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Micro-aggression Macro-offence

Entry 1926, on 2018-07-30 at 20:38:25 (Rating 3, Politics)

Few people would support a society which deliberately gave one group privileges which others didn't have, for no reason other than tradition or favouritism. Few people would support a society with arbitrary rules which applied to some groups and not others. And few people would support a society where one group could reduce the wellbeing of another group for no good reason.

I think I need to give some examples. Not many people would say that women shouldn't be allowed to be prime minister or president (depending on the political system in place). Very few would say that you must pay men more than women for the same work. And hopefully almost no one would say it is OK for white people to own black people as slaves.

These are all examples of prejudice and bias which have been part of various societies in the past, and some might even still occur in less progressive countries today. But they don't exist in more "civilised" nations like most of Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Yet people still seem to think they do.

Listening to many political pressure groups today you might think we are still living with the rules which were in place over a hundred years ago where clearly racist, sexist, etc rules existed. These people can't support their beliefs with any real evidence so they must invent something new instead, like microaggressions.

Microaggressions are apparently harmless comments or actions which one person does and another person reacts to negatively. Sometimes the person doesn't even react immediately but realises they have been a "victim" only later when a friend or colleague tells them. Sometimes they might realise decades later.

Here are some examples...
To a female CEO: “Can I speak with your boss?”
To a man who’s a nurse: “Wow, you don’t see many male nurses.”
To an LGBTQ intern: “Huh, you don’t sound gay.”
To a non-white colleague in a mostly white office: “So, where are you from? I mean, where are you really from?”

Now in every case you could say that there is an assumed attitude of inferiority, but you could equally easily say that a very innocent interpretation is also possible.

For example, it is unlikely that anyone would walk into the CEO's office and ask the person sitting behind the CEO's desk where their boss was, no matter what gender they were. But in an ambiguous situation that error is quite understandable.

And, it's true, there aren't many male nurses. That makes them more interesting than female nurses in some ways. Is it not OK to discuss their reasons for taking that career path?

And saying someone doesn't sound gay is hardly the worst insult in the world. With the ambiguous gender roles we have today, many people find these situations uncomfortable, and that response seems relatively innocuous to me.

Finally, asking someone about their home country is often just a way to show interest. When I am overseas people sometimes detect my accent and want to talk about New Zealand. Why would I be offended?

We are all told not to blame the victim, and that's not really what I am doing. Actually, I am. I'm blaming both the victim and the perpetrator because they are both to blame. It's almost impossible to interact with another person without either unintentionally doing something which might be construed as negative, or having such an artificial and contrived interaction that it really just isn't worth the trouble.

In other words, being too aware of microaggressions is itself harmful. It makes normal human interaction too hard, and people who are looking for them will always see them, even if they don't really exist.

I have been involved in a few examples of this phenomenon myself. People have accused me of making racist and sexist comments which they were offended by, for example, when all I was doing was criticising a comment they had made. The fact that the person was a member of some sort of "underprivileged" group was purely coincidental.

So if I said something like "no, I'm sorry, but your response there indicates you don't really understand the science involved" to a woman I might get the response "oh right, I could never do science because I'm a woman".

Or if I said "I don't think you should be able to control the way that other person uses their land" to a Maori I might hear "yeah there you go again, another white person oppressing the native people".

But I would never use either of these statements specifically against women or Maoris, and I have used them many times in other contexts. In fact, now that I think about it, I have used them far more times against white men.

So these are not really examples of aggression, or even microaggression. Well, to be honest there probably is a small element of aggression in some of my comments, but that is really the nature of debate in many cases. I get far worse things aimed back at me - things which are clearly far more aggressive - but I just laugh them off. In fact, I use them against the person by calmly pointing out why they are wrong.

So I am going to say "get over it" to the "victim". And that's another word I think has lost all meaning today. Everyone is a victim or a survivor of abuse. Sure, there are some situations where those words are warranted, but today it seems that the slightest negative experience makes someone a victim and then a survivor, no matter how minor the original incident was.

It's really rather pathetic and it is damaging to both parties involved. The person who is accused of initiating the aggression often faces severe consequences, sometimes as much as loss of their job or position in society. And the person who is the target of the aggression wastes time worrying about how they should respond, when simply ignoring it would be better for everyone.

And it promotes a perspective of victimhood. It seems today that in order to get any attention you have to be the victim of something. If you are a woman you must be the victim of the patriarchal society, or of some sort of male sexual assault (a perspective encouraged by the hysterical narrative of the current "metoo" fad). And if you belong to a native society or a minority racial group then you are the victim of colonialism and racism.

There are undoubtedly issues for all of these groups, just like there are issues for people not in the groups. The big difference is that people outside the "cult of victimisation" just ignore these trivial offenses get on with life.

For every group who is apparently disadvantaged due to offensive comments by their oppressor I will show you a group just as oppressed who has done really well. In the end, it is not the attitude of the oppressor which causes the problems, it is the attitude of the oppressed.


Comment 1 (4930) by Anonymous on 2018-08-01 at 10:09:10:

Do you think we should accept deliberate insulting and inappropriate behaviour just because you think it could be innocent? You must agree that real microaggression happens. Why would you not want to try to fix it?


Comment 2 (4931) by Anonymous on 2018-08-01 at 10:10:29:

Ha ha ha. OJB is mansplaining again!


Comment 3 (4932) by OJB on 2018-08-01 at 12:06:41:

In answer to comment 1: Yes, I think we *should* just ignore what we *believe* might be micro-aggressions. I think this for two reasons: first, they often aren't aggressive at all, but just a matter of misinterpretation on the part of the person who thinks they have been "victimised"; and second, by making a big fuss about trivial incidents, even assuming they are genuine, we make all aggression look trivial. Let's choose our battles and try to stop real problems instead of creating them.


Comment 4 (4933) by OJB on 2018-08-01 at 12:10:18:

And in answer to comment 2: Words like "mansplaining", "racist", "sexist", etc have just lost all meaning to me. If you think I'm a racist, sexist, mansplainer then fine. You know what? I accept and welcome those labels, because it shows I am probably correct in what I am saying. If anyone had a genuine rebuttal to my points they would make it. By using meaningless insults like "mansplaining" it just demonstrates how totally inadequate their ideas really are. There's some mansplaining for ya!


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