Tag Archives: social justice

On Microaggression

 

One of the more common dismissals of feminism that I hear (apart from “women already have rights” and “what about the men?!”) is: “You’re just looking for something to be angry about“. The idea that those who engage in cultural criticism, feminist or otherwise, are nit-picky, obsessive, and need to “calm down” is just another way to silence opinions that society deems too radical.

Those who believe we live in a post-feminist world typically don’t have a good grasp on the meaning of the many facets of feminism (although we can’t blame them for that, as feminism is barely included in public school curriculums beyond the first wave to begin with.) Liberal feminism, most closely associated with the movement’s first wave, worked to level the playing field in terms of legal rights, education, and general access to opportunity. Liberal feminism assumes that once women have equal access and opportunity to all aspects of society that men do, liberation will naturally occur.

So, what happened? Women got the right to vote, the right to hold jobs without discrimination based on sex, and the ability to attend any school or university. That didn’t solve everything. Women still underperformed in STEM fields, were underrepresented in the political sphere, and underrepresented in the publishing world. Despite women’s successes, magazines still told them how to be sexy enough for the office, how to snag a husband, and how to lose weight fast (because their bodies were never good enough). Women and young girls were hypersexualized in the media, suffered from poor self-esteem and body image, and began to locate their worth in their appearances.

These issues may seem “smaller” than the right to vote, but they continue to be cultural roadblocks in our fight against sexism.  These issues of identity, misogyny, and body-negativity pervade every aspect of society until we can no longer see them. One of the jobs that I assign myself as a feminist is to be the eyes that see our microaggressions.

Here is a definition of racial microaggressions that can explain the definition of microaggression in a broader context, such as gender.¹ 

“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults towards people of color. Those who inflict racial microaggressions are often unaware that they have done anything to harm another person.”

Microaggressions are most often discussed in terms of race, but they can involve any aspect of identity, from sexuality to gender to ethnicity. Microaggressions against feminists, against feminism, and against women in general seep through modern society, in television shows, in clothing, and in insults like “cunt,” “bitch,” “slut,” and “whore”. Rape jokes, “get back to the kitchen” jokes, and advertisements that seems to be stuck in the 1950s don’t help either.

Microaggressions work to silence discussion and prevent change in the way we talk about identity. This article from Shakesville explains how microaggressions are often used against feminism:

“… the idea that addressing “the little things,” like being told to smile or misogynistic t-shirts, somehow demeans feminism or distracts from “real” or “serious” sexism is utterly, completely, devilishly wrong.”

Now that you know what a microaggression is, call out the perpetrators. Politely let people know that while they may think something they said was harmless, humorous, or good-natured, you or someone else may find it offensive and harmful.

I also urge you to check out The Microaggresions Project, where people submit stories about the microaggressions they experience in their daily lives.

 

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Filed under feminism, gender, identity, sexism, social justice, Uncategorized

Are we obsessed with sex-trafficking?

If you scroll down the front page of Jezebel, you will see a whole column of stories devoted to talking about sex-trafficking. The popular website has a tag for the amount of stories that it publishes covering this particular human rights issue.

Activists attempt to call our attention to the problem of sex-trafficking in a multitude of ways. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof  famously covers issues involving the global sex trade with personal and heart-wrenching stories from its “victims”. Recently, this innovative video has been circulating the internet, calling attention to the problem sex trafficking in Europe. Perhaps the most creepy is Continue reading

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Filed under children, feminism, gender, human rights, sexuality, social justice

…well, is it a social construct?

I realize that in a ramble about a deluge of anthropological and sociological concepts, I never even answered the question that I posed last week: Is social justice a social construct?

I must’ve been around eight or ten years old when I learned what social justice was. I don’t remember the exact moment, but I can safely assume it was within some event or RE class in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in which I was brought up. Unitarian Universalism is founded upon social justice values, so they were introduced to me as a very integral part of the society I was entering as an inquisitive young woman. To someone that young, the want for social justice seems so obviously good. I think some of the first projects I took part in were Trick or Treat for Unicef and A Guest at Your Table, which both happen during the time of year that in American culture is very inspired by the idea of giving. These sorts of causes that I began to care about were the easy ones– nearly every person can agree that starving children should have food. Poverty, hunger, and children are sort of the gateway social justice issues. Continue reading

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Filed under cultural anthropology, human rights, social justice

Is Social Justice A Social Construct?

I don’t know about you, reader, but often feel so contrived, sitting here and blogging about feminism or social justice. If it isn’t another complaint about today’s sexist trending Twitter tag, it’s another long whine about those pro-life Republican men of privilege out for my womb and its potential contents. Sure, I find it relaxing, if a bit self-indulgent, to have somewhere to sit at the end of the day and release my complaints about the world I am living in. The construction workers who think it is their right to cat-call to a woman walking down the sidewalk; the frustration of walking to classes at my private college each day in shoes that fit me well and with money in my wallet and having to apologize to the homeless men and women I meet along the way; even the cringe each time I hear the words lile “slut,” “fag,” or “gay” used inappropriately.

Even the word “social justice” is beginning to wear on me. Continue reading

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Filed under cultural anthropology, ennui, human rights, social justice