What are microaggressions? They are small acts of non-physical aggression, which combine to create a hostile environment. “Small” is a key feature and it is this feature which enables plausible deniability, which I would argue is another feature of microaggressions.
Sexist microaggressions include talking over women, interrupting women, telling women to “smile” or instructing women on how to be more pleasing. Each of these acts is small in and of itself, but combined with all the other small acts of countless other men, constitutes a pervasive problem.
“But everyone interrupts” you may object, or else “Men interrupt other men, too!” While these are both true, they obscure the facts. The facts show that men interrupt more often than women, and they interrupt women more often than they interrupt other men. And women who do interrupt are more likely to interrupt other women than they are to interrupt men. All this adds up to a world where men and women interrupt women, but not really men. Women’s voices are silenced while men’s voices are amplified. (Look here and here for more information on interruption and gender.)
Over the next week, I’m going to be counting the number of microaggressions I encounter, online and off. I’d like to challenge you to do the same. Notice who you interrupt and how often, as well as who interrupts you. I’ll be interested in comparing notes in a Facebook discussion next Monday.