Social Justice Warrior: Meaning & origin of SJW

by Corinna

“Social Justice Warrior”, or “SJW” for short, has a negative connotation these days. However, the term originally had a positive connotation

Origin and meaning of the expression “Social Justice Warrior “

Like the term “woke”, “social justice warrior” originally had a positive meaning, but is nowadays used in a mocking or derogatory way.

  • The term originated in English and translates as “social justice warrior”. When the term was coined – presumably in the 1940s or 1990s – it had a neutral to positive meaning.
  • A social justice warrior was originally used to describe people who stood up for social justice and social progress and fought against discrimination and unequal treatment – whether in terms of class, skin color or gender.
  • Around 2011, however, the way the term was used changed. The term can be used in a mocking, teasing and thus benevolently joking way, but it can also be used with a derogatory, hurtful and deliberately discrediting intention. Conservative forces in the US in particular use the term in a negative way.
  • However, the term has also become established outside of right-wing discourse and even in more left-wing circles to describe people whose progressive aspirations go overboard in the eyes of the person using it.
  • This can have very different implications. In most cases, it is a matter of certain statements or aspirations – particularly those motivated by identity politics – being seen as too extreme.
  • In addition, there is the impression or the feeling that the people addressed are using their indignation about social grievances and injustices to gain applause and to demonstrate and confirm their own moral superiority.

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