All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Victim Culture Myth

Anyone who has been involved in social justice has heard this excuse: "that just causes people to have a victim complex" or "that just creates a victim culture." Those words are the bane of my existence. They strike at the very core of why I am so adamant about creating conversations and change.

Hearing those words for the first time - thrown up in defense of some ridiculous position - it made me feel like I had been oppressing the people I was trying to help, that I might be encouraging such weakness. Of course the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it sounds. How is discouraging people from doing wrongs encouraging weakness? How could encouraging people to speak out when they are being bullied or abused take power from them? Frankly, it does not.

This argument relies on us equating victimhood with being weak, it turns the tables and says that you are taking power from people and that isn't something any activist wants. But that never is the case. Victims are strong. And they become stronger when we allow and encourage them to speak out and help themselves.

I am not a victim myself (except maybe to society's ignorance). I haven't been abused, nor was I bullied in school, but I've met victims and survivors and they are some of the most amazing people I have ever encountered. They are brave, and kind, and can see wonder in the little things.

'Victim culture' and 'victim complex' arguments take away all of their power, and credit. It demeans their accomplishments and it silences their voices. It demands that they hide so that the rest of us can feel better about the world in which we pretend to live. It's not only victim blaming but also victim shaming, which is so much worse. To have such disregard as to the many emotions that are coupled with victimhood and then to add shame on top of it all is so insensitive it's almost inhuman.

We as a society need to relearn what it means to be a victim and recognize which part of victimization is truly bad. Its not being a victim which is negative, but victimizing others. So please, lets stop demonizing victims and start shining the light on the guilty parties.