|This article covers a topic that, by its very nature, is a magnet for flamewars. Try not to get too assmad at what you're about to read.|
Expect huge amounts of derp and rage, punctuated by /tg/ extracting humor from it.
"The only way to win is to not read the crazy, and just fap and/or shlick to the pictures."
- – /d/
"People love to pretend they're offended."
- – Matt Groening
Skub's final form.
SJW stands for Social Justice Warrior, a term originated in the late '90s to mid-2000's, where it was originally more neutral and meant to refer to ardent or outspoken advocates of social change, usually for 'furthering' civil rights. This generally meant someone who demanded that all races, classes, genders, sexuality, and other groups (with members who can't leave voluntarily) be represented in media and treated with equal respect.
Nowadays it has taken on a less-than-savory connotation, especially to people within 4chan, later /pol/ and especially within /v/ - the lattermost is a partial by-product of the GamerGate shenanigans, which helped shift the term into its present form. The modern usage of SJW refers largely to people who demand that media and society be inclusive and inoffensive (in practice, usually only to groups with a reputation for being disadvantaged and those whose beliefs align with the SJW in question) before all else, basically trying to police all media and, by proxy, the rest of society.
SJWs also tend to chuck that aforementioned respect out the airlock as they prioritize looking and feeling "good" over actually doing good, like most zealots. They frequently employ simplistic and/or ahistorical analysis that could wring both tears and rage from any fa/tg/uy's inner history buff (and not just the ones with military vehicle fetishes, either). Such piping hot takes also open them up to "easy debunking" - said debunkings are often by a mix of opportunists looking for an easy 'gotcha', /pol/acks looking for an easy triggering or (perhaps most rarely) people who actually studied their shit, with bonus points if said people are left of center and/or themselves part of said minorities on whose behalf the SJWs pull this shit. In the case of the first two, the debunking may itself be poorly researched - most political discussions set the bar amazingly low, if you hadn't guessed.
In short, nowadays it's associated with activists that advocate a progressive societal change/view that non-progressives, and sometimes even progressive groups like feminists and minority activists perceive to be ostracizing, harmful or unnecessary. (Note that this mostly subjective, which is why the definition is so contentious to begin with.)
Expect Social Justice Warriors to show up or at least be mentioned anytime some combination of the following occurs:
- A) a popular figure does or says something considered offensive, whether legitimately so or otherwise;
- B) some asshole's trying to shut up people they're being rude to;
- C) someone is harmlessly being a bit less politically correct than people want them to; and
- D) someone is being far less politically correct than the situation warrants.
- E) there isn't enough presentation for ethno-social groups that are already infinitesimal to begin with.
On that note, feel free to play a drinking game where you take a shot each time Godwin's Law is invoked, and be sure to bid your liver farewell before hand.
Expect the affected thread and any other nearby discussion to be derailed in short order; this is becoming more and more frequent on /tg/ lately as hobbies like MTG and Warhammer 40k are being subjected to changes viewed as "progressive" that generate unholy waves of skub. This often appears in the forms of users being accused of bigotry for either not checking off enough "oppressed minority" checkboxes in character creation, or else portraying certain groups too positively. The sources are generally either the usual crowd of trolls mind shit stirrers, or else these actual morons who want to show off their 'good guy' badges and miss the point of their ideals entirely. Naturally, most people who hold similar views prefer to voice them only when appropriate to do so, and outside of the radical fringe they differ from the average fa/tg/uy only by the presence of a few things they think tabletop games could be better at doing.
This can and does often lead to rifts in communities, with creators (most often independent ones) facing harassment and death threats, and any legitimate criticisms immediately getting lost in the mix of mob mentality - just like most of the internet.
There are plenty of examples, but the average fa/tg/uy is unlikely to care about most of them outside of the few relevant ones discussed further below.
...so why is this a big deal again?
The crux of the problem is that SJWs tend to emulate previous "moral guardians" to popular culture. Moral panics such as the hysteria surrounding hip-hop, rock music and (most relevantly) Dungeons & Dragons ever since their creation were driven by people who claimed to be protecting their children from the "evils" within certain media works, as well as seeing enemies under every rock or choosing to die on hills that are ultimately of no consequence.
To use pen-and-paper RPGs as an example, the mostly-Christian right-wingers of the late 70s believed them to be a gateway to devil worship, and thus eternal damnation because of a misunderstanding. Game developers lifted elements from real-life occultism and black magic practices for themes and stories which was mistaken for trying to promote these practices. The response to this huge outcry mostly consisted of renaming or remodeling a bunch of shit (e.g. demons and devils were now Tanar'ri and Baatezu and in-universe occult symbols were redesigned). More concerning were a few murders and suicides by known players; given that the game wasn't as high-profile and these people were considered the face of it by some groups, these tragic events nearly damned the games by association.
This sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but the massive uproar back then was a real threat to the survival of the fledgling RPG genre, Dungeons & Dragons foremost among the accused. For more details on that sad, stupid time, see Satanic Panic.
Where most moral panics in America are often attributed and traced back said elderly outspoken conservative Christians, with SJWs it's different - they are generally younger, left-leaning, tend to be non-religious or also anti-religious, and come from that lefty-hippie background of acceptance and inclusiveness. Many have turned from simply promoting acceptance of varied interests, lifestyles, and hobbies to policing them for proper behavior and raising hell when they find something they don't like. Maybe it's too objectifying, maybe it's not inclusive or diverse enough, maybe it portrays a group they disagree with in too positive a manner; either way it is promoting bigotry and bad behavior and must be changed accordingly. Some extreme SJW's even start demonizing other groups of people in similar manner to the bigots they rage against, becoming bigots themselves just with different groups being targeted.
For the modern SJW, replace the religious issues with socio-political ones, pick a random issue somewhere in the Left (sometimes Far Left) using an advocacy dart board, and you can find someone who is ready and willing to start petitions, run boycotts, and send death threats to the creators of Your Favorite ThingTM.
In short, while there are a few differences, they've joined the ranks of still-existing moral guardians before them through a combination of sheer overzealousness, hatred of a particular group, the usual co-opting by corporations who use their ideologies as a new way to promote their brands, and the plentiful organizations and other third parties willing to fund completely ineffective political actions to whatever ends they may desire, whether it be for fame or a name.
Further Relevance to /tg/
While SJWs mostly focus on comics, movies and video games, they've found relatively little traction on tabletop games - it's widely considered more obscure in comparison to other forms of media, thus not warranting scrutiny OR continued interest to the SJW's inner hipster. Movies are delivered as a finished product that usually cannot be tampered with, so they have to worry more about what's given to them. Video games can sometimes be modded to some extent, but are usually more at the mercy of its creators.
However, as with any game that allows GMs and their players to make up their own shit and tailor rules and setting to their own goddamn pleasure, the consumers are the arbiters of what is canon or relevant in their private sessions; the companies simply provide the setting these sessions take place within. The 'worst' a given fa/tg/uy has to worry about is fits being thrown over given models, disingenuous pandering that's often mandated by higher-ups and sometimes enforced by devs and writers, and a loss in quality of franchise fiction (as if a ton of terrible franchise fiction isn't already out there).
Any other debates and criticisms surrounding the medium are either nearly as old as the genre itself, or else commonplace enough (e.g. impractical costume design) that it's not even exclusive to the genre anymore. -4 STR is something of an exception in this regard, given that the term originated with tabletop itself, and there has also been at least one tale of an encounter with someone who would very much fit the stereotype. This hasn't stopped them from trying, however, to the point where numerous people in high-level positions in the development of not only Dungeons & Dragons, but Pathfinder are viewed as part of the same ideological mindset, and supposedly believe that the problems with D&D, is, of course, the fanbase itself.
While this might seem to hold water due to the nature of tabletop and PnP games, more astute fa/tg/uys and ca/tg/irls might have already noticed the aforementioned logical fallacy with this: traditional gaming is fundamentally an insular hobby populated predominantly by its fans, who consist of a much wider spectrum of people than stereotypes dictate. Trying to "mandate" inclusiveness and force the hobby to fit a completely different audience who has no real interest (key words) is equal to spraying napalm to put out a fire.
Oldfags can only chuckle to themselves; the neckbeards of old saw people try to demonize or similarly alter their hobbies for Gary Gygax's entire lifetime, and know that ultimately, this crap is destined to fail just as hard as previous attempts to kill their favorite hobbies off. In turn, many gamers and self-styled movie buffs who don't understand the "players make the rules" aspect of tabletop thus fail to understand the futility of forcing roleplaying fa/tg/uys to join a "fight" that cannot threaten their fun, even in spite of the stereotype of that roleplayers define themselves solely by their hobby.
Compared to the Satanic Panic, any /tg/-related controversies that have occurred since then are hardly a blip on the radar (thankfully so) and are mostly centered around sporadic attempts at pandering by game developers trying to milk what is, to them, a new demographic.
The main reason this article exists at all is to detail the perceived threat to the hobby that defines the board and (more often) the annoyance caused by forcing unrelated political discussions on a board of people who are ideally just trying to play some damn games or otherwise mind their business.
Y'know, like most of the internet.
SJWs and WH40k
Now, you may hear complaints about wargaming, and how it has too much imperialism, war crimes, genocide, religious extremism, xenophobia, abduction, child soldiers, injury and death of minors, religious mind-rape driven war machines, rape, drug abuse, sexual exploitation, supernatural horror, etc. etc. While not mentioned by name, you can imagine they had one particular franchise in mind. Naturally, you can also imagine the lengths they went to in order to completely ignore the entire air of black vs. black morality within the setting itself (with shades of super-dark grey if you're feeling generous).
With that said, the three most common complaints about Warhammer 40,000 are the absence of Female Space Marines, the Sisters of Battle having boob plates and - tied for third - how 40k models and art seldom depicted non-Sisters of Battle women (despite lore characters such as Amberley, Kasteen, Felicia, Euphrati, Nessa, Zemelda, Adrastia...) and non-white humans (despite lore characters such as Mordecai, Mersadie, Jonah, Sulymanya, the Celestial Lions, the White Scars, the population of Nocturne, some Catachan soldiers, Vitria, Chogoris, Ahriman and most of the Thousand Sons from Prospero...), and so forth. Pretty telling of these detractors that their three major complaints raised revolve around women, with something else tacked onto number three as an afterthought...
Here is a handy quick-list of refutations, to make everyone's lives a little easier:
- Warhammer 40,000 originated as an ironic parody of hard-right authoritarianism, born out of the explosion of progressive UK Sci-Fi and Fantasy that erupted as a reaction to Margaret Thatcher's policies of moral regulation and strong executive power (as well as all the other shit that happened in then-living memory during the 20th Century). Warhammer 40k took the piss out of the conservative UK government in the same way 2000AD did, as satire and cautionary tale - a context that has been lost over time with the growing popularity of the game, the growth of the company itself and the fact that the right-leaning political climate being satirized is no longer dominant in the UK, while the more current political climate is a different beast all its own (though not without similarities).
- Anyone who actually reads the fluff (i.e. nobody who actually complains about this shit) knows that the Imperium as a body doesn't care about sex or race on that level, because the encroaching forces of grimdark make any form of discrimination impractical. Females regularly participate in every level of Imperial society. The lack of female models is a semi-regular issue that ends up at the feet of GW, who already get enough shit from pearl-clutching moral guardians about Sisters Repentia and Daemonettes to generally want to avoid gender controversy and making "redundant" models. The discrimination that does happen in the Imperium has some credible backing, in that the Imperium is an empire of semi-justified zealots: mutation is a common symptom of exposure to Chaos or other very bad things, so they figure it's best to not take chances. Female Space Marines also have a well-defined fluff reason for not existing: recent lore stated there were in-universe attempts to make Female Space Marines that failed badly so it was discontinued, and the section of the actual playerbase that clamors for female Marines generally does so with impure intent. At any rate, important characters have a higher percentage of female or LBGTQ+ representation than expendable meatgrinder characters. This goes from old characters like Yarrick being revealed to be gay to new characters like Arch Magos Exasus being non-binary.
- Until recently, GW was also terrible at sculpting female characters in most cases; the Sisters of Battle were a rare exception for years, and that's likely because they're just power-armored humans with boobplate.
- GW so rarely listened to their own customers that complaining wouldn't change shit no matter how obvious the problem was. Nowadays there is a better chance for more fan-interaction, but anyone looking for change should be taking it up with GW, not Warhammer fans.
- When it comes to racial representation, it's highly doubtful GW would purposely draw only white male characters out of spite; in fact, they've previously said that their idea was for humanity in 40k to be as ethnically and physically diverse as they are across Earth in real-life. GW said the reason for having majority white people in the art was because the early art teams were small and made art of what they knew (the UK is still populated by 95% white people, although interestingly where GW is in Nottingham is nowadays only about 65% white) and this pattern just became an unthinking habit. This is typical of a lot of fantasy work, which is often based on history or mythology from Europe or Asia where lighter skin colors are believed more common. While it is technically discriminatory, at worst it's 'unconscious bigotry' or whatever as opposed to GW being actively malicious.
- Every Warhammer Fantasy and 40k player knows that GW is simply bad at making writing decisions. Asking for well-written anyone from GW is like praying for a miracle. Furthermore, some of the most interesting characters in Fantasy were female, and got written out of canon as the years went on, so the fans are bitching just as much as any SJW would be, except with a valid fucking reason to be angry.
If you read GW's Annual report: 2015-16, you'll find there was complains about most of the staff being male even back then. To GW's credit, they answered "The Company does not consider that diversity can be best achieved by establishing specific quotas and targets and appointments will continue to be made based on merit." (p.15, if you're bored enough to check). That kinda contradicts with the "principle of boardroom diversity, which was first introduced into the Code in June 2010" mentioned on the same page, but you get it.
On the other hand, it should be noted that GW has been somewhat 'addressing' things, in Age of Sigmar anyway; several human models have non-white skin tones in their official paint jobs (and most of them look laughable with it, as they're rocking classical European features. Painting grizzly white doesn't make it a polar bear, you know), the first unhelmed Sigmarine is black, there's more than one model for a Sigmarine woman, and in the early days of AoS, the most promoted faction other than Sigmarines and Khorne was the mostly female Sylvaneth led by Alarielle the Everqueen.
Meanwhile, GW has promised on social media to "improve female representation" in 40k, specifically referring to reducing "boob-plate" in the miniature line and artwork. Age of Smegmar 2e has a female Stormcast Eternal with warning-coloration hair done up in a Trigglypuff-tier mohawk on the front cover of the BRB (then again, the Daughters of Khaine could be viewed as a caricature of radical feminists aside from being Drow with the serial numbers filed off). On the 40k side Gav Thorpe wrote a recent book (Imperator: Wrath of the Omnissiah) with a Magos who "does not identify as male or female". While this makes some sense (the Mechanicus shuns the flesh, which would presumably include gender roles) it generated a good amount of skub due to this new gender dynamic, the use of recently invented gender pronouns, how they fit into the universe, and whether or not this written in an attempt to pander to SJWs or a sign that Gav Thorpe has become one. (It should be noted that, like many GW/Black Library writers, Gav Thorpe's content is by no means 100% great reads, and this might just be a case of him finding a character interesting, political views aside, and writing them very badly.)
It's your hobby, and at day's end, any changes you make to doing what you love and loving what you do should be ultimately your decision. Don't care so much about what other people think, let alone some fanbrats and/or political brainlets who probably don't even give a shit about it to begin with. Anyone who DOES care enough about diverse characters and settings will eventually take matters into their own hands and brew some up themselves, as they should. Half the fun of Warhammer is making your armies your own anyway, like most tabletop games, so why wait for GW to change?
The wrong response (and this is almost always true, by the way), is to insult the fans for liking something they don't like. But hey, whatchagonnado? "Pretending to be offended" can cut 'both' ways, and complaining about people liking something you don't like is almost as popular here as complaining about people not liking something you love. And as long as someone makes their dudes "wrong," someone will always be yelling.
Yet again, like most of the internet.
So weigh your options and pick your battles wisely, because God knows these chucklefucks won't.
And to that end, if we're gonna deal with this subject, we might as well do so honestly.
Short Story Long
In spite of the very real issues it represents, "SJW" is also commonly used as a snarl word by many people on the right to shut down any one who advances any position left of themselves, regardless of any merit their arguments might have (because who's gonna pay attention when they've been successfully cast as "rocking the boat?"). It's also often used as a crude caricature of modern leftists to smear a rather large body of people (e.g. lumping said leftists with liberals solely on the basis that they're
left of OP left of center) and, more pertinently, misrepresent a threat to any cultural aspect you can think of (like say, entertainment and gaming). While far from exclusive to them, this is especially true of those on the /pol/ side of the right wing when they don't want to scare the normies, or at least let the caricatures do the work for them.
Beyond that, there is the media studies aspect. Some fiction does have problematic elements, and all fiction has a certain degree of subtext woven into it by its creators, either intentionally or unintentionally. Often, the general worldview of the day worms its way into media. For example, in a lot of fiction from the 1950s, female characters would usually be sidelined to supporting roles such as home keeper, while a male protagonist would be the guy who took charge and get shit done - even in a science fiction setting where, as many futurists would have speculated, women would take a greater active role in society in days to come. Acknowledging problematic elements in a work is not, in itself, the same as a condemnation of its quality or merit.
This is mostly due to the fact that writers, as a default, simply assumed that this was the way things were in that world, unless they were deliberately making a point about how a specific facet of society would be changed in the future, was different in the past, is different on Elfworld, etc. Tropes built around the worldview of one generation persist into the next because people write what they know, often taking their worldview for granted and/or following the leader without considering all the implications - especially since a lot of fiction builds on that which came before it to varying degrees. One series (especially if it's general tone is tongue in cheek) having, say, metal bikini armor is not a problem , but when bikini armor becomes the norm even in more serious stuff then it's becoming an issue.
In no way does this mean that the modern reader will buy into said worldview, just because they see it or like it in general; no one is immune to propaganda, but reading The Lord of the Rings does not automatically make you a monarchist, nor does being a fan of the Imperium of Man make you a militaristic theocracy advocate. Aside from echoing stereotypical moral guardian logic and taking people for easily impressionable morons, that's mostly putting the cart before the horse and attacking symptoms rather than the actual cause, i.e. what would lead someone to seek reinforcement of that particular worldview via reading or producing fiction, for instance - a topic that isn't likely to be done real justice here.
Though such tropes can serve as useful indicators of what the author thought and/or what the status quo when it was written was like, many instances end up not aging well, being considered detrimental in some fashion as society and history march on (a fair number of MST3K episodes snark at this). Understanding how this process works and the ramifications thereof lets us identify matters which might be problematic and address them in future works; taking offense at this inquiry when it dredges up unpleasant stuff beneath the surface is generally not productive. Such offense is rooted in a classic Hanlon's Razor-esque scenario, in that it usually presumes evidence of authoritarian malice where one might dig a bit deeper and find incompetence at most.
At the same time, and to give AN answer to the question of why there's "pandering" in /tg/ media, many companies want to broaden their consumer base by taking in new demographics. As the world gets interconnected and as society becomes more diverse, there is an increasing demand by people who are not heterosexual white men to see people like them in the world of media as the hero or more than just a sidekick. Putting all your eggs in the established core demographic basket can be disastrous; this was a contributing factor in the Comics Crash of 1996, focusing too much on the established fanbase at the expense of bringing in new ones, only to lose it all when they failed to appeal successfully to either while driving much of that old fanbase away.
Doing so is easier said than done, especially when some studio execs and their pet hacks throws together something based on crude stereotypes and expect it to sell, which neither "side" particularly enjoys. This overlaps with the possibility that it can fail on its own merits regardless, much like any work of fiction. In a worst case scenario, you end up creating a new set of problematic cliches and stereotypes; that all fiction is political in some shape or form does not absolve writers of their responsibility to skillfully and properly handle what politics they acknowledge, lest we get glorified propoganda masquerading as entertainment at worst. And the people expected to eat that kind of slop up may very well be the first to notice.
On the other hand, it can often be straightforward. For example, there is absolutely no reason that you could not make the the Inquisitor in your Warhammer 40,000 book Black. In the typical Tolkien knockoff fantasy settings with castles, knights, elves and orcs and stuff, you can include a few black characters and all that's required is a sentence to the effect of "their parents were from a distant land where humans look a bit different". A certain number of humans in any given population turn out to be gay (usually at a ratio of about 1-in-20), and roughly half of any given human population is female. Adding said characters is in general a positive and are done because A: the creators wanted to be more inclusive and/or B: it's often good business, not them being enslaved to the whims of some purple-haired person of boogey. That is reasonable.
That said, when executives who don't know any better (and just care only about lining their own pockets) fail to distinguish between diversity and tokenism, while ignoring the roles of both fun and storytelling in the vain hope that "new demographics" will eat it up no matter what the actual quality is, franchises end up burning and crumbling. This is exacerbated when the marketers and PR guys ignore the fact that their franchises are sold to people and not demographic abstractions, and double down on pandering that comes off as being more insulting than inclusive, to say nothing of the people who advocate such an approach without thinking critically about it.
TL;DR: The threat to the hobby, if any, lies not merely in politics or people warring against /pol/acks, but in mass-marketing those politics and the parasitic corporate practices it enables, along with framing the matter as one of a dichotomous nature - unintentionally, actively, dishonestly, and otherwise, as is wont to be done in political discussion. The usual out-of-touch appealing to what the kids are into today without understanding the how and why of it, along with the overall reductive approach to demographics, is further combined with the tendency of sensationalist media outlets to exploit such phenomena, Satanic Panic-style, in order to meet their given slant's quota.
This (sometimes unintentionally) provides further ammo to all the ideologues involved, supporters and detractors alike. Only the most short-sighted, extreme and/or fanatical sorts, especially "SJWs", consider that to be a good result.
- /pol/ - /pol/ is the largest face of the "alt-right", the yang to the SJW's left-leaning yin. They 'pretty much' run on the same fuel, shot-for-shot, but /pol/ uses skewed far-right principles instead. Exudes a very similar autism to their perceived enemies, but it has a chance of ranging from hilarious, to the pot calling the kettle black, to "Hitler did nothing wrong".