Playing the victim is overplayed

Women need to take responsibility to be taken seriously: http://www.dailyevergreen.com/story/27259

Jessica Lack

The Daily Evergreen

Published: 12/10/2008
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Each spring, the WSU Women’s Resource Center sponsors the Women’s Recognition Luncheon to acknowledge the achievements of prominent women. This year, the WRC invited Anita Hill to come, after choosing her book, “Speaking Truth to Power,” for the Spring 2009 Reading Discussion Group. With this invitation, the WRC turned the event from a celebration of true achievement to a glorification of victimhood.

Anita Hill is a professor of law, social policy and women’s studies. Her notoriety could be tied to her professional achievements. Yet her fame is solely based on a sexual harassment allegation that is nearly 20 years old.

During Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, Hill accused Thomas of verbal sexual harrassment. As Thomas was her former employer, Hill’s allegations ignited national controversy regarding sexual harassment and the workplace, as well as issues of gender, power and race because both Thomas and Hill are black.

The debate over Hill’s honesty was closed when Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court, and I will not readdress it here. Rather, I mentioned Hill to highlight that her story is a celebration of an American victim mentality with detrimental consequences.

This victim mentality is self-limiting. Far too many women attribute their personal failures to societal bias. While sexism does fuel some people’s actions, discrimination alone does not account for all outcome inequalities. Blaming others for our situation is often much easier than self-reflection, but avoiding responsibility is not a successful life strategy. Instead, focusing on self-improvement is a proactive way to handle setbacks. Character development can only happen when we take responsibility for our actions.

Victims see themselves at the mercy of some kind of construct such as “the system” or “the Man” and may resign themselves to a lower position than they otherwise could achieve. Many women’s advocacy groups overemphasize sexism in American society and portray women as helpless victims. This mindset does not empower women to take control of their lives. Rather, it places women at the mercy of ambiguous societal pressures.

At WSU, female students are taught that intoxication absolves them of any responsibility for their behavior. This makes every drunken woman a victim rather than a woman who makes conscious choices about her alcohol consumption. No woman deserves to be raped or assaulted. Unfortunately, many women willingly increase the probability of these offenses by engaging in risky behavior such as binge drinking, walking home alone or late at night, partying with strangers, or abusing drugs.

The victim mentality can be extremely dangerous in cases of sexual harassment or assault allegations. In 2006, false accusations of rape devastated the lives of three Duke University students. The media narrative of a poor black woman abused by privileged white lacrosse players nearly overwhelmed the men’s innocence. Though the charges were dropped, their futures have been tarnished by these false allegations, and they are now forced to defend their character to prospective employers and skeptical dates.

Those hurt most by false rape accusations are not the accused men, but women themselves. Every false accusation severely disrespects real victims of sexual abuse. The manipulative women who deceivingly cry rape ruin the credibility of honest claims. Playing the victim for self-gain is despicable behavior that robs true sexual assault victims of the justice they deserve.

True equality and justice begin when individuals of all genders, races and creeds accept responsibility for their personal triumphs and failures. Women are capable of making wise decisions and should be held accountable for their choices. By robbing women of their responsibility, the victim mentality infantilizes women.

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