racial, gender, and sexual-orientation microaggressions
in behaviors that place women at a disadvantage, infantilize or stereotype them, and treat them in such a manner as to deny them equal access and opportunity (Benokraitis, 1997; Fiske & Stevens, 1993; Swim, Aiken, Hall, & Hunter, 1995).
According to women, gender microaggressions occur frequently and they devalue their contributions, objectify them as sex objects, dismiss their accom- plishments, and limit their effectiveness in social, educational, employment, and professional settings (Banaji & Greenwald, 1995; Benokraitis, 1997; Morrison & Morrison, 2002). In the world of work, for example, many women describe a pattern of being overlooked, disrespected, and dismissed by their male colleagues. During team meetings in which a female employee may contribute an idea, the male CEO may not respond to it or seemingly not hear the idea. However, when a male coworker makes the identical statement, he may be recognized and praised by the executive and fellow colleagues. It has been observed that in classrooms, male students are more frequently called upon to speak or answer questions by their teachers than are female students. The hidden messages in these microaggressions are that women’s ideas and contributions are less worthy than their male counterparts.
In the second vignette involving Kathleen’s job interview, several common gender microaggressions were delivered to her by well-intentioned fellow male commuters and the interviewer.
First, it is not unusual for attractive young women to get admiring glances from men. Upon entering the subway train, Kathleen noted the looks that she received from male passengers, seemed to enjoy being noticed, but also experienced a few stares as “lecherous.” This is a double-edged sword that some women seem to face: wanting to be attractive and desired, but also feeling objectified and treated as sex objects. The overt expression of sexual objectifi- cation is often communicated in forms ranging from whistles and catcalls to more subtle ones such as “stares” that make a woman feel as if she were being undressed in public.
Second, while one of the male commuters meant well and saw a “damsel in distress,” the liberty he took in placing his hand on Kathleen’s back to guide her to the exit is an intrusion of personal space. For a stranger to place one’s hand on the small of a woman’s back or more boldly on her hips while pass- ing and without her permission may be seen as a violation of her body. The messages in sexual objectification microaggressions are many: (a) a woman’s
appearance is for the pleasure of a man; (b) women are weak, dependent, and need help; and (c) a woman’s body is not her own. Some women are offended