When I was fourteen years old, I accidentally stepped into the world of SJW-ism. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that I fell into it facefirst.
It was an easy trap to fall into. I had been identifying as a feminist all of my life, due to my mom working for a non-profit organization. She had been to countries where girls are not allowed to go to school, where they can be married off to older men without any say in the matter, where she herself could not go outside without a male colleague.
Naturally, when I learned about these horrible things, I wanted to be part of something that would improve them, so I began to call myself a feminist. So at fourteen, when I first joined Instagram, I followed a few feminist accounts. Less than a month later, most of my following would be feminist accounts, and that was what filled my home page every day.
These accounts introduced to me something called “intersectional feminism”. It was a wonderful idea: a sect of feminism devoted to providing equality between all people. It promised to be especially inclusive of racial minorities, LGBT, disabled people, and so on. To my younger self, this sounded like everything I’d always believed in: respect, equality, and treating everyone with kindness.
I still maintain that intersectional feminism is a great idea. Unfortunately, like many other great ideas, its execution can be ineffective and flawed. So was the case with the feminist accounts that I followed. They started off moderate but began to change, and my ideas went with them.
I have always considered myself to be an individualistic person. It is scary to look back on how screenshotted Tumblr posts pulled me into that collective mindset. The SJWs have very effective ways of convincing people, especially young people, to join them. “If you don’t think xyz, then you are a bad feminist” is the one that got me.
I think this article by Areo Magazine sums it up well when it says, “Liberal feminism had shifted from the universality of equal human rights to identity politics. No longer were ideas valued on their merit but on the identity of the speaker and this was multifaceted, incorporating sex, gender identity, race, religion, sexuality and physical ability. The value of an identity in social justice terms is dependent on its degree of marginalization, and these stack up and vie for primacy.”
In other words, people lost sight of the important things. Feminism began to mean SJWs, and their never-ending game of Oppression Olympics. Those who were deemed “too privileged” were ignored when they tried to express an opinion. And I am ashamed to say that I probably contributed to that.
Having interacted with many SJWs, and of course having been one myself, I want to say that not all SJWs mean to be the Identity Police. Many of them, and maybe even the majority, really do think that they’re helping the communities that they see as “marginalized and oppressed”. They truly care about social justice issues. Unfortunately, good intentions really do pave the road to hell.
I remember exactly when and why I left my SJW days behind. I was scrolling through the feminist accounts that had become so toxic, when I noticed a new trend. People were censoring the words “stupid”, “dumb”, “idiot”, “moron”, “mad”, and even “bad” on the basis that they were ableist slurs and offensive to mentally ill people.
This was the first time (but definitely not the last) that I read a statement that I had expected to agree with, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get behind it. I find it even more offensive to mollycoddle mentally ill people and protect them from “bad words” (words which children use freely) as if they’re too fragile to cope with this.
That was the day that I unfollowed all of those feminist accounts on Instagram. I looked around for feminist accounts or blogs that I could agree with, but found none. In fact, I found that my views were more likely to line up with those of egalitarians, or even moderate anti-feminists.
This brought up a lot of hard questions: Should I continue identifying as a feminist? Should I call myself egalitarian instead? Should I give up feminism as a lost cause, as so many other people out there are doing? Should I break free of labels entirely and not tie myself to any particular ideology?
Right now, I’ve reached something of a middle ground. I don’t label myself according to any ideology. Instead, I follow people from several different points on the political spectrum. Whenever an issue comes up, I read through all of their various opinions and then form my own through critical thinking. I’m much happier now than when I would succumb to confirmation bias and believe things just because that was the “feminist opinion”.
I suppose that, in conclusion, my advice to anyone reading is to never underestimate the value of critical thinking. It’s important to free yourself from that echo chamber and listen to a multitude of voices with many different perspectives. There are many sides to every story, and you are doing yourself a disservice if you are only open to one.