At first glance, the term microaggression – a big hit in academia, and major buzzword for feminism – seems pretty silly. When one first encounters the word, the reaction might be one of these:
- Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names may never hurt me;
- All the feminists using the term should grow a pair (irony intended); or
- Do a million microaggressions equal a punch in the nose?
Still, although ridicule definitely has uses (especially with something like this), we should first try to understand the theory so we can point out why it’s wrong.
So what does “microaggression” really mean?
From the sounds of it, one would think a microaggression happens whenever someone says or does something that hurts someone else’s feelings. However, road rage incidents, someone saying your favorite team sucks, your fashion sense getting criticized, and the like – none of that really counts. The subset of daily incivilities we all endure as a part of life – objective or perceived – classified as microaggressions are limited to those relating to “essential categories”. When the concept came out in 1970, it was about race. Soon, the feminists picked up on it big time. Among others, the LGBT activists got into the party, today’s cause-du-jour being transsexual potty privileges. Already this seems pretty curious – if incivility in general is bad, then why focus so much attention on “essential category” based stuff and not a word about anything else? The reason why, of course, is that microaggression theory is a political weapon for drawing attention, pushing guilt trips, and angling for preferential treatment and special rights.
A microaggression can be a very tiny thing, hence the “micro” prefix. As for the “aggression”, this sets the predetermined conclusion that it’s morally equivalent to violence. Even so, these are mostly things that people with skin thicker than paper just laugh off and forget about the next day. In fact, many claimed microaggressions are very “micro” indeed! For instance, asking an Asian “Where are you from?” qualifies as a microaggression. It doesn’t matter if the question was motivated by innocuous curiosity or a desire to learn about other cultures. Neither does it matter whether the intent actually was to find out what domestic city the Asian was from, rather than his or her country of origin. If a man asks a female co-worker for coffee, it’s microaggression; if the roles were reversed, she just wants some coffee. It’s all about perception. The problem is that if everything is about subjective standards, and even the tiniest things are magnified into little slices of violence, then it’s basically impossible to avoid randomly causing offense. Rather than solving any problems, this aggravates the “walking on eggshells” feeling in today’s increasingly politically correct society. This feeds the frame that society is a big toxic miasma because of “the patriarchy”, “the Man”, or whatever.
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
In the usual weaponized form of microaggression theory, it only counts when the offender is higher up the supposed privilege ladder (thus, lower on the real political pecking order) than the offended. So if a White guy asks “Why do Hispanics wear hair nets?” then that counts. If the Hispanic asks “Why do gringos wear baseball caps backwards?” it doesn’t count. However, if the White guy was gay and got called a “joto” or a “maricon”, and the Hispanic guy got called a “breeder”, then the gay White guy got microaggressed and the straight Hispanic didn’t. Well, maybe; the rules of the “victimization Olympics” game are far from set in stone. Inconsistent application of standards is yet another problem with microaggression rhetoric. For that matter, deciding who’s a bigger victim as a determinant of who’s right or wrong is fallacious reasoning. Actually, by objective standards, radical leftists commit microaggressions practically every time they open their mouths by very blatantly putting down Whites, males, straights, and any other group they don’t like. Further, distorting the news and lying about history to fit their agenda is pretty irritating to anyone who cares about the truth. Social Justice Weenies are worse hypocrites than televangelists.
The pat answer to skeptics of microaggression theory is that it’s invisible (except to the receiving party, of course). This is the same trick used with “privilege” – they say privilege is invisible to the privileged. The glaring problem is that it makes the whole discussion basically tautological. If one party claims that something exists but is invisible to the other party, then there can be no agreement on first principles – a necessity for productive debate – and no meaningful dialogue can follow. You might as well debate the existence of the Tooth Fairy with a four year old.
Microaggression rhetoric promotes hypersensitivity
There are a number of other problems. Magnifying slights – mostly petty or unintentional – is unhealthy. It’s unreasonable that people should go about the world expecting to be covered in psychic bubble wrap. Being that thin-skinned is a step below being a wimp. Also, walking around with a chip on one’s shoulder causes legitimate differences of opinion to be reframed as “you’re oppressing me”, “I’m triggered”, etc. Microaggression theory boils down to the hypersensitivity in political correctness. That’s sold as avoiding hurt feelings but is really about thought control. Actually, since microaggression theory gives license to get enraged whenever a dissenting opinion is heard – no matter how moderately stated – that’s pretty aggressive itself! It doesn’t have to be this way. One should stand up for one’s opinion like a reasonable adult, rather than acting like a big baby. As for perceived slights, the rational response is to shrug off little things and enforce boundaries proportionally as needed. Finally, even SJWs have intense debates over proper application of the “victimization Olympics”. Although they often march in lockstep, they do have their own individual perspectives, interpretations, and biases. It shouldn’t be any surprise that an ideology as inconsistent as this is full of fault lines. Sometimes revolutions end up eating themselves.
Really, more multiculturalism means more tension in society. The strategy since the 1960s of promoting hyper-consciousness in some groups – while forbidding legitimacy for other groups to express solidarity, promote their best interests like everyone else can, have their own living spaces, or even have a right to exist – that just makes tensions worse. So does pushing guilt trips, driving a wedge between men and women, etc. That’s what cultural Marxist strategy is all about, of course, but they sell this social battering ram as “social justice”. Is this really civility and tolerance? Because of all this, microaggression theory basically deconstructs itself.