What does it mean to be a victim?

This is a question I have been exploring in my head while reading about feminism. The term comes up a surprising amount, and often not in a way I am totally comfortable with. I read this blog post in reference to #yesallwomen which said: “Not all men are monsters and not all women choose to live as victims.”
(Although I disagree with much of this particular post, I like the blog. Check it out.).

My understanding of the word victim is that I do not get to choose if it applies to me. I sure as hell did not get a choice when someone came in my store and held a gun to my back. That experience made me a victim of robbery without my consent. So where does this idea of choosing to be a victim come from? It seems to me that the word victim is getting mixed up with victim mentality.

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Merriam-Webster defines victim as:
-a person who has been attacked, injured, robbed, or killed by someone else
-a person who is cheated or fooled by someone else
-someone or something that is harmed by an unpleasant event (such as an illness or accident)

Having the victim mentality seems to be about being weak (not exactly a respected trait in our society) and has connotations of being disingenuous as well as generally being a whiny bitchy baby (that is totally the official definition).

The desire to not be weak (or a whiny bitchy baby) often eclipses the meaning of victim. ‘I am not weak, therefor I cannot possibly be a victim’.

Back to the word’s relation to feminism, and specifically the #yesallwomen phenomenon. To my thinking, if I want to refuse to be a victim due to my femaleness I have two recourses: 1) modify my behavior so as to lessen the likelihood of being victimized or 2) to try and change things that contribute to women being victimized on a regular basis. I worry about walking alone at night in a way my male counterpoints do not. I do not want to limit my options based on how I can get home. If tweeting about this brings some awareness to that inequality I am all for it. I can still make an effort to not fall for the victim mentality while railing against things that commonly make women victims in our society.

Also, googling ‘refuse to be a victim’ gave me a full page of NRA links, which was not what I was expecting…

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2 thoughts on “What does it mean to be a victim?

  1. What I meant by choosing not to be a victim is more along the lines of not being scared to speak out. All women are victims to some extent. We’ve all been hit on or scared to walk down the street. Obviously, no one chooses to be a victim. And yes, you’re right that it’s probably being confused with victim mentality. The word “victim” seems to have as many negative connotations as the word “feminist.”

    • Thinking about the negative connotations the word feminism often has is what made me think more specifically about the word victim. I totally agree with the not being scared to speak out. I saw #yesallwomen as doing just that. Although, not being a regular twitter user I cannot speak for how it was actually used.
      As an aside, I really wanted other examples of the word victim being used. Yours was the only one I ended up with because it was the only one I could remember, and I remembered it because I do enjoy your blog. So thanks for providing me reading material and thoughts!

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