Definition of a microaggression:
- 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 (psychologytoday.com)
Why am I writing about microaggressions? Because, quite frankly, I’m sick of hearing them.
Sometimes the person using a microaggression may think that they are being nice, inclusive, or toning down an insult. To be totally honest, you’re just making it worse. Here are a few examples of microaggressions that my friends and I have heard and why they are NOT okay:
“You’re too pretty to be gay” – One of my friends gets this one a lot. Yes, they did say that she is pretty, so what’s the problem? The fact that people think that your sexual orientation determines your level of attractiveness. This statement basically says “gay people aren’t supposed to be good looking” Never tell someone that they are “too pretty” to be themselves.
“You don’t talk like a black girl” – I actually got this a lot growing up. It was either this or “You sound white” Excuse you? No. I sound normal. Just because I enunciate and speak in full sentences doesn’t that I “talk white” it means that I enunciate and speak in full sentences. Stop trying to fit me into a stereotype and accept that this is how I am. Stereotypes aren’t compliments.
“You’re pretty for an Asian/Black/Latino girl” – So what you’re basically saying is that because I’m not a certain ethnicity, you’re surprised that I’m pretty? So in your head only certain races can be deemed attractive? Do you realize how freaking stupid that sounds?
“What are you mixed with?” – My sister and I both got this one a lot. Basically we were asked this because our appearances didn’t match that of a “typical” African-American female, which makes no sense whatsoever, because even within the same race or ethnicity, women come in all shapes, colors, and sizes.
“There’s nothing wrong with being gay, just keep that away from me” – What? First of all, being a member of the LGBTQ community is not contgious.It’s not like it a gay person gets to close to you you’ll “catch the gayness.” Grow up. If it’s not a problem to you, then why do you feel the need to distance yourself?
“For a girl, you’re really athletic” – In what world are women not athletic? Yes, most (but not all) men will be stronger than women, have more muscle mass, and are able to lift heavier. At the end of the day, it really just depends on the way your body is built. Please get it out of your head that all women are petite and fragile.Yeah, some women are petite and there’s nothing wrong with that, but stop assuming that we’re so weak that we can’t even play sports.
“Are you sure you can carry that?” – People usually say this after I’ve already told them that I don’t need help. I may only be 5 feet but I am stronger than I look. Stop underestimating me. Wait, for me to tell you that I need help, don’t just assume that I do.
“I don’t mean to sound racist/sexist/homophobic/offensive, but…” – Prefacing something with this phrase does nothing but acknowledge the fact that you know you are going to say something racist/sexist/homophobic/offensive. So just don’t do it.
“I’m colorblind/I don’t see color” – This one probably pisses me off the most. I get it, you think that this statement is inclusive and that you’re saying that the color of people’s skin doesn’t affect how you view or treat them. If that’s what you want to say, then just say that. When you say that you “don’t see race” you’re not appreciating the diversity of the people around you, instead it could be interpreted as you denying to acknowledge a part of someone’s identity. Don’t say that you can’t see the color of someone’s skin (obviously you can) just say that it doesn’t change your view of them.
There are millions of other microaggressions that people hear everyday and the bottom line is, it needs to stop. To combat this a little, an organization that I was a part of on campus did a photo campaign. The organization is called Bridging the Gap and we asked people to point out the microaggressions and stereotypes that have been posed against them. I don’t have the pictures anymore, but I typed some of the things that people said below:
- Just because I’m bisexual, doesn’t mean I’m comfused
- Just because I’m an immigrant, doesn’t mean I can’t speak English
- Just because I’m gay, doesn’t mean that I want to be your shopping buddy
- Just because I’m Hispanic, doesn’t mean I’m Mexican
- Just because I’m from Ethiopia, doesn’t mean I’m starving
- Just because I coach/teach, doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning
- Just because I’m Christian, doesn’t mean I’m closed-minded
- Just because I’m black, doesn’t mean I’m a walking stereotype
- Just because I’m a guy, doesn’t mean I can’t cook
- Just because I have tattoos and piercings, doesn’t mean I’m a bad person
- Just because I’m a college kid, doesn’t mean I like to drink
- Just because I’m in a sorority, doesn’t mean I’m a crazy party girl
- Just because I’m a woman, doesn’t mean I’m inferior
- Just because I’m blonde, doesn’t mean I’m dumb
This isn’t even half of it, but I think you get the point.
Moral of the Story: Think before you speak and stop trying to use microaggressions as compliments.