1. Words & Vocabulary
You can tell a lot about someone by the words that they use. The following terms will commonly arise in conversation with postmodernists, especially when discussing social justice issues.
Describing something as ‘systemic’ is shorthand for saying it’s pervasive throughout society, and often too subtle to recognize by the general population… however, the educated social justice activist can point examples out with ease.
Like most words and concepts abused by postmodernists, there is a kernel of truth to the concept of systemic racism/sexism/etc-ism.
However, social justice activists will often try to claim that a problem has a single root cause, and that cause is systemic. This leaves no room for nuanced or detailed discussion.
“While fewer people may consider themselves racist, racism itself persists in our schools, offices, court system, police departments, and elsewhere. Think about it: when white people occupy most positions of decision-making power, people of color have a difficult time getting a fair shake, let alone getting ahead. “
– Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream –
“7 Ways We know Systemic Racism is Real”
‘Privilege’ is to postmodernists and social justice activists as ‘wealth’ was to revolutionary Marxists: the more you have of it, the more you are taking from other people.
Saying someone has privilege implies that they exist at the expense of oppressed groups of people, and that in the interests of equality they need to submit to the will of the oppressed whenever they’re asked.
This term is also used as a weapon, implying that you are ‘taking up space’ in a discussion or locale where you don’t belong.
“A group of unearned cultural, legal, social, and institutional rights extended to a group based on their social group membership. Individuals with privilege are considered to be the normative group, leaving those without access to this privilege invisible, unnatural, deviant, or just plain wrong. Most of the time, these privileges are automatic and most individuals in the privileged group are unaware of them.”
– Suffolk University Website –
You will often find postmodernists describe certain ideas, concepts, or statements as ‘problematic’. Roughly speaking, this means that whatever is being described is against the “common good”, and probably should be silenced or extinguished.
“Being someone who often thinks and writes academically, I needed space to engage with the issues important to me in a way that made sense for me.
Activist spaces provided room to flesh out big theories and concepts, but many also implicitly prioritized those things. Often being set up for and by other people like me, these spaces sometimes benefitted us to the detriment of everyone else.
So I started vigilant observation for any problematic behavior I felt encouraged to take part in simply by being amongst people (like me) who would benefit from it.
And in doing so, I recognized ten patterns that demonstrate how activist spaces can inconspicuously feed ideas of elitism and inaccessibility.”
– Hari Ziyad –
“10 Ways Your Social Justice Work Might Be Inaccessible and Elitist”
You will typically find the word ‘shame’ used in the context of someone’s feelings being hurt. For example, suggesting that a morbidly obese person consider changing aspects of their lifestyle is a form of “fat-shaming”. This terminology is probably an attempt to hyperbolize the concept of hurt feelings, as the concept of “fat shaming” or “slut shaming” is more easily tied to broader social issues, and sounds more impressive than ‘hurt feelings’.
As a side note, it’s no coincidence that ‘shame’ is a popular word in the postmodernist lexicon, as most of their tactics revolve around shaming others into silence.
“Slut-shaming is the experience of being labeled a sexually out-of-control girl or woman (a “slut” or “ho”) and then being punished socially for possessing this identity. Slut-shaming is sexist because only girls and women are called to task for their sexuality, whether real or imagined; boys and men are congratulated for the exact same behavior. This is the essence of the sexual double standard: Boys will be boys, and girls will be sluts.”
– Leora Tanenbaum –
“The Truth About Slut-Shaming”
2. Explicitly Stated Concepts & Principles
These are the concepts and principles that are generally known and accepted amongst postmodernists and/or social justice activists. For more information on the underlying principles of postmodernism, such as social constructivism, please see the “What is Postmodernism?” page.
The concept of oppression is at the heart of social justice ideology, and is also a core component of postmodernism and Marxism.
In classical Marxism, the working class (proletariat) was seen to be oppressed by the capitalists (bourgeoisie), because the bourgeoisie owned the means to production and could therefore extract unfair profits from the labour of the proletariat.
As socialist systems repeatedly failed throughout the mid-1900’s, postmodernist philosophers redefined the ‘oppressed class’ by segmenting them according to their sex, gender, race, and ethnicity instead of their class.
As you can imagine, this formed the foundation of the social justice movements we see today.
“The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.
- Oppression denotes structural and material constraints that significantly shape a person’s life chances and sense of possibility.
- Oppression also signifies a hierarchical relationship in which dominant or privilege groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.
- Oppression resides not only in external social institutions and norms but also within the human psyche as well.”
– Suffolk University Website –
Language as Violence
One of the claims of postmodernism is that everything is relative, and that people are largely defined by their social groups and those groups are vying for power.
As a result, words are not tools used to reach a consensus, but weapons to gain an upper hand over other groups.
Postmodernists will often claim that because language causes pain, it can be constituted as a form of violence. Although there is a kernel of truth to this (criminal harassment, emotional abuse), the ‘language as violence’ claim is most often used as an attempt to silence dissenting opinions.
“The old adage goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me;” however, most people know this to be untrue.. Words have the unique power to create reality: they can be used both to empower and create change, and to form stereotypes and breed mistrust. More sinister uses of language include directly doing violence to others, or indirectly supporting violent societal structures through the normalization of the marginalization of some groups.
The English language itself creates the expectation that sex ought to be on a binary through the use of “he” or “she” to describe human beings … Such language limits and excludes other identities and is a form of heteronormative violence, forcing everyone necessarily into the gender binary “
– Jessica King –
“The Violence of Heteronormative Language Towards the Queer Community (“
As per the definition on the right, intersectionality essentially a knife that postmodernists and social justice activists use to carve everyone up into social groups and examine their relative privilege.
Intersectionality is why activists will often list out the various factors of their identity like credentials (i.e “Black, queer, gender non-conforming”). In many ways, these act as credentials by showing other people how oppressed you are, and therefore how much authority you have to tell other people that they should listen to you.
There is a kernel of truth to this concept as well. For example, it’s not hard to imagine that a black gay man would face more issues in society than a white gay man.
“A feminist sociological model and/or lens for critical analysis that focuses on the intersections of multiple, mutually-reinforcing systems of oppression, power, and privilege. Intersectional theorists look at how the individual experience is impacted by multiple axes of oppression and privilege.
Variables include, but are not limited to: race, gender, ethnicity, religion ability, education, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, gender expression, class, first language, citizenship, and age.”
– Suffolk University Website –
Because society is seen as oppressive, the idea of ‘safe spaces’ is used to denote areas or accommodations for ‘marginalized’ groups to communicate without having to put up with the issues they face in the rest of the world.
Although people in Western societies are free to associate with whomever they like, many postmodernists have tried to denote entire university campuses as ‘safe spaces’ in a blatant attempt to eliminate intellectual diversity.
“Safe space is a term for an area or forum where either a marginalised group are not supposed to face standard mainstream stereotypes and marginalisation, or in which a shared political or social viewpoint is required to participate in the space.
For example, a feminist safe space would not allow free expression of anti-feminist viewpoints, and would typically also prevent concern trolling and continual Feminism 101 discussions in favour of feminist discussion among feminists. Safe spaces may require trigger warnings and restrict content that might hurt people who have strong reactions to depictions of abuse or harm or mental illness triggers.”
– Geek Feminism Wiki –
3. Postmodernist Causes
This list is incomplete, and will be continuously expanded as time allows.
Explanations of these issues is admittedly light on detail, and it is my intention to write/curate a more in-depth examination of each postmodernist cause in order to do intellectual justice to each perspective. Until then, readers of this site are recommended to do their own research and not take these exceptionally brief summaries for granted.
For maximum clarity: Many of the causes listed below address legitimate problems. By no means should this be interpreted as me discrediting the validity of things like racism, Islamophobia, or sexism. The intent is to highlight causes that postmodernists commonly use to advance their ideology; in the process, they obfuscate real issues and hinder the development of viable solutions. This helps nobody.
Do Muslims in the West face skepticism, fear, and discrimination? Certainly. Are most Muslims living in Western countries peaceful and “normal” by Western standards? Absolutely – many of them share our values, and emigrated to Western countries precisely because they share our values.
However, when postmodernists and social justice activists get involved, weird stuff always happens, and discrimination becomes a shield for discriminatory and hateful behaviors held by more radical Muslims (which do exist and cannot be ignored).
Example: In the video to the right, a young Muslim woman attempts to claim the status of the oppressed while asking David Horowitz (who is Jewish) a question. Close to the end of the video, he asks her – in no uncertain terms – if she supports genocidal hatred of Jews, and she answers in the affirmative.
Example: Tarek Fatah’s statement to the Canadian Senate regarding radicalization (also on the right) was rewarded by an inexplicable and perplexing accusation of Islamophobia by a Canadian Senator. The Senator is white and non-Muslim, while Mr. Fatah is a Muslim. With postmodernism, anything is possible.
Another great example is Linda Sarsour, a leader of the Women’s March who is an outspoken supporter of Sharia Law.
Campus “Rape Culture”
“Emma Sulkowicz is a Columbia University graduate who was allegedly raped by fellow student Paul Nungesser, in 2012. The university found Mr. Nungesser “not responsible” and the NYPD did not pursue the case due to lack of evidence. In response, Ms. Sulkowicz launched Carry The Weight, a performance art piece for her senior thesis where she carried a 50-lbs twin mattress with her for a year on campus until Mr. Nungesser was expelled. He was not, and she towed it all the way up the stage at graduation, where University president Lee Bollinger refused to shake her hand.”
– Observer.com –
“Camille Paglia: Columbia Anti-Rape Mattress Project Is Not Feminism”
Non-Binary Gender Identities
One of the major problems surrounding transgender issues is that diving into the science surrounding them is messy. This is because there’s a lot we don’t know about transgenderism and how it manifests (a.k.a gender dysphoria), so the scientific literature presents as many questions as it does answers.
This leaves room for postmodernists to mount attacks on the very concept of sex and gender, making claims that fly in the face of established science (“there are no biological differences between the sexes“) and also in contradiction to current best practices advocated by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
Many postmodern-influenced gender activists claim to be ‘genderqueer’ or ‘gender non-conforming’, which they claim is a type of transgenderism. It is profoundly unclear if such ‘non-binary’ identities are a result of gender dysphoria, which is a medical condition that can be measured. Certainly, this is the case for some non-binary people.
Although a strong case can be made for a third gender (“Other”), it seems as if the 31+ ‘nonbinary’ identities have been manifested by postmodernists out of a dislike for the concept of gender, not because of a genuine and deeply-felt psychological distress.
In New York State, there are now 31+ protected genders that it is illegal to discriminate against or disagree with, science be damned.
Black Lives Matter (Toronto)
Black Lives Matter (BLM) rose to prominence after the deaths of Trayvon Martin (killed by George Zimmerman), Michael Brown (at the hands of police), and Eric Garner (also at the hands of police).
In many cases, the various U.S chapters of BLM have successfully protested racial bias in policing practices (which certainly do exist, although not necessarily in the form that activists suggest). Although they are often guilty of race-baiting and accusing pretty much everyone of being racist, the United States does have a serious problem as far as race is concerned.
Black Lives Matter Toronto, however, has a more tenuous claim to legitimacy. The police-related deaths that BLMTO protests tend to be contentious cases, yet they protest with the same amount of urgency as their American counterparts:
- Jermaine Carby was allegedly brandishing a knife, and was wanted for manslaughter.
- Kwasi Skene-Peters was wanted on two first-degree murder charges, and opened fire on police officers who were attempting to arrest him.
- Andrew Loku was mentally unstable and armed with a hammer – he had allegedly been threatening someone else with it, and didn’t comply with police when they ordered him to drop his weapon.
- Andrew Wettlaufer pointed a BB gun at police several times, resisted de-escalation attempts, and seemed to be baiting police (both verbally and otherwise) into shooting him.
This isn’t to say that Toronto doesn’t necessarily have its own race problems – for example, the practice of ‘carding’ in Ontario was controversial, partially unconstitutional, and of undefined effectiveness. But when BLMTO’s primary talking point is “death” (as in the video to the right), one would expect them to be producing clear-cut examples of lethal police brutality. Note: I am more than open to making corrections or additions to the above in the interests of fairness.
Besides the actual issues, BLMTO’s leadership is fraught with controversy. One of their leaders (Sandra Hudson) is facing allegations of embezzling $250,000 from the University of Toronto Student Union, which she claims are ‘racist’.
The video to the right is about a tweet sent out by another BLMTO co-founder (Yusra Khogali) asking for strength to not kill white people.
Most recently, BLMTO staged a sit-in at Toronto’s Pride Parade, and successfully led an incredibly controversial initiative to ban the Toronto Police from participating in the parade while in uniform.
Women in STEM
Of all the disciplines in university, there are only a few where men outnumber women. These are concentrated in the ‘STEM’ fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
There are several common postmodernist claims as to why this is the case; most have to do with ‘oppressive gender roles’ as well as rampant sexism within the disciplines that discourages young women from entering the field.
Although there is, as always, a kernel of truth to these observations, postmodernist attacks on the STEM fields leave out any semblance of nuance – including well-documented scientific studies that suggest male/female biological differences manifest themselves in vocational preference.
In fact, retention of women in STEM jobs is a much bigger problem than attracting them to STEM fields or attrition throughout postsecondary studies, which postmodernists also have poor explanations for…
“Discrimination” in the Workplace
There are two women’s workplace issues that are commonly cited by postmodern-influenced feminists as examples of “systemic” discrimination against women.
The first is the “wage gap” claim that women make between $0.77 or $0.88 (or whatever) for every dollar a man makes. This is a widespread myth that is the result of some fuzzy math, and fails to take into account things like disparities working hours, lifestyle choices, and career decisions.
The second issue is the lack of women in leadership positions, particularly at the C-level and VP-level, as well as on Boards of Directors.
As always, there is a kernel of truth to both of these claims. We all know at least one douchelord who underestimates and ignores talented women as a matter of habit. However, the extent to which this happens is very much a matter of debate, the nuances of which are conveniently ignored by postmodernists in favour of their “oppression” narrative.
School Dress Codes
In elementary and high schools, many young girls are now protesting ‘sexist’ dress codes.
A common claim made by administrators is that skimpy clothing is distracting to boys, which leads to accusations of sexism.
Despite the fact that adolescent boys respond very strongly to visual stimuli, the implication is that ‘sexualization’ of female bodies is a conscious and oppressive process, and that girls should be allowed to wear whatever they want.
In all fairness, schools could (and should) begin to adopt their strongest possible justification, which would be based on the concept of professionalism and good taste. Another alternative is relaxing dress codes to some degree, since it’s becoming a lot more commonplace for people to dress sexually.
Either way, the point here isn’t the legitimacy of the dress codes themselves; the point is that postmodernism-influenced activists conveniently sidestep the biological fact that women’s bodies can be distracting to men when advocating for more reasonable dress codes.
4. Summary of Common Tactics
For detailed information on these tactics, and real-life examples of their use, see the Postmodernist Tactics page.
- Accusations of Racism
- Accusations of Sexism
- Accusations of Homophobia
- Accusations of Transphobia
- Controlling Conversations through Language Games
- Exaggerated Claims of Victimhood
- “False-Flag” Tactics
- Feelings over Facts
- Keeping Score of Privilege
- No-Platforming Attempts
- Motte-and-Bailey Doctrine
- Refusing to Engage in Debate