Tuesday, March 12, 2013


A new term to me. It has shown up on a couple of sites I frequent. I am struck by the recursive feature: not acknowledging that X is a microaggression is itself a microaggression. Even when the facts are not as they were presented, or no counter-microaggressions (or even actual aggressions) are noted, that is still not an accepted excuse.

No, really. Check out the comments sections. If you argue against the idea in general or reject any specific instance, that in itself is identified as active insult.

I get the basic concept. Boy, do I get it. My ears are finely tuned to those shadings and I hear those microaggressions all the time, directed at me or at others. They are real. However, I work in an almost entirely white environment, interacting with departments that are predominantly female. The microaggressions I hear are professional, with secondary nodes of classism and misandry. I have a long history of setting limits by pointing out the most egregious of the offenses – which are nearly always denied. It is rather irritating to hear people’s meanings which they themselves are unaware of.

But I have a hard time separating this concept from another one called Real Life.

It is parallel to the belief that teenagers feel rejected and insecure because they are black, smart, latino, gay, jocks, artistic, emo, female, Christian, whatever.  Teenagers feel rejected and insecure.  Whatever they think is more prominent about themselves gets attached to that.


Sam L. said...

Oh, poor, pitiful me, how people are picking on me! And don't even know it! Or won't acknowledge it! I live among bastids!

As you say, Real Life.

I'm mostly over it.

I worked with a guy who seemed tof have a "target for today". He'd pick at the guy until he got angry, and then he'd stop. Somehow he never annoyed me. Maybe I just never noticed.

Ted said...

Just another example of how the old American "can do" spirit has been willingly replaced with the "poor me" mantra.

It's a sickness of epidemic proportions spread by Fed and state dollars (become a "protected class" and get a monetary payoff) and by the idiotic media (become a victim and we're sure to sympathize with you and give your group lots of recognition.)

This shit never happened when our society had shame attached to some behaviors instead of payoffs.

SJ said...

I feel like I should go all science-unit-geeky on this one.

Micro-aggressions are small, but they add up.

If you meet a thousand of these in a day, you have experienced one milli-aggression.

Ten thousand micro-aggressions should produce one centi-aggression.

But one million? That will get you one complete aggression.

It's really hard to get that high, but some people do it, on both the giving and the receiving end.

jaed said...

But do the micro-aggressions add linearly? Or some other way? If they add relativistically, for example, you can never get a complete aggression from putting together micro-aggressions.

On the other hand, they might add in such a way than ten micro-aggressions equals one aggression. Or even more!

I feel these are important issues and require more study. More papers. More inclusion in textbooks. (In fact, the lack of attention paid to micro-aggressions is, in fact, a micro-aggression.)

The potential for investigation of recursive micro-aggressions alone justifies much new required coursework, many new tenured positions, many consultant opportunities in sensitivity training to address micro-aggressions in the workplace. Wouldn't you say?

[That last one, I'm actually scaring myself. I can see, oh so easily, a whole new mandatory micro-aggression curriculum.]

Assistant Village Idiot said...

SJ and jaed are on an interesting track. Unfortunately, jaed's comment seems worrisomely, prophetic: he's scaring me.

james said...

Like racism, microaggression only exists when the perpetrator benefits from historical privilege, or the there's the perception that the perp is of such a group.

The historically unprivileged can never be jerks.

SJ said...

I was going at it kind of tongue-in-cheek.

I suspect that the person is using micro in the sense of "small, almost not noticed" instead of in the sense scientists use when they say "micro-meters" or "micro-seconds".

Like jaed, I'm also a little scared by the way that sarcastic treatment of the subject can look serious.

jaed said...

"She", darn it.

As for prophetic... I have a bad feeling that I'm actually behind the times. I'll bet if I looked, I'd find such consultants working today.


Another thought has occurred to me: why not an intermediate step, the "mini-aggression"?