Microagressions, political correctness, innate bias, and hypersensitivity.

A lot of overlap here.

On the one hand I see a whole bunch of clueless people who do not realize the magnitude and impact of their biases and whose behaviors (and they would never see themselves as having any prejudice whatsoever or endorse any explicit prejudiced beliefs) exhibit lots of innate prejudices. And some, like the now more infamous than famous Nobel laureate Tim Hunt, who have explicit beliefs that they think others are too PC about.

Whether they be labeled as “microagressions” or being innate prejudices that we have no explicit awareness of, behaviors that negatively impact particular groups abound. I accept that.

On the other hand I am conscious that there is also some hypersensitivity out there. And that calling out and attacking behaviors that are perceived as “microagressions” is likely going to be an ineffective tactic that does more in service of the smugness factor of the person doing the calling out than it does to impart any positive change. The belief that a person perceiving an insult is automatically valid seems as unreasonable to me as the belief that if someone does not think they intended an insult then someone feeling it as one is wrong to do so.

Which leaves me pretty confused honestly and wondering what humble opinions others have.

Hence the poll to follow.

When I was a kid, we chanted, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I am reminded of the woman who said she got physically ill when Larry Summers suggested that it might be interesting to study the question if women had smaller dispersion (at both ends of the spectrum) on math ability to explain why there were fewer women mathematicians and physicists. All he wanted to do was have someone study the question. So she thought that a question that might be studied scientifically was beyond the pale of questions one might ask.

I can’t make heads or tails of the poll (yet), so I didn’t answer it.

But I suspect my answer is the same as it usually is in threads like this. “A little from column A, a little from column B.”

I had a friend in grad school. I call her a friend because that’s the best way of describing our relationship, but in retrospect, I don’t really think we had a real friendship. But anyway, Jenni was my friend. She was several years older than me and had a mean sense of humor.

As soon as she learned I was 1) black (she thought I was Puerto Rican or something at first), and 2) not a “militant” black (meaning, I’m not quick to fly off the handle), she would regale me on a regular basis with racial jabs. Everything from “Why do black people do X?” to Rush Limbaugh-esque lecturing about how I need to thank white people for “rescuing” me from Africa, rather than demanding reparations from them (which I’ve never done before, but I did tell her I was sympathetic to the cause). The undergrad student who assisted her on her projects would also throw in a few jokes at my expense. And me, trying to be goodnatured about everything and NOT be “militant”, would laugh and do my best to punch back. Which was pretty hard for me to do. My sense of humor doesn’t bend in that direction.

Every evening, I’d ride my bike through the slums of Newark and I’d see people–black people–mired in poverty, crime. And then I’d reflect on how I was the only black doctoral student at my school. And then the sting of Jenni’s jokes would sink in.

Once, around 9-11, an Indian guy told me that Newark residents were all niggers. I’d just told him that I lived in Newark, and here I was giving the dude a ride home. But I said nothing.

I went to a conference down in New Orleans with a bunch of fellow grad students. The humidity did a number on a sista’s hair, and I was in a sour mood about it. One of the guys in the group had been making fun of me all day and I didn’t say a word. But when he started poking fun of my hair, I flipped out and threatened to throw his ass off the balconey. I’m sure I confirmed all kinds of stereotypes about “angry black women” that day. Those people saw me freaking over something as trivial as my hair. But they don’t know that I don’t “freak out” over the million other paper cuts that I endure. Every time I read your typical comments section, I get pricked. But I don’t even flinch.

I really do think most members of stigmitized minority groups quickly learn from an early age how to let shit slide. Especially folks who are ambitious and end up being successful at something. But everyone has a tipping point. What looks like “hypersensitive” is often someone who has tried to be patient, but they’ve had their fill.

I’m not going to tell people how to feel when I haven’t lived the life that they have. I wouldn’t tell a black person not to feel angry about subtle racial slights anymore than I’d tell a combat vet not to get spooked by sudden loud noises. It’s not my place.

People are free to be as sensitive (or hypersensitive) as they like. I am (and should be) just as free to ignore their sensibilities if I consider them silly.

Is it possible to be hypersensitive to micro-aggressions?

The problem is what monstro mentioned. She endured a day (and probably more) of slightly insulting shit. But for most people, patience has a limit. And once that limit is reached, the annoyance escalate and the outburst may come, which may appear bigger than what was needed. What is ignored is the other stuff that was ignored, but which had a cumulative effect.

Lo poco agrada y lo mucho enfada. A little bit is nice, a lot annoys.


Are those all meant to be examples of over-reactions? Because, speaking as a dude, anyone who says, “That’s not how proper young ladies act,” should, at bare minimum, be kicked in the balls between seven and nine times.

I think a lot of letting shit slide, though, still is resulting in stress and strain on a body. Even someone who never cracks is still, I think, feeling it.

That saying is not apt. With microagressions, even a little bit is not ‘nice’.

I don’t doubt that they do get fed up. But the only people I’ve ever heard lecture anyone about micro-aggressions have been white, middle-class, liberal women who have mostly been scolding people about how things might possible affect non-white, non-middle class people.

It’s one thing to hear from possibly affected person that your words/actions made them feel ___ but it’s a little much to have people decide they know how other people must feel well enough to appoint themselves their champions. And they have no self-awareness of how that must come across to the people they’re “protecting.” :rolleyes:

There’s a line somewhere between person A being “too sensitive” and person B just being an asshole and needing to be called on it. Where that is, depends.

Real specific, I know.

Side note. monstro, although I’m familiar with the stereotype about black women and hair, I can tell you that I, as a wavy-haired, seriously white woman, have NO sense of humor when it comes to the intersection of my hair, humidity, and frizz. Don’t poke fun at my frizzing hair. Those are fighting words.

You seem to be telling a non-white woman how she should feel about it.

Did it help?

I’ve never seen any example of someone accusing someone else of a “microaggression”, where I didn’t think the accusation was idiotic.

Virtually all of the times that I’ve heard the word microaggression used, the accuser has been a college or university student or professor, usually at a top-ranked school. Anyone who attends or teaches at a top college or university is immensely privileged, whether male or female, white or black or any other race, straight or gay or any other orientation. Therefore, any such person looks dumb claiming to be a victim because of something minor. If I ever actually met an Ivy League student who was throwing a fit about the wording on a form or something else trivial, I’d advise them to do some volunteer work at a homeless shelter, food bank, or jail. There they would meet people who are actually underprivileged, possibly for the first time in their lives.

Fundamentally, everyone must learn to put up with some amount stuff that they don’t like in society. That’s a result of the fact that society exists and contains many different people. To assign an official word like “microagressions” to the phenomenon of tiny little things a person doesn’t like and then start campaigns to eliminate them is obviously one part of the left’s strategy for having everyone on campus live in fear. If standard and avoidable social interactions are treated as if they were crimes, then anyone can be arbitrarily chosen and punished at any time. Which, it seems, is rather what certain people have in mind.

Both ‘micro aggression’ and ‘hyper sensitivity’, I believe, are phrases coined to diminish the actions/feelings of those we disagree with. It’s not aggression, as we all know and accept, it’s ‘micro’ aggression, like that makes any difference or sense. Same for ‘hyper’ sensitivity. What’s hyper about it? Besides you don’t feel it’s valid?

This seems a sad, sorry step beyond even political correctness to me. Both phrases make me roll my eyes, and think you’re ‘one of those’, and all discussion is futile. On a scale with ‘sovereign citizens’, kind of silly.

Enjoy your semantic backwater that leads no where!

The term “microagressions” is a scholarly way of calling out jerk behavior. Why should this be controversial? Just don’t be a jerk. It is seriously not that complicated.

I can think of other ways to call out microagressions, most involving less scholarly language. “Jerk” was not my first choice in wording.

Actually microaggressions are called such by the people receiving them to indicate that they’re not the same as someone walking up to you and calling you a racial slur but that over time the tiny, seemingly meaningless crap (like someone asking to touch your hair) aren’t harmless–they’re aggressive, just on a smaller scale. And over time, they do have an alienating effect.

A recent prominent use of the term “microaggression” on campus served to diminish the efforts of people who were trying to curb stereotypical language used against Asian students. Apparently the very mention of the stereotypes was too offensive to bear.

If “diminishing the actions” of those who coin and use these terms means diminishing their ability to stifle open discussion and blacklist invited speakers whose views are deemed “hostile” or “microaggressive”, then it’s probably a good thing.