Microaggressions are often hard to explain, and it can be even harder to articulate precisely how microaggressions affect you and why. But a feminist punk band Giant Kitty, fronted by Syrian American Miriam Hakim and their music video for their song "This Stupid Stuff" paints a pretty good picture of not just what microaggressions are, but how they function for the people who have to deal with them. Because it's not just that microaggressions are small-scale examples of racism or sexist or homophobia — it's that they do affect people, even though they're seemingly "small."
The term "microaggression" originated in the 1970s, although it has recently come into wider use. But despite more and more people talking about microaggressions, it's hard sometimes to explain what they are and why they're important — especially if you're talking to someone who never has to deal with microaggressions at all (frequently, although not always, straight, white, able-bodied, cis men). Why is it so difficult to articulate to someone why microaggressions are such a huge problem? Because individually, they're, well, micro. They're seemingly little things — telling a black woman she's "pretty for a black girl," for instance, or talking about how you need a "gay best friend" — but they represent larger prejudices and larger societal problems. And they're exhausting.
And maybe the best example I've ever seen of demonstrating how microaggressions operate and affect people is the "This Stupid Stuff" video by Giant Kitty. In the video, microaggressions are represented by sticky notes, which get stuck onto people whether you want them or not.
People can try to wash them off...
...but sooner or later someone will stick one on you again.
And obviously, people would rather that they not have sticky notes with vaguely insulting or offensive things stuck all over them, but when you try to address the issue and tell the person with the stickies to stop, it often only makes things worse.
But even though there's no way to be completely free of microaggressions, there are things that can make them worse.
And so sooner or later, you start modifying your behavior to avoid them. And they can be so insidious that often times, we find ourselves internalizing the messages and thinking these sorts of things, sticking the sticky notes on ourselves.
And the whole thing sucks.
Check out the full video here.
Images: Giant Kitty Band/YouTube (8)