A victim is someone to whom something has happened. It appears to be disempowering, because it makes you the subject of that something. It implies an out of control-ness. If I am victim, I had no power, I have no power.
But of course, recognising that, means you remember not to blame yourself for the damages of others. As a victim, you aren’t to blame. There is too much self blame in victimhood. The power of this recognition comes largely from knowing that what happens to you isn’t your responsibility.
But then, most people argue that the only way to move forward is to take responsibility for what happens to you. Weave your own fate. Move onwards.
Sometimes its impossible to move forward if you are trapped under the weight of responsibility of something you couldn’t control.
And then, there’s a puzzle in the question. ‘Being recognised’. This isn’t asking about acknowledging yourself as a victim, this is about being recognised as one. Becoming the victim of assumptions of victimhood.
Out there, where people decide who is victim and who is not, it is pushing you into a subject position, twice in a row.
The word, as I say, is loaded. I don’t trust it. The implied passivity is dangerous, but then, so is taking responsibilty for the actions of others. Oppressors aren’t your fault. You can’t take the blame for what someone else does.
Do you really need to be seen as a victim to recognise that? Or perhaps we should all just be combating the notion of stigma attached to the word. It should never be disempowering to have already been disempowered. It’s a notion we need to fight. We need to make it empowering, because otherwise we’re doubling down on disempowerment.
And while power can be horrific and dangerous, having it removed is much, much worse.
We need to reject power structures. We need to reject hierarchies. We need to know that when two people meet there will be enough respect for one kind of strength to not overwhelm.
To do this, I’m guessing, empowerment should be being distributed to the disempowered, not the other way round. It’s not just wordplay, it’s a practical way of approaching the nastiness we do.
Though I don’t know the best way to express it in real terms. I’m still butting up against that notion of justice, that impossibility of knowing how to mend a broken situation. A broken world. A broken relationship or friendship or any human structure.
We are structures of people, we have to learn to take the power out of the individuals, and make our only strength in our togetherness. As a community, we must recognise and respect all of our selves.
We are all victims, and none of us are.
I think. Maybe. I don’t know.
Illustration by Victoria