Fungible Victims?: How Activists
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Social moment actors engaged in anti-violence activism often use particular tactics, such as highlighting ideal victims and talking about epidemics of violence,in order to get attention for the problem of violence against the group they are advocating for. These strategic actions shape how people view the victims of violence, the perceived causes of violence, and the proposed solutions to violence. In this paper, I detail the tactics used by transgender rights advocates engaged in anti-violence activism. I argue that, while these strategies were highly effective in getting attention for the cause of violence against transgender people, they also severely misrepresented who is at highest risk for violence. Using an original dataset of all of the known murders of people doing non-natal gender in the United States between 1990 and 2005, I show that, unlike activists description of all transgender people being at equal risk for violence, there are clear, meaningful patterns to fatal violence against transgender people. I demonstrate that the particular tactical repertoires used by activists may have encouraged social movement actors to fight for solutions to the violence that were not as effective in reducing violence as alternative solutions shaped by more accurate knowledge of victim characteristics.
American Sociological Association Conference
Westbrook, Laurel, "Fungible Victims?: How Activists" (2013). Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants. 1010.