Preliminary definition: Microaggressions are defined in our 2015-2018 contract as “everyday exchanges—including words and actions—that denigrate and exclude individuals based on their membership in a group or class of individuals.” They can be environmental (for instance, in how a given setting is structured, in expectations for group settings, etc) or perpetrated by specific individuals. Microaggressions are often committed without malicious intentions, but nevertheless they have damaging effects on recipients: they have been shown to increase anxiety, depression, frustration, and feelings of worthlessness or incompetence, which in turn affect work and academic performance, workplace satisfaction, feeling valued as a member of your academic community, etc.

Microaggressions may be committed against members of a number of historically and contemporarily marginalized groups, among them: women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, the elderly, the young, non-native English speakers, first generation college or graduate students, etc.

Examples of microaggressions include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Women in a lab or group setting doing all of the clerical or administrative work
  • Asking a person of color “Where are you from?” or “Where were you born?”
  • Using the wrong pronouns or name to refer to a trans person
  • Using the word “crazy” when what is meant is “ludicrous” or “stupid”
  • Telling a person of color that they are “articulate” or that they speak English well

Additional Reading:

  • Pierce, Carew, Pierce-Gonzalez, and Wills. “An Experiment in Racism: TV Commercials.” Education and Urban Society 10.1 (1977): 61-87. Web.
  • Sue, Derald Wing. Microaggressions in Everyday Life : Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2010. Web. (Available as an ebook on the UW Library website)