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Life

Microagressions, and Why They’re Not What You Think

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at La Verne chapter.

“It’s not enough just to have blonde hair and big boobs anymore, you actually need to use your brain,” my professor said as she made eye contact with me. 

 

It was the first day of my junior year at University. As always, I was excited for a fresh start and hopeful for the new opportunities that every year brings. I’m a planner. I make plans to plan. So when I planned out my “first day back outfit,” I went for cute and comfortable, the pillars of all great outfits. (haha) 

Just my presence in the classroom triggered my “feminist” female professor. My put together hair and makeup meant something more to her than just me putting forth an effort to look put together. To her, I represented a demographic that made her uncomfortable. A demographic or “type” of girl that wasn’t particularly studious and apparently not akin to using my brain. 

 

This, as slight as it was, is a “microagression.”

 

Psychology Today defines microagressions as “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” 

In order to properly acknowledge a microagression we have acknowledge they everyone faces them and that you probably unconsciously at one time or another, believed them.  

These shocking ‘everyday’ comments are the pillars that once encouraged racism and sexist beliefs. Today, we don’t see a lot of outwardly sexists and racists, however, these 

microagressions are almost worse, because people aren’t aware that they are just as damaging as macro aggressions (being outwardly racist, sexist, homophobic etc.)

Usually followed by words like “no offense” and “everyone was thinking it” these obvious insults are usually excused. 

A lot of people don’t realize that these stereotypes follow EVERYONE!!! 

Another example could be people using the word “bitch” to describe a particularly goal oriented and no-nonsense women… Sound familiar ladies? “You’re really pretty, why are you single?” 

Now, that we know what they are what can we do? Academic director of the Leadership Institute at London Business School, says “The most productive response in the workplace is actually to confront the microaggression.”

Be human, everyone at one time in their life has come from a place of personal bias. Use this opportunity to spread awareness and cultural consciousness – not hate.

 

Here is a script to help navigate a productive conversation when faced with microaggressions:

“Remember when you said _____ well, where I’m from we don’t use that word and in the workplace it can actually be really offensive.” 

“I just wanted to be honest with you and let you that when you said ______ it insinuated that ______ , which I felt was hurtful” 

As a woman especially it is so critical to let it be known that you will not settle for less than your worth. We as a whole need to unite and stand up for ALL women, even the ones who don’t look like us or think like us! Because that is what feminism is. We don’t get to pick and choose who is the “right kind” of feminist. 

 

When unaddressed, micros are the foundation for macros. Use your voice and end this unconscious behavior.