Thursday Ephemeraren’t
Heavy Water

Their Happiness Hurt My Feelings

Attention, woke citizens. During the current lockdown, do you feel a need to “challenge microaggressions” – those “verbal, behavioural or environmental indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights”? Specifically, those committed during video conferencing?

According to Michigan State University’s Amy Bonomi, director of the university’s Children and Youth Institute, and Neila Viveiros, associate vice chancellor for academic operations at the University of Colorado Denver, the expanded use of virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom and Skype has created “a ripe setting for unconscious bias.”

But of course. The frontier of indignation must forever expand.

“Unconscious bias includes using language, symbolism and nonverbal cues that reinforce normative social identities with respect to gender, race, sexual preference and socioeconomic status,” Bonomi said. “For example, when the virtual background of a Zoom meeting attendee has pictures of his or her wedding, it unintentionally reinforces the idea that marriage is most fitting between opposite sexes.”

It turns out that the reckless visibility of a wedding photo may be crushing the self-esteem out of the touchily unwed. You see, the mere sight of a photo of someone’s happy day can “crowd out the experiences of people with minoritized social identities,” albeit in ways never quite explained. Other taboos include references to “simple activities like family dance parties,” which are apparently a thing, and “gardening with a spouse.”

Curiously, given the stated importance of “sensitivity” and being mindful of what things might mean, we aren’t invited to ponder the kind of person who would resent someone else’s wedding photo. And then complain about it. Or whether such neurotic affectations, these unhappy mental habits, are something to be actively encouraged. In the name of progress. 

Update, via the comments:

Regarding microaggressions, readers may be inclined to wonder if there’s an equally modish word for the low-level hostility of inflicting one’s own competitively hypersensitive psychodrama on others, like some prodnose nightmare, and all while expecting applause. It seems to me the above is a strange and self-destructive attitude to cultivate, a kind of psychological poison - as so many things are in the world of the woke. As a stroppy gay teenager, which would presumably have counted as one of those “minoritized social identities,” I don’t recall seething at the sight of other people’s wedding photos, or being in any way hurt by them, or expecting the owners of such photos to hide them in my presence, as if they weren’t actually married. That would have been… weird.

But it seems we must make ever greater efforts to avoid giving the impression that “normative social identities” are, well, normative. That simply wouldn’t do.

Please update your files and lifestyles accordingly.

Update 2:

In the comments, Naz endorses the need for a term for the recreational hostility of the implausibly aggrieved. To help us in this quest, it may be worth pondering the dynamic favoured by people who stress the gravity of ‘microaggressions’ and the importance of their correction. It goes something like this:

“You’ve done or said X, some trivial thing – say, displaying a wedding photo - which I have chosen to construe as offensive and wounding, most likely in some unobvious or convoluted way. Whether you intended offence is immaterial and your protestations of innocence are irrelevant. I am the sole arbiter of what is offensive. I shall decide whether you are guilty, a bad person, an oppressor, and what penance should be extracted. Ideally, in the form of your humbling and humiliation, while I, the supposedly injured party, as decided by me, savour the attention and opportunist leverage.”

Clearly, this is a license for petty malice and elaborate psychological abuse. Which is to say, exactly the kind of thing that advocates of ‘microaggression’ policing claim to oppose.