Hey, we're all victims here
EXPERT VICTIMOLOGISTS ESTIMATE that 91.2 percent of people in North America and Europe now qualify as victims, at least in their own minds. This is because hurt feelings keep spreading, and "society" keeps grinding us down. As the everyone's-a-victim movement continues to gain momentum, here are some notable victims of 2003:
-Male witches have been marginalized by society, according to the book Male Witches in Early Modern Europe. Though witchcraft is commonly viewed as a female activity, males accounted for more than a quarter of the 60,000 people executed for witchcraft in Europe, according to authors Lara Apps and Andrew Gow.
-Two student groups wanted to sponsor a pig roast at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. School authorities said no because the event might offend vegetarians, the Berkshire Eagle reported.
-Andrew Burnett got so angry at a female driver who tapped the bumper of his car in heavy traffic that he reached into her car, picked up her small dog, and hurled it into traffic. The dog died, and Burnett was convicted of cruel killing of an animal. On appeal, Burnett argued that the death was really the dog's fault, since the animal had safely reached the other side of the road and should have stayed there. Instead, the dog tried to make it back to its owner and was run over. Burnett's conviction was upheld.
-People with tattoos are often unfairly stereotyped, making it hard for them to get ahead at work, said Rep. Lois Capps, a California Democrat. She was trying to wheedle $50,000 in federal funds for the Liberty Tattoo Removal Program of San Luis Obispo County. She got the money.
-To avoid victimizing American Indians, costumes were forbidden at a school Thanksgiving pageant in Skokie, Ill., because the cardboard headdresses to be worn by children portraying Indians contributed to a stereotype. So the celebration of Pilgrims meeting Indians was conducted in whatever clothes the students were wearing that day.
-Two black women are suing Southwest Airlines because a flight attendant, attempting to get passengers to sit down for takeoff, said over the intercom, "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go." The women said the flight attendant's comment harmed them emotionally by bringing to mind an old racist version of the rhyme, ending, "Catch a n- - - - - by the toe." The commonly accepted form of the jingle ends in "Catch a tiger by the toe."
-Lawyers are victims of bad publicity and society's prejudices, according to Florida attorney Tod Aronovitz. As president of the Florida bar for 2002-2003, he was in a position to do something about it, so the bar committed $750,000 to a "Dignity in Law" public relations effort. Lawyer jokes have not yet been stamped out, but by May 2003, positive media coverage of lawyers had tripled, in large part because of the targeting of reporters who write about law, the bar reports.
-A high school student in Trento, Italy, faced with the prospect of having to repeat junior year because she failed math, hired a lawyer who argued that she was suffering from "irreversible psychological pathology," or math phobia. A regional court ruled that the condition made it impossible for her to study or master math and allowed the school to move her directly into senior year.
-Catherine Zeta-Jones and husband Michael Douglas sued the British magazine Hello! for publishing unauthorized photos of their wedding that allegedly made her look fat and frumpy. Zeta-Jones said she was devastated by the photos. Defense lawyers noted that the couple might be concerned about money: They had sold exclusive rights to photograph the ceremony to another magazine for $1.6 million.
-In February, a giant representation of the most prominent feature of male anatomy appeared on the Harvard campus, built out of snow by members of the men's crew team. Amy Keel, class of '04, decided that the snow sculpture was an assertion of male dominance as well as an implied threat to women. So she and her roommate knocked it down. In sympathy with the knock-down, Women's Studies lecturer Diane Rosenfeld lamented that the sculpture follows on a long line of public phallic symbols, including the Washington Monument and missiles. Wendy Murphy, a lawyer and visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, deplored the administration's silence: "What if students had built a snow sculpture of a Nazi swastika or a Confederate flag?" This may have been Harvard's first suggestion that all men are born with the equivalent of a Nazi-Confederate symbol built right in.
This story appears in the December 8, 2003 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.