The term ‘microaggression’ has become a regular part of the lexicon of many. While the word has been around for a long time, it is enjoying something of a resurgence, helped by the stereotypes held by society, as well as, sadly, the victim culture that is becoming commonplace.
One psychologist defines a microaggression as “the everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of color, women, lgbt populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people”. Unlike how said psychologist has phrased it, anyone can be a victim of a microaggression, even the much-maligned white male.
In this article, we take a look at ten such examples. We have an article that delves deeper into microaggressions, available at this link.
1. “You are so lucky to be a white male”
To begin with, we can use an example that we’ve touched on. Society seems to be under the impression that all white males are disgusting creatures that shouldn’t walk the face of the Earth.
Saying something like “you are so lucky to be a white male” is an example of a microaggression. Being told you shouldn’t complain about something due to your skin colour is a microaggression – and arguably more than that.
2. “It must be great being from Asia, Maths must be so easy”
Unfortunately, this is a very real situation that many people from Asia face when attending a Western educational institution, or in some cases – workplaces too.
While many Asian countries are associated with excellent mathematical skills, it would be too simplistic to state that a continent of billions of people automatically creates mathematical geniuses.
3. “You inspire me so much, the way you’ve overcome your disability”
A group that often face microaggressions is the disabled. Unfortunately, comments that are meant to praise a person actually end up being patronising. When a person is disabled in some way, sometimes it seems that they are automatically expected to have a limited comprehension of something.
Automatically having low expectations of someone puts the disabled individual in a position where the slightest bit of good work results in mass plaudits. While this can be nice, it is also often done just because of the person’s disability, rather than on merit. So while they may crave to be seen as a regular member of the team, they aren’t.
4. “You have a degree?!”
Sometimes, people will assume from the way someone dresses, looks or acts, that they know about their education level. They will often speak to someone as if they are a rookie in a certain subject.
However, if the person tells them about their degree, they may be met with shock from the person, who may act that they are surprised that the other person has a degree, certification, or some form of other achievement.
5. “Wow, normally people your age don’t know about things like Instagram”
Society still has a long way to go when it comes to ageism. Sometimes it seems that those that are over the age of 40 are seen as stale, and too old to function in the modern day.
The elder generation are commonly stereotyped on the internet as being out of touch with reality. If in a meeting, or just in an everyday conversation, and one of the elder members in the meeting puts forward an idea that involves social media, some may react with surprise that they know about this idea. Again, this can be hurtful to the elder person, as if they are automatically presumed to be “past it”.
6. “So where are you from?”
A common microaggression that is faced by persons of colour. Someone may assume that because of their different skin colour, that they are automatically foreign, and hail from a different country.
In asking a question regarding the person’s origin, they will normally mean no harm. But it can be hurtful for a fellow citizen of their nation to just assume they are talking to someone foreign, just due to the colour of their skin.
7. “Which of your parents makes you wear that?”
Religion is commonly an area that leads to microaggressions. If a person chooses to wear a head-covering, certain garment or anything else related to religion, they will likely receive comments.
For Muslims, many will wear a form of covering such as a hijab or niqab. Sometimes, people presume that the individual is forced to wear something, rather than doing so out of choice.
8. “Wow, we thought you would just be a typical dumb blonde”
This is a difficult position for any blonde woman to be in. The media often portrays blonde women as rather ditsy, foolish and disorganised. This can therefore extend to the workplace, where fellow employees may not expect much from a blonde-haired woman.
But actually, they are just as capable as anyone else. When they prove themselves to be a competent worker, it may lead to some ‘flattering’ comments. Others may think that they are praising a person by saying they are better than they presumed they would be. But this stereotype can be harmful to a person, and hurt their job prospects.
9. “Sorry, but someone like you doesn’t belong on a building site”
Workplaces that are associated with masculinity, such as building sites or corporate offices, may not be seen as appropriate for women, or those from the LGBTQ community. They may not be seen as capable of handling the “banter” from the fellow workers.
By being told you don’t ‘belong’ at the site/office as if you are being protected for your own good is demeaning, and presumes because of your gender or sexual orientation, that you automatically don’t fit a certain workplace.
10. “I didn’t realise you were gay, you have to meet one of my friends, they’re gay too”
This is something that is often seen in the workplace, and it is something that is normally well-intentioned. This microaggression basically presumes that just because two people share the same sexual orientation, that they will automatically get on well.
This doesn’t take into account that person’s particular desires, their preferred personality type, personal values, and other areas. It essentially lumps millions of people into one area.
Many of these areas relate to stereotypes – and how a sentence that is meant to be complimentary can actually have the opposite effect.
While this is rarely the intention, in this day and age we all have to be careful in how we word things. While the world is concerningly chilling free speech, being kind to one another is very important.