Should Social Justice Warriors reclaim the term Social Justice Warriors?

From Wiktionary:

n. - warrior (plural warriors)

A person who is actively engaged in battle, conflict or warfare; a soldier or combatant.

From Middle English werreour, from Anglo-Norman warrier Old French guerreier (“fighter, combattant”), from Late Latin guerra (“war”)

And from Wikipedia’s entry on the term:

A warrior is a person specializing in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based society that recognizes a separate warrior class or caste.

And from

a person engaged or experienced in warfare; soldier.

How could the word “warrior” NOT automatically imply war and violence? It literally means “one who wars”. It has ALWAYS meant that. It has never NOT meant that. I just… what?

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This is getting seriously off-topic, but in one word: usage. It’s not uncommon to describe nonviolent activists, for example, as “warriors.” For example, I once heard someone describe treesitters protesting a bypass through old-growth forest as “eco-warriors.”

To answer the question of the new topic, I can’t think of any reason why they — I guess I mean ‘we’ — shouldn’t. And since it’s being used as a slur in an anti-intuitive fashion by the trolls, that’s one good reason to do it.

Fear of rhetoric doesn’t strike me as being terribly cromulent. We’re barely sane macrocephalic apes; if we had no words for war, we’d still be in equal danger of turning the conflict nastier than it is already.

You ignore everyday usage, where non-violent activists are often called warriors, and ignore etymology where war could refer to several types of conflict, and there were specific words for military conflict [I know of Gothic drauhtinassus, I don’t know of the English equivalent].

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There’s a difference between being opposed to US military aggression, and being a pacifist.


An interesting note: Notice that the word “warrior” is generally applied to one’s own, rather than the enemy. You will hear “enemy combatants”, “enemy troops”, “enemy soldiers”, but pretty much never hear “enemy warriors” unless it’s an enemy who is greatly respected. In many circles, the term is associated with values like bravery, honor, and self-sacrifice.

In other words, it seems to be the term of choice for someone who fights (yes, also literally wages war) to defend “us” or who is an or honorable opponent, as opposed to being a dishonorable or alien threat. The only people who seem to view the word negatively are those who oppose fighting in any context.

The rest of the phrase “Social Justice Warriors” is something that is good in every literal and colloquial use. The only way for it to be negative is to use it ironically or mockingly- a perversion of the meaning through association, rather than a literal meaning that is itself offensive.

The way I see it, that’s pretty much the ideal type of word/phrase to be reclaimed.


This is from 2001

Finally, this paper describes a new social justice warrior, who attacks existing social norms and programs to achieve greater social justice and advance social goals not readily accepted by the general public. In advocating for unwelcome changes, these warriors are often accused of violating the social contract and being “Un-American.” Subjected to close scrutiny and often acts of violence because of their high profile, these new warriors are also very often accused of corruption, sometimes legitimately and sometimes not.

This is from 1998

This book is dedicated to the memory of a great environmental and social justice
warrior, mother, labor organizer, singer-songwriter, Earth Firstler activist, and much, much
more Judi Bari (1949-1977)

A war for social justice implies a continued, strategic campaign to push the social environment in a specific direction. Seen as a individual tactical disputes, those who resist seem a bit asinine, retrograde. or merely wrong. But that doesn’t mean that the strategic goal of the war is to be embraced with open arms.

For instance, I’ve played many games where prostitution was part of the plot, part of the atmosphere, part of the story-- fallout, planescape torment, a dance with rogues. No, I haven’t played GTA. Some of them were really good games. And I’d be loath to support a movement at this time where the eventual outcome is that such games are forgotten or despised. That’s not an endgame I’d like to see. I think some people are afraid that that’s exactly what the so called SJWs have in mind.

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An observation:

The language of warfare has been invoked many times in reference to gamergate this week.

The US Civil War



Why is Ms. Penny’s act to reclaim the “Social Justice Warrior” the only instance that deserves handwringing about the vibe of the nouns of war?

full disclosure: I’m not ashamed to align with social justice warriors.


I see you more as a badass social justice dragon.


Not the OP, and I don’t mean to speak for them…

But I do doubt that that was the implication of what they said. Rather it was a moment of perspective, a more intelligent version of the ever annoying “#firstworldproblems” meme.

We should keep in mind that we’re rallying against basically forum trolls in the arena of first world media culture, and putting down organized state-sponsored regimes of oppression, or deep institutional discrimination. This doesn’t mean people should react, just they should realize that they are fighting a minor skirmish in a giant and bloody war, and not the war itself (to use the annoying military speak). Its still worth standing up to, obviously.

Again, not the OP… They might have meant something completely different, and this is only my (potentially very wrong) interpretation of their words.

Did you just call me a firemouthbreather?!?


I’m fine with “social justice warrior”, but I think I’ll stick to my long-standing project of reclaiming the term, “socialist”.


I’m not going to commit to one side or another of the gamercaust, as I haven’t played anything more involving than kmahjongg for a few years now. The larger issues are what I was speaking to, and the lazy tropes of bigotry are so toned down and coded now that they really don’t belong in any competent expression of art at all, regardless of the medium. There’s historical context, sure, but only to the extent that the POV and expectations of the characters will be something distinctly separate from the POV and expectations of most readers/viewers/players.

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Agreed fully on this point. This here extends far beyond culture struggles and very much into daily life. How we speak about a third party affects not only them but our own thoughts as well and seems to lead very quickly into the paradox of tolerance problem which essentially dehumanizes the self as well as the other.

As for your main point, if I think for a moment, my objection to the “warrior” term in the social context is that of hyperbole as well as the false equivalence you mention.

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It worked for the suffragettes.


Found this today, thought it sounded relevant:

“The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”


That would be an odd sentiment for him, since such a separation hadn’t really been contemplated, and it seems to be a misattribution.

It looks like the full quote is “The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards”, from British officer William Butler.


Peace activists do not, as a rule, appreciate being called “Peace warriors.”

Not the least for the self-defeat inherent in such a term.

What about Green Peace? :slight_smile:

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heh. But they aren’t Peace Activists so much as Eco Warriors, and as such participate in perpetuating the predominant polarized partriarchal paradigm.

You can call a lamb’s tail a leg, but that doesn’t mean it has 5 legs.