“Good girls don’t get raped.”—Said by my estranged mother to me during our first phone conversation in months. I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and assaults committed later on, and have never disclosed to a family member. She said it in response to a comment about the fact that I was teaching a class on sexual assault. Made me feel awful and scared about what’s happened to me, even though I know it’s not my fault.
Small talk conversation about our high school between me, someone of Sri Lanken ancestry, and two white people. One of the white people said, “Our high school had to bring in a gifted education program to help get rid of Punjabi gangs”. As they say this, they wriggle their eyebrows at me as if to suggest that I am in association with these Punjabi gangs that supposedly have plagued their high school. I say, “I’m not, Punjabi, I’m Sri Lankan”. The white person then says, “Yeah, well, we had those too.”
Initially, the comment and the body language made me feel confused because I wasn’t sure if they were referring to me- they easily could have been stating a simple fact but the body language suggested otherwise. When I clarified myself, they had the audacity to say yes, they were referring to me. It made me feel shocked and angry for a number of reasons. This person judged me to be Punjabi based on my skin colour. I also felt upset that this person was making sweeping assumptions about my supposed links to criminal activity based on my skin colour. GRR I feel angry now, thinking about it.
“Yeah, they’re everywhere.”—In response to someone else’s question on how many Chinese students were in our building. I am Asian, and was in the room. I felt so very awkward and also frustrated at the tone that was used.
“Meatless Mondays are a healthy addition to your week - the issue is just convincing your husband!”—Said by a female newscaster on a major network morning show - in Massachusetts, where same sex marriage has been legal for *years*. Because all women are married, and only to men - and men must love meat, not veggies.
"Do any of you speak English!?!?" (as the lady cuts to the front of the line) Yelled at me while in line with two other men of color (different shades of brown) at Costco 1-Hour Photo. Made me angry, so I gave it right back to her: "Yes! I speak English! The back of the line is over there!"
“I just assumed you were my nurse.”—Said by countless patients at the hospital where I work as an Emergency physician, despite introducing myself as their doctor. As a young woman physician, I am rarely taken seriously. People seem to think there is something cute or quaint about me being their doctor, like I’m playing dress up or something.
I said ‘shit’ in front of my chemistry teacher, after feeling really stressed about an exam. He replied by saying ‘That’s not how proper young ladies act!’ It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had simply told me off.
“Dear Sirs…”—The beginning of a cover letter sent to the recruiting department of my office. The entire department is women. It made me feel angry that the sender felt competent business people couldn’t possibly be women.
My freshman year of college I made a single friend on my floor and for a while she was my only friend. The next year, my floormates were my closest friends and I would go out with them if I ever had extra money (which was very rare). One day, out of nowhere, I got a text from her calling me “fucking bitch”, saying that I was racist because she was white and I only liked Asians, and I would turn her down every time she wanted to go to our favorite restaurant.
I was getting by on loans and scholarships and what little my widowed mother could send me while she had two working parents and was upper middle class. She wanted me to go out to eat with her every single week.
I’m Latina (non-white passing), She’s white. My friends and floormates were Chinese, White, Black and mixed. I felt humiliated, sad, angry, like our friendship only counted if I could afford it.
I’m watching an Improv Everywhere video. One of the (white) actors involved greets a “bystander” in Spanish. (“Que tal?” is the first thing he says, before the bystander speaks.) This has nothing to do with the scenario; it’s just because the bystander is Hispanic. Made me feel annoyed, indignant.
He tells me I should dress “cute” and wear different things, that maybe he should go with me to pick out “more appealing clothing.” I should get a new bathing suit because he thinks a different kind would look better on me. He’s just a friend. Makes me feel like I exist for someone else’s enjoyment.
Every time someone uses the word “psychotic” to mean some variation of “evil, sadistic murder”. This is not what this word means, and every single supposedly insignificant use of this word in a derogatory manner contributes to the massive stigma that I, as a mentally ill person who has been diagnosed with psychosis (amongst other things), has to live with. This is the reason that I lie to friends, classmates and teachers if they see me picking up a prescription. Even when I tell people I am mentally ill I have a tenancy to only mention my other diagnoses, because the stigma surrounding the word “psychotic” is so great that people believe I must be joking in applying it to myself. Makes me feel like I have to continue lying even though I desperately need support and understanding because I don’t want people to be afraid of me.
“My parents worked for all their money. My family planned ahead for me to attend post secondary.”—
I hear these kind of defensive statements all the time from upper middle class students whenever I sound even slightly exasperated explaining to them that no, my mother does not have any money to pay for my education and I have to cover it entirely with loans and scholarships whereas they have told me that their parents are giving them all the money they need.
Makes me feel angry, because my mother is the hardest working person I know. She had to work so hard just to survive on welfare as a single mother, and even harder to eventually find any emploment at all. She still lives below the poverty line. When people insinuate that my family somehow didn’t try hard enough to provide for me I wish I there was some way I could force them to understand that for some people no matter how hard we work, there will never be anything left over to save.
I’m a mixed race girl (Nigerian & English) who has just finished transitioning from a relaxer to natural hair. I’m sat with my Caucasian friend and Black friend at lunch talking about having children when the Caucasian girl announces: “well my children will be some sort of mixed race, we’ve already established that. But i don’t want them to have that really curly hair. No. None of that.” I’m angry that she would think it’s acceptable to reject and act disgusted at a feature that her friend has!! Also disappointed as she acts as if she wants her children to have brown skin but no other features associated with being black.
I’m at my campus bar and a male student starts chatting me up. I casually disclose that I am queer and have a girlfriend. Later that night, as he is leaving, he takes my hand, looks deep into my eyes and says, “Just so you know. I don’t believe that you’re gay. You’re too girlie and pretty.”
What hurts the most is that he thinks this is a compliment; as if the only reason I’m not with men is because I don’t think I’m ‘pretty’ enough for them. Another typical conflation of gender presentation and sexual orientation.
At work in an all-male work environment. Get called up to the front. There’s cupcakes hidden on top of a cabinet and they think I can’t get it down. I pull it down and open it up to get a cupcake, excited because I overslept and skipped breakfast earlier that day. One of my much older superiors says, “Can’t keep a woman away from her chocolate.” I eat the cupcake anyways, but spend the time feeling alienated.
I walked into my optometrist office to pick-up an order of contact lenses. Unexpectedly the doctor takes me back and asks me to try on a pair of hard lenses to see if I liked them. I thought this was strange since I wear soft lenses. Then she said, “How does that feel Muhammad?” I’m Filipino and White, not Middle Eastern in any sense. We looked at each other awkwardly as I responded, “They feel weird, also my name is Stanley.”
I was planning to go to a Halloween/costume party with my four other girl friends, who happen to be all white. (We live in a small Canadian university town… not very diverse, it’s bound to happen.)
We wanted to go as the Spice Girls, I wanted to be Posh Spice. But no, the decision was already made for me: “You have to be Scary-Spice… she’s the only ethnic one.” I am half Chinese and half Italian.
While in a hotel restroom at a teacher conference, a middle aged lady came up to me and said “HI” in Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean, then asked, “Did I get any of those right? Are you one of those?”
When I responded that there are many other Asian countries out there with different languages, she proceeded to gush that “It’s so nice to see one of you people not working in a nail salon and speak good English.” I told her I spoke English well, and it’s a damn shame the future generation has to learn from people like her.
I’m a PhD candidate, 25, and the only woman in my lab. Today, during lab meeting, my professor is discussing a collaborator. He’s describing what a great time he had visiting this collaborator’s lab, and suddenly stops. He says, “He’s very funny, but it’s not appropriate for me to talk about it in front of Hannah.”
This type of comment is commonplace in my office. Makes me feel ashamed, excluded, frustrated.
In case you missed it, our project was covered a few days ago in this New York Times piece on microaggressions awareness projects on university campuses. Check it out and participate in the dialogue following the piece on our Twitter and Facebook. (We still got love for you, Tumblr!)
“Smile! Smile! Come on you’re too pretty for me to see you not smiling!”—An older man who is yelling (rude and forcefully) at me, in my face, randomly on the street. My grandmother had just passed away, and I was in no shape or form in a ‘smiling mood’ but was forced to do so because I felt so weak and he wouldn’t leave me alone until I did so. I’m not here to please you aesthetically, I am allowed to walk around with a straight face, or even a frown. And I don’t take it as a ‘compliment.’ Made me feel awkward, upset, scared and uncomfortable.
Apartment-searching with my brother in LA. The landlord set up an appointment. When my brother arrived 5 minutes early, the landlord was showing around a white couple. When he turned to my brother, he said that he wouldn’t show the apartment and that it now cost $400 more per month. The neighbor later told us that the landlord always does that when he sees black customers. We are both young black men, looking for a place to live.
This afternoon at the university bookstore I went up to the register to return a book and chatted with the cashier, an old man. I was very friendly, he asked my major and I told him I was a grad student.
Then he asked, “From china?” “No,” i just said and left, feeling uncomfortable.I felt like saying, “I’m very happy you recognized that my last name is Chinese, but would you have asked the same question in the same way if you’d been chatting with someone with an obviously American accent who had a German last name?”
There is a time, place, and way to ask about personal background like race, ethnicity, class, sexuality… but certainly not in these brief, dislocating encounters that single out those who are not part of the “unmarked” category.
“So where do you know each other from?”—I have encountered this often to my surprise. It’s always when I run into or are hanging with a friend…. a white friend….. while rock climbing (I’m black). The friend or I, are always asked by a white friend of my friend as if to imply where do know this black dude from and what the hell is he doing rock climbing. I’ve been rock climbing for almost 20 years, managed a rock climbing gym and guided rock climbing for at least 10 years. I know lots of climbers. This question is usually asked by someone who is new to climbing and to the climbing scene. Next time I’m ask, I’ll answer, “We use to rob banks together in the 80’s.” I’m Black and this comes from someone white; always. Makes me aggravated.
I was applying for a job at a web development company, and everyone I talked to said the sample work that I did for them was great, I was cool, and I was a great fit for the company. Then the upper manager asked me if I was in a relationship and I made the mistake of saying I was going to get married. That ended my interview process. Their company is still 90% men, and several of them have children.
Apparently a woman who could get married is too much of a “Curse” for them. The manager who wanted to hire me is a single woman, the one who stopped it is a married man. I stopped seeking employment at a corporation and started working for myself. It makes me feel terrible that as far as I can tell, the only thing stopping me from getting a job was that I might get married.
At the warehouse where I work, I did a prank where I hung up pictures of vintage kittens in the bathroom so that they were eye-level when you sat on the toilet. Someone else did a prank where they hung up a female blow-up doll spread-eagle on the door of the industrial fridge with a vulgar “enter me” sign on it. I was really pissed that anyone thought this was okay or comprable.
I’m one of the few women who can drive a truck at my job. Me and 4 of the guys go out to organize our truck lot and they start rating the women at our work on looks, talking about who’s the hottest and who they would do. They completely ignore me the whole time. I guess they think this is okay because I’m fat and therefore won’t be included, and I once told one of them I was bi…and he told everyone else… Made me feel self-conscious, alienated, and offended.
My ex always marginalized and degraded the fact that I’m Jewish. All sorts of Holocaust jokes were the norm, despite the number of times I told him they made me angry and were otherwise offensive. It got to the point that I was told to take off my Star of David and told not to act Jewish.
After I cut my hair short, a male friend of mine told me it looked bad. I responded with polite disagreement, saying that I liked it and it made me feel confident, but even after several of my female friends at the table said they liked it too, he wouldn’t shut up about it and eventually told me that I shouldn’t have cut it because I used to be ‘kind of hot’. Because short hair isn’t hot, and the only thing I think about when cutting my hair is impressing men.
I’m monitoring newer members of staff at my work, sitting with them and providing feedback on their work to help improve their performance as they come up to review. As I move my chair from one man colleague’s desk to another’s the first asks if I’m going to sit on the next man’s lap. To my mind this came from absolutely nowhere. I’m a 22 year old woman, working in an office for a global bank. Absolutely furious, especially because I couldn’t think of a way to rebuke them where they wouldn’t make me out to be some sort of spoilsport. Both men were both double my age.
Strangers deem it appropriate to touch my hair without asking. It happens often and in any public space. I am a Black girl with waist length locs. Makes me annoyed or angry that my personal space is being violated.