Hey Conservatives – you’re doing a victim-blaming

Most of us probably think we’re good people. Or, you know, we at least think we’re trying. How could you function in the world if you didn’t? Like, genuinely, if that’s you then leave a comment because I want to understand.

But there’s a certain kind of argument that goes around, perfectly summarized by the garbage tweet you get to read at the top of this post. You’ll often hear it from alt-right commenters and Fox News types telling kids to pull up their pants and stuff. Imagine with me, if you will, a heightened, cartoony Ben Shapiro making the following argument:

“Liberal snowflakes want their safe spaces because they don’t want to do the hard work of getting real tough. Well TOUGH TITTIES LIBS, the world isn’t fair and it probably sucks to suck. GIT GUD or gtfo, you snowflakes, you pansies, you degenerates!”

So, that’s the hard-core version. But a whole lot of us do the subtler version, too. And you better believe that has the same effect. It’s alllllll victim blaming, no matter how you spin it.

Hold up, I don’t blame victims! I’m not a monster!

Let me distill the logic here, as simply as possible. We’re gonna go to the root of this thing, and then from there you can apply it out to bullying or war crimes or rape culture or whatever. Ready? Here’s your scenario:

Person A engages in behavior that makes Person B unsafe. Put another way, Person A harms Person B.

Now what? What comes next? Your answer informs your ideology. So seriously, ask yourself. What do you do?

The Asshole’s Answer

The tweet we suffered through together up top says that Person B does not deserve safety. It says that the REAL problem here is Person B seeking safety, not that Person A is actively denying that safety to Person B. And in blaming Person B for seeking safety, it coincidentally grants safety to Person A, the one causing the harm and creating the situation. That…. that maybe isn’t an actual coincidence. But you know what it is? Victim blaming.

The author of this tweet (and by extension most conservatives) makes Person B responsible for preventing the situation that Person A created. They take Person A’s shittiness as a given, as inevitable, and then turn around to Person B and say “you should have done X if you didn’t want this to happen.” You know how this plays out in the real world. You hear shit like this all the time:

“If she didn’t want to get raped, she shouldn’t have worn that, and she shouldn’t have been drinking.”

“Eric Garner shouldn’t have resisted arrest.”

“If queer people want to be accepted then they shouldn’t be so flamboyant. I just don’t like having them in my face all the time – that doesn’t make me homophobic or anything!”

The unspoken second half of “people need to get tough” is “it’s not my fault if bad things happen because they didn’t.”

Good luck, don’t care

That doesn’t exactly lead to good places

Probably not every person who says this shit has thought it through, but the result of this is a defense of the harm-doer. It’s a more polite way of saying we shouldn’t punish Brock Turner, that Eric Garner had it coming and there’s no reason for police reform, and that they sympathize with the guy that shot up the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando because “the gays” really are out of control.

This argument pretends to be against the concept of safety, but ultimately it is an argument about WHO deserves safety. It grants safety to perpetrators by ignoring them or taking them as inevitable, as if getting bullied or killed or harassed or raped is exactly the same thing as getting hit by lightning. This argument, supposedly about “toughness”, excuses the actions of the bully and tells the victim they are alone. It clearly and plainly tells them that asking for help is unacceptable and a sign of moral failure.

What are other options, then?

I’m so glad you asked, mister strawman!

First off, the obvious counter: simple role reversal. You make Person A responsible. You make it clear that their actions are the ones that need to change, not Person B. You could say things like:

“Don’t be an asshole. We all need to learn to apologize when we hurt people. We’re all human, and everyone harms people on accident sometimes. But we can learn to do it a whole lot less.”


“If you’re going to be bigoted in my business, or my church, or my board game club, then you’re not welcome here.”

However, there’s a third option. And it’s super rad, you guys.

The Bestest Solution

Up to now, we’ve been treating you as a neutral observer. But you’re not. Let’s expand our scope a little bit and call you Person C; your buddy Al can be Person D, I’ll go ahead and take on Person E, and so on and so forth.

Y’all, we can insert ourselves into this situation. We can make this our problem, not just a conflict between Person A and Person B. Hell, I’d argue that it already IS our problem and that it was just more comfortable to pretend it wasn’t.

I know block quotes are cheesy but I literally can’t find a way to say this better.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Desmond Fucking Tutu

But I’d go even further. If the elephant is never told that stepping on people isn’t cool, then it’s only a matter of time before he steps on you, too. “First they came for the socialists” and all that (google it, but beware. It’s about Nazis).

This motherfucker is gonna crush you, too

If you ask me, Persons C thru Z ought to get out there and support their friend B. Collective action, community defense, mutual aid, and mass protest are all expressions of this goal. If you want to see people who believe in this in the real world, look for posts like this:

“Person A harmed Person B pretty bad this week. Please please donate to their Venmo so they can get back on their feet, and join us at City Hall Saturday to demand justice.”

Next time Person B gets harmed, remember that YOU CAN DO SOMETHING. Give them a ride to a doctor’s appointment. Stand beside them and resist that bully, that racist. Film the cops when you see shit going down – just in case the person with a knee on their neck turns out to be the next George Floyd.

So….. huh. What do I do with this?

If you’ve made this argument in the past, if you still kinda believe it, maybe get curious about that. You think you won’t get old one day? You think you won’t ever get hurt at work? You think you can be your own mechanic AND your own web designer AND an excellent chef AND have time to be the best parent ever? Nobody can do everything alone. Everybody needs help sooner or later. The only thing this line of thinking does is let you feel superior for needing LESS help right now, or for not needing help in uncool ways. But someday you will need that help. And I happen to think you deserve it.

When I’ve been harmed in the past, say at a workplace, I absolutely wanted to fuck shit up. I want to take action and burn that motherfucker to the ground. And when I had to, I did. But what I wanted even more was TO NOT HAVE TO. I wanted HR to back me up. I wanted friends and coworkers to say something. I wanted my boss to intervene. I didn’t want to walk into that hellhole every day and know that I was the only one who would fight for me. I don’t think there’s any shame in being a victim. I don’t think there’s any shame in having needs. I think it is shameful to blame people for their own victimization, to leave them to fend for themselves. Because you know what makes people more resilient? Not having to be the only one doing all the goodamn fighting.

Organizing society around strength is absurd, because strength is fleeting. We all start out as soft, mushy babies who probably couldn’t bench 5 pounds even if their life depended on it (those wimps). Some of us (not all humans #disabilityjustice) become strong in the specific and narrow ways that society values for a time, but then all of us get old and weak again. Organizing society around strength is bullshit because it means huge swathes of our lives are written off and un-valued. Instead, we need to organize around our common needs, our shared weaknesses. We need to build a world where every person is valued, because every person has inherent value and has so much to give the world. We need to create a society where having needs is not shameful, but understood and expected.

Have some basic human decency, y’all. Help each other out, because you’re going to want someone to help you one day.