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Author Topic: The Culture of Victimhood
Greg Davidson
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Josh,

It's totally speculative about how you would actually be if transformed to a different body, and I am actually skeptical of your faith that you would be the same "me" regardless of body. I'd would like to believe in that as it supports a theory of the robust power of the mind, but I am dubious how that would be.

I have seen quite closely what has happened to people as they have experienced biochemical changes due to illness or medication, and I can tell you that changes in body chemistry can make substantial changes in who they feel that their "me" really is. And that's with most of their physical body unchanged, imagine changing gender etc.

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Greg Davidson
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quote:
Most characteristics of a BS tribe are things you simply take pride in because you were born into it and that's about it.
Again my intellectual side likes the argument that the only meaningful affiliations are those of the mind, but I believe that humans are social animals, and if for example we describe the "tribe" as your nuclear family, it seems not BS but in fact far more natural that individuals take pride in that relationship than an intellectual one. pride in that family
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AI Wessex
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To see that Greg is right, look at how different cultures inculcate deep belief-based behaviors. I just read a story about a man in India who was stoned to death by his neighbors because it was rumored that he had beef in his refrigerator. Arrests of the killers sparked protests on their behalf. You can't convince the people of the village that they did something wrong, even if they are tried and convicted for the murder. BTW, the family says it was mutton.

Tribe matters.

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JoshCrow
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Al, I think your example shows why Fenring is right, not Greg. Here is an example of the corrosive influence of tribalism (which is our point, I thought).

Greg - One's immediate family (I think that's what you meant by 'nuclear family') is indeed a sort of 'tribe' but unless you are the Duggars that's basically a rather limited membership and scarcely on the order of things like race, religion or gender...

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Greg Davidson
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Josh, I am unsure what constitutes a "natural" affiliation, but I suspect that the human instinct to affiliate is not always driven by rational considerations.

Is your assertion then that only rational affiliations are justifiable, and non-rational affiliations are BS?

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
I wouldn't advocate passivity in the face of a major civil-rights violation - I am suggesting that our current "victimhood" culture is prescribing the same solutions to microaggressions that it did to macro ones.
At what point, if any do you think a flood of microaggressions amounts to a significant violation when taken in aggregate?

The issue isn't the single wasp sting, it's the constant swarm of wasps that are constantly stinging people.

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Greg Davidson:
Josh, I am unsure what constitutes a "natural" affiliation, but I suspect that the human instinct to affiliate is not always driven by rational considerations.

Is your assertion then that only rational affiliations are justifiable, and non-rational affiliations are BS?

To be clear, when I say "BS" I don't mean that it has no value to anyone. On the contrary, I think we are largely biologically programmed to value this. I mean "BS" purely on an intellectual level, as the body and subconscious have desires of their own that we know not of. But I do think it's an important personal project to plumb out to whatever extent possible what these hidden drives and desires are and to determine whether they actually serve you any purpose. Just as a silly analogy, my body desires food far more frequently than it needs, and if I was wont to allow my natural tendency to run its course I'd gain a few hundred pounds, most likely. So in this type of case reason must win out over the body's pull for the sake of my physical health. This isn't to say that I advocate totally disregarding my non-intellectual drives (especially so since I believe in a strong sympatico between reason and instinct) but in terms of social groups and affiliation I think it is stronger to choose one's group rather than fall into one. And once choosing is taking place I think it can be done with a nobler goal than merely finding people of the same physical characteristics or religion. I actually do think it's important to feel one has a certain affiliation in life or place one belongs; but determining what and where this should be is, I think, one of the tough things a person should grapple with, rather than just falling in with by default without consideration.
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D.W.
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I would suggest that attempting to remove microagressions from our culture is in some ways counterproductive.

I think the result of this and other attempts to remove hurtful speech leads us to a society that has no social immune system. A society where a bullied child chooses suicide or lashing out violently because they know no way to deal with shame or ridicule by others.

I'm all for trying to convince people to be less ****ty to each other but being thick skinned is a useful skill. It is also something you can exert control over in contrast to the whole of society which can often be ignorant or hurtful or dismissive, and notoriously resistant to fast/meaningful change.

To me, the use of the phrase microagression embodies the culture of victimhood. This is probably just evidence that I'm part of a tainted culture which has an aversion to weakness and whining and pleas for help by those who are capable of acting in their own defense. While it is a lie that we control our destiny and shape our circumstances it is a comforting lie and one I buy into as default. Likely because on the balance, I've been lucky enough to reaffirm that I deserve or earned what I have.

Even knowing that, the word microaggression itself makes me roll my eyes and think less of anyone who considers it a serious problem. But again, maybe I don't face them enough. Privilege at its best I suppose.

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Pyrtolin
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TRibalism is the root of the social instinct that gives us any asocial cohesion at all. I think trying to disrupt it or eliminate it would be a bad plan if we want to keep any semblance of organized society.

That's part of why the focus is on respecting identity instead of insisting on conversion. DW noted that the classic model has been for the most powerful tribes to force assimilation to the degree that it's possible (to painful result sometimes, beauty standards being the most obvious one that do a fair amount of damage when assimilated despite being completely out of whack for people of different racial backgrounds.)

But that model is de fact oppressive, and has completely failed to actually work over time, never mind the cultural and historical wealth that ends up being destroyed in the process.

That's why the big focus is on flipping the script. The majority group has, to the same degree that it has the power to force assimilation the power to encourage integration- to first become aware that it actualyl does have a notion of tribe embedded in its default assumptions, and to expand that to accept other identities as part of the tribe not outside of it. We've seen far, far better results when that's done- most of the European groups that have integrated into US culture have done so without surrendering their own identities, even if they have to occasionally push back against lingering stereotypes, but as the majority stops attacking their identity by trying to force assimilation, the cultural elements that have grown up around defending themselves from such force also have faded.

There's a large degree of cultural power and shelter that comes from being treated as normal, and that power can either be exerted to force others to try to conform- to force the less powerful to do the heavy lifting to be accepted, or to do the work directly by helping include those currently disempowered in the norm.

That's also why claims of being "colorblind" are somewhat suspect- while, ideally, it would mean respecting each person's individuality and history, it generally tends to mean that you're judging them based on conformance to the standards of the dominant, default tribe, without regard to their individual differences, backgrounds, or merits. What seems like a statement of non-bias ends up being a very Procrustean assertion, once that forces people to conform to a hard to attain, if not unattainable standard set by a narrow default tribal identity.

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D.W.
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How do you see an ever increasing internet culture / technology impacting tribalism?

To a large part already to those willing to do a bit of work we can understand people from languages we are not fluent with due to technology. Soon, real time voiceovers or subtitles will be the norm as well as on the fly translations of written words, likely as augmented reality on glasses or possibly contact lenses further down the road. And that's without dipping into possible cybernetic advances.

That in combination with being able to talk to people and be exposed to (and more importantly influenced by) cultures far beyond our historic geographical limitations. The barriers between us will erode. Also the anonymity of the internet changes our community. Even here we see how people act differently when their identity is concealed. Sometimes it allows for more open/honest conversations, sometimes it leads to being more offensive/blunt or even dishonest.

[ September 30, 2015, 11:55 AM: Message edited by: D.W. ]

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
I would suggest that attempting to remove microagressions from our culture is in some ways counterproductive.

I think the result of this and other attempts to remove hurtful speech leads us to a society that has no social immune system.

To the degree that social cues are part of societies immune system, microaggressions are the equivalent of an autoimmune disease or allergies.

Of, if you prefer a common sci-fi trope- they're like antagonistic nanites- chewing away at the overall social fabric in an effort to replicate themselves and bring everything into conformance with their programming.

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AI Wessex
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quote:
How do you see an ever increasing internet culture / technology impacting tribalism?
I think it's (mostly) a good thing, but IMO if it were altogether a good thing we shouldn't be seeing such a rise in xenophobic or extreme views in society. The internet allows you to reach out to find your extended tribe. It also has the negative aspect of isolating us from each other. That leads to compartmentalizing our social spheres and reinforcing behaviors.

So, it cuts both ways.

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D.W.
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quote:
To the degree that social cues are part of societies immune system, microaggressions are the equivalent of an autoimmune disease or allergies.
Then I've misunderstood what microagressions are. I read it as hurtful things an individual perceives but were not necessarily intended to do harm. They are the result of cultural factors which target or make outcast the group the person perceiving the microagression identifies with. Is that a poor definition to what is being described?

If not, why not just call it bigotry or some brand -ism or -phobic behavior? Is microagression just a shorthand for those?

There must be some good reason to coin / use such a silly sounding self trivializing term. [Wink]

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NobleHunter
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Microaggressions also unfairly distribute the burden of dealing with ********. Teaching people not to indulge in them isn't about eliminating hurtful speech and action but rather ensuring that everybody has to deal with equal amount and qualities of dickishness. Also to make it easier for people to distinguish between dickishness and real threat.

Take catcalling for example. Any given instance of it is pretty micro, easily dealt with by just keep walking. But some instances turn into the guy following and crossing the line to harrassment. It may then go further to actual assault. The initial aggression is micro but it demonstrates a disregard for your comfort and autonomy. It's difficult to know just how much disregard a catcaller has.

That means when someone catcalls you, you have to do a threat assessment: is he going to escalate or can I just ignore it? If he starts following me, will he attack me? The answers to both questions are probably not but choosing the wrong response can seriously disadvantage you if things escalate or embarrass and humiliate you if they don't.

By creating a culture that doesn't tolerate catcalling, you eliminate the need for people to do mostly unnecessary threat assessments and you bake extra data points in the event the threat assessment becomes necessary.

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kmbboots
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Also, less exhausting. That is the thing about "microaggressions". They erode. The casual "no offense intended" bull**** erodes. Self-esteem, sure, but also stamina. Additionally, it erodes the public perception of the recipients of the bull****. You call a grown women a girl often enough and people take women less seriously. It perpetuates the cycle.
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NobleHunter
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Yes to the erosion. I don't think I'd call assumptions of heterosexuality a microaggression but it's awfully tiresome when meeting a bunch of new people in series to have to repeatedly correct assumptions about my SO's gender. Or to keep figuring out if I should bother, which then means I either have to lie or dance around pronouns. Stupid English.

ETA: Maybe it's an implicit or potential microaggression. Hey! Something else we can police [Razz]

[ September 30, 2015, 12:55 PM: Message edited by: NobleHunter ]

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JoshCrow
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At what point (on the scale of severity) are these things just "something you have to learn to deal with"?

If you're a kid whose last name is "Fuchs" and you know you're going to go through life occasionally dealing with people pronouncing it wrong - them's the breaks. I'm sure high school is mortifying for such a kid - but you'll find they rapidly learn to navigate. I'd wager 100% of these kids grow up seeing every permutation of having someone mangle their name, learning to correct it and move on. It doesn't phase them anymore.

I see a parallel between policing "microaggressions" and helicopter parents who try to pad every sharp corner their kid might encounter in life. That kids these days can't walk to the comic store unaccompanied like I did is, I think, a shame too.

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kmbboots
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The point where they are systemically keeping whole groups of people at a disadvantage.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
At what point (on the scale of severity) are these things just "something you have to learn to deal with"?
At the point where they're uncommon or singular occurrences and not a constant flood of attacks backed into our social and cultural fabric.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
The point where they are systemically keeping whole groups of people at a disadvantage.

Is there a metric available to demonstrate that micro-aggressions create a systemic advantage for entire groups of people? If there is no metric then I would suggest that the focus as of now is on complaints by individuals about micro-aggressions, or (probably more frequently) complaints by people who have taken it upon themselves to speak for others. All that proves is that there is an aggrieved party, not that there is a systemic disadvantage in place. Unless by 'advantage' you just mean 'feeling better about yourself', which then returns us back to JoshCrow's point.
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NobleHunter
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Metrics are tricky. Though for LGBT groups I would look at rates for suicide, mental illness and substance abuse. Also, check representation among homeless youth.

Basically look for evidence of maladaptive behaviors associated with higher levels of stress

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by NobleHunter:
Metrics are tricky. Though for LGBT groups I would look at rates for suicide, mental illness and substance abuse. Also, check representation among homeless youth.

Basically look for evidence of maladaptive behaviors associated with higher levels of stress

No, no. The claim made was specifically that microaggressions - not some other factor - create a disadvantage for an entire group of people. This kind of claim has to backed up, because in the absence of evidence to this effect all you have are complaints by individual aggrieved people. JoshCrow asked for a standard, the suggested one was 'systemic disadvantage.' That standard is not met until it can be shown that it actually exists.

All of the things you mention could be explained any number of ways without suggesting (with what evidence?) that microaggressions cause them.

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kmbboots
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Bear in mind, too, that the "microaggressions" don't just effect the person against whom they are addressed. They create our cultural "picture" as well and reinforce significant oppression. If people casually assume that engineers are male or soldiers are straight or girls want to play with Legos sets of princess castles it leads to fewer opportunities.
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NobleHunter
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Then you track changes in rates over time with rates of microaggression. If there's a correlation, you can start building an argument of causation. That or something similar is the only way to get a metric for such small scale, and cumulative, interactions.

Otherwise, we can infer the existence of disadvantage by the probable costs, cognitive and emotional, imposed by microaggressions. We know that various distractions and stimuli can impede performance so it seems reasonable that microaggressions could have a similar effect.

Since I don't have access to databases of journals, I can't point you to actual evidence. I can only tell you what it would look like.

ETA: A good example is computer science where a significant number of women leave the industry or the educational path because of an unpleasant culture caused, in part at least, by an overabundance of microaggressions.

[ September 30, 2015, 03:26 PM: Message edited by: NobleHunter ]

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
No, no. The claim made was specifically that microaggressions - not some other factor - create a disadvantage for an entire group of people.
Your objection here seems a bit specious- what exactly are you objecting to about a list of results of microaggressions that put people at a disadvantage are you claiming are "some other factor"?

A causes a higher rate B effects. B effects put people at a disadvantage; that means that, by causing that higher rate, A puts the people that are affected by it at a disadvantage.

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Greg Davidson
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quote:
This isn't to say that I advocate totally disregarding my non-intellectual drives (especially so since I believe in a strong sympatico between reason and instinct) but in terms of social groups and affiliation I think it is stronger to choose one's group rather than fall into one. And once choosing is taking place I think it can be done with a nobler goal than merely finding people of the same physical characteristics or religion. I actually do think it's important to feel one has a certain affiliation in life or place one belongs; but determining what and where this should be is, I think, one of the tough things a person should grapple with, rather than just falling in with by default without consideration.
Josh, we are in agreement, although I would put it differently. The personal selection of membership in certain groups and not in others is the foundation of a person's morality. However, this only speaks to the memberships of choice - external forces may place you within a group and there's plenty of adverse consequences that you may face as a result of things that are not your choice.
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D.W.
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Do you address 'A' or attempt to get those with 'A' to supress activity 'B'?
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by D.W.:
Do you address 'A' or attempt to get those with 'A' to supress activity 'B'?

When B is things like mental illness, homelessness, suicide etc... as was put into the example, then "suppressing" them in a relative context mean dealing with the cause A, rather than trying to put the pieces together after the damage had been done.
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Pyrtolin
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I mean, whenever the choice is between "stop institutionalized abuse of people" or "do our best to mitigate the negative fallout from abusing people" I'd hope that, while resources are made available for the latter, the main focus is on the former.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
I mean, whenever the choice is between "stop institutionalized abuse of people" or "do our best to mitigate the negative fallout from abusing people" I'd hope that, while resources are made available for the latter, the main focus is on the former.

Is it too much to ask for both? Preferring the former to the point of it being an ideology may in fact do people a disservice in the name of solving problems "the approved way".

I am reminded here of the idea that advising women on smart practices to avoid rape is somehow "victim blaming". There is a certain ideological desire that can get in the way of what might actually work to reduce the problem.

This is why I think any approach to 'microaggressions' should also emphasize all parties - maybe even especially how to help people deal with encountering them. Teaching a person resiliency and strength is lost on some of these movements, who see them only as hapless victims.

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D.W.
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
Originally posted by D.W.:
Do you address 'A' or attempt to get those with 'A' to supress activity 'B'?

When B is things like mental illness, homelessness, suicide etc... as was put into the example, then "suppressing" them in a relative context mean dealing with the cause A, rather than trying to put the pieces together after the damage had been done.
Guess I was looking out one more level. 'A' being something like bigotry and 'B' being microagressions triggered by that bigotry. Thanks for the explanition.
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kmbboots
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But B reinforces A.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Preferring the former to the point of it being an ideology may in fact do people a disservice in the name of solving problems "the approved way".
Since the former _is_ the problem in this particular case, it's a difference between solving the problems and treating the symptoms of the problem. Symptoms should certainly be addressed, but mitigating them doesn't solve the problem.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
Preferring the former to the point of it being an ideology may in fact do people a disservice in the name of solving problems "the approved way".
Since the former _is_ the problem in this particular case, it's a difference between solving the problems and treating the symptoms of the problem. Symptoms should certainly be addressed, but mitigating them doesn't solve the problem.
Microaggressions are not the problem - the problem is literally "hurt feelings", which can be solved in multiple ways. You can stop people from inflicting harm, and you can stop people from being hurt.

Attempts to frame this otherwise automatically use implicit value judgments as to "how things ought to be" by preferring one solution over another. If you could wave a magic wand and make it so "no person could ever physically be raped again" and you refused to do so on the grounds that "people shouldn't even try to rape anyone" - I would call you an ideologue.

[ September 30, 2015, 05:06 PM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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scifibum
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I think reducing it to hurt feelings is simply incorrect. Sure, it may hurt someone's feelings when someone is surprised that she's a software engineer, but the set of cultural factors that creates that microagression is the same set that means she has to fight harder to have a voice in meetings. A thick skin doesn't translate to the latter. It's tiring, and if she doesn't do the work, she isn't treated with the same respect and rewards as others.

Plus, as Kate has pointed out, the culture that includes these microagressions is self-reinforcing. We learn from how people treat each other. Unintentionally treating a female engineer as someone of lower status teaches others that she actually is of lower status.

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Pyrtolin
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You cannot stop people from being worn down and hurt over time by a series of social attacks. You can help people be a little more resilient by realizing what's happening to them, but you can't stop the damage without stopping the assault.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
I think reducing it to hurt feelings is simply incorrect. Sure, it may hurt someone's feelings when someone is surprised that she's a software engineer, but the set of cultural factors that creates that microagression is the same set that means she has to fight harder to have a voice in meetings. A thick skin doesn't translate to the latter. It's tiring, and if she doesn't do the work, she isn't treated with the same respect and rewards as others.

And if she does fight, and present a thick skin, she's attacked from the other side and pushout out of the advancement chain for being mean and insensitive. It's a no-win situation
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
I think reducing it to hurt feelings is simply incorrect. Sure, it may hurt someone's feelings when someone is surprised that she's a software engineer, but the set of cultural factors that creates that microagression is the same set that means she has to fight harder to have a voice in meetings.

By admitting that the microaggression is not the source of the problem, you are affirming, not contradicting, my argument. There is a long list of factors that contribute to gender imbalances in computing. In fact, there is a long list of majors with huge gender imbalances in both directions, with obvious consequences for the pay of women, who seem to gravitate towards lower paying majors/jobs for reasons that I suspect are cultural but not 'micro'.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
You cannot stop people from being worn down and hurt over time by a series of social attacks. You can help people be a little more resilient by realizing what's happening to them, but you can't stop the damage without stopping the assault.

You can help people recognize unintended slights, navigate difficult social situations and learn to distinguish an "attack" from mere ignorance or carelessness. I'd wager this is in fact a more beneficial skill than to characterize everything as an "attack" and proceed from there.

In fact, I would say that I wouldn't want to work with someone who constantly felt they were being "attacked", so you're right about it being self-reinforcing: I would find working with that sort of individual particularly unpleasant.

[ September 30, 2015, 05:47 PM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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scifibum
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It's both a symptom and a cause of problems.

Symptom of: prejudice, ignorance, insensitivity

Cause of: emotional fatigue, reinforced prejudice

Causes of symptom and results of symptom also cause: achievement gaps, voluntary segregation, etc.

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