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What's Aggressive About Microaggressions?

Microaggressions are unintentional racial- and gender-based slights that can cause significant damage when repeated over time and across a variety of contexts. The existence and seriousness of microaggressions have begun to gain wide acceptance both within and beyond academia, but recently, Scott O. Lilienfeld has raised a challenge to the microaggression research project: what’s ‘aggressive’ about microaggressions? Derald Wing Sue, the psychologist who has spearheaded the research on microaggressions, does not currently have an answer to this challenge. He needs a new theoretical framework to capture a kind of aggression that does not depend upon intent. I suggest turning to Bonnie Mann’s paper, “Creepers, Flirts, Heroes and Allies,” for a richer theoretical framework. Combining Mann’s discussion of creepiness with Sue’s discussion of other forms of subtle, gender-based discrimination would allow Sue to answer Lilienfeld’s objection and defend the legitimacy of the concept, ‘microaggression’.

Emma McClure
University of Toronto
Canada

 

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