According to Wikipedia, Microaggression is a neologism to refer to “unintended discrimination.” I don’t hear about this term before that but I have taught a lot about this kind of discrimination: As a woman, as a Muslim, and as an international student. I have faced to Microaggression both in my own country, Iran, and here in the US. Here I try to write two examples I have experienced:
1) In Iran, Microaggression towards women are happened mostly in forms of sexism. I have studied my undergraduate at Sharif University of Technology. It is one of the most prestigious university in Iran in the field of engineering and mathematics. Since 1995, more and more girls are admitted to Sharif University, but still there is a stigma in the common culture that boys are much better than girls in mathematics and physics. This culture can be heard and seen in the University atmosphere as well. Although there is no “affirmative action” towards women and males and females are considered equally, those boys who are behind their girls counterparts try to demolish women’s success in different statements.
For instance some boys said, that girl is successful in math because she was beautiful and the professor likes her! some other people said, that female student is successful in that exam because she is bookworm! She is not genius at all, she just has a good memory and memorizes all problems and formulas! These kind of opinions are common during the time I was at Sharif and all the time those statements hurt me a lot. All of them are sexist one and I think they can be categorized as Microaggression. I am wondering after I move to the US that this kind of opinion can be seen here as well. It may not be as harsh as Iran but I feel that there is a tendency to describe as “males are better in Math, females are better in Art”. It is hurtful both for males and females. If a man loved cooking, he would be faced with sarcasm.
2) Last year, I lived at Cambridge MA. One day I was at Watertown, a small town close to Cambridge. I want to pass from the street from crosswalk. In front of me a white lady passes from that street too. A car passed by and the driver stopped for her. Since the car is stopped, I followed right behind the lady to pass the street. Once she passed, the driver pushed his foot on gas pedal and moved. I felt he would hit me and I went some steps back to avoid having an accident with the car while I was in the middle of street on crosswalk. The driver brought his head out of the car’s window and said to me: “This was for her, not you!” and he went on his way so fast. I was shocked about that behavior! I don’t know why he did that: Maybe because I wore headscarf and he hates Muslims, maybe because I am international and not the US citizen, or other reasons! I felt hurtful about that behavior but tried to be calm.
It is interesting to think that Microaggression sometimes happen from those people who face with those discrimination too! For instance some women express “sexist statement” while we know women are the main victim of gender discrimination. In my example, that guy, was an African-American and he has been discriminatory experiences due to the fact that he belongs to minority group in the US, but at the same time, he behaved badly with another person who has a common with him: belonging to minority group. This fact is much hurtful for me other than his behavior! This is a question that should be investigated by social scientists that why ethnic minority group or other groups who faced a lot with discrimination and microaggression do the same acts although they understand the bitterness of discrimination.