why is it so bad to be a victim? feminists often complain about the “blaming the victim” phenomenon, which is an abhorrent practice (you’d think by now the phrase “she was asking for it” would have been thoroughly eradicated from our collective lexicon. you’d be wrong). but on the other hand, third wave feminism is very, very reluctant to take on the subject position of victim. hugo notes:
i don't know many authentic feminist scholars and instructors who are intent on convincing young women that they are being victimized by the big bad patriarchy.
he’s correct – feminist activism has consciously moved away from pointing out victimization to preaching empowerment. i think that this is, in many ways, an understandable development. on a practical level, there is less technical, legal discrimination and victimization of women (though we still weren’t able to pass the ERA, so this doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies). on a theoretical level, i can see that it makes more sense to take the active position of empowering oneself than the passive position of being victimized by external forces. no one wants to feel powerless - it’s much more enjoyable to feel empowered.
but in all of this clamoring for empowerment, have we lost the ability to make people see why women deserve to be empowered in the first place? are we unable to convince people that the reason we need empowerment is that we still lack societal and cultural power? women are still victimized, all the time, all over the world. we are victims of sexual harassment. we are victims of rape. we are victims of pay inequity. we are victims of impossible beauty standards. we are victims of double standards. we are victims, every day.
why are we so ashamed to admit that? why are feminists less inclined to stand up and point out these injustices, the victimizations big and small, as they continue to happen? are we “blaming the victim” ourselves?
i’m trying to think about how narratives about women’s strength, courage, and conviction could possibly work together with the continuing, eye-opening disclosure of women’s victimization to further the cause of women’s equality. are these two phenomenons somehow mutually exclusive?
i don’t think they should be.