There are 2 narratives currently butting heads in public discourse: Self-Accountability vs. Privilege.
Those in the Self-Accountability camp like to call the Privilege narrative “The Victim Mindset”. Those in the Privilege camp like to call the Self-Accountability narrative “Tone deaf Inspirational Drivel”. Reading the comments section convinces us that these world views are at war. And maybe they are for some people. But they don’t have to be.
The Self-Accountability narrative tells us that we have agency over our lives and our happiness. We have control over how we think about the world and we show up for ourselves.
The Privilege narrative tells us that oppression is real & has real impact. It is layered on us against our will. It shows up differently for different people. We do not move through the world the same. The world does not treat us the same. We have little control over how the world thinks about and shows up for US.
These narratives are not antitheses. We can hold space for BOTH these narratives and learn from them. In fact, I find them empowering together.
- Accurately identifying where the world holds you back and where the world lifts you up is useful. Not to ‘beat the game’ or change yourself to fit a more acceptable mold - but to know what’s worth your time.
- Intersectional feminists know that pointing out oppression does not eliminate the agency of the oppressed. In fact, it may focus it. Our energy is better spent when we can know our spheres of influence.
- Knowing where I have the capacity to harm is empowering. Not because I want to harm people, but because I DON’T want to harm people. The sooner I can identify my blindspots, the sooner I can work to be a force for good in the world.
For me, the truth lies in the nuance. I have appreciation for both worldviews and actually feel empowered through their overlap.
I’ll give you an example from my own life.
I have significant student loans. Like, I owe the federal government a LOT of money. The interest rate (on hold right now, thank god) is staggering. Sometimes, this reality is overwhelming. I feel behind, like I’ll never catch up.
I’m also employed, White, cis, straight, able-bodied, and safely middle class. I DO have control over my debt, while others definitely do NOT. The Self-Accountability and Privilege narratives tell me so. Now, I feel empowered to 1) get control of my finances, and 2) make a plan for more fairly redistributing wealth (through voting, political activism, and donation).
This is why I can read bell hooks and Rachel Hollis back to back without disturbing my worldview. In fact, it gets richer.
What does this look like in Nursing?
We know nurses have had it hard. Nursing as a profession was borne out of the oppression of women. Nurses continue to experience misogyny in the healthcare hierarchy today.
We also know that nurses have done harm. We have excluded and erased the contributions of Black women. We continue to perpetuate unjust care practices and health disparities.
Nurses are both Victim and Victimizer. We know this from the Privilege Narrative.
We also know that nurses have power - to change the Image of Nursing, smash the healthcare hierarchy, and heal our healthcare system. We also have the capacity to be Victors. We know this from the Self-Accountability narrative.
We can take responsibility for the harm we’ve done. We must be accountable for claiming our valuable role in the healthcare team. We can demand better for ourselves and of ourselves.
We must embrace both narratives, aware of our Self-Accountability AND our Privilege. Through these narratives, we are empowered and our mission enriched.