Was it a microaggression? Most likely.

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You gained weight during the pandemic, you were told about it at a family dinner and you feel very unwell? You have been the victim of a microaggression. Here's how to recognize others and how to report them. 

Let's first define the term. A microaggression is a gesture or comment conveying harmful stereotypes or prejudices against a person belonging to a marginalized group.  

Basically, microaggression is subtle and the people who commit it are unaware of its problematic nature. Sometimes it is even “involuntary”. 

This is what differentiates it from other forms of so-called more “typical” hateful aggression, explains Gabriel James Galantino, coordinator of  the Research Chair in Sexual Diversity and Gender Plurality at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM). 

“An assault is intentional. We are in the violation of the borders of the other, like shouting or spitting on someone, he specifies. It's much easier to see.” 

Asking to touch a black woman's hair, misgendering someone, not providing ramps for people with disabilities in a restaurant: there are many different types of microaggressions on a daily basis. 

Because, yes, an involuntary omission that discriminates against a group is a microaggression. 

Diversity and inclusion consultant, Rachel Décoste has been the victim of several inappropriate comments related to her skin color. the share of people “surprised” by his qualities and skills. 

An example? Being told by a stranger that she “speaks French well”… for a black person.   

“I also had 'you're beautiful for a black woman,'” she confides. Whoever said that thought it was a compliment. The bias I can detect here is that this person thinks black people are ugly and that I'm an exception.” 

Was that a microaggression? Probably.

Rachel Décoste, diversity and inclusion consultant. PHOTO: Courtesy.

Mr. Galantino also receives name-calling disguised as compliments as a trans man. 

“I am told 'you look good for a trans man'. But that means that, for you, a trans man, it must look [not good], he says. Sometimes people want to know what I have in my pants [Editor's note: another microaggression]. » 

Serious consequences 

Although microaggression is defined as a “small aggression”, it should not be trivialized , warns Mrs. Décoste. 

“This term was created not to offend the majority demographic. The word “micro” implies that it is banal, whereas it is not micro for us. You really take it as an insult.” 

In the long term, microaggressions can have dramatic consequences on the mental health of marginalized people. 

Researchers American .E.s.E.s have even created a specific name to describe the resulting state of distress: minority stress. 

“You feel like you have a target [on your back],” says Galantino. We can also speak here of depression, isolation and even hypervigilance.” 

Not easy to report 

Is your friend the victim of an inappropriate comment at work in front of everyone? Before intervening directly, it is better to talk one-on-one with her or him after the event, advises Mr. Galantino.

“We can say to him: 'Me, it bothered me [this comment], do you want me to intervene or that I don't say anything next time?  We have to see if it makes the situation worse. .” 

Was it microaggression? Probably.

Gabriel James Galantino, coordinator of the Research Chair in Sexual Diversity and the Plurality of Genders, at UQÀM. PHOTO: Courtesy.

Confronting one person in front of everyone can backfire quickly. 

The person being confronted can counterattack and make it worse for all the other marginalized people in the room, for example by throwing an insult or questioning everyone present about their discomfort. Would you like the receptionist to ask you if their racist comment affected you? Not really.

“You can be [accused] of being too woke or too sensitive,” Galantino says, which also only escalates the situation further. 

Caution and respect for the victim's limits are paramount. 

Use common sense 

But thereààà… EVERYTHING is a microaggression? Of course not, exclaims Mr. Galantino. 

“People who say we can't say anything, it's often because of a lack of knowledge of what [marginalized] people are going through,” he says. We can have opinions, but when your opinion is discriminatory, it is no longer an opinion.” 

So, before complimenting a person, just use common sense, advises Ms. Discount. Often it is not necessary to comment on appearance, for example. she. Can I say something without starting with “you're beautiful for an X”?» 

According to Ms. Décoste, more and more gestures are decried while our collective values&nbsp ;evolve. And a chance! 

“We will have to respect each other and acquire collective maturity, as we did with women, she illustrates. We know it's no longer okay to pat a woman on the buttocks at work like we did in the 1980s.” 

A little kindness, thank you good evening!  

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