In any sort of discussion of social justice or minority issues, somewhere down the line someone will complain about ‘Tumblr Social Justice™’, as if it’s a monolithic unchanging concept made by a homogenous population of individuals with exactly the same perspectives. They will claim that these bloggers have no evidence, or don’t like dissenting opinions, or “enjoy being offended”. They point out that these bloggers should defer to people with PhDs in academia who have studied theory, and also are usually heterosexual, white, cis, and male.
And there are many problems with this that make my skin crawl.
The first being the question of who we are dismissing when we dismiss Tumblr Social Justice™. Social Justice bloggers are more often than not minorities themselves. Sure, they tend to trend on the young side, but the experiences they bring up are their own, common, and certainly disturbing examples of microaggressions, harassment, and daily oppression. They have decades of personal experience living as a minority, staring systemic and institutional oppression in the face, and being derided, invalidated, and attacked. And they often have no other medium to vent their frustrations, share their experiences with others with similar backgrounds, and attempt to educate the people they care about of minority issues.
Dismissing Tumblr Social Justice™ is just one of many ways we dismiss minority opinions and experiences. If it’s on Tumblr of all places then surely it has no merit. If what they had to say had any value then it should be being published in news articles or scientific articles or in books!
There are two gigantic problems with that.
First off, academia is still overwhelmingly skewed towards upper middle-class, straight, white, able-bodied, cisgender men. It’s gotten much better, of course, but institutional oppression doesn’t disappear when we ignore it. The dictionary definitions that we use to invalidate minority explanations of what racism and privilege are were written by… the privileged majority. Administrators and graduate mentors and celebrated professors are more often than not part of the privileged majority. This is not to say that they aren’t talented and intelligent and credible. This is to say that it’s inappropriate to dismiss more accessible forms of information like Tumblr Social Justice™ by implying the medium itself is irrelevant.
Many of the people who write Tumblr Social Justice™ posts do not have access to the financial stability and institutional support to pursue post-undergraduate degrees that comes with having many different forms of privilege. And in addition, many of them do not want to pursue these degrees but that does not invalidate their very real experiences of being an oppressed minority. Advocating for education solely from academic theory and not from the mouths of those who have actually experienced these issues is, once again, another convenient way to ignore minority voices.
The other issue with the call for higher mediums is that there are academic and scholarly articles about what these bloggers talk about. There are books and research and news articles that support those experiences. But the people that complain about Tumblr Social Justice™ are also often the people that won’t read or research or care to pay attention to these other mediums of social justice knowledge.
I’ve gotten in many conversations with people where [prior to me getting so frustrated at their incessant questioning of my humanity that I become hostile] I will make sure to link plenty of articles from other bloggers, academic scholars, informative videos, and interviews so that even if they don’t like me or disagree with my method, they can find plenty of other people that may reach them in a better way.
But the links are never clicked. The videos are never watched. The interviews are never read. These otherwise intelligent people, often individuals who have or are in the process of getting a college education, who have done plenty of research on their own about a variety of different topics, become suddenly incompetent and completely unable to use Google. Suddenly, they can’t click links I send to them. They don’t know how to operate YouTube.
They demand to be educated by me. How dare I and other bloggers suggest they do their own research, that they research institutional oppression, the importance of media representation, or why egalitarianism is an incredibly inefficient idea that serves only to distract people from actual human rights movements? If minorities don’t go out of their way to put themselves in situations that are extraordinarily painful and personal [by telling very personal stories about issues that profoundly affect their lives and actually can prevent them from getting jobs, or result in them getting harassed, assaulted, or killed], then how are people [who won’t listen to these stories anyway] supposed to learn? What is Google?
What these complaints also often ignore is that activism via writing, sharing experiences, and educating is an important aspect of fighting for the cause. It unifies disenfranchised minority groups with shared experiences and is an important step towards spreading awareness. In contrast to the complaints that Tumblr Social Justice™ bloggers are just complaining and should do “real” activism work, actively writing and reading content made by minorities about minority issues is necessary to furthering movements. No one ever started a revolution by not talking about the problem.
The final issue with dismissing Tumblr Social Justice™ is these assertions completely ignore intersectionality and the wide variety of perspectives that Tumblr Social Justice™ is composed of instead arbitrarily deciding that any time a minority group says an argument or statement is hurtful, deeply problematic, or racist/misogynistic/heterosexist/transphobic etc., that they are just a part of some hypothetical monolithic collective that are discriminating against majority opinions and being “just as bad” as those oppressing them.
In lieu of actively searching for fantastic blogs that cover a wide range of topics from different perspectives like gradientlair, fandomsandfeminism, racebending, medievalpoc, the work of Anita Sarkeesian, all of which cover many different aspects of minority experiences [from the discrepancy between white feminism and women of color, the myth of medieval Europe lacking racial diversity, sex and gender issues in video games and media etc.] and come from the mouths of people from many different backgrounds, critics would rather ignore all of these perspectives and focus on a fictional unified Tumblr Social Justice™ identity that they can easily disregard and discard whenever any topic gets presented that at the least bit implies they have problematic views that contribute to institutional oppression.
The fact of the matter is, the opinions of the majority on minority experiences of oppression are almost entirely irrelevant. When we actively find ways to ignore the personal stories and perspectives of those who are actually living what people have the luxury of theorizing about by dismissing the medium they are expressing themselves in, all we are doing is finding fancy new ways to do the same harmful oppressive silencing that has always existed.
This is not to say that content on Tumblr is always 100% flaw-free. If there is a problem, point out the problem [but make sure there actually is a problem and you’re not telling an oppressed minority that their lived experiences are worthless or being interpreted incorrectly, and also make sure that their post is actually meant to be commented on and not just a post venting their frustrations about their oppression]. That being said, the liberal and near constant dismissal of Tumblr Social Justice™ as inherently pointless, worthless, and baseless is simply a manifestation of our all-too-frequent and unintentional efforts to silence minority voices, experiences, and opinions.
Listen to minority voices on minority issues, regardless of the medium because ultimately they are both more knowledgeable about the context of the situation and know what needs to be done to fix it.