Thoughts on Victimization

In ancient Celtic myth, the goddess Macha was forced by Conor mac Nessa of Ulster and his men to race against his horses while trapped in human form, even though she was pregnant. It made her begin labor prematurely, and as she delivered her twins, she let out a scream that stole the strength from all the grown men in hearing. Then Macha cursed the Ulstermen, saying, “From this day forward, you will be afflicted by the weakness of a woman in childbirth for your cruel treatment of me. At the hour of your greatest need, you will become as powerless as I am now, and so will your sons and your son’s sons, for nine generations.”

Maybe this happened in a concrete, historical way, or maybe it happened (just as powerfully) in the legacy of Irish storytelling. And maybe the story is the legacy of a pregnant woman who was beaten, or raped, or made to work at heavy labor to the point of miscarriage, and who wished that for just one moment her tormentor(s) could feel as weak, ineffectual, and powerless as she did.

Sexism and gender oppression are, at their core, a mind-game; a sick power trip in which a selection of one gender terrorizes, directly or by suggestion and fear-mongering, the whole of the other gender. Consider one facet of life as a woman in a city: street harassment. It’s been my personal observation, and the observation of the women and girls around me, that street harassers do not focus the majority of their attentions on women who are well-dressed, clean, and purposeful; they save it for the tired women, or the women dressed in tatty clothing, or the sweaty, grimy women. Their goal is to sadistically make someone they perceive as already unstable even more wrongfooted and unsure; in other words, “weak.” To the woman who is threatened, propositioned, whistled at, or groped daily on her way to work, it seems like a concerted effort to keep her feeling vulnerable and afraid. Indeed, the patriarchy “wants” (as much as a semi-conscious and blindly coordinated force can desire anything) women and girls to feel that they are weak and ineffectual.

Actually, one of the most effective things a woman or girl can do to fight gender oppression is to feel good about herself.

Obviously, no one can demand this of anyone all the time, but consider this: every time you take pride in your talents, every time you realize that you are comfortable in your own body, every time you bravely walk out to meet the day, you laugh in the face of everyone who wants you silent and shamed.

No one has the right to make a victim out of you. No one has the rights to shove constant fear into your periphery. This is your world, too. Consider that.

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Katherine C
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