this is an ongoing series of short rants on the commonalities of oppressions. this one here is about patriarchy (social systems of gendered discrimination, violences and oppressions) and speciesism (social systems of speciesist discrimination, violences and oppressions). specifically, it is about a parallel between them, a commonality in how these two interact.
it’s called “victim blaming”.
so, victim blaming is a core element to lots of oppressions. why? precisely because it shifts our attention away from the oppressor (the perpetrators of the violence) and towards the oppressed, as if they – the victim – are the ones who must account, explain, and justify themselves to the rest of society for why they were targeted. this puts the onus, the responsibility, and the threat of blame, onto the survivor. this means the survivor needs to convince the oppressors (who include those self-identified “neutral” folk) that the violence and/or oppression was unwarranted.
this produces a theme that sometimes oppression, sometimes violence, sometimes abuse, can be warranted – if the victim deserved it. and that’s fucked up.
so why does this happen? well, the patriarchy thrives on blaming victims because it directs all our questions and attention – and so our potential for generating lessons & solutions to the harm committed – away from disrupting the routine of gendered violence. example: if an assault happens, media focus and state-responses center around debating the best way to “fix” the survivor. they bicker and fight about the best ways to change their clothes; control their alcohol consumption and/or drug use; teach “self-respect” (read body shame). all the while, the perpetrator is forgotten in all this conversation, as though their behaviour was inevitable, natural and/or understandable.
and the circle then repeats itself: the patriarchy produces situations and relationships where people & communities are victimized – targeting essentially anyone defying, or even appearing to defy, the dominant able-bodied cis hetero white human male archetype – and then works itself to ensure others blame these same survivors, thereby escaping any critical attention upon itself as a system built to oppress.
for more on how to support each other, check out this article provided by Black Girl Dangerous.
similarly, speciesism follows this same strategic cycle of blaming and violence. human oppressors justify the institutionalized forms of animal oppression (like slaughterhouses; zoos; testing labs) and individual acts of animal abuse (“pets” left in hot cars (animal companion neglect); killing “pest” animals (hunting and trapping)) by blaming these animal victims and survivors to rationalize and justifying the abuse. how? they focus on the “defects” in other species – most often the perceived “intellectual inferiority” and “irrationality” of animals, and other similarly ableist rhetoric. it gets assumed that those who defy (or appear to) the strict anthropocentric archetype, created by humans, become natural, inevitable victims to the human species’s entitlement to dominate and exploit. the victim is blamed for being victimized.
again, the media and state-responses center our energies on ways to “fix” the victim: muzzle the dogs; de-claw the cats; cage the endangered; de-beak the chickens; castrate the “livestock”; “population control” of wildlife; even genetically modify their digestive systems of pigs to sustain the factory farms. speciesism literally depends upon the human oppressors to continue to deflect responsibility or any sustained reflection on these violent prejudices. our human culture demands we learn to never forget all ways the non-humans “deserve” their abuse and domination.
even animal rights campaigns adopt these prejudices, in ways like appealing to people to “go vegan” because pigs are too “smart” to be food or dolphins are too “evolved” to live in tanks. isn’t that fucked up? the people who advocate for animals have been duped into repeating this victim blaming patriarchy propaganda by centering their outreach into validating the value of a species, instead of keeping attention on the culpability of human oppressors vilifying the non-humans.
but obviously, it is not the qualities of the oppressed that need changing or “fixing”. it is the systems of oppression that manufacture conditions and relationships so that the privileged few benefit at the deliberate expense of the many. each and every incidence of violence (and the subsequent campaigns to discredit the victims & survivors; and attempts to dominate all conversations around accountability) is always a symptom of a deeper, wider problem.
the system isn’t broken, it was designed this way.