Microaggression is a term many of you may have heard thrown around in the conversation of political correctness, beauty standards, and media. I myself have used this term in conversations only to find that most folks aren’t entirely sure what it means.
Microaggression is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a comment or action that is subtly and often unintentionally hostile or demeaning to a member of a minority or a marginalized group”.
I thought this definition was pretty accurate, taking into account my own experiences and other instances of microaggression that I have observed. Now for those who haven’t witnessed or experienced microaggression, let me break it down for you. It can occur in almost any form imaginable but more commonly in politically incorrect jokes, advertisements, and badly worded complements. Regarding badly worded praise, an example I’ve heard directed at myself would be “Wow! You’re so smart for someone that has ADD/ADHD!”
Sounds perfectly innocent right? Wrong.
There’s a lot more wrong to that statement than what’s heard on the surface. First of all, telling me that I’m smart is not an issue. The issue lies in the implications that were stated regarding my intelligence. By saying that I’m smart “for someone that has ADD/ADHD“, it’s basically saying that either people with ADD/ADHD aren’t intelligent (which is false btw. Tell that to my 4.0+ GPA), and/or that I’m not up to your personal standards of intelligence which is only excused by the fact that I’ve got ADD. Now to the person who made that comment’s defense, I personally do not believe that they intended to be hurtful or include the rude nuances. Never the less, the statement left a very bitter taste in my mouth and felt demeaning to my ability and place in the “neuro-atypical”, learning disabled community.
To get more of a variety of examples, I turned to a couple of boss, young women who are dear friends of mine, Grace and Ashly, to get their experiences and perspectives. I met both of them while participating in the young women’s leadership conference that inspired me to start this blog in the first place, when we worked together on our inclusiveness campaign (more on that soon!).
First, I asked Grace to tell me a little bit about her own definition of microaggression.
“Microaggression is a shady comment meant to insult or invalidate someone’s core being”, she explained, “Pretty much ‘coming for someone’s edges’.”
I thought this definition was quite accurate and explained it in a very colloquial, understandable manner. Previously I thought that microaggression was typically unintentional but her statement made me realize that it can also just be a subtle but intentional comment towards someone. When I asked Grace about her personal experience with microaggression, she told me about an instance when she was a victim of a insensitive and subtly aggressive comment.
“Once a woman who worked with my mom and knew I was trans said ‘wow you so tall you keep growing'”, she commented, “Often it’s thought that when people call you out on your height they are trying to clock you and I felt embarrassed.”
Although it was not said directly, the woman’s statement could very easily be interpreted as an insult to who Grace is a person, and unfairly single her out.
Grace and I have very similar philosophies on how microaggression can be prevented. “Education and holding people accountable for what they say… stop letting ‘kids be kids’ and inform them when what they say is wrong.” This statement holds true for most things that fall under the bullying umbrella. As long as we brush things off carelessly, our feelings will continue to be hurt, and the people who perpetrated it won’t stop. The best way to prevent microaggression is to calmly and precisely explain to all individuals the importance of sensitivity in the nuances of their words.
I encourage each and every one of you to speak up in the presence of microaggression whether directed at you or not. You yourself can make a change.
Until next post,