[Air-l] victimization rhetoric and the real victims

Christian Nelson cnelson at comm.umass.edu
Mon Mar 18 07:16:34 PST 2002

Ben Davidson wrote:

> This post of course reflects my own bias - as a practitioner in the mental
> health field, I get very hot under the collar when I see people damaged by the
> process of being labelled and pathologised by groups, groups who are often
> actually doing no more than trying to silence and deny the experience, often
> of domination and abuse, for which such people are trying to find expression.

Since I implicitly "pathologized" someone participating on the list, I feel a
need to respond to this. I agree that it is wrong to label and pathologize
victims of domination and abuse, and I'd agree that one can legitimately engage
in the politics of the personal when one is a victim of domination and abuse.
But the party in question--and there is a party in question--this is not a
hypothetical discussion, or a general one, is no victim of domination and abuse.
Sure, he identified himself as such in his introduction--i.e., he implied that
his status as a cultural studies scholar had made him a target of abuse. But
that now strikes me as having been nothing more than a clever ploy for
legitimating the politics of the personal--a politics that is otherwise
illegitimate here, for he was not victimized by anyone on this list previous to
his original construction of himself as a victim. (His characterizations of
other folks' attempts to defend themselves as attempts at victimization--e.g.,
his suggestion that Jeremy was victimizing him by threatening to use his
*private* E-mail filtering, are equally clever but no more legitimate.) Clever
rhetoric should not mask the fact that we have not only witnessed a great lack
of collegiality where that lack was not required, but that we have witnessed
sexual harassment, at least as that would be defined in the US. True, the air-l
list *may* not constitute a workplace environment as that is defined in US law
on sexual harassment, and so the sexual harassment *may* not be prosecutable in
the US. But such behavior still deserves and needs to be labeled and

Christian Nelson

More information about the Air-l mailing list