Foreword [chapter]

Claire M. Renzetti
2020 Neither Villain nor Victim  
The images are familiar, not only in popular culture but in the social science literature as well. The female drug addict-the gendered adjective necessary because the images conjured are so different for women than for men-is villain or victim. She is a favorite target of derision for any number of the traits imputed to her: her promiscuity, her lack of will, her neglect of her children or others close to her, her selfi shness, her self-pity and self-loathing. To test the pervasiveness of these
more » ... images, I asked a group of students what comes to their minds when they hear the words "female drug addict." The responses came with little hesitation, hands immediately went up: "Skinny, lazy, selfi sh," "Somebody who only thinks about how she's going to get high, feel good, even if it means forgetting about her kids and their needs," "A woman who would sell her own children just for a fi x," "She doesn't care what she has to do to get drugs-have sex with dirty, disgusting strangers; kill somebody, maybe her mother or sister or baby," "Sick, can't help herself, vulnerable." These depictions, even the more sympathetic ones, can be encapsulated in what Tammy Anderson refers to in this book as the "pathology and powerlessness" narrative that has historically characterized popular and academic discourses about female substance abusers. Anderson is calling for a "critical re-evaluation of this narrative" in light of recent research, much of it collected here, showing far greater complexity in the lived experiences and social relationships of women substance abusers. And herein lies the signifi cance of this book. Anderson and the contributors to this volume clearly demonstrate through their work that the dichotomy between "good" women (those who don't use drugs) and "bad" women (those who do use drugs) is false. Also false is the dichotomy of drug-abusing women as either victims ("forced" or "led" into substance abuse and then "trapped" by it, but forgivable because they have no power to resist) or villains (addicts "by choice," who sell themselves and anything or anyone of signifi cance for the selfi sh pleasure
doi:10.36019/9780813544632-002 fatcat:ygss2hnakjc6nmi5gxyobdrrdq