Discussing one’s views on abortion seems like civil discourse, but it counts as a microaggression in a presentation for Longwood University.
The presentation was put together by Maureen Walls-McKay, the Director of Counseling and Psychological Services.
Her presentation groups microaggressions into three categories. The “assault” category, which provides the example of “An anti-abortion person attacked my pro-choice beliefs,” also includes “A student slashed my tire (on my car)” and “Almost being raped.”
“Assaults” are defined as “verbal or nonverbal derogations of an individual’s unique qualities such as family name or disability. These assaults are meant to hurt the intended victim through name-calling, avoidant behavior, or purposeful discriminatory actions.”
It’s curious that expressing one’s views on abortion would be included.
There are also “invalidations” which are “comments or behaviors that exclude, negate, or nullify a person’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences related to their unique qualities, such as social class or sexual orientation.”
Examples include “the thoughts I expressed put down” and “the feeling that I am not liked by some classmates because of the things I do or say in class.”
Another form of a microaggression includes “insults” which “are communications that convey rudeness, insensitivity, and demean a person’s unique qualities such as gender or language.”
Examples include “Residents assumed I smoke pot because of the way I dress” and “imply[ing] that overweight people are all lazy.”
These categories are mentioned in a 2014 press release in which Walls-McKay said it’s “clear… that college students see it as an issue in their lives and overwhelmingly say that it’s a problem.”
Students aren’t particularly troubled by microaggressions, though. When asked if they “continue to experience negative feelings when recalling this most recent incident,” 210 out of 329 said no (153) or that they “have not thought about it (57).”
When asked about the degree microaggressions “negatively affected your overall satisfaction with Longwood,” 82 percent (375 of 460 students) said “Not at all.”
Students were also asked about “dealing with perpetrator,” which a 42 percent plurality of 499 students said should involve “non-engagement.” Only 12 percent suggested “university intervention.” The results from 554 students were close for “dealing with emotions.” Forty-seven percent suggested they should be “assisted,” including talking with someone. Forty-six percent suggested they should be dealt with in a “private” manner such as ignoring the perpetrator.
Campus Reform included a statement from Director of Communications & Media Relations Matthew McWilliams in their reporting.
“It is inaccurate to insinuate [that] these opinions are presented as those of either Longwood or its faculty. The presentation includes responses individual students provided to open-ended questions as part of a small, independent research project nearly a decade ago. Longwood values a diversity of opinions and works to ensure civil discussion among our students, faculty, and staff,” he said.