen to anything they say."

I actually feel much the same way about people who self-identify as an SJW. That's a cue to tune out before the jargon avalanche hits me.
posted by MikeMc at 8:18 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


i only jokingly self identify as it now since it's been hurled my way so often by shitty sexist dudebros (which is something that also happened with feminazi). you are welcome to ignore me.
posted by nadawi at 8:23 AM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


but the things we mock change as we adopt some of what was once a joke

I hear what you're saying, but you have to admit that there are some aspects of verbal gymnastics that hide and/or paper-over real issues, and fail to help those that they're intended to help. Politically correct language helps no one.

"They're only words. You can't be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it's an unpleasant truth, like the fact that there's a bigot and a racist in every living room and on every street corner in this country. I don't like words that hide the truth. I don't like words that conceal reality."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:31 AM on October 9, 2014


I think it's a little sad when I see people urging others to tune out other people who use the term SJW, because the reason they use it is because they are tuning out people who talk about "social justice", and it means no one is listening to anyone and we all just get further apart.

And these people are not wearing black hats and twirling their mustaches. They are trying to defend their way of life - which, whether you think it's a good way of life or not, is powerful stuff and a huge motivator. When I was in the Army, we had to swear to be a "guardian of freedom and the American way of life." And that battle, albeit without weapons, is the one going on now. Because the American way of life, by definition, is the status quo, and the rural status quo is very different than the urban one.
posted by corb at 8:31 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Politically correct language helps no one.

I don't even know what this means. What is politically correct language, and who defines it? Who is the arbiter?
posted by rtha at 8:32 AM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


george carlin is funny and smart but not always right. i think things do get better when we as a society became more sensitive of minority viewpoints, which includes changing the words we use to refer to different groups (which is a big push behind political correctness).
posted by nadawi at 8:49 AM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


The thing about the term "SJW" is that (in my experience) it came up several years ago on Livejournal in the aftermath of several controversies in fandom, including RaceFail.

The usage that I noted at the time was that it referred to people who used anti-racist/feminist positioning to bully other people. Basically, it was meant to identify toxic bullies who weren't actually allies of oppressed populations, but people using their ally claims to aggrandize themselves. The people who coined the term were at least nominally allies, but they were horrified by what they saw as bullying behavior that tarnished the cause and drove away potential supporters. The revolution eating its young, if you will.

In short, at the beginning, SJWs were ideological purists who hurt sympathizers in pursuit of their political goals.

The determination of who exactly fell into this category was, of course, entirely subjective.

However, the term was seized upon by really toxic people, like Shweatterly, and his racist/sexist MRA allies, and then grew to be used by those camps to refer to all feminists and anti-racists, because they see any such anti-oppression activism as bullying. And then it went wide, and got popularized by Vox Day (::spits ritually::) and got out into the wider MRA-sphere.

I get the sense from Katherine Cross' article, linked upthread, that that's her experience as well.
posted by suelac at 9:13 AM on October 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


Politically correct language helps no one.

"Politically correct" is just a clumsy way of saying, "caring enough about other people to show them respect when you talk to or about them," which helps everyone.

If you'd like to be called "Cool Papa Bell," it does me no harm and makes MetaFilter a better place if I go ahead and use the name you prefer, even if I think it's stupid (which I actually don't) and would rather call you something else.
posted by straight at 9:19 AM on October 9, 2014 [13 favorites]




Now I want a cloud-to-butt-type extension that changes "political correctness" to "treating others with respect" and "politically correct" with "respectful." Now check out Google News:

"This Liberal School Board Just Took Treating Others With Respect To Literally Unbelievable Extremes"

"Campuses install respectful parking signs"

"George Will vs. Treating Others With Respect"

"Ebola and Treating Others With Respect Will Kill Many Americans"

"Respectful Baby Name Ideas For Chelsea Clinton"
posted by straight at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2014 [29 favorites]


The thing about the term "SJW" is that (in my experience) it came up several years ago on Livejournal in the aftermath of several controversies in fandom, including RaceFail.
[...]

The usage that I noted at the time was that it referred to people who used anti-racist/feminist positioning to bully other people. Basically, it was meant to identify toxic bullies who weren't actually allies of oppressed populations, but people using their ally claims to aggrandize themselves.

The determination of who exactly fell into this category was, of course, entirely subjective.

However, the term was seized upon by really toxic people, like Shweatterly, and his racist/sexist MRA allies, and then grew to be used by those camps to refer to all feminists and anti-racists, because they see any such anti-oppression activism as bullying. And then it went wide, and got popularized by Vox Day (::spits ritually::) and got out into the wider MRA-sphere.


This is exactly my experience. Thanks for saying it better than I did.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


suelac: The usage that I noted at the time was that it referred to people who used anti-racist/feminist positioning to bully other people. Basically, it was meant to identify toxic bullies who weren't actually allies of oppressed populations, but people using their ally claims to aggrandize themselves. The people who coined the term were at least nominally allies, but they were horrified by what they saw as bullying behavior that tarnished the cause and drove away potential supporters. The revolution eating its young, if you will.

Yeah, that was my experience as well. A few weeks ago, I had the surreal experience of watching a white woman engage in simultaneous flamewars with peers for not quoting and then for quoting queer women of color. It originally referred to a cohort engaged in tactics like harassment, doxing, and intentionally triggering others over relatively minor disagreements.

straight: "Politically correct" is just a clumsy way of saying, "caring enough about other people to show them respect when you talk to or about them," which helps everyone.

I think we've gone beyond a consensus that slurs are not cool, to flamewars regarding nuances of terms that are largely synonyms. Both languages and minority groups are fuzzy and diverse, and people who don't adopt your specific jargon as a self-identity might not be the enemy.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:08 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


straight, I love that idea.
posted by brundlefly at 10:17 AM on October 9, 2014


What is politically correct language, and who defines it? Who is the arbiter?

My broad definition would be, "Language where people feel forced to use a word they don't like in place of one they do, when referring to the same thing, by fear of negative consequences from people they don't agree with politically."

So everyone is their own arbiter - because only they can know what they feel forced to say but don't really want to say.

This also has the side effect of everyone who does it voluntarily having no idea what they're talking about.
posted by corb at 10:20 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Because the American way of life, by definition, is the status quo,

Wait, what?

I disagree strongly - I think you are using the phrase in a highly idiosyncratic way.

I have seen the phrase "the American way of life" used, in every instance I can remember, as a shorthand for the principles and positions expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, especially for this sentence from the Preamble to the Declaration:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
Nothing there about maintaining the status quo, and hell, the whole Declaration itself is a document rejecting the status quo.

The phrase is supposed to invoke a set of principles, and maybe to spur some reflection about how well we are living up to those principles.

Using the phrase in some sort of circular logic sense of "Well, we're Americans, and we currently live like [so], and therefore living like [so] = "the American way of life"" just sounds really bizarre.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:44 AM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


In the apparently vain hope that just maybe we could get back to talking about the freaking article, Julie Pagano is writing a series on her blog called "Life and Times of a Feminist Killjoy" (parts 1, 2, 3) that goes over the effects of anti-woman and anti-feminist movements in the tech world. Her earlier piece likening them to DDoS attacks is another look at the philosophy and psychology behind them.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:50 AM on October 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Katherine Cross' piece on GamerGate is excellent. It's way more fucked up than I thought. And I thought it was fucked up. Jesus.
Enemies proliferated as fear mushroomed online. When 4chan itself had at last had enough of GamerGate and began deleting threads discussing it, this too was seen as more proof of an “SJW conspiracy” that had now reached into the heart of 4chan, previously ground zero for the movement. Who was to blame? The site founder’s girlfriend, of course. 4chan was now on the “SJW” list. The Enemy was clearly omnipresent, and the need for unmasking hypocrites and corrupt gamers with “conflicts of interest” grew claxon-urgent.
4chan is SJW? These dudes have completely lost it.
But there is one highly significant fact that makes GamerGate different from historical examples of radical extremism.

All such movements committed to the rule of the mob, whether rightist or leftist, are always self-consciously political. GamerGate’s dogma, by contrast, held that it was both apolitical and committed to purging politics from game reviews. This terrible delusion made it even harder for them to examine their own ethics. GamerGate is neoliberalism’s distorted reflection of leftist terror: the lust for revolution, to be the Rough Rider “good guys” saving the world by force if necessary, but with none of the obligations or thought inherent to political reasoning.

[...]

The wound here comes from a sense that they as gamers are not getting what they “paid” for (if only with the micron of cents sites earn from their individual clicks and ad impressions). They identify first and foremost as consumers who see their relationship with the game press as being one that should exalt the readers as kings and their hobby as being virtually beyond reproach. Much of GamerGate felt like an ad hoc PR exercise for the beleaguered male gamer, and for the concept of gaming itself, defending both from charges no one had ever made. But, crucially, in their view a proper games press would never criticise gamers, gamer culture, or their favourite games in anything except the most “objectively” technical ways. Are the controls smooth? Are there any bugs? Are the graphics cool? Slap a score on it and tell the consumer whether or not to buy.

Beyond that, games writing should serve no other purpose, no “agenda” save that of the gaming consumer defined in the narrowest terms possible.
I haven't been following Gamergate, I find this analysis edifying and a bit horrifying.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:57 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


zombieflanders, Pagano's Part 1 is particularly eye-opening. I hadn't thought about all the media outlets with a financial interest in fanning the flames of these conflicts.
posted by straight at 11:00 AM on October 9, 2014


My broad definition would be, "Language where people feel forced to use a word they don't like in place of one they do, when referring to the same thing, by fear of negative consequences from people they don't agree with politically."


My broad definition would be: white, privileged man-babies crying because they can't use hurtful and oppressive language freely without being held responsible for their own words and the potential negative consequences therein.
posted by SassHat at 11:00 AM on October 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


4chan is SJW? These dudes have completely lost it.

Well, initially, when gamergate threads started being deleted, the belief was that this was a rogue mod or mods acting without sanction from moot. Then moot clarified that, yes, Gamergate threads were being deleted and that this was policy from now on - essentially meaning that Gamergate threads were treated like My Little Pony threads.

So, specifically, moot and his moderators have been "turned" - moot by a meeting with Anita Sarkeesian at XOXOFest 2014, and the moderators, I guess, by a process of infiltration by SJW elements.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:05 AM on October 9, 2014


I was annoyed by the SCUM mention as well. SCUM was the fantasy of one particularly ill person who went on to try to kill Andy Warhol....not a legit movement or even a fucking fringe group. But it's always given as this default example of the "extreme feminist wing". Yes and the Unabomber represents the hardcore right. Jeebus.
posted by SassHat at 11:10 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


So, specifically, moot and his moderators have been "turned" - moot by a meeting with Anita Sarkeesian at XOXOFest 2014, and the moderators, I guess, by a process of infiltration by SJW elements.

According to Cross's article moot was "turned" by his girlfriend who works for Gawker. The logicically assumption to make is that moot was just annoyed by the Gamergate threads and users, just like My Little Pony. Not that he's suddenly decided to start fighting for feminism. That's delusional. I mean I don't know anything about moot as a person, but as a moderator he's pretty clear what his values are. Feminism is not high on that list.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:21 AM on October 9, 2014


I have seen the phrase "the American way of life" used, in every instance I can remember, as a shorthand for the principles and positions expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,

It's possible I'm using a definition different from your own, but if so, it's one that is widely shared by broad swaths of the populace. The "American Way of Life" is, in those areas, more commonly used to refer, not to those documents, but to say, "mom and apple pie" type stuff - how people are perceived to traditionally live. Look at the cultural references. "American Kids", for example, hit #1, and in fact, is a really interesting example of this if you read the comments (though be warned some of them are terrible). The song is about a way of life, and it's met with a barrage of comments both saying, "That's not the only America" and "This is the America I know."

When people fight to preserve their way of life, they are usually not thinking of dusty documents. They're thinking about the things that have value to them - the traditional foods and music and clothing and religion and rituals they know and love. And this, I think, is generally no exception.
posted by corb at 11:45 AM on October 9, 2014


I don't know if I can give SCUM a pass, SassHat.

Harken back to how Metafilter reacted to Elliot Rodger, another violent lunatic with a gun. His "manifesto" — such as it was — was hardly excused on the basis of mental illness. Looking back, it was rather taken as being representative of a whole group and "meaningful." The response to his obvious insanity was a collective "So what? That doesn't change things."

What's good for the goose, and so forth.
posted by adipocere at 12:42 PM on October 9, 2014


Is SassHat giving SCUM a pass?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:49 PM on October 9, 2014


[Please tone down the snark if you want to have a civil conversation. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:59 PM on October 9, 2014


In short, at the beginning, SJWs were ideological purists who hurt sympathizers in pursuit of their political goals.

Every feminist/antiracist/radical anything person gets accused of this. I mean probability approaching 100 percent as they become well known. And while I of course have my own opinions about what degree of ideological purity is reasonable to maintain, the fundamental truth is you can't force people to treat you as being on their team if they don't want you to be. So I think making the distinction "oh *we* were only talking about the people who went *too far*" is just about meaningless.
posted by atoxyl at 2:56 PM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think making the distinction "oh *we* were only talking about the people who went *too far*" is just about meaningless.

Oh, I don't disagree: most of the people I saw tagged as SJWs, even at the beginning, were not bullies. Many were WOC who simply refused to back down. (The tone argument got a lot of use during RaceFail.)

But a small few were kind of toxic, and their congruence of interests made it easy for someone from outside to assume everyone who agreed with the toxic ones about anything were equally toxic. Once "SJW" was coined, it got used to tag an enormous number of people, most of whom would not be considered particularly radical in most contexts.
posted by suelac at 3:20 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


adipocere: “I don't know if I can give SCUM a pass, SassHat. Harken back to how Metafilter reacted to Elliot Rodger, another violent lunatic with a gun. His ‘manifesto’ — such as it was — was hardly excused on the basis of mental illness. Looking back, it was rather taken as being representative of a whole group and ‘meaningful.’ The response to his obvious insanity was a collective ‘So what? That doesn't change things.’ What's good for the goose, and so forth.”

First: this is a simple factual issue. The Bustle article says that "there was, for example, a society name the 'Society for Cutting Up Men.'" This is flatly not true. There was never any group. Valerie Solanas even tried to form a group – but failed! So it is notably and firmly false to say that there was a group called S.C.U.M.

Second: there is an odd rhetorical flourish here, as Rustic Etruscan notes, whereby you are conflating an argument about representation with an argument about seriousness. There is no excusing, no "giving a pass" going on here. The question is absolutely not whether the idea of cutting up men or shooting up women is serious or wrong. The question is whether these are representative of the actions or ideals of large groups of people – or even groups of people at all.

Third: clearly there really and truly are strikingly clear differences between the two cases. Elliot Rodger, successful murderer of many women, was an active member in internet communities that nourished and nurtured his ideals. These internet communities can be pointed to, and examples can be drawn from their pages of the same type of rhetoric found in the pages of his manifesto. Even if we didn't have ample evidence that an internet subculture of frustrated young men exists which is sympathetic to Elliot Rodger's ideals, we would have the simple fact that women really are shot up by angry men every day – that angry young men are overwhelmingly the biggest source of violence in society, and that those angry young men often take as their particular target the young women they see as frustrating them.

Whereas Valerie Solanas was a lone disturbed woman who did not manage to form any group, who did not manage to inspire any copycats, who did not even manage to kill the one man she targeted, although she did terrible damage in trying. There are not internet communities of feminists who chat openly about how much they hate men, about how they wish they could kill men. Believe me – I have read the most "radical" of "radical feminist" writings on the internet, and the worst things they have to say are regarding the personhood of transsexuals. The most terrible thing they generally have to say about men is that they don't care about men at all.
posted by koeselitz at 4:01 PM on October 9, 2014 [25 favorites]


jonp72: "They are the lamest version of a sexist patriarchy I have ever seen. It's not like Don Draper, Mad Men-style early 1960s sexism, where you could say, "Yeah, he was sexist, but damn, he could really wear a suit!""

"Yeah, they're sexist, but they can really wear a fedora!"

Also. Lame is politically incorrect, FYI.
posted by symbioid at 4:30 PM on October 9, 2014


Be more particular than that- say instead that it is ableist.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:35 PM on October 9, 2014


That is very much on point koeselitz. The SCUM manifesto has had a bit of enduring popularity, though. I don't think *anybody* takes it seriously, but I've seen it praised by radical feminist academic types (Ti-Grace Atkinson actually corresponded with her) for being the outlandish and (probably intentionally) humorous blast of rage it is. But if anything what violent rhetoric there was in radical feminism has kind of died out since the 70s.

I'm actually curious what is known about Rodger's contact with the *ahem* "manosphere" - because while there is absolutely a disturbingly large community out there that would be happy to fill a young man's head with elaborate misogynistic theories, I don't think his manifesto namechecks the "red pill" or anything. It's got a bit of wacko woman-hating "utopianism" at the end - far more cruel than Solanas, actually and (as she would probably appreciate) not as witty - but mostly it's an insanely narcissistic litany of petty personal bullshit.. We like using the word "entitled" around here? Eliot Rodger comes of as the most entitled guy I've ever heard of.
posted by atoxyl at 5:39 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Elliot Rodger posted on PUAhate, a site for complaining about how pick-up artists suck and their methods don't work and women should just fuck us etc etc etc. Definitely part of the manosphere.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:17 PM on October 9, 2014


My broad definition would be: white, privileged man-babies crying because they can't use hurtful and oppressive language freely without being held responsible for their own words and the potential negative consequences therein.

Beautiful SJW specimen! 4 out of 5! I really like the symmetry of language use in your statement!

Bonus points for any follow-up "hurtful language doesn't apply to the privileged class" statements.

If you are tired of being called a SJW, you can always give one of the other classes a try.

In the desolate wastelands after the SJW culture-wars of the 2010s, lone hipsters wander the landscape in their fedoras and satchels, with buttons of flair representing their factions attached liberally. Their true meaning has long since been lost to time. Mankind has resorted to snark hunting to fill their stomachs and empty souls.
posted by formless at 9:25 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


No, seriously, if you think hurtful language directed at the dominant class in a power relationship is anything like said language directed at the dominated class, you need a few hours in a total perspective vortex.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:37 PM on October 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Also. Lame is politically incorrect, FYI.

Be more particular than that- say instead that it is ableist.


That's if you're inclined to only think about yourself. "What am I allowed to say?"

If you're willing to think about someone who can't walk and whose day feels a little shittier when they see someone refer to bad things as "lame," maybe it's not such a big deal to say, "Hey, I could stop using that word and maybe make someone else's life a little better."
posted by straight at 9:56 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I... what? We're on the same side of this issue.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:13 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Elliot Rodger posted on PUAhate, a site for complaining about how pick-up artists suck and their methods don't work and women should just fuck us etc etc etc. Definitely part of the manosphere.

Just when you think there's nobody more pathetic than a PUA... Well, there you are.
posted by brundlefly at 10:22 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Katherine Cross' article is fantastic.

"When I wrote about the subject I warned fellow feminists that the tendency to view our opponents as irredeemable enemies could easily take on a life of its own."

This is the dynamic of course that has hurt the GamerGaters, but it applies to any like-minded group -- including Metafilter.
posted by msalt at 12:11 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


I... what? We're on the same side of this issue.

Sorry, that came out more belligerent and snarky than I intended. I was just trying to point out that "politically correct" and "ableist," while sometimes helpful categories, put the focus on the language and the speaker. I was suggesting that it might seem less censorious and oppressive to focus instead on the people our language effects, how simple word choice can make the world a little better or a little worse for other people.
posted by straight at 8:23 AM on October 10, 2014


Well yeah, and identifying what's wrong with the language in question is part of how we understand how and why it's hurtful and oppressive. Simply saying that something's "politically incorrect" isn't very useful- it's more useful to identify it as (for example) ableist, which enables us to understand how it's hurtful and why it does the harm that it does.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:31 AM on October 10, 2014


But most of the people who get butthurt about Politically Correct Censorship Gone Mad seem to be stuck thinking of it as "rules about what I can and can't say." They seem to regard words like "sexist," "racist," or "ableist" as modern analogues of "sinful*," rather than as "reinforcing the cultural patterns that hurt certain people," so I do think it's worth shifting the focus from the words and the speaker to the people effected by the language.

Most people who have genuinely changed their mind about same-sex marriage don't seem to have done so out of a desire not to be "homophobic," but rather from getting to know people in same-sex relationships and finding out that they're human beings. Anecdotally, that sort of framing seems more effective, even if, ideally, "homophobic" should just be equivalent to "failing to see homosexual people as human beings."

*(although this involves a similar misunderstanding of the word "sinful")
posted by straight at 10:41 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think part of the problem is honestly demanding people change their language before they understand why it is they're actually changing it. It leads people to this sort of, "Uh, okay, that's stupid, but I will say your gobbledygook if I have to" attitude that is not actually real change at all.
posted by corb at 10:46 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Another part of the problem is when you do try to explain why it's hurtful/harmful/not helpful to use certain terms, people decide you're just trying to censor them, man! Or, that because their intent is not to be cruel or thoughtless, then they cannot possibly be cruel or thoughtless. The assumption that anything that can be labeled "politically correct" is automatically something that ought to be opposed is toxic and juvenile, and far too many people seem fine with going there.
posted by rtha at 11:04 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Well, I think in some debates, censorship is exactly what's going on when criticism is leveled at other minorities. Right now, there is no "politically correct" way for bisexual-identified people to talk about the diversity of bisexual experience or anti-bisexual oppression. The former is labeled erasure, the latter is labeled appropriation. Attempts to create new vocabulary and definitions to describe those realities meet the same criticism.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:40 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


corb: I think part of the problem is honestly demanding people change their language before they understand why it is they're actually changing it. It leads people to this sort of, "Uh, okay, that's stupid, but I will say your gobbledygook if I have to" attitude that is not actually real change at all.

Someone probably has the "you need to stop standing on my foot" link handy, but if not, the deal here is that when someone's hurt by your language, you first stop using it, then try to understand why. This is not a big ask, and far from being part of the problem, it's actually part of the solution, because you can't have the dialogue about why the language is hurtful while you're still using it.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:50 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


the deal here is that when someone's hurt by your language, you first stop using it, then try to understand why

This is easy when the person is essentially saying "You're standing on my foot." It is exponentially more difficult when the person is saying, "You're standing on that guy over there's foot, and I know you don't see how, and I know that guy hasn't said anything about it, and is in fact telling you it's fine, but in fact, you're really standing on his foot, and I don't need to tell you why because You Should Know."

When that person modifies their language in that situation, they are often not doing it to stop hurting that person over there, they are doing it because they think you're crazy and are pacifying you. And the instant you're gone, they're going to use the same language they are used to using.
posted by corb at 11:55 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


corb: “This is easy when the person is essentially saying ‘You're standing on my foot.’ It is exponentially more difficult when the person is saying, ‘You're standing on that guy over there's foot, and I know you don't see how, and I know that guy hasn't said anything about it, and is in fact telling you it's fine, but in fact, you're really standing on his foot, and I don't need to tell you why because You Should Know.””

It would be difficult if "political correctness" consisted in people demanding that you be nice to other people who aren't them, yes.

Thankfully, almost every part of that characterization of 'political correctness' is wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 12:34 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


(By which I mean: it's not a demand, and it's not from other people.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:35 PM on October 10, 2014


An example of what I'm talking about is the taboo: "Thou shall not make analogies between different forms of prejudice (such as sexual and religious minorities)" Even if the person constructing the analogy happens to experience both and is comparing and contrasting her experience with her experience, not to mention that the concepts involved were originally explored by black writers of the Harlem Renaissance with respect to race.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:43 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


When that person modifies their language in that situation, they are often not doing it to stop hurting that person over there, they are doing it because they think you're crazy and are pacifying you. And the instant you're gone, they're going to use the same language they are used to using.

Then . . . . . . they're just assholes, I guess.

Seriously, corb, all you're doing is running down a list of 'Why & How Sum Peepul R Stubborn." So what? Some people are gonna be stubborn about this, some not so much, and none of what you've said in your last few comments provides any sort of reason why people should quit trying to make our use of language less harmful to other human beings.

I actually don't much care about changing hearts & minds - if the end result, for whatever reasons (even if it's just trying to pacify the "crazy" person), is that there's fewer uses of poisonous, hateful language in the world - FINE, GREAT. It's a win, even if a small one, and I'll take it.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:38 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


And, shit, while I'm at it, apologies for use of the word "crazy" in the above comment, I know there are some people not real thrilled with that word being tossed around willy-nilly.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:43 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


straight: But most of the people who get butthurt about Politically Correct Censorship Gone Mad seem to be stuck thinking of it as "rules about what I can and can't say."

I made the personal choice a few years ago to attempt to remove every slur from my language, no matter how minor. My choice ended up being modified within a year because sometimes slurs are used by the people they apply to in a descriptive format which works for them and it's important for me to use my client's language instead of privileging my own choices (this would be an example of the deeper values of my choice being more important than the particulars of my choice - a common ethical conflict).

The most interesting aspect has been with peers where I didn't have the same ethical requirement to use their language. There have been several people who tried to talk me out of not using a particular slur ("lame" and "crazy" are two of the most commonly referenced as 'everyone uses this' which I find interesting). Another subset of people seem to assume that I've somehow been brainwashed into this choice, as if I couldn't make the choice of my own volition. In addition to the negation of my mind and agency, it's also interesting as a statement of how far they believe people can "sincerely" or "legitimately" go in terms of language use in the context of social justice.

Another subset of people seem to think that I made this choice, like my choice to vigorously interrogate my relationship with being identified "white", as a form of self-hatred, or some massive onus I've accepted, Christ-like, as a way to avoid being crucified. The unspoken assumptions in this are also interesting in terms of how people relate to racial identity, and what people believe can motivate them.

The truth is, removing slurs has forced me to be more thoughtful about what I really mean when I say something is bad. It's forced me to be aware of some of my own unconscious biases through the lens of substituting insults for slurs. I've found I feel clearer and more loving after engaging in these activities, and over the years it's become easier and easier to not only use language thoughtfully but also to be open to feedback on ways I can further improve and let me truly hear perspectives I might have dismissed years ago.

A lot of how we do something has to do with the motivations behind it, and I a lot of those motivations are unconscious and implicit.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:33 PM on October 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


This is easy when the person is essentially saying "You're standing on my foot." It is exponentially more difficult when the person is saying, "You're standing on that guy over there's foot, and I know you don't see how, and I know that guy hasn't said anything about it, and is in fact telling you it's fine, but in fact, you're really standing on his foot, and I don't need to tell you why because You Should Know."

This seems to come perilously close to saying that one cannot object to a term or phrase unless it's a term or phrased used to disparage one's own group - so, if you're a guy, you don't get to tell a guy friend that you don't like it when they use the word bitch when talking about a woman to you, or if you're straight, you don't get to ask your friend to quit with the stupid gay jokes already.

When that person modifies their language in that situation, they are often not doing it to stop hurting that person over there, they are doing it because they think you're crazy and are pacifying you. And the instant you're gone, they're going to use the same language they are used to using.

Honestly, so what? I have made my boundaries clear. I am not the boss of them when they are not with me, but it's possible, even likely, that other friends who have seen me ask that person to please stop saying [thing] might feel better about making similar requests. White people in power didn't stop using the n-word in public because they suddenly all got anti-racist, you know? They stopped using it because the social cost of not doing so was too high.
posted by rtha at 5:19 PM on October 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


I like both Laurie Penny's and Roxane Gay's writing, so I'm oddly pleased at the prospect of the two of them chatting.
posted by homunculus at 6:36 PM on October 10, 2014


I realize that 99% of Metafilter is 100% on board with policing the language of other people to meet their personal standards of what constitutes a slur. But I think it's important to point out that this is a distinctly rare point of view in the United States, even if that POV happens to be heavily concentrated here.

The VAST majority of Americans disagree, and they are not all idiots or bigots or right-wing assholes, as too many here assume. There is a big difference between clear slurs like nigger and fag and bitch and (more subtly) "That's so gay." And these are excellent occasions to call people out.

But very few people -- including the folks reading this -- like to be told how to talk or think. And a lot of the discussion about phrases such as "ableist" and "cis-gendered" and "lame" is not nearly as clear cut as the big slurs.

rtha says
I have made my boundaries clear. I am not the boss of them when they are not with me...

Why do you think you're the boss of anyone when you ARE with them? Sorry to single you out, but I think that is a good example of what many, many people would find to be superior or condescending attitudes about picky issues of language. And THAT is what most people mean when they use the phrase "political correctness."

If you have a relationship with someone, then it may be appropriate to bring up concerns about unintentional slurs in edge cases. But if you don't, online or off, that's quite a leap. And it's even possible that you might not be right in your judgment about which language is acceptable or not.
posted by msalt at 10:22 PM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


"I don't like it when you do that and I am going to tell you about it" is not "I am the boss of you". The imposition of social consequences such as expressions of disapproval and withholding of approval for behavior is not control or "be[ing] told how to talk or think". It's how society works.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:37 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Or, to be short, "Don't tell me how to talk" is in itself an act of telling somebody how to talk.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:37 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


And a lot of the discussion about phrases such as "ableist" and "cis-gendered" and "lame" is not nearly as clear cut as the big slurs.

"Lame" can be taken as abelist, though I'd agree it's an edge case, but neither ableist nor cis gendered are slurs.

Ableist is a recognition of the systemic exclusion and marginalization of people with physical and mental disabilities and/or differences. The name is a late addition, but we've had national legislation to try to address the discrimination already.

Cis gendered is the opposite of trans gendered, a word invented by psychologists to apply to people they wanted to pathologize, and by now widely accepted as a term for people who don't feel congruent with their bodies on the axis of gender; I have always thought the trans* community creating and applying a term to those who weren't trans* to be a rather elegant sort of justice, given how they were/are labeled for "treatment".

Both are fairly clear cut, although neither are slurs.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:25 AM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cis gendered is the opposite of trans gendered, a word invented by psychologists to apply to people they wanted to pathologize,

The freshly minted term "cis" is by no means widely accepted and to expect people to use that term would be problematic. I don't refer to myself, or anyone else, as "cis" as I see absolutely no reason to do so. Besides, if I started using "cis" in everyday life I doubt even one person in one hundred would even know what the hell I was talking about. I'm not sure exactly where msalt was going with the slur thing though, unless he meant that not using the term was a problem for some people.
posted by MikeMc at 4:53 AM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


[To forestall yet another huge fight / derail about "Cis," anyone who needs to explore that further can go read all about it in this giant Metatalk post on the subject. This post is not actually about "Cis" as a term (or "PC", etc).]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:58 AM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't expect or require other people to name themselves in ways that don't feel right to them. So yeah, it's not a slur, and no one is required to use it about themselves if they don't like.

But if you don't, online or off, that's quite a leap.

People here on this site have deliberately misgendered people, and I don't feel bad in the least for having said don't do that. People don't get to say whatever they want without consequences, and among those consequences are hearing that other people think you're wrong or rude or bigoted for insisting on continuing to use language that you know people don't like.
posted by rtha at 7:56 AM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


The thing is, people are getting called out for not using "cis-gendered" or for using "lame" (which hasn't mean 'unable to walk' for hundreds of years) or for being ableist. It's wonderful if you want to reengineer your language in any way you want, though you might expect a bit of teasing from people who don't know what you're talking about.

What I'm cautioning against is the moral judgment and scolding of people who don't accept your engineering -- something that happens here on Metafilter all the time. People who don't agree with your newly minted rules are not automatically bad, or bigoted, or Republican, or inconsiderate assholes, but that is the sense running through this thread.

In many cases, the new rules seem to be more about making the admonisher feel good and morally superior than actually solving any real-world problem. (e.g. lame)

Or, to be short, "Don't tell me how to talk" is in itself an act of telling somebody how to talk.

No, it's setting a boundary against judgmental and condescending admonitions. The way in which you tell someone they must change their language doesn't matter.
posted by msalt at 10:44 AM on October 11, 2014


I haven't seen anyone here being called out for not using cis-gendered. I guessi could have missed it.

If I say to someone, as I have, to not call Chelsea Manning "he", have I crossed some moral judgement line that should not be crossed? I am really trying to understand what it is you're getting at, specifically, when it comes to someone trying to communicate to people they're talking with when someone uses a hurtful offensive term. Is "scolding" purely in the eye of the beholder?
posted by rtha at 11:00 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, it's setting a boundary against judgmental and condescending admonitions. The way in which you tell someone they must change their language doesn't matter.

These sentences appear to contradict each other.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:48 AM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


What I'm cautioning against is the moral judgment and scolding of people who don't accept your engineering

Here is my experience about how it tends to go.

I use an unusual term, usually to refer to myself (like I use temporarily able bodied/minded). The people I'm around usually go 'Oh, What is That?', 'OMG PC language run amok I must save Deo!', or 'Right, totally.' A lot of their response depends on their background; the person who tried to talk me into using 'lame' had a history with horses and thought I was really too PC; my mom was baffled by abelism and the ensuing conversation was... interesting; my trans man close friend was thrilled when I used cis.

In the past I have been reluctant to speak up when people use slurs; then a friend found out 'gypsy' could be considered a slur and she had used it for a line of products she was selling and was horrified no one had said anything to her earlier. My own reaction to being educated about my racism was similar; I was so glad it was pointed out to me.

I'm trying to now give more people the benefit of the doubt, that they are good people who don't know something instead of assuming they will instinctively become defensive and hostile toward me for sharing some information I have that they might appreciate knowing. And we'll see how it goes from there. I'm sure that given I will continue to mark my TAB/TAM and cis qualities when I identify my other characteristics that I have a future of these conversations awaiting me.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:41 PM on October 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Me: >>No, it's setting a boundary against judgmental and condescending admonitions. The way in which you tell someone they must change their language doesn't matter.
Rustic Estruscan: >These sentences appear to contradict each other.

Only if you start with the assumption that you have a right to tell strangers how they should be speaking. If you cross a boundary by admonishing people, it doesn't fix it if you do so sweetly with phrases like "Oh, darling, I'm sure you meant no harm by your words, but..."

When someone is using a clear slur, it's good to call them out on it. But language is collective and cultural. You can't decide logically what it should be; otherwise, we'd all be speaking Esperanto. Naming is very complex and deep, and I despise language nags like James Kirkpatrick and William Safire.

Calling people out on the edge cases is not the morally unambiguous good some people make it out to be. This thread is littered with black and white judgments, such as "Then... they are all assholes" and "you can't have the dialogue about why the language is hurtful while you're still using it" and "white, privileged man-babies crying because they can't use hurtful and oppressive language freely..."

I believe that is heading down the path that Katherine Cross warned about in her excellent essay:

The phrase ‘social justice warrior’ was originally coined on Tumblr to describe a dangerous tendency among some leftist activists to aggressively and angrily pursue political goals according to strict ideological codes, often to the detriment of others, with no clear collective gain, but significant personal aggrandizement. It is a tendency that I and many others have been critiquing and thinking about long before GamerGate.
posted by msalt at 10:33 PM on October 11, 2014


When someone is using a clear slur, it's good to call them out on it.

And who decides when something is a "clear slur"?
posted by soundguy99 at 1:40 AM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


People have a right to say hurtful things; people have a right to criticize people for saying hurtful things; people have a right not to listen to such criticism; and people have a right to judge as they see fit those who don't listen to it.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:27 AM on October 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


[folks, let's try and keep the conversation civil, no need to inject racially charged language into this discussion]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:16 PM on October 12, 2014


There are two things that complicate this kind of discussion (and it is a kind of discussion).

First, the underlying goal is to increase empathy. That's an awesome goal. To do that on a societal level you need to change the way people think.

But changing the way people think on a societal level is really goddam hard. So you have to group together, with other like-minded people, and all push at the same time.

This makes it an essentially tribal endeavour. While this is effective (collective action > individual action) and comforting (it's awesome being in a group of like minded people) it can lead to shrillness, and hair-splitting and schisming and and casting-out and all that stuff. People from outside the tribe can look at this and question whether the goal was ever that important - which is completely unfair, but there you go. You don't change the way a society thinks and still get to be fair to everyone.

Second, while the way the change is headed is towards more empathy, (which is a fantastic direction, more empathy is what the world needs) acting as a tribe kind of intrinsically denies empathy. There is your side, and the other side. And your side is right and the other side is wrong.

So the feeling that people who want more empathy in society (because that's a great goal) but aren't in the tribe get is that the only way they can be in on achieving this great goal is to be In The Tribe. Which isn't always that attractive, because it's a tribe, as above. So they get testy, and the tribe registers that as OTHER and eventually starts saying things that come across as (paraphrased) screaming HAVE SOME MORE EMPATHY YOU FUCKING MONSTER into people's spittle-flecked faces.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:39 PM on October 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


The imposition of social consequences such as expressions of disapproval and withholding of approval for behavior is not control or "be[ing] told how to talk or think". It's how society works.

That is, in fact, how society works - but it's only the illusion of a free society (as in, the social equivalent of the free market, not as in, oppression everywhere). Because some social disapproval is acceptable and other social disapproval is not acceptable. Even if we agree with where those lines are drawn, it's still pretty clear there is, in fact, some government action there.

For example, I'm reminded of those proms down South, where parents started collectively hosting proms so that the schools wouldn't be on the hook for segregated or gay-excluding proms. Those societies tried to use social disapproval and rejection from private events in order to create the society they wanted to see. As I recall, they were ordered to open up, because the effect was racially discriminatory or sexuality discriminatory.

I am not saying the effect of opening things up was necessarily bad - but what I am saying is that this sort of stuff is, at its core, government backed, because broad swaths of society do not, in fact, support this stuff, and so we are not talking about self-enforcement by people's own society.
posted by corb at 6:45 AM on October 13, 2014


And who decides when something is a "clear slur"?

Most of the language-checking I'm seeing doesn't involve slurs at all. Rather it's about the premise that words and concepts like "oppression," "homophobia," "coming out," and "heterosexism" can only be used by select groups.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:14 AM on October 13, 2014


Rather it's about the premise that words and concepts like "oppression," "homophobia," "coming out," and "heterosexism" can only be used by select groups.

I don't understand what you're saying here.
posted by rtha at 7:41 AM on October 13, 2014


First, the underlying goal is to increase empathy.

The underlying goal is to decrease the bigotry of the system, not to decrease the number of bigots in the system. Though the latter is certainly laudable in itself, focusing on it won't necessarily accomplish the former: A group of well-meaning, empathetic, enlightened people can still marginalize the already marginalized. That said, this is just my understanding, my opinion.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:00 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't understand what you're saying here.

For example, the fact that bisexual-identified people experience high levels of relationship violence including sexual assault can't (under that ideology) be called "homophobia" or "oppression" because bisexual-identified people have the potential for straight-passing privilege. For bisexual people to use that language to describe our own experiences supposedly harms gays and lesbians.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:12 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


That has not been my experience in the queer communities I've been in (not for a couple decades, anyway), and I'm very sorry it's been yours. From my perspective, you are absolutely allowed to use terms like that to describe your experiences at the hands of oppression and homophobia.
posted by rtha at 8:43 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


corb: For example, I'm reminded of those proms down South, where parents started collectively hosting proms so that the schools wouldn't be on the hook for segregated or gay-excluding proms. Those societies tried to use social disapproval and rejection from private events in order to create the society they wanted to see. As I recall, they were ordered to open up, because the effect was racially discriminatory or sexuality discriminatory.

That's not even close to what happened in Wilcox County, which was the one that got the most national attention recently:
There will still be two proms this year. Neither proms are financed by or allowed to take place at Wilcox County High School. The students said that when they pushed for one prom, the school offered a resolution to permit an integrated prom that would allow all students to attend but not stop segregated proms.
The idea for the integrated prom and the effort organizing it came from the student body, and since the government cannot and does not get involved in privately-organized events, no one was "ordered" to open up.

Perhaps you have a cite for some other instance that matches your version of events?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:11 AM on October 13, 2014


Sure. Here's one about the parent-sponsored prom in Itawamba being canceled for fear of lawsuit, not social disapproval. Then another one about them creating a decoy prom to avoid lawsuit.

(NB: I'm not saying these are good people, or what they did was right, I'm saying that it's an example of governmental interference into the societal disapproval process. People are correct that they need to fear their regulation of their social actions and lives, even if those actions and lives are pretty awful.)
posted by corb at 10:05 AM on October 13, 2014


I'm saying that it's an example of governmental interference

"Fear of lawsuit" =/= "governmental interference", which itself was a moving of the goalposts from "ordered to open up."
posted by tonycpsu at 10:09 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, if you want you can nitpick whatever I'm saying, but the point I'm trying to make is that people are not simply having to deal with social disapproval - there are real consequences, and often a lot of the flak is coming in from outside the small local society where these things are happening. Bullying people to do the right thing is still bullying.
posted by corb at 10:11 AM on October 13, 2014


Puh-lease. It's not nitpicking to ask that you not wildly overstate the actual sequence of events that serves as the only factual basis for the point you're trying to make. It is in fact essential to your point that the government, not individual citizens, be the entity creating pressure, and that hasn't happened in any of those cases.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:15 AM on October 13, 2014


There was, in fact, a lawsuit that caused the initial fear of subsequent lawsuits - did you not see that?
posted by corb at 10:23 AM on October 13, 2014


In your second link, yes, because that wasn't a private event, and the government clearly has the right to enforce non-discrimination at official public school events. That's not governmental interference in private society, it's governmental enforcement of its own standards on its own property.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:26 AM on October 13, 2014


Social disapproval is a real consequence. Telling someone you are not going to be inviting them to future events you plan because they won't quit making racist jokes is not "bullying." The racist-joke-making person has a choice, and so do I.
posted by rtha at 11:45 AM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you are tired of being called a SJW, you can always give one of the other classes a try.

Anita Sarkeesian is a wizard.
posted by homunculus at 11:49 AM on October 13, 2014




Given that Gamergate is a clotted, hyperbolic reaction to sentiments like 'if you're not with us you're against us', I'm not sure that's an effective tactic.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:40 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gamergate itself is mystification and mist. No one, after months of conversation, has managed to condense it into a solid scandal deserving of anger. Its supporters ignore the real corruption in games - the American military's use of popular game series as recruitment tools, for instance, or the typical corruption involved in all trade journalism - in favor of that which they see in the industry's increasing political liberalism. They certainly have no scruples over tone and tactics, or those who do are unwilling to stop those who don't.

It began with a man accusing his ex of trading sexual favors for good coverage, which accusation turned out to be groundless. Shortly thereafter, a woman released another installment of her polite series on sexism in video games. Gamergate's supporters proceeded to harass these women for fictional corruption and courteous feminism, and they harassed these women's supporters, too, for supporting them. But for all that, Gamergate's opponents are clearly the ones with the problem.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:04 PM on October 13, 2014


How is the military using games as a recruiting tool an example of corruption? It may well be problematic for a wide variety of reasons but I don't see it as in any way corrupt.
posted by Justinian at 3:28 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know, that's a fair point. I can't think of how that might be corruption, except insofar as the military takes an active role in games' development so as to make them into better recruitment tools. I got carried away; sorry.

That said, I think the larger point stands: Gamergate isn't an identifiable scandal. There's vapor where an outrage should be.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:44 PM on October 13, 2014


I agree with that. #GamerGate is mostly a bunch of fedora-beclad miladying neckbeards getting ragey because girl cooties are touching their games.
posted by Justinian at 4:01 PM on October 13, 2014


Literally, the "corruption" that caused the #GamerGate tag to take off was gaming websites refusing to "cover" the "controversy" about someone claiming a good review had been bought with sexual favors when in fact there was no such review.

Game journalists refusing to write about a nonsensically false accusation: #GamerGate!
posted by straight at 4:13 PM on October 13, 2014


Their claim was that the review was deleted once the issue came to light. I'm not saying that's true but that's what they claimed.
posted by Justinian at 4:17 PM on October 13, 2014


(Actually, I'm saying its false since "not saying its true" could be misconstrued as one of those "I'm only asking the question" dodges).
posted by Justinian at 4:23 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Paranoid Style in American Gaming
posted by brundlefly at 5:43 PM on October 13, 2014


Clearly GamerGate started as a butthurt vendetta by a dumped boyfriend, and misogyny has always been a major ingredient in that stew. I think it's clear that it has morphed into something else --joined by conservative cultural warriors sensing a foothold in the younger geek crowd, and some libertarian/4chan/Reddit "no censorship EVAH" absolutists.

When I argue with folks lately, it's all about DCMA takedowns and websites censoring comment sections. The original seed has been forgotten or even explicitly disavowed. I'm not saying it's logical or justified, but it's different and the attitude of "they are all X" is not useful, especially if you want to stand against it.
posted by msalt at 10:01 PM on October 13, 2014


Brianna Wu was chased out of her home on Saturday. The original seed--harassing and threatening women for being women and having a viewpoint on social issues--has not been forgotten. When they keep on lying about all the reasons, whether it's DMCAs (that never happened) or websites "censoring" comments (not censorship), or journalistic ethics, or attempts to shut down gaming, they are contributing to that hostility. When the harassment and threatening happens, and their response is to manufacture the many counter-examples that have thus far been mythical, they are contributing more to the hostility. When they continue to harp on Sarkeesian and Quinn and sexual favors and people talking about representation as the cancer that is killing gaming, they are engaging in the hostility. Until the blatant lies and pseudo-insurgent tactics and harassment stops, or the movement morphs into something that takes on very real problems (like AAA publishers and the press), they've given us no reason to believe that anything has changed. All they're doing now is what they think is changing their face, and because those tactics are still in play, we shouldn't be falling for it.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:01 AM on October 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


If they've forgotten about the "original seed" they sure do rant about SJWs and feminazis a whole lot.
posted by brundlefly at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]




Now seems a good time to mention Brianna Wu is on a podcast named Isometric, which is awesome and covers gaming from multiple perspectives. They sometimes talk about the harassment they receive (primarily Brianna and the games journalist of the group, Maddy Myers) but usually it's about games, the history of games, analysis of games, etc...

What's awesomest about it is the wide perspectives: Georgia is relatively new to gaming and likes fun, bouncy things and sneaky violent murder; Maddy is a long time gamer, recently come to feminism who sometimes talks about how her perspective has changed over the last decade; Brianna is a game developer who often looks at games from that perspective and is very good at analysis; and Steve is a long time gamer with kids. Both Maddy and Brianna talk about gaming with their spouses, and Steve talks about gaming with his spouse and kids, so you end up with all of these different perspectives converging in one place. And yet everyone REALLY LIKES each other, and they disagree with good humor and in an entertaining way, and it's both informative and an image of a world I really like, and one I would like to have spread.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:39 PM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]




Wow, this Deadspin article about GamerGate is long but excellent.
posted by msalt at 12:41 PM on October 15, 2014


And in an act of self-Godwining Sarkeesian talk canceled due to death threat.
If you do not cancel her talk, a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as students and staff at the nearby Women's Center.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:01 PM on October 15, 2014


Note that Sarkeesian cancelled after being informed that people with firearm permits would be allowed to bring loaded weapons into the event.
posted by Justinian at 1:13 PM on October 15, 2014


I think when you have a terrorist threat and the venue is prevented by state law from implementing basic security precautions, that cancellation seems like the best idea.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:52 PM on October 15, 2014


Is there really no way that that threat can be traced? I don't know much about computer security but the feds seem to catch kiddie porn enthusiasts and wannabe jihadis pretty regularly through their online activity.
posted by msalt at 3:10 PM on October 15, 2014


Basic security precautions mean beefed up security, not disarming the office. I like Sarkeesian, but she is nowhere near the level of a head of state whose security requires such draconian measures.
posted by corb at 3:13 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Basic security precautions mean beefed up security, not disarming the office. I like Sarkeesian, but she is nowhere near the level of a head of state whose security requires such draconian measures.

Pure bullshit. I've walked through metal detectors in dozens of workplaces including most schools I've visited and been wanded at concerts and sporting events based entirely on the notion of vague possibilities of potential violence. It's only draconian if your ego and sense of entitlement gets in the way of common-sense firearm safety discipline.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:02 PM on October 15, 2014 [9 favorites]


and (more subtly) "That's so gay."

Try being gay. It's really, really not any more subtle than any other common slurs.

As for Sarkeesian... whoever made those threats needs to be found, charged with whatever crimes are legally called for (not familiar with Utah statutes obviously but there's got to be something), and hopefully convicted.

They won't be, of course, which is a huge part of the problem.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:41 PM on October 15, 2014


Note that Sarkeesian cancelled after being informed that people with firearm permits would be allowed to bring loaded weapons into the event.

And it turns out that USU didn't actually inform her.
posted by homunculus at 12:01 AM on October 16, 2014


Didn't inform her of the threat it sounds like, which is bullshit. When she found out about it on her own and then asked about the guns they refused to stop people from bringing them. At least that's what I got out of the various reports.
posted by Justinian at 1:53 AM on October 16, 2014


Yeah, sorry, but just because you can carry a gun, it doesn't mean you should or that all places are equally appropriate to have one. Specific threats involving gun violence seem to me like a no-brainer when it comes to "sorry, can't have guns here."

And you can bet your bippy that if it were a politician slated to speak, they'd enforce a no-guns-here rule with such a threat in place. But, meh, she's just a woman and she's uppity to boot. I cannot believe that wasn't a major factor at play here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:36 AM on October 16, 2014


From the local Fox affiliate: Feminist gamer won’t speak at Utah schools until guns prohibited
“I have had threats at other events, and each time that happens I take it very seriously and usually the location I’m speaking at takes it very seriously,” she said. “So, this was the first time I had ever declined to do an event.”

The feminist writer was scheduled to give a discussion on how women are portrayed in video games Wednesday. But Monday evening, someone sent an email to the school, threatening “a Montreal massacre style attack” if Sarkeesian did not cancel.

“I thought it was pretty reasonable to ask for a metal detector or pat down to ensure that there would be no firearms in the auditorium,” Sarkeesian said.

However, Sarkeesian said Utah State University’s response was minimal and maintains the school didn’t even tell her about the threat, Tweeting that she found out about the threat from social media after arriving in Utah.

While USU was working with local law enforcement to increase police presence at the event, they could not guarantee guests wouldn’t bring in a firearm. Due to state law, school officials said they had to allow people with concealed carry permits to exercise their right to carry.

“Not being able to do something about that, or take precautionary measures, in terms of preventing firearms in the lecture hall, is completely outrageous,” Sarkeesian said. “This was direct, specific, credible threats that were specifically stating the types of weapons that they would use about a mass shooting.”

According to Salt Lake City defense attorney Greg Skordas, the university would have been within their legal rights to restrict firearms to the specific location, given the threats.

“I don’t think anyone can read state law to say that a person can carry a firearm on a university campus at all times, for any reason,” explained Skordas. “There are certainly some exceptions to that, and this case seemed to have some basis for people to consider those exceptions.”
posted by zombieflanders at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


utah isn't exactly a haven for feminism. i love the big brave voices that speak out against the church and their ideals, but even state run things are really run by the interests of the lds. her cancelling would be seen as a win by some, and for no reasons relating to gaming.
posted by nadawi at 9:44 AM on October 16, 2014


The #GamerGhost hashtag is currently pretty amusing.

But then she said, "It turns out the harassment campaign is coming from INSIDE THE ESCAPIST" #GamerGhost

You stare at the headstone, which reads "MISANDRY IS REAL 2007-?" A hand shoots out of the grave, clutching an Xbox controller. #GamerGhost

You put the baby to bed but as you turn around to walk out the room you hear its tiny voice say, "It's about ethics Daddy." #GamerGhost
posted by straight at 1:28 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]




One of those heroes, Jeff Gerstmann, wrote a codemnation of Gamergate.

One of them responded saying that his friend Ryan Davies, who also left Gamespot over the Kane and Lynch review controversy and died last year, would be disappointed in him.

I can't even.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:12 PM on October 18, 2014


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