Microaggression

Passive wounding.

Microaggression

This project is a response to “it’s not a big deal” – “it” is a big deal. ”It” is in the everyday. ”It” is shoved in your face when you are least expecting it. ”It” happens when you expect it the most. ”It” is a reminder of your difference. ”It” enforces difference. ”It” can be painful. ”It” can be laughed off. ”It” can slide unnoticed by either the speaker, listener or both. ”It” can silence people. ”It” reminds us of the ways in which we and people like us continue to be excluded and oppressed. ”It” matters because these relate to a bigger “it”: a society where social difference has systematic consequences for the “others.”

But “it” can create or force moments of dialogue.

This blog seeks to provide a visual representation of the everyday of “microaggressions.” Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt – acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult. Social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.

This project is NOT about showing how ignorant people can be in order to simply dismiss their ignorance. Instead, it is about showing how these comments create and enforce uncomfortable, violent and unsafe realities onto peoples’ workplace, home, school, childhood/adolescence/adulthood, and public transportation/space environments.

I feel like such a fatty, no offense. — My friend to me.

 

Wheeling down the road in my neat little sporty wheelchair, and a group of men sticking their heads out of the betting shop door to clap at me and cheer me on. Made me feel patronized and mildly unsafe.

«Practicing already, huh?». — My step-dad said this to me when I was 8-9 while I was eating a popsicle.  At the time I had no idea what he meant, but now it makes me feel dirty.

Eating a “just-because” dinner with my boyfriend, and the waitress looks at me and asks, “how is everything?”  She then turns to my boyfriend and asks, “are you ready for the check?” I was paying.

«You’re a boy! Boys don’t cry! Do you want people to think you’re a girl». —
Said by an adult women to my three-year-old after he had fallen off his bike and cut his lip open. Very sad. Sad that he is already getting messages like this at such a young age.

«I’m fine with gay people as long as they aren’t gay around me». — Boys in my homeroom having a conversation behind me. As an in the closet bisexual teen, it made me feel ashamed; like there was something wrong with me.

I always get asked to be an interpreter for patients who are not native English speakers, specifically for those of Asian background. Because I am of Asian background as well, there is this assumption that I speak every language in Asia or that there is only one language/country in Asia. Unbelievable.

«You’d be soo pretty if you lost weight. I heard this woman on TV say she didn’t feel like a woman because of her weight. I just don’t want you to feel that way. I’ll give you $5 a pound for every pound you lose». — I’m female, age 7.

Oh… So I’m just going to put that you aren’t sexually active at this time.
My gynecologist’s reaction to me revealing, when she asked about my sexual activity, that I only have sex with women.  Made me feel like nothing I do with women will ever “count” the way it would if I was with men.

«What do you mean, you don’t celebrate Christmas? It’s for everyone!».
«Что значит ты не празднуешь Рождество? Это же для всех!».

A bouncer/security guard at my favorite bar keeps touching my arm and back as he checks my ID. He’s a big man, and I’m a petite 24 year old female rape victim. It’s not ‘significant’ enough to report, but reminds me I’m not safe anywhere, with anyone. I will always be regarded as lesser than male and therefore free to touch and be expected to take it as a compliment.

«I’m sure you can speak to this». — Teacher, referring to me in a class discussing how race influences therapy. I’m the only Black person in the room.

Are you lesbian because a man hurt you? — I was facing homelessness after my parents found out I’m lesbian. My only nearby support system was the school I attended. After I explained the situation and disclosed my sexuality to a teacher I trusted with the information, this was the response I got.

When discussing Nietzsche in class, my professor asks if we think his “ubermensch” or superman could be female. One student says that girls can’t because they aren’t strong enough physically. Other students agree, adding that the female personality type just doesn’t fit the bill. All of them are girls. I am so shocked and appalled that these capable young women can feel so opposed and disgusted at the idea of a strong, powerful woman.

Eastern Europeans are trashy. I know, because when my Eastern European brother-in-law got married, women at his reception wore fishnet tights and black lace gloves. This hyper-sexual culture is one of the main causes of the sex trafficking problem in Eastern Europe. We all, as Westerners, have difficulty understanding this type of culture. — White American Gender Studies professor in a War Narratives class. A Romanian citizen and immigrant, I was crying. 

We call Chinese to everyone who looks Asian. That’s what I meant. — Miss Universe 1996, in reference to her Twitter post calling North and South Korea “the Chinas”.

How can you go so long without having sex?! You’re a BLACK GUY. — My coworker to me after it came out that I hadn’t had a girlfriend for a while. He’s a white male, and as I stood there trying to think of a response, he grabbed three other white male coworkers and expressed his disbelief to them. They all agreed with him and stood in a semi circle around me, laughing. Made me feel like my sexuality was freakish, a joke.

«Are you normal?». – My father asked me this when he found out I was sharing an apartment with two girls and not dating them. I am a gay male. Made me feel: sad and afraid of how he would react if I were to come out to him; like I have to lie and hide who I am to gain his acceptance; angry that he would assume that I am sleeping with my friends of the opposite gender.

«An atheist?! But you are so nice!» — The implication being that the only possible way to be a good/moral/nice person is to have a religion.  This is often followed up by statements such as “Are you sure?” or “No, you can’t be, because you don’t behave like an atheist”…  Makes me feel frustrated, misunderstood, unheard.