Home » General » Time to Stop Waving the Victim Card [opinion]

Some weeks ago, while coming from Murambinda, I came across a group of women and men who were awaiting transport to get to Harare.

Although it was mid-afternoon, the road was very clear, with no sign of any vehicle coming in that direction.

A few minutes later, a lorry stopped and men immediately scrambled for a seat in the seemingly dusty but usable trailer.

Two women who were part of the group did not join in the scramble, insisting on being accommodated in the front seat where two gentlemen were already making themselves comfortable.

The driver hooted impatiently, revving his engine, forcing more women to jump into the back of the lorry, while the other two women continued demanding to sit in front.

The driver immediately started moving his truck before the rest of the people had secured seats in the already crowded small lorry — the only means of transport in the village.

Realising that their call for preferential treatment had gone unheeded, the two women frantically waved at the driver to stop, while shouting all sorts of obscenities.

Their words were drowned by the sound of the lorry as it gained speed as it headed towards the city.

As I watched the two visibly angry women, I was reminded of how some people, whether men or women, often play the victim or use the “victim card” to get what they want even when the environment is open, suitable and conducive for equal play.

The Oxford dictionary defines “victim playing” as the fabrication of victim-hood for a variety of reasons such as justifying abuse of others to manipulate as a way of diverting attention from incompetency or soliciting for sympathy so that people can subjugate the normal process to accommodate “the victim”.

As the hustle for political offices and economic opportunities takes centre stage in most debates being carried out in different platforms across Zimbabwe, there are people who are now putting their ethos aside and want to use the victim card to expedite their own ascendancy at the expense of other deserving individuals.

Rather than go into the game to compete for equal spoils, while proving that they are capable, regardless of their sex, level of education and social background, such people often expect special treatment of some sort, premised on the need to address historical inequalities that have remained with us even to this day.

That could have been the case of the two women in Murambinda.

Realising that there were more women than men who wanted to get into town, the other group of women did a quick situational analysis and realised that they needed to move with haste and secure a place in the lorry, or risk being left behind.

However, it is critical to always remember that “I-am-a-victim-mentality” is situational and will not always work, especially in cases where everyone appears to have historical inequalities, but are prepared to compete on the same platform with everyone else to ensure that they achieve what they set out to do.

When Zimbabwe attained Independence in 1980, a lot of ex-combatants who had abandoned school midway to take part in the struggle, decided to resume with their studies, as a self-actualisation exercise and also out of a need to upgrade their qualifications in order to remain relevant to aspirations and needs of a new Zimbabwe.

Others joined elementary schools, either through correspondence and direct tutorials and even attained high academic qualifications within a short period of time

Without the same context, the majority of their peers who did not go to the war front, spent years doing nothing to upgrade their status let alone resume their studies that had been disrupted by the war.

It was even worse for some of the ex-combatants who, after coming back, resolved that they could no longer go back to school, arguing that they were too old to worry about education.

So even if these two groups were to use historical inequalities as a point of negotiation, the group that decided to resume their studies against whatever circumstance is clearly aantaged against the other one.

The issue of gender inequality between men and women is a serious problem that needs to be interrogated from all angles and cannot be dismissed as a fallacy.

It is historical and heavily embedded in patriarchy so much that it will not be easy to address it overnight.

There still exist in societies and the nation certain structures that continue to perpetuate, or encourage gender inequality although there is global outcry to create a gender balance across economic, political and social structures.

Some of these structures include more resources allocated to educate the boy child at the expense of the girl child, using the girl child to pay or appease ngozi, and promoting early marriages for girls who are barely in their teens.

Having noted all the discomfort that comes along with being a woman, there is however, a fundamental difference between calling for the levelling of the playing field to allow more women in, than refusing to aance oneself, waiting for freebies that come along with being a woman.

It may be sad, but true, that globalisation is now offering many menu options from which companies, organisations and the world at large can afford to choose any of the highly competent, sharp, suave, academically and professionally competent women, who also have a gender card tucked right at the bottom of the handbag, should the negotiations become highly masculine and require much more.

Of course I can safely attest that barriers to entry are still there for women and the rules of engagement are still being drawn by men, women would need to move ahead regardless of the challenges that they may face.

In this dispensation, what it simply means to be a woman is to be forced to live within continuing stereotypes, while simultaneously re-branding and defining your own space in a highly competitive environment.

It also means being tough without losing the appeal of a woman. It means being part of the boys club, while demonstrating that you are competent, witty, and able so much that you can be trusted and seconded for that big post-gender position.

It is probably the game plan that high flying women like Lynn Mukonoweshuro, Divine Ndhlukula, Professor Hope Sadza, Sue Peters, Prof Primrose Kurasha, Florence Ziumbe, Vice President Joice Mujuru and other very successful women have been playing all along.

They are not only women, but they have proved to be competent and have the urge to go an extra mile should the environment demand.

They could have stopped developing themselves, stopped competing for space and recognition, banking on the victim or gender card to alleviate their status, but they did not do that.

They worked hard, packaged themselves, giving themselves an identity of who they are and the ethos that define them.

In a country where 52 percent of the population is made up of women, one needs a game plan to become a winner because all of these women have the gender card, neatly tucked away at the bottom of their handbags to wave should their academic and professional qualifications as well as other extras fail to stimulate a good response.

It is folly therefore for anyone to be holding on to the gender card alone, without anything else to offer.

Source : The Herald