I’m not your fucking victim.
That’s what I wanted to reply to a pastor on Twitter yesterday. In a conversation about women’s ministry events, he started replying to tweets to tell the women in the discussion that we were wrong. I tried to be firm but gentle in my response to him. Everything was civil.
And then he tweeted this to me specifically, in response to my tweet above:
I knew it wasn’t healthy to want to reach through the computer to tear someone’s head off, so I reached out to three friends from the conversation. They helped me find center again. But, still, as I read this guy's tweets, I’d mutter to myself, I’m not your fucking victim.
I didn’t reply with that. I knew any credibility I had would be shot if I lost my cool. I valued the overall discussion - one of women sharing their experiences and encouraging each other and even disagreeing at times without being disagreeable - too much to be the one who started dropping f bombs left and right. I stepped back from the conversation for a bit when I realized I was past the point of being kind. By the time I came back, he had begun deleting his tweets, with all of them gone now.
I won’t lie: I’ve been a victim. I’ve been violated and beaten and bruised. I’m not alone in this. When I read that pastor’s words, my visceral reaction to the word victim was about so much more than his mansplaining. I couldn’t help but remember my past, which intrudes into my present in the form of PTSD symptoms, specifically nightmares and flashbacks. In those events, I was a victim. In a Twitter conversation in which I'm expressing that someone's tweets feel dismissive and unhelpful? That's using my voice and sharing my thoughts. No victimhood in sight there.
When a man enters a space filled with women, refuses to listen, tell us that we’re wrong and also too emotional, and then acts like we’re mean for ganging up on him when we say “no, sir,” that’s not okay. I find myself both shocked at the blatant disregard for women’s views and not shocked at all because this is so common. I joked to one friend that I think he won sexist bingo in brandishing so many significant examples in his series of tweets.
We women have opinions aplenty. We want to share our experiences and give voice to our stories. We don’t want to be your victim, be it in the literal sense or the snarky one. If you regard us as sisters, then this is not the way to treat us. Instead, listen and learn and ask and engage with curiosity rather than defensiveness.
We aren’t your victims. We aren’t playing. We are simply sharing our lives, and you’re not listening. It’s easier to dismiss a woman as an emotional wreck playing the victim, but that’s neither honest nor compassionate. It certainly isn’t loving us as Christ first loved you.
What is it that I’d like you to take away from this post? It’s simple, really. Accusing someone else of acting like a victim, pulling the victim card, or playing the victim is never helpful. Never. Please, don’t do that. Ever.
Statistically speaking, a lot of women (and men) have been actual victims. While we aren’t a monolithic group, I think it is fair to say one thing: none of us chose to be victims. The crimes of humanity committed against us gave us wounds to nurse not cards to play. Many of us will transition from victim to survivor but not all of us make it. Being a victim can be fatal, directly – by the abuse itself – or indirectly – via addiction or disordered eating or suicide, for example. We don't all survive, sadly.
As I write and speak about my experiences as a survivor of abuse and rape, people often ask how they (or their church or organization) can better support victims. I have plenty of suggestions, but this one is basic: Don’t use the word victim as a punchline or insult. When you do, you might as well be plugging in a neon sign declaring “not a safe place.”
Victimhood is not an act. It’s not a card to play. It’s not a rhetorical fallback.
Dismissing or mocking victimhood is a conversation-ender that leads to distrust and thoughts like I’m not your fucking victim.
Because I’m not. And neither is anyone else. Women aren’t playing your victim when they disagree with you. You’re just being an ass when you insist they are.