Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Speaking out is NOT "Playing The Victim"

Read this at Greta's Christina's blog and really had to agree:

“Seems you’re making a catch-22: if people talk about it, they’re trying to be victims, but if people don’t talk about it, it doesn’t happen.”
When people talk about oppression and marginalization and bigotry — racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, xenophobia, classism, ableism, etc. — we often get caught in a particularly nasty Catch-22, beautifully summarized above. If we don’t talk about oppression and marginalization and bigotry… nobody will know about it, and it can and will be ignored. In fact, many people will assume that this particular form of oppression and marginalization and bigotry is now a thing of the past, and doesn’t even exist. If a certain amount of progress has been made in a certain area — sexism, for instance — many people will act as if the problem is entirely behind us, and we don’t have to worry about it, or think about it or, Loki forbid, change our behavior.

But if we do talk about this oppression and marginalization and bigotry? We get accused of “playing the victim card.” We get accused of making up the marginalization, or exaggerating it, or going out of our way to look for it, or twisting innocent events to frame them in this narrative of victimhood, or trying to manipulate people into giving us our way by scoring sympathy points we haven’t earned. And not at all coincidentally, this once again results in the marginalization being made invisible: ignored, treated as if it either flat-out doesn’t exist or is too trivial to worry about.


And you know the thing that really galls me about this particular Catch-22? Aside from the whole “invisible” thing, I mean. The thing that really galls me is that speaking out against oppression is the opposite of victimhood. Speaking out against oppression is one of the first steps to claiming power. Speaking out against oppression takes strength, courage, a willingness to take flak. Speaking out against oppression can put you in harm’s way. Speaking out against oppression isn’t “playing the victim card” — it’s saying, “I am sick to fucking death of being a victim, and I am demanding that it stop.” (originally not underlined)

So the question I have for people making this “victimhood” accusation: How, exactly, would you like marginalized people to proceed? Is there any possible way we can make oppression and marginalization and bigotry visible, which will meet with your approval?

And why, precisely, do you think your approval matters? Why do you get to be the ones who decide which forms of oppression and marginalization and bigotry are important… and which ones are not? Why do you think that decision should be up to you?

Apart from the fact you don't need anyone's approval, the last people whose agreement you would need in order to speak out about your "own" experience (oppression) are the ones who get annoyed by it. The ones most irritated by your speaking out are the ones contributing the least to changing the situation, if not propagating it.  

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