Microaggressions are those subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) things we do to distance ourselves from minorities, be they someone from another race, or culture, LGBT people, etc. The term “microaggression” was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans. Most people are well-intended and do not mean to be offensive at all—but they are.
Some of these include:
“What are you?” (to a biracial person)
“You don’t act like a black person.”
“I am colorblind.”
“Why do you sound white?”
“Is that really your hair?”
“Are you the first in your family to go to college?”
Today the term ‘microaggression’ is also being used to describe insults and dismissals of women and LGBT people. Kevin Nadal does a great job describing microaggressions against LGBT individuals in his book, That’s So Gay: Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community.
Some microaggressions against LGBT people include:
“I’m not being homophobic; you’re being too sensitive.”
“Have you ever had real sex?”
“So, who’s the man in the relationship?”
“That’s totally cool with me as long as I can watch.”
“You are so Jack on ‘Will and Grace’ or Cam on ‘Modern Family.’”
“I would never date a bisexual man he can’t commit or make up his mind”
“What’s going on down there” (To a Transgender person)
Some verbal microaggressions I’ve heard against women are:
“I wouldn’t work for a woman.”
“If you dress like a slut, you’re asking for it.”
“She thinks like a man.” (intended complement)
“You’re being too emotional. You need to look at this logically.”
“I’m impressed that a woman could do that.”
“Why don’t you just get back in the kitchen.” (supposed joke)
I have been noticing more and more microaggressions toward men, but suprisingly, I’ve found, surprisingly, little discussion of this trend. There is a word most people have never heard of: Misandry, meaning hatred of men. It corresponds to misogyny, hatred of women. By noticing microaggressions directed against men, we can uncover a lot of ‘hidden’ misandry. Here are some examples I’ve come across:
“Men only think with their dicks.”
“A man wouldn’t understand.”
“Men just want a hole to put it in.”
“Men can’t hear the word no.” (when rejected sexually)
“Men are obsessed with lesbian porn.”
“Really? You don’t like sports?”
“He’s, you know, ‘artistic.’”
“Be a man.”
“Men are womanizers, man-whores, man-sluts”
I’ve even heard women say things like, “Balls are gross. I hate them.” If a woman overheard men talking about vaginas being dirty and disgusting, she’d surely think this was misogyny and microaggression, but why not the other way around? Many otherwise enlightened people seem to think that putting a man down by shaming him for the transgressions of a few criminal men or for his inadequate physicality is a sort of privilege or entitlement. They are not even aware of their misandry.
Mostly we know that men, especially heterosexual white men, have a privileged status in our society, that they are mostly blind to their privilege, and that we live in a patriarchal world. But let’s look at our assumptions for a moment. What does it mean, for instance, when we tell someone to “man up” or “toughen up?”
We often think of patriarchy as hurting women, but we don’t talk about how it also hurts men. Patriarchy includes a rigid standard of looks and behavior, and men who fail to follow the standard are tormented ruthlessly. Conforming men may be ‘blind to their privilege,’ but nerds and sissies are fair targets for contempt. A man who dares not be ‘manly’ is scorned by women as well as men. Those “crybabies” deserve what they get.
In his book, I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression  author and psychotherapist Terrence Real says, “Boys and men are granted privilege and special status, but only on the condition that they turn their backs on vulnerability and connection to join in the fray. Those who resist, like unconventional men or gay or bisexual men, are punished for it.” I completely agree with him.
The language of hate and love
The old adage, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is wrong. Words can and do wound. They perpetuate ‘norms’ that give rise to bigotry, misogyny, misandry, racism, homophobia, and more. Given how “manliness” is enforced by both men and women, is it any wonder that men have become ‘fair targets’ for a running commentary of contempt?
Even the absence of online discussions of microaggressions against men is itself a microaggression because the absence renders the problem invisible. Some discussions of microaggressions toward women and minorities even say that since men are privileged they can’t experience microaggressions. But many men are not privileged. These men have been rendered invisible and at the same time marked as fair game.
It pathologizes men when we assume something is wrong with a guy who doesn’t like sports, isn’t “tall, dark, and handsome,” or otherwise, doesn’t fit a ‘manly’ stereotype. It also pathologizes men when we assume the worst transgressions of a few are characteristics of all. It doesn’t help women (or blacks or LGBT individuals) to engage in the sport of putting down men. We might begin by extending to men our sensitivity about the harm done by microaggressions. It could open the door to compassion and help us build a more humane world.
 Nadal, Kevin. 2013. That’s So Gay: Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community.
 Real, Terrence, 1998. I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression.
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This post was originally published on Psychology Today and is republished here with the author’s permission.
More by Dr. Joe Kort here on GMP:
Wrong labels make for poor therapy.
Dr. Joe Kort wants us to challenge gender bias and stop shaming men about sex.
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